Selecting a New Laptop Like a Pro – PC Edition

May 13, 2021
Posted in Blog
May 13, 2021 The Florida Nerds

Selecting a New Laptop Like a Pro – PC Edition

Know what to look for in a new laptop. We go over 12 key areas to look at when making your selection

With so many new laptops to choose from, selecting the best one to match your budget could be like navigating a minefield. Even making sense of the ever-changing list of product specifications is not a simple feat. Laptops vary greatly by CPU speed, graphics capacity, size, drive storage, along with RAM, among other items. What’s more, your notebook needs may be totally different than someone else’s, just adding to your confusion.

For a few, a shiny 4K screen may be important. Others might desire a high-performing CPU, like AMD’s new Ryzen 5000 processors, to provide them a competitive advantage in matches. Getting value for money could be tricky too since newer technology doesn’t always mean better performance. By way of instance, older-generation CPUs can sometimes outperform newer products in benchmark tests. For all these reasons it pays to do your homework before you buy a laptop.

To simplify the process for you we’ve put together a listing of 12 criteria that you can use as a guide for what to search for. It might appear laborious delving into every class, but there are a lot of things to consider. At the conclusion of the day, choosing a time to study your new device will mean you avoid making a costly error and get a laptop that is ideal for you.

1. Size & form-factor

If it comes to laptops, size matters.

Based on what you intend to do with your next notebook, you will need to make sure to pick the size that’s the right match for you. Size isn’t enjoy the RAM or ROM of a laptop, you can’t update it later. You are locked into whatever form-factor you pick up-front, so choose wisely.

Laptops sizes tend to start at 11.6-inches and go all the way around 17.3 inches. Most brands and OEMs like HP, Dell, ASUS, and Acer tend to offer three screen sizes – 13.3-inch, 15.6-inch, and 17.3-inches. However, some sellers do sell notebooks that fall outside these sizes including 11.6-inches, 12.5-inches, and 14-inches.

Obviously, if portability is your priority, you will want to go for a smaller-sized Windows laptop. They are generally thinner and lighter than their bigger counterparts. Look for notebooks that have a screen that’s either 12.5-inches or 13.3-inches in size, and a weight between 1kg and 1.5kgs.

But, keep in mind the smaller-sized 13.3-inch machines often don’t support the exact same high-end Intel Core CPUs or discrete graphics cards you’ll be able to find in their 15.6-inch counterparts. The majority of the time, they’ll also feature a less robust selection of ports. If the sort of work you intend to use your brand new laptop for necessitates a bigger screen or standalone graphics, you will probably need to look at a bigger size.

Beyond particular sizes, there are many distinct types of laptops to choose from. Ultrabooks have a tendency to favor a slender and lightweight form-factor over luxury functionality. Matters like the ASUS Zenbook and Lenovo’s Yoga devices fall into this class.

By contrast, Notebooks have a tendency to offer a fantastic mix of portability and power. If you are taking a look at laptops, a fantastic place to begin is the Dell XPS 13  and HP’s Envy x360

Convertibles (also known as 2-in-1 notebooks or 2-in-1 PCs) expand on this by incorporating the ability to fold off (or eliminate ) the computer keyboard and use your brand new notebook as you would a tablet computer. Products like Microsoft’s Surface Move and Acer’s Chromebooks fall into this category.

At length, traditional clamshell and gaming laptops tend to boast bulkier form factors however significantly-beefier specs.

The main issue to consider here when searching for the best laptop you can buy is exactly what you’re actually going to need that laptop to perform. It’s scarcely ever a case of one size fits all. Some users want something lighter and more portable. Other users want different images for things like video editing or running high-end matches. Should you require a PC with an optical drive or long battery life, you will most likely have to look for something bigger.

As soon as you’ve worked out the dimensions and form-factor of the laptop you’re searching for, the search for your best one becomes that much easier – because you are able to begin to filter your search results by these parameters.

2. Screen quality

As you’ll probably end up staring at your laptop screen hours at one time, you’re probably going to need to make sure it’s as painless as possible to achieve that. For this, you’re going to require a screen that’s comfortable to look at and feels normal to utilize. m

To begin with, you’ll want to consider if you want your next laptop to have a touchscreen at all. Nowadays, touchscreens are extremely common and they can make some tasks easier than others. Some brands include this feature as standard. Others are going to require a modest surcharge for its addition.

