Even though your laptop isn’t as personal and handy as your mobile phone, care should be taken to ensure you’re buying the right laptop for you. When it’s time to do serious work its Mr laptop we usually call upon. So what type of laptop should you get?
There are a wide variety of sizes, features and prices, which makes choosing the right laptop a challenge. That’s why you need to figure out your needs. To make the right call, just follow these tips.
1. What are you going to do with it?
Light Surfing/Email/Second Computer: If you plan to give your laptop to the kids or use it as an adjunct to your main PC, you can go with a low-cost laptop or a Chromebook that runs Google’s OS. These computers cost anything from N50,000.
All-Purpose: If you want to do a little bit of everything or plan to share your laptop amongst family members, you can consider anything from an inexpensive 15-incher to a lightweight 11- or 13-inch system. Expect to spend between N60,000 and N80,000.
Business/Productivity: Whether you’re a working professional or a student, your main goal is writing and editing text, working with spreadsheets and creating presentations. So you’ll want a laptop with a good keyboard, fast, durable and sharp screen. Expect to spend N80,000 and above.
Gaming: If you play high-end games, go for a laptop with an equally high-end Core i7 processor, top level graphics card, a high-res screen and strong speakers. For the best performance, expect to spend well over N120,000.
Multimedia Professional: If you edit video, photos or illustrations for a living, you need a laptop with a powerful processor, discrete graphics, a Solid State Drive (SSD) and a large and high-res display (full HD or higher). Expect to spend over N140,000.
2. Choose the Right Size
You have to figure out just how portable you need your laptop to be. This will likely be based on what the purpose of the laptop is. Laptops are usually categorized by their display sizes:
11 to 12 inches: The thinnest and lightest systems around have 11- to 12-inch screens and typically weigh less than 1.5kg. However, the screen and keyboard may be too small for some users.
13 to 14 inches: This size provides the best balance of portability and usability. Laptops with 13- or 14-inch screens usually weigh between 1.5 and 1.8kg and fit easily on your lap.
15 inches: The most popular size, 15-inch laptops are usually the most affordable and typically weigh 2.2 – 2.8 kg. If you’re not planning to carry your notebook around very frequently, then a 15-inch system could be a good deal for you.
17 to 18 inches: If you prefer the biggest screen possible, a 17- or 18-inch system could provide the kind of processing power you need in order to play high-end games or reach workstation-level productivity. Don’t expect to carry around these over 3kg-plus systems often.
3. Know The Specs That Suit You Needs
Notebook specs such as CPU, hard drive, RAM and graphics chip can confuse even notebook aficionados, so don’t feel bad if spec sheets look like alphabet soup to you. What you need really depends on what you plan to do with your laptop. More-intensive tasks such as 3D gaming and HD video-editing require more-expensive components.
Here are the main components you should keep an eye on:
CPU: The least expensive laptops on the market have AMD E Series or Intel Pentium/Celeron CPUs, which will struggle to handle serious productivity, gaming or media tasks, but can handle Web surfing, email and social networks use.
If you’re buying a system with an Intel Core series processor, make sure you get a 4th generation Core or “Haswell” for the best combo of performance and battery life. You know you’re getting Haswell if the model number begins with a 4 (ex: Intel Core i5-4200U).
Unless you’re buying a secondary computer, don’t settle for less than an Intel Core i3 CPU or AMD A Series. If you’re spending more than N80,000, demand at least an Intel Core i5 CPU, which is capable of increasing its clock speed dynamically when you need more performance. Power users and gamers should settle for no less than a Core i7 system, preferably a quad-core chip.
RAM: When it comes to memory, or RAM, even the cheapest notebooks have 4GB these days, so don’t settle for less. If you can get a system with 8GB, you’ll be better prepared for high-end applications and lots of multitasking.
Hard Drive/SSD: For most users, a fast drive is more important than a large one. If you have a choice, go with a Solid State Drive (SSD) over a hard drive, because SSDs provide twice to three times the speed of their mechanical counterparts. However, SSDs are usually more expensive and come in much lower 128/256GB capacities.
If you can’t afford an SSD or if you need more capacity, go for a 7,200-rpm hard drive over a 5,400-rpm unit. Even if you have several movies and games on your hard drive, a 320GB should provide more than enough space, but 500GB or 750GB drives usually don’t cost much more.
Display: The more pixels you have, the more content you can fit on screen, and the sharper it will look. Most budget and mainstream notebooks come with 1366 x 768-pixel resolutions. However, if you have the option, choose a laptop with a higher pixel count — 1600 x 900, 1920 x 1080 or even higher.
Always go for the highest res you can get. You’ll see more of your favorite Web pages, multitask better and have an improved movie-watching experience.
Touch Screen: Windows 8 is simply more fun and immersive with a touch screen, but if your laptop is not a hybrid with a bendable or rotatable screen, you can probably live without it.
Though you can get a touch-screen system for under N80,000 these days, the difference in price between similarly configured systems with and without touch is around N17,000. Touch screens also add weight and make the machine consume more power than non-touch counterparts.
DVD/Blu-ray Drives: Fewer and fewer laptops these days come with optical drives. That’s because you can download most software, and download or stream video from the Web. Unless you burn discs or want to watch Blu-ray movies, you don’t need one of these drives and can save as much as half a kg of weight by avoiding them.
4. Regular Laptop or 2-in-1 Hybrid computer
Since the launch of Windows 8, we’ve seen a number of hybrid laptop designs that double as tablets. These include the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, which has a screen that bends back 360 degrees to turn into a slate, tablets that pop off of their keyboards, and notebooks with slide-out keyboards.
In most cases, these devices don’t provide a slate experience that rivals dedicated tablets or a notebook experience that competes with clamshell-only devices. If you like the idea of occasionally using your laptop in slate mode, a convertible like the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga is a versatile choice. But if you want the flexibility of using your device as standalone tablet, a detachable design is best.
5. Battery Life
Nobody wants to be chained to a power outlet, even if there’s a socket within reach. If you’re buying a 15-inch notebook, look for at least 4 hours of endurance. Those who plan to be fairly mobile should shop for notebooks that offer more than 6 hours of battery life, with 7-plus hours being ideal. The longest-lasting laptops in the game (ex: The ThinkPad X240) can last for 10 to 20 hours.
To determine a notebook’s expected battery life, read third-party results from objective sources rather than taking the manufacturer’s word for it. Your actual battery life will vary depending on your screen brightness and what tasks you perform. E.g video uses more battery than normal browsing.
6. The Brand Matters
Your laptop is only as good as the company that stands behind it. How much of accurate and timely technical support is available for the brand of laptop you’re about to buy locally?
You should also consider how the manufacturer compares to the competition in terms of design, value and selection, review performance and other criteria.