What to Look for When Buying a Laptop

You may not have noticed it, but if you’re like the average US consumer, you spend about 6.31 hours online. If your work involves computing tasks, then you likely spend even more time in front of your devices. It can be much more if you use an outdated laptop that now runs at a snail’s pace.

So, if your current work computer now gives you headaches, it may be time to consider buying a laptop. Research backs up the fact that computer problems can cause massive productivity losses. For instance, one study found that IT troubles wasted an average of 22 minutes per workday, or 90 work hours in a year.

Before you buy a new device, though, it’s best you know what to look for in a new laptop. Don’t worry, as that’s exactly what we’ll talk about in this post. Keep reading to learn more about the specific specifications to look for in a new laptop.

RAM That Exceeds Your Usage Patterns

Random Access Memory (RAM) is a computer’s temporary data storage or memory. It provides active apps a quick way to tap information they need to execute commands.

A single RAM disk is at least 70 times faster than a standard hard disk drive and 20 times as quick as a solid-state drive. However, its actual speed depends on the number of active apps that store and access data in it. So, the more apps you need to run simultaneously, the more memory you need.

Today’s entry-level laptop specifications feature at least 4 GB of RAM. With this, a new laptop can do basic tasks like text editing, browsing, and streaming. However, you can’t expect it to run multiple apps without experiencing a drop in speed.

So, before buying a new laptop, be sure to make a list of your computing tasks and the apps you need to do the job. Doing so will help you assess your average RAM usage, which you can reference once you buy a new device.

For example, 10 tabs of Google Chrome can consume up to 725 MB of memory or more. Another is the 2019 MS Office (32-bit), which requires at least 2 GB of RAM (4 GB for the 64-bit). Apps like Photoshop now have installation and usage requirements of at least 8 GB.

In the above situation, a laptop with 8 GB of RAM would have no issues running all those apps one at a time. However, it may run slower if you launch all those programs simultaneously. To avoid speed reductions while using all of them, get a laptop with at least 16 GB of RAM.

A Solid-State Drive (SSD) With No Less Than 256 GB of Space

Humans produce so much data that in the past two years alone, they created 90% of all existing information. Today, the average person generates 1.7 MB of data every second, which sums up to a daily 147 GB of information.

You may not have to store all that data on your laptop, but those stats highlight the need for adequate drive space. If you’re an average computer user, ditch the 128 GB and go for at least 256 GB. It’s also a smart idea to invest in a laptop with a solid-state drive rather than a hard disk drive.

On average, HDDs are four times slower than SSDs. That’s because traditional drives rely on many mechanical, moving parts. It’s also for this reason that they have shorter service lives than SSDs.

You want an SSD as this lets you access permanent data much faster than an HDD. With an SSD, you can locate, find, and then launch a saved file or program quicker than with an HDD. Moreover, an SSD’s enhanced durability can better protect you from data loss.

Note that data loss incidents are still widespread; as many as 65.1% of consumers experienced them in 2019.

A Processor With at Least Four Cores

One of the laptop specs you’ll encounter when buying a new laptop is “multicore.” This refers to a large central processing unit (CPU) with several smaller CPUs (AKA “cores”) in it. Each core is an independent CPU capable of carrying out separate computational tasks.

As such, the more cores a processor has, the more activities it can perform side by side. By contrast, single-core processors execute tasks in sequence or one at a time. That’s why single-core CPUs need more time to address the multiple demands you place on them.

Today, the baseline for most laptops is a two-core processor. Like a 4GB RAM, these CPUs can complete basic tasks without issues, so long as you don’t run too many apps at the same time. Otherwise, your laptop can hit its “heat barrier” and, from there, experience a speed drop.

The good news is that many modern mid-tier laptops now run on four cores. Some even boast six, eight, ten, or twelve cores! So, be sure to check them out thoroughly and go with a device that has no less than a four-core CPU.

A four-core processor gives you a better way to “heat-proof” your next laptop for at least the next few years. This is especially important if you have to run multiple CPU-intensive tasks simultaneously.

Battery That Can Last for an Entire Work Day

In most cases, the smaller the laptop, the smaller its battery and charge capacity. That’s why you’ll find some 11-inch, ultra-thin laptops to last for only 7 hours between charges. This may be enough if you need a laptop for light activities like text editing or browsing.

If you require a bigger screen, say 13 or 14 inches, be sure the laptop comes with at least a 12-hour battery life. Again, a laptop’s size impacts battery capacity, so you need a bigger battery that can hold more juice.

Speaking of screens, brighter, higher resolution displays consume more battery. For example, quad high definition (QHD) screens need more juice than Full HD.

Display Screen Size That Won’t Cramp Your Desktop

The largest laptop screen size you’ll find today is 17 inches (usually 17.3 inches). On the other end of the spectrum are the 11-inch traditional clamshells. In between are the more popular 13- and 14-inch screens, although there are also 15- to 16-inch options.

The smaller the screen size, the smaller a laptop’s real estate will be. This isn’t an issue if you only need to work on one app window at a time. If you need to run several apps side by side, you’d need to resize each app’s window to make them fit on the display screen.

Of course, the size of the app’s window also affects the quality of the text and graphics it displays.

Let’s say you want to use MS Word and a browser at the same time. You can scale each app’s window so that your screen can display them side by side. Doing so shrinks each app’s display coverage, so you need to scroll up, down, left, or right more often.

At the same time, the bigger the laptop screen is, the heavier and bulkier the device can be. So, if you need portability, it might be best to go for a mid-range size, which is 13 or 14 inches. You can then hook up your laptop with a second screen to expand your work area’s real estate.

Display Resolution Befitting Your Graphics Requirements

Regardless of screen size, the standard laptop screen resolution today is 1920 x 1080 Full HD. The first number (1920) refers to the number of vertical pixels a screen can display. The second pertains to its horizontal pixel display output.

If you work in the creative sector, you likely need something higher, such as a 2560 x 1440 resolution. You’ll find this in QHD and wide quad high definition (WQHD) screens.

For the crispest, most vivid graphics, go for a laptop with an ultra high definition (UHD) screen. UHD screens boast a display resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels.

A Weight That Won’t Strain Your Back

Laptop dimensions and battery sizes are the chief factors influencing a laptop’s weight. The most compact ones weigh less than three pounds, while the giant ones can weigh more than eight pounds.

If you don’t carry your laptop everywhere you go, such as if you only use it at home or in the office, weight isn’t an issue. If you plan to become a digital nomad, though, a heavyweight laptop can be a pain and health risk. Carrying stuff that’s more than 13% to 15% of your total body weight can strain your shoulders and back.

Use These Guidelines to Make Buying a Laptop a Breeze

Adequate RAM, SSD space, and multi-core CPUs are three of the primary specs to look for when buying a laptop. However, you should also factor in screen specs, battery capacity, and weight. You may have to compromise, but the most crucial thing is to get a new device that can last for no less than three years.

Ready for more guides that can help you become tech savvier? Then feel free to stay and check out our other educational tech guides!

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