Unfortunately, opting for a touchscreen can sometimes add a glossiness to the display. Though not a universal characteristic among touch-sensitive displays, glossier screens tend to be a little more vulnerable to glare. This may be a definite drawback if you are gambling, watching editing or content graphics and content.

Modern touchscreens are a lot better than their predecessors however, some of the above details persist and if you’re more of a natural typist, you might wish to think about opting for a notebook that does not have a touchscreen.

Next up, make certain to look at the resolution on any laptop you are thinking of purchasing. A 1920×1080-pixel resolution (Total HD) ought to be considered minimal if you would like plenty of space to line up windows and store things in view. If you splurge on something somewhat sharper, you probably won’t regret it though.

Select modern notebooks also now provide 4K resolutions. However, these high-end screen panels are usually a costly add-on to an already-expensive product. 4K is an extra that’s only really going to be worth it if you actually need it such as content creation professionals.

Photographers and videographers will also wish to privilege laptops that offer better color precision and support wider color gamut and HDR standards over the ones that don’t. The crucial things you’re looking for here would be Delta E < 1 color precision and 100% protection of this DCI-P3 color gamut.

If you’re a gamer, it’s also worth taking the time to examine the refresh rate on the display of any potential notebook computer. A faster refresh rate can often provide a sometimes supply a competitive advantage in online games, as it enables a smoother and more responsive play encounter. Ideally, you need something with less than a 5ms response time or a refresh rate greater than 144Hz.

Last, seeing angles are vitally important. A laptop screen that touts IPS (in-plane switching) technology offers the widest viewing angles along with the best user comfort. Chances are you’re not going to use your laptop in its own natural habitat, therefore a notebook with an IPS display is generally preferred over the contrary.

If possible, take the opportunity to go into a store and try to feel out the differences between different screens for yourself. If your eyes can not see much of a gap between a laptop with an FHD screen and one using a 4K one, it may not be worth paying the premium for the latter.

Just keep in mind that screen models normally have the settings cranked to the max so as to capture your eyes. Otherwise, be sure to check out testimonials just like those on PC World to get a fantastic overview of the product and whether its display will be able to fit your requirements. In 2020, most important laptop displays hit the mark but those that don’t make

3. Keyboard quality

For long typing sessions, you’ll want to get a laptop that has a comfortable keyboard. You don’t wish to receive a computer keyboard that packs in every key under the sun (think keyboards that have squished in number pads) since that may translate to a poor general user experience when searching for particulars such as the arrow or delete keys.

Ideally, you would like a keyboard that has a comfortable layout with full-sized keys along with a few spaces around the arrow keys. The keys must have adequate travel on the downstroke and snappy responsiveness if you let them go.

Be sure that the keyboard is also backlit. At face value, which may seem to be a superficial detail however backlit keys make it much easier to find out what you’re typing in dimly lit environments.

4. Processor

It is hard to go beyond any of Intel’s Core-based CPUs when buying a brand new laptop. Even when you’re not versed in the technical details, there is a good chance you’ve noticed the stickers plastered on all new notebooks for your silicon giant’s Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors.

For many users, an Intel Core Processor offers the very best performance when it comes to multimedia and multitasking jobs. Core i3-based laptops are generally found in entry-level systems, whilst Core i5 makes up the vast majority of mainstream computers.

Core i7-based systems are for those who want the best performance from your notebook. But note that with a Core i7-based method, warmth coming through the bottom of the laptop can be the cause of concern, especially if you plan to really use the notebook on your lap a great deal of this time.

Some larger laptops also now integrate Intel’s i9 Core chips. Laptops running on i9 Core chips are much more powerful than laptops running on i7 Core chips. They are able to rival laptops for functionality but they do come with a significantly higher price than a laptop with an i7, i5 or i3 Core Processor.

Select sellers now also offer notebooks and laptops that run on AMD’s Ryzen Mobile CPUs. If you are a gamer, this is sometimes a particularly compelling option worth considering. Ryzen Mobile CPUs tend to be paired with AMD’s own Vega graphics chipsets, which are now far better for gaming than Intel’s own onboard graphics.

There are a few caveats here however since laptops powered by AMD’s Ryzen Mobile chips have a tendency to be slightly more affordable than their Intel counterparts, so they can represent much better value for money. Just make sure you read up on our breakdown of the differences.

5. RAM

In the old days, you rarely wanted more than 4GB of RAM or more to get the best from your system.

