What to Know When Buying a Laptop Computer

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Buying a laptop is very similar to buying a desktop. There are a few differences that need to be remembered. Here are 4 things to know when buying a laptop computer.

This isn’t everything you could look at, but it’ll at least get you in the right direction when looking at computers.

Budget

Your budget is always the first things to consider when buying a computer. If the type of computer you want isn’t in your budget, you’ll need to either save up, look into financing options, or get something that is in your budget.

If you are playing video games or performing another intensive task such as rendering a 3D image, you are going to need to keep your budget higher than if you just need something to finish college with.

If you are just looking to fill basic needs, then you can stick with a laptop in the $150-$300 range. No computer will last forever, but if you’re in this price range, expect to replace more frequently.

Battery and weight

It goes without saying, but having a decent battery and being light weight are two of the most important characteristics that the right laptop needs to have.

We all know that batteries degrease over time, but if you don’t at least get something good to begin with, you’ll just be hating your battery sooner.

While most people are typically around an outlet most of the time, there is nothing more annoying than having to picking a seat based on how close it is to an outlet. In an airport or a college class those seats go first.

Video cards and processor integration and other specs

In a laptop there are very few things that can be ungraded. And you can’t guarantee that something that is typically upgradable will be upgradeable on the computer you buy.

It’s important to get this right when you buy the computer. Most laptops have the video card and processor soldered onto the motherboard, or have the video card designed in a custom way to get it to fit in the laptop. It’s not worth the effort to try to upgrade these items later.


Typically, the RAM, the hard drive, the wireless card, and the battery can be replaced very easily, but it’s much better to just get what you right the first time around.

Remember how I said the budget was something you had to pick first? Here’s the first thing that your decision is going to impact.

If you have a small budget, you just aren’t going to get the best processor or graphics card. The newest Intel I7 is around $340 and a decent graphics card is around $200. These two combined are more than the total cost of some computers!

Take a moment to decide what you want to do with your computer. If performance is important to you, you can still get a great laptop at a reasonable price, but don’t expect to pick something up for $200.

A $200 computer will work perfectly for some people, but not everyone. If you have massive Excel calculations, you definitely need a good processor. If you want to plays the latest video game, look into a gaming laptop. They’re designed with the demands of games in mind.

These aren’t the only hardware things to keep in mind. In the past few years, there have been a growing number of computers without optical drives. Do you need one?

I built a computer about 2 years ago. I decided it would be awesome to have a blue ray player. I’ve never put a blue ray in it. In fact, I’ve only used it once to rip a CD my wife bought at the store on a whim.

In a laptop, something like the optical drive takes up space and adds weight. If you don’t need it, then you should go without.

Screen size and quality

There are basically three sizes of laptops. Depending on what you want one of these sizes is going to be more desirable than the others.

Ultra-Portable

This first size is the ultra portable laptops. These computers are designed to be as light and small as possible. The MacBook Air is a perfect example of this.

The world of computers is a bunch of give and take. These laptops are three lightest you’ll be able to find, and they are relatively inexpensive. However, there is still a price to pay.

For a computer like this you’ll only get one or two USB ports. There will be in optical drive, and they won’t be able to deliver the same kind of computing power as well as another computer. These computers will usually have a screen that is 13″ or smaller.

If you just want to be able to blog from the local coffee shop then this kind of computer might be perfect for you.

Standard

The next size up is more of the average computer. It’ll have a screen that is 13″ to 15″. A bigger screen will have a better movie watching experience.

You’ll be able to find a wider range of components in these computers. There are still limitations to what they can physical put in these laptops, but at least there are more options. Think of this option as a balance between portability and the versatility of a desktop computer.

Portable Desktop Replacement

You might as well just be packing these things around in a wheelbarrow because they are so big. These laptops have screens larger than 15″.

A good number of these laptops are built with the gamer in mind, but there are some that are built with average parts for those that just like watching Netflix on a large screen when they are away from home.

Quality
Besides picking a size, you’ll need to decide if you want a laptop that can double as a tablet. If it doubles as a tablet than it’ll have a touch screen.

While these kinds of screens are great for sketching, and taking notes in organic chemistry, they aren’t going to give the same stunning display as a laptop designed for gaming.

Keyboard and Track Pad

Not all computer keyboards are created equally. There are some that will fell more natural to you than others. Maybe you need one that has the numbers on the right side. Maybe you have tiny hands and can handle a tiny keyboard a lot better than me.

