people in consumer electronics retail store looking at a new laptop, television and photo camera to buy

Tips on Buying a New Laptop

Introduction

Here at Stewart and Son we get asked quite frequently about what kind of laptops are the best. Mobile devices, including laptops, are changing so fast, it’s really hard to keep up with. On top of that, there are dozens of manufacturers with hundreds of models to suit practically everyone. It’s daunting to keep up with as an IT professional.

I’ll let you in on a secret and how we pick hardware. It’s really feature-based. We don’t know laptop models as much as we are experts in the latest technology. We use that expertise to guide us to helping you find the best product to suit your particular needs.

Today I’d like to share some of those features we look for so you can make some informed choices yourself.

Basics

These are a couple areas that you need to have covered as you are looking for a laptop. Make sure you are aware of the basics you need for your new laptop.

Memory – Over the years, the operating system (in most cases that’s Windows) requires more and more memory. In the jump from Windows 8 to 10, I was surprised to notice that the memory requirement wasn’t a huge jump. In some cases, Windows 10 uses less memory. Pretty good! However, that also means the memory requirements from before still stand.

Minimum 4 GB (gigabytes) of memory and a recommended 8 GB. This will make sure you’re future-proofed for the high-bandwidth applications which will require high-resolution graphics. All that data has to be sitting in memory to keep your computer running fast, so you better have plenty.

Screen Size – I can’t tell you how many people order a laptop online at a great price and find that it has only an 11″ monitor.  Today’s laptop screens are less expensive than they used to be and it’s worth making sure you get the right size for your computer usage.

Brands

Typically I say get your hardware from the company that offers the best support program. You might get slightly poorer performance but when you don’t have to wait 6 weeks for a repair, it just might be worth it.

Whatever you get is going to have some bloatware to remove, so you’ll have to spend some time when you get it to clean it up. Lenovo isn’t bad but comes with the most bloatware. I’ve seen great Asus laptops lately. Dell still has one of the best service policies if things go wrong, but I feel the performance is sometimes lacking.

High Tech Performance

There are two areas right now that are really growing, and that’s processors (CPU) and storage. The latest generation of Intel processors is out. They’re 7th generation. Luckily the 6th generation CPU’s are still excellent choices, and likely a little less expensive.

Storage is truly revolutionary and until you have a Solid State Drive (SSD) you have no idea what you’re missing. It might go without saying, but SSD’s are also nearly immune to shock. Conventional hard drives have spinning platters and if you bump them you can lose data by physically damaging the drives. No worries with the SSD.

SSD’s aren’t big news, they have been around for several years now, but they’ve matured and the pricing is very reasonable now. It’s a great time to buy an SSD for your computer.

SSD – Solid State Hard Drives – fast and durable. Do look for Max Sequential Read & Write of over 500 MBps. That’s over 100 times faster than a conventional drive. A few years ago, there was concerns about the Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF) on these drives, but that’s largely eliminated now, and you can expect a drive that lasts about as long as the other components of your computer.

6th Generation Intel Processors – Faster and more power-saving. Better battery life. For most computer users, the i5 model is the best choice between speed and price. i3’s are good for just email and web browsing, while i7’s are into the gaming areas or even high-end video and graphic development.

Power Saving

No DVD/CD – On the subject of batteries, avoid an internal DVD/CD. Unless you use one frequently, you’ll save battery life. An external DVD drive is just as effective, quite portable and inexpensive. Even BlueRay drives are reasonably priced.
Batteries – There still haven’t been any huge revolutions in battery capacity. We think we just might see some soon so if you are holding out for a Windows laptop that can go 10+ hours on a single charge, hang in there. We might see one soon!

Display

The new LED displays have amazing brightness and color, and priced quite right. Also when you are shopping, make sure you try and find a laptop that doesn’t share your membory with the video card. The prices on graphic memory are low enough now that this doesn’t have to be a big price point and the performance difference is noticable.

OLED Display – Latest generation of displays provide bright, vibrant color.
Look for Nvidia graphics. Dedicated memory (does not share RAM with your applications), and you’ll get great performance.

Connecting

Some new technologies here, and again – they’re reasonbly priced. Make sure you have these on your wishlist.
802.11AC Wi-Fi – Wireless networking is critical today. This is the latest standard to future-proof your investment. Fully backwards compatible.
USB Type-C – This is a new standard for USB devices and one we expect to grow. It can carry data and electricity over a single wire, allowing you to power your laptop, output video or copy files with just one standard cable. They’re even reversable unlike the older generation USB connectors.

Summary

I hope some of these tips help you pick a great choice for your next laptop. Let us know if you have any other requirements, need that bloatware removed or perhaps want to see if your current laptop is worth upgrading!

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