Nowadays, you’re likely going to want to think about 8GB as a minimum. If you’re a power user, 16GB is your thing to do. Meanwhile, gamers should consider dialing things upwards all the way to 32GB (or beyond) should they want the very best experience.

More RAM allows for additional programs to be run at precisely the same time and for much more data to be quickly available by the machine at any one time, which is useful for tasks such as editing photos or video content.

There are a couple of intriguing terms that you may find when looking into RAM specs, here’s what you essentially have to learn about them. Together with the brand and capability of any RAM rod, you’re gonna discover the letters DDR. There is also generally a number attached. For example, the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED laptop has two 8GB sticks of DDR4 RAM. This acronym stands for Double Data Rate along with the amount that comes after it refers to the generation of element design.

The most recent creation of RAM hardware is DDR4 however DDR5 RAM is expected to land sometime in 2021. As a rule, higher numbers are better than lower numbers here and most motherboards can only encourage particular productions of RAM. Thankfully, as you’re taking a look at buying a notebook, you don’t have too much to worry about this since no sane OEM is going to stick incompatible RAM to a prebuilt machine.

The amount that comes after the DDR designation is a bit more significant. That’s the transfer rate. Like the clock speed on a CPU, this number measures the default theoretical maximum transfer speed. Again, higher is better here. Higher speeds mean stuff occurs faster.

Another detail to notice here is whether or not the RAM on your notebook is single or dual-channel. In most everyday usage cases, this might not make a huge difference but, if you’re attempting to weigh up your options, a laptop with dual-channel is generally more desirable than one with an equivalent amount of single-channel memory clocked at precisely the same transfer rate. This is because dual-channel RAM can move a greater amount of data at the same time.

In summary, while having more RAM is always going to be better than getting less RAM, most users are not going to feel the difference between getting 16GB and having 32GB unless they are running the sorts of RAM-heavy applications where that 16GB or a secondary station is going to make a difference. Since RAM is relatively inexpensive and frequently easy to update in modern laptops, it’s generally smarter and safer to purchase what you know you need here rather than what you might.

6. Storage

Hard drives are the rage, but these days they’ve mostly from favor, particularly for thin and light laptops. This is because they are sometimes slow, slightly bulky, and produce noticeable heat and sound.

A solid-state drive (SSD), on the other hand, offers much more speed compared to a hard disk, runs quietly, and maybe set up in a form variable that does not add a lot to the weight and bulk of a notebook. As a consequence of these clear advantages, most OEMs have adopted SSD storage since the standard for notebooks.

Stick to an SSD to your new notebook and you’ll love the pace with which it may load programs, access your data, and also how fast it could boot up your system.

The one problem is that SSDs don’t offer as much raw capability. Additionally, SSD storage can be frequently more expensive in terms of dollars-to-gigabytes than conventional hard drives. You might end up stuck with a drive that is either 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB in dimension and it costs far more than one with a 1TB or 2TB hard drive could.

To compensate, many notebook and PC OEMs now pair a smaller SSD using a bigger hard drive. This allows customers to get the speed advantages of maintaining their operating system on SSD storage whilst also having sufficient storage space for the rest of their data.

If you opt to choose something with this dual-drive setup, you’ll normally want an SSD using a minimum of 256GB of storage and a secondary drive with no less than 1TB. Instead, if your laptop only has a single SSD drive at its disposal, then you will want to ensure if comprises no less than 512GB of storage area.

The newest, fastest laptops also have NVMe solid-state drives that are even faster than traditional SSDs but also more costly. If you are buying a new notebook in 2020, then you’ll want one with an SSD. But that said, don’t feel overly pressured to spend extra on the latest model here. Although it’s true that newer SSDs boast better speeds than older models, the biggest advantages you enjoy here are connected more to the basic advances that SSDs provide over traditional hard drive storage.

 

7. Battery life

Manufacturer-quoted battery life is almost never indicative of what the real-world experience of working with a laptop is like.

There are just too many factors that affect battery life. There is the display brightness, the display resolution, the number of applications you have running in the background, and whether you actively remain linked to Wi-Fi networks or Bluetooth devices.

The operating system a laptop runs on can also play an important function in determining battery life. It is because of this that ultrabooks and convertibles running on Chrome OS tend to offer superior battery life compared to those operating on Windows 10.

