Purchasing a laptop is not rocket science! The things you need to focus on are the size and type of your hard drive, processor speed, good screen display and a long battery life. Once you have that down, it is not that hard to pull the plug and make a decision. We are going to go over a few common questions that may arise when you are in the market for a new laptop.
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Should you get a Windows machine, a MacBook, or a Chromebook?
Windows is the most used operating system in the world and the current version, Windows 10, has come a long way! The choice of OS is a major factor that needs to be taken into account when purchasing a new laptop. Apple has limited device selection, which makes it easy for you to make a decision. It works really well for technical users, but the trade-off is that you do end up paying a premium. Chromebooks are cheap, but you are probably going to have issues running any decent software on it. The Google notebook is based on Android and therefore is unable to run most programs (though there are workaround so you can run Windows exe files on chromebooks). Windows is pretty much an all-rounder! You can run all mainstream programs without any issues. If you are looking for something that will give you peace of mind, I would recommend sticking to a Windows machine.
Note: If your school issues you with a chromebook they will usually lock it down so you do not have access to administrative functions. This can make it difficult to use once you graduate or leave the school system. To help, we have a guide on how to reset a school chromebook.
Do you want a Big screen or are you looking for something more lightweight?
The size of the laptop is directly proportional to the size of its screen. HD Displays with 13 to 15 inches are ideal, otherwise you are going to constantly scroll up and down, which will make things hard and complicated. A big screen sure has a downside! if you have a machine with a 15-inch screen or more, it may be challenging to move around campus. You can rectify this by getting something that is lightweight. Ideally, you want something that does not weigh more than 4 lbs. Do not forget to look at the dimensions so you know it will easily fit in your book bag.
What is a good battery life?
I would say that 5 hours of run time should be the minimum. Something around 8 to 10 hours would be best. Do keep in mind that manufacturer provided battery life is usually much higher than the actual runtime. Your battery will also depreciate over time with everyday use. If the battery is weak from the start, it will soon have to be replaced or you would have to keep it permanently connected to a power socket.
What about Processors and RAM?
The more RAM, the better: 8 gigabytes is the minimum I would recommend, 16 would be ideal. The processors Intel i5, i7 and AMD Ryzen 7 are well suited for school use. Do not go cheap here! You definitely want a good processor, or your machine is not going to perform well at all.
Hard Drive: Size vs. Speed?
Speed is definitely more important than size. Standard hard disks are labeled HDD. They are significantly slower than modern SSD storage. These often have less storage space, but the laptop starts up in seconds. You always want to get an SSD drive. Minimum storage space should be 256 GB. I would advise you to stay away from an HDD, even if you’re getting a 512 GB for a lower price. it is just not worth it.
Buy used or new?
A decent machine will cost you around $500 brand new, a good one would be in the ballpark of $800 to $1000 dollars. New Apple MacBooks cost a little north of $1000. You can definitely get good used machines for around $300 to $400 dollars. You are going to have to put in the work though, and you must also be able to vet used machines to make sure they are good. An easy way is to go on eBay and find someone who makes a living selling refurbished laptops. Make sure that they have lots of good feedback and you will most probably be in the clear. If you are more knowledgeable about laptops, then you could find killer deals on Craigslist or other local classifieds.
The processor is the heart of a laptop. Entry-level laptops are mainly used for surfing the internet or running Microsoft Office applications. If that is what you are after, you can get by with a simple Intel Celeron or AMD machine. If you need something heavier, and you want to run several applications at the same time, it is better to choose a Core I5 or Core I7 processor. This also applies to users who play games or run image processing/video editing programs. If you are a gamer, then you would need a solid GPU and the memory of your computer should be eight or more gigabytes.