Whatever your preference, you should get an idea of the kind of keyboards that you like. If you need to, take a trip to Walmart or Best Buy to try out a few of their floor models.

I made the mistake in college of getting a tablet with a keyboard. My hands were too big (and I have medium-sized hands) to type comfortably. Eventually I got used to it, but in order to feel the most comfortable with your laptop buy you need a keyboard that you like.

The same thing goes with the track pad. You need to make sure it is something you like. There are some manufactures that put extra features into the track pad. These aren’t really necessary, but they are available.

One of the issues I’ve had with track pads in the past comes when I type. I found that I would inadvertently hit it with my hand while typing. It would always move the cursor and mess up what I was typing. Track pads can be turned off and a separate wireless mouse can be used.

Recommendations

There are lots of different options out there for getting a laptop. The best one for you depends on you and your budget. I’ve found some awesome laptops for each size.

If you are looking for an ultra portable then the ASUS VivoBook E203NA might be exactly what you are looking for. Weighing in at 2.2 lbs, this computer has a super long battery life. It’s perfect for surfing the web, or taking notes in class.

For a mid size computer the HP Pavilion 14″ HD Notebook might be more of what you are looking for. It has the versatility of being able to handle almost any program you can put on it while still only weighing 3.6 lbs. The only major downside on this computer is the graphics card. Don’t expect to be able to plays the latest games on the highest settings.

For a large laptop, the 2018 HP OMEN 1 has everything you’ll need to to experience the newest games on the highest setting. You’ll stay on the highest settings for a few years too.

What ever you end up getting, make sure it has the features that are important to you. If you want help finding a laptop that meets your needs, than leave a comment below with what you are looking for and I’ll see if I can help find something that fits your needs.

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11 Comments

  1. A great article! If only I would have found it before purchasing my current laptop. I have a hp stream that has only got 32gb hard drive. I thought that it would be enough for a bit of blogging but I didn’t realise that just the operating systems alone would take up most of the space. Is there any way to expand the memory without having to fit a new hard drive?

    1. Unfortunately, the hard drive on the HP Stream is connected to the motherboard. You can’t swap out the laptop even if you wanted to. You’ll either need to take advantage of cloud storage (like Google Drive, Dropbox, and One Drive) or you’ll need to get an external hard drive.

      You can still make do with what you have though, but only because you are using it for blogging. The hard drive takes up around 10gb of space. So you’ll have 20gb of space to work with. Don’t install anything. only keeps pictures and video long enough to upload them somewhere else. Who are we kidding. The easiest thing to do is to get a 1 TB External Hard Drive. They are small enough they’ll fit in a laptop bag and you won’t notice the difference in weight. At 1 TB you’ll be hard pressed to fill it. I have a 10 year old 1 TB external hard drive with tons of documents and pictures and I have never gotten close.

      The problem with cloud storage is most of them create convenient ways of keeping everything on the cloud in sync with your computer. You can log into the website every time, but that is a huge pain. especially if you’ll need to download pictures to upload them onto your blog.

  2. Thank you for this post, very detailed and informative. I got a new laptop, I guess a few years back now, and I absolutely love it. It’s an Acer. I’m not even sure what the model is, Aspire E 15 maybe. I had a more techy person help pick it out with me. This is a good article to follow though if I ever don’t have a tech person with me, so thanks again!

    1. Buying a computer with a tech savvy person (that isn’t the salesman) is like buying a car with a mechanic with you. You’ll get a better deal by relying on the expert advice of someone that is in that industry (and isn’t just trying to increase their profit). If you don’t have a friend to bring, then I’m hear to help you know a little bit more about computers.

  3. This is super helpful when knowing what to look for in a PC before purchasing. I think reading through this you can engage an understanding before spending tons of money on something that you might not utilize fully in the future.

    Thanks for the great article:)

    1. I find that a lot of people rely on the tech selling them the computer for guidance. I think this could lead to some up-sells that aren’t really needed. It’s my aim to give people an idea of what to look for based on their expectations and uses.

    1. For a travel blogger, I’d stay on the light side. I personally don’t like the ultra-portable laptops though. I like to be able to do more with a laptop than the ultra-portable ones can do. They typically have a hard drive space of 64 GB or less. This would be fine if you are only using the computer for blogging. The Acer Aspire 1 would work well for just blogging, but it’ll come up short if you did anything else on it.

      If you went with a mid-size laptop you could still find one that is light, and has decent hardware.

      Have a look at the HP EliteBook Folio 9470M and the HP Premium. The HP Premium will be faster, but it weighs a pound more.

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