If you run programs that need lots of processing, stream lots of videos, play graphics-intensive games, or even if transfer lots of files within a wireless network, then your battery will drain a lot sooner than what the seller has quoted.

A good practice here is to have a look at the rating of the battery in Watt-hours (Wh) or milliamp-hours (mAh). The bigger these amounts are, the more the battery can last. For a 13.3in Ultrabook, by way of instance, a battery with a score from 44Wh to 50Wh will give you the best results.

Another key issue to search for here is fast charging. Much like modern smartphones, lots of new laptops also encourage fast-charging, which is always good in a pinch.

8. USB 3 Ports

Nowadays, if a notebook has only one USB 3.0 port on it, you probably ought to look at buying another laptop. Ideally, you should look for a laptop that’s at least a few of those USB 3.0 ports. They’re the most common jack in the business and, even though you can discover a dongle for anything on Amazon, it is usually a better bet to simply ensure your next notebook has them.

In addition to this baseline utility you get from USB ports (that permit you to plug into an external hard or SSD drive and backup your information or use a standard mouse along with a fancy keyboard with your laptop), USB 3.0 is roughly ten times faster than USB 2.0. It follows that data transfers over USB 3.0 take considerably less time.

Many contemporary peripherals also often provide the best performance on or require USB 3.0 to operate at all.

If possible, you should try and take matters a step further and go to get a laptop with USB 3.1 interfaces. USB 3.1 allows for a throughput of up to ten gigabits, double that offered by USB 3.1.

If you’re ready to embrace USB Type-C, Thunderbolt 3 vents offer you a much better option. Thunderbolt 3 ports have a peak data transfer speed of 40 gigabits-per-second. At the moment, the peripheral ecosystem around USB Type-C is not quite as mature as traditional USB 3.0 but, as more device manufacturers switch to the connector-type, it is getting more compelling.

9. Biometric Security

Fingerprint readers are fantastic for logging into mobile devices and the hottest Windows 10 Operating System makes further use of them with its Windows Hello program. Folks are able to guess your password, but few can fake a fingerprint. To be able to keep the contents of your laptop secure, a portable PC with a fingerprint reader is normally the best way forward.

Thankfully, this attribute is a fairly common inclusion on many modern laptops from leading OEMs such as ASUS, Dell, and HP. Some have integrated the fingerprint sensor into the keyboard, which makes it feel like a more cohesive area of the bundle rather than a bolt-on.

What’s more, some manufacturers have even gone one step further and introduced FaceID-style facial recognition tech allowing you to unlock your notebook with a glance. As with Android phones, there is a distinction to be noted here between devices that rely on a 2D model of confronting unlock versus the ones that offer full 3D biometrics.

It is cool to see the modern laptops continue to lift the bar on this particular front even if the level to which it matters is largely personal preference. For many people, a standard fingerprint detector will provide more than sufficient of peace of mind.

10. Durability

No matter how careful we are, many laptops are inevitably going to find themselves, dropped, thrown, and knocked around by the rigors of everyday use. Because of this, it is well worth checking out how much analyzing a notebook has gotten (the manufacturer usually crows about it) or if there is any kind of certification that you can set your confidence to support.

Modern laptops are usually ruggedized to withstand rain and dust. Some are constructed especially for their brutal educational surroundings – and come with military-grade protection certifications. The most common of them you’re likely to see is MIL-STD 810G.

MIL-STD-810G is a standard employed by the US Military to signify that a guaranteed minimum level of durability. Compliant products have made it through a gauntlet of 29 individual tests that quantify immunity to shock, cold, heat, humidity, and more. Though initially developed as a way to win government funding, MIL-STD-810G has become more and more prevalent in consumer technology in the past several years.

On one hand, it is very good for customers that many major manufacturers have embraced the same language and standards for quantifying durability in any way. However, on the flip side, the truth is that using a product be MIL-STD-810G compliant does not always translate into the type of ruggedness you would hope it would.

Although the MIL-STD-810G standard was developed externally, there’s no sole independent party that is responsible for handing out certificate into the conventional nor any regulator that is able to call out lousy actors for misusing or misrepresenting MIL-STD-810G.

Producers can take their testing in-house, “ace” it, and place the decal on the box. There’s no limitation on how many attempts a product must pass a specific test, nor just a limitation on if the exact same product sample should endure all 29 evaluations or if they could substitute it with a brand new model every step along the way. They don’t even need to give evidence that the testing ever happened.

