These days, computers are far more than a luxury item—they’re necessary to conduct business, take classes, and even to stay connected with those you love. Surprisingly, more than 84 percent of households in the United States have some kind of computer at home.
Though having any type of computer is better than going without, there will come a time that you’ll need to upgrade. If you’ve never participated in the computer purchasing process before, you might not know where to start. After all, any new laptop will be an improvement over your old computer, right?
The answer isn’t as simple as you might think. In fact, if you choose the wrong computer, you risk ending up with a machine that won’t do what it needs to. Here are a few simple tips to help you find the right laptop for your needs.
Set a Firm Budget
Before you can start shopping for a laptop, you need to figure out how much you’re willing to spend on your new computer. Laptop prices range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. It all depends on what you’re looking for and the types of laptop specs you need.
Take a moment to think about how you’ll pay for your new computer. If you’re using your savings, look at how much you have saved up for the purchase. Ideally, you’ll want to keep your budget as close to that number as possible.
If you need to buy a laptop that costs significantly more than what you have in your savings account, look into your financing options. Many laptop brands allow you to break the purchase into smaller payments over the course of a year or two.
That said, most of the payment plans do earn interest. This means you’ll end up paying more for the laptop over time. Think about how much you can afford to pay each month on a payment plan and look for options that fit that range.
Identify Your Primary Use for the Laptop
Different laptops work better for different purposes. For example, a simple and cheap Chromebook will work for basic internet surfing and word processing, but it won’t work for gaming.
Before you start looking at your options, think about how you’ll use your new computer.
Are you a hardcore gamer that needs an advanced machine to keep up with new graphics? Do you plan to use your laptop for work or school and only want to stream shows and movies? There’s no wrong answer but knowing how you’ll use the computer will help you identify the right options for your needs.
Keep those needs in mind when you start researching different laptops.
Pick the Right Operating System
When it comes to choosing a new laptop, you’ll need to pick an operating system that works for your needs and your budget. There are three main options to choose from: Windows®, Chrome® OS, and Mac®.
If you’re looking for the most affordable and simplest option on the market, a laptop with Chrome OS will do the trick. These computers are best for light use like word processing and surfing the internet. You won’t be able to download advanced programs or run high-powered games.
For people that plan on doing a lot of graphic design, video, and photo editing, Mac computers will be a better fit. They’re fast, have great processors, and tend to last for years without slowing down. However, you will be restricted to Mac-specific programs and accessories.
If you want the most versatile laptop possible, one with the Windows operating system will be a better fit. They offer the perfect balance between affordability and power.
Whatever you choose, just make sure the laptop’s operating system is one you’re comfortable with. Upgrading to a new or different system is expensive and it’s best if you can make the right choice from the beginning.
Consider the Size You Need
Laptops come in different sizes and the size you choose largely depends on your habits and your portability needs. The best thing you can do is figure out how you’ll use the laptop.
Are you going to be traveling with the computer often or will it sit on a desk most of the time? If you’re constantly on the go, a smaller, more lightweight computer will be a better choice. However, if you’re going to use the computer in the same spot most of the time, a larger model will work just fine.
Again, size is a matter of personal preference. Larger screens can mean you’ll be able to do more detail-oriented work without having to zoom in or move the screen orientation. Smaller screens often mean lighter weight machines that are easier to transport in backpacks.
Think About the Features You Want
Every laptop brand has models with different features in place to make the machine more usable. Some have built-in touchscreens that let you use the laptop as a tablet. Others have wider trackpads and more built-in ports for accessories.
Before you shop, create a list of the different features you want in your computer.
Focus on the types of tasks you’ll use the laptop for and the types of accessories you want to have easy access to. This will determine the type and model of laptop that will work best for your needs.
Pay Attention to the Keyboard
Laptops come with everything you need to use them right out of the box. This includes a keyboard and trackpad to help you navigate around the desktop.
Unfortunately, not all keyboards are the same. Some have significantly more key travel than others and offer a different typing experience. If you can, try to test the laptop out in person before you make your choice.
Most big-box retailers have models on the floor that you can test in the store. Type on several keyboards and see which ones you like best. Remember, you need to enjoy the typing experience if you want to enjoy using your laptop in the long run.
This is true even if you plan on using an external keyboard most of the time. If you don’t like your built-in keyboard, you won’t enjoy using your laptop as the portable computer it’s meant to be.
Read Reviews for Different Laptop Brands
Though you likely know to read reviews about the different laptop models you’re considering, you should also read up on reviews for the brands themselves. Remember, major laptop brands, like Lenovo, offer warranties on their products and provide ongoing technical support to owners.
Reading reviews about different brands will let you know what you can expect should you ever need to file a warranty claim or speak with customer support.
See what others are saying and pay attention to any repeat concerns or issues others had. If many reviewers had the same problem with the brand, you likely will too.
Be Mindful of Battery Life Ratings
The biggest benefit of choosing a laptop over a desktop computer is its portability. You’re able to use the computer away from home even when you’re not close to a power outlet.
However, some computers have lower quality batteries than others. These are models that only give you a few hours of computer use before you have to plug them in for a charge.
Before you choose a model, pay attention to the estimated battery life for each computer you’re interested in. Higher quality models with better batteries will cost more than ones with low battery life.
If you’re going to be using the computer on the go frequently, choose a laptop that comes with a battery that can meet your demands.
Consider How Often You Plan on Replacing the Computer
Before you commit to buying a specific laptop, think about how often you plan on replacing your computer. The average laptop lasts between three and five years with proper care and maintenance. However, cheaper or low-quality computers often break down far faster.
If you’re looking for a laptop that will be able to keep up with changing technology and allow you to keep it for longer periods of time, you’ll need to be willing to spend more upfront. However, if you’re comfortable replacing your computer every year or two, you’ll likely be fine choosing a cheaper model.
Follow This Computer Purchasing Guide
Making the decision to buy a new laptop isn’t easy especially if you’re relatively new to computer use. You need to weigh the benefits of buying a new laptop against the expense before you can start the computer purchasing process.
Once you’re sure you’re ready, keep this laptop buying guide in mind and you’ll be able to find a computer that works for your needs and your budget. Remember, it’s okay to take your time and research your options thoroughly before you commit to a specific brand. The more informed you are, the more content you’ll be with your purchase in the long run.
Once you buy your new laptop, you’ll need to make sure you’re able to use it to its fullest potential. Check out our posts for more helpful tips and tricks.