From the view of any regular consumer, there’s zero difference in how a product that was properly and independently tested to fulfill MIL-STD-810G looks and the way the product that”fudged” their own way to compliance with the standard looks. That is obviously problematic.

For those reasons, MIL-STD-810G is used as starting place in regards to thinking about durability and build quality on your next laptop. It should not be your one and only consideration.

A much better way to approach the problem is to look at the design of the laptop and what particular claims are being created around durability. Is the producer talking up drop-tests or spill resistance that goes beyond the typical MIL-STD-810G spiel? That is probably a good sign.

For as ubiquitous as MIL-STD-810G is as a benchmark, it is often unclear how tablets producers are employing sticking to the spirit of the thing and, if you are keen to ensure your next notebook can take a hit or two, it’s worth looking at brands that go one step farther.

11. LTE, Wi-Fi, or Ethernet?

In regards to purchasing a laptop, a large question you should ask is: Should I buy a laptop with LTE? Unlike laptops with built-in network cards, laptops with LTE can connect to mobile data signals. That means instead of having to connect to a wireless network in your home, at the workplace, or at Wi-Fi hotspots, your notebook can connect directly to a mobile ISP for internet access. The main benefit of this is you can use your laptop just about everywhere –when outdoors, traveling to the bus, or even on the beach. If this convenience sounds good, this choice might be ideal for you. But, there are a few caveats.

LTE technology sits in the higher-end notebook category, which means you will pay for the privilege. Also, exactly like with your phone, you’ll need to either be on a data program or buy prepaid information to utilize your LTE. And as such, your expertise will be influenced by the speed of your laptop’s network connection and also by the amount of data in your plan.

Know exactly what LTE network your laptop will connect to since this will determine your net speeds. The most common LTE technology in notebooks in Australia today supports links to the 4G networks. 4G is effective at download speeds of 1Gbs, which will be near most home broadband rates. However, 5G laptops will soon be arriving in Australia. These notebooks, when available, will feature significantly faster speeds involving 10-30Gbs. If a superfast net is a priority, go for 5G.

If you aren’t fussed about getting LTE or need to avoid the ongoing fees, a notebook with Wi-Fi-only performance will do just fine. Most notebooks come with built-in network cards so that you won’t have to bother over installations or affix dongles. You can also use cellular Wi-Fi tethering as a source of Wi-Fi on the fly.

The final issue to consider with your online connectivity, is whether you need an Ethernet (RJ-45) port. Most people don’t use this operation, since Wi-Fi connectivity is so prevalent. But if you are plagued with a poor Wi-Fi sign, or lack Wi-Fi entirely, you should think about it. Otherwise, it’s not vital.

12. WiFi Speed

Wi-Fi speeds are determined by many different things, like signal strength and the level of interference between your notebook and your router, but the 1 factor which you should think about when buying a new notebook is the Wi-Fi rate of your laptop’s network card.

The speed at which your laptop transfers data from an online router to your laptop and rear is called its connection speed and it is measured in bits per second (bps). Even if your net connection is quick, if your link speed is lousy, your Wi-Fi speed will struggle.

Most notebooks with network servers relate to wireless hotspots on either the 2.4GHz (Wi-Fi 4) or 5GHz (Wi-Fi ) frequency band, meaning they are capable of maximum link speeds of 1Gbs (Wi-Fi 4) or 3.5Gbs (Wi-Fi 5). If it comes to Wi-Fi generations, Wi-Fi is getting a bit old now, however Wi-Fi 5 will function well for virtually anything you would have to do online, such as browsing webpages, watching videos, and operating browser-based applications. For this, network cards that support Wi-Fi will do well.

On the flip side, if you’re a gamer who enjoys playing multi-player content, or if you stream high-quality video, we recommend you look for a laptop using a network card behind Wi-Fi 6 connectivity for reduced latency. Here is the emerging conventional Wi-Fi technology, offering substantial speed advantages (as much as 9.6Gbs). Wi-Fi rates won’t necessarily be listed in the product descriptions online or in retail outlets, however they’ll be recorded in the detailed product specifications, so check there if you are unsure.

Lastly

Meet your needs and budget
Obviously, you need to balance these features along with your budget and your requirements, and you might need to make some compromises. Rarely does a notebook come along which ticks all the boxes, particularly in regards to cost. If you still have questions after reading this article, call the Treasure Coast’s highest-rated in-home and in-office computer and network managed services company.