The latest laptops are faster than you think, but shopping for a new one can be complicated. With so many options to choose from, you’ll need to understand what to look for and how to decipher some technical jargon before you can find the right one for you. Here’s our guide on everything you need to look for when buying a new laptop, so you can make the best decision this holiday season.
Choose an Operating System
The first thing you have to decide when buying a laptop is which operating system (OS) you want to use. These days, the three major operating systems you’ll find in laptops are Windows, macOS, and Chrome OS.
The majority of laptops you can buy these days run on Windows. Since they are so popular, Windows laptops generally support more apps and features, making them the standard for gamers, businesses, and more.
There are dozens of companies that manufacture Windows laptops. While they range in price, Windows laptops generally offer better hardware for your money than MacBooks, and they are generally cheaper to repair and easier to upgrade.
However, it is important to note that Microsoft is going to end support for Windows 10 in 2025. So, if you are going to buy a new laptop this year, it is a good idea to make sure that it’s compatible with Windows 11.
It is also important to check if the laptop you’re buying has Windows in “S mode.” This will restrict you from downloading apps unless they are from the Microsoft Store. However, it was built for speed and security, and you can always switch out of S mode later.
Read More: What is Windows “S mode,” and how do you turn it off?
All MacBooks run on macOS, which was designed by Apple to be cleaner and easier to use than Windows. So, MacBooks are usually better for non-tech-savvy users, but they also have lots of programs for designers, video editors, and other creative types as well.
Since MacBooks are not nearly as popular as Windows laptops, there aren’t as many viruses created for macOS. Plus, Apple has total control over the hardware and software of MacBooks, so it can provide better customer service than Microsoft.
However, MacBooks are usually more expensive than Windows computers with similar specs. Part of the price difference is because MacBooks are usually made from recycled aluminum, which means they are a little more sturdy, stylish, and sleek.
Unlike traditional operating systems, Chrome OS was originally designed around web-based applications. But now you can also download and use some apps like Microsoft Word, Netflix, and even Android apps when you’re offline.
However, Chromebooks can be slow and also have very limited internal storage, and you’ll have to save most of your files to the cloud or Google Drive. So, these laptops are best for young students and employees who just need something cheap and secure.
If you would rather keep your old laptop but it’s not working properly, HelloTech can help. We have thousands of technicians across the country who can come to your home and help you troubleshoot, diagnose, and repair almost any issues with your laptop in person.
What To Look For in a Laptop CPU
(Image Source: Intel)
A CPU (central processing unit) is like the brain of a laptop. This tiny chip has a hand in processing all kinds of different information from your applications, operating system, and more. This makes it one of the most important things to look for when buying a laptop.
AMD vs Intel
The two main CPU manufacturers these days are Intel and AMD. While Intel has typically released the fastest CPUs on the market, AMD has been catching up, and now the two are fairly comparable.
How to Choose an Intel CPU
Intel’s latest line of CPUs is called the “Core” family. You can tell how powerful an Intel Core processor is by looking at its name. Intel uses four different “brand modifiers” to signify how powerful a CPU is, starting with the basic Core i3 and ending with the professional-grade Core i9.
- Core i3: For basic tasks, like checking your email.
- Core i5: For everyday multitasking and light gaming.
- Core i7: For power users, gamers, and creatives.
- Core i9: For powerful workstations and professional software.
Then you should also look at the “generation indicator,” which comes right after the brand modifier in the CPU’s name. Generally speaking, the higher this number is, the newer the CPUs will be.
So, an Intel Core i7 12700H will be a 12th-generation laptop, while a Core i7-1195G7 would be an 11th-gen laptop. Intel just announced its 13th-generation processors, but most laptops these days will still have 10th, 11th, or 12th-gen CPUs.
- 12th-gen: Released 2022
- 11th-gen: Released 2020-2021
- 10th-gen: Released 2019-2020
Finally, you should look at the “product line suffix” at the end of the CPU name. When it comes to laptops, the main ones to pay attention to are “H,” “K,” or “X,” which are all high-performance processors, and “U” or “Y,” which are more energy efficient.
You might also find certain budget laptops that use Intel “Celeron” or “Pentium” processors. However, these CPUs are much slower than Core i3 or i5 processors, and it’s usually worth the extra money to upgrade to a Core model if you can afford it.
Read More: How to check your computer’s specs on a Windows 10 PC
How to Choose an AMD CPU
AMD’s most popular line of CPUs is called Ryzen, and they are fairly comparable to Intel’s line of Core CPUs. You can tell how powerful a Ryzen CPU is by looking at its name. For example, a Ryzen 5 is similar to an Intel Core i5, and a Ryzen 7 is similar to a Core i7.
- Ryzen 3: for basic tasks
- Ryzen 5: for multitasking
- Ryzen 7: for power users and gamers
- Ryzen 9: for professional workstations
Then you should look at the generation indicator in the CPU name. Like Intel CPUs, the newest Ryzen processors are generally faster. AMD just announced its 7th-generation processors, but most laptops you can find will either have a 5th– or 6th-generation CPU right now.
- 6th-gen: Released 2022
- 5th-gen: Released 2020-2021
- 4th-gen: Released 2020-2021
- 3rd-gen: Released 2019-2020
Finally, you should look at the suffix at the end of the Ryzen CPU name. Just like Intel CPUs, if it ends in an “H” or “X,” that means it’s a high-performance processor, while a “U” or “M” means it’s more energy efficient.
If you find a laptop with AMD’s A-series or Athlon CPUs, you might want to look for a newer model to buy. Since Ryzen CPUs greatly overpower the older processors, you can get a much better laptop for the money.
Apple M1 vs M2
Until recently, all MacBooks came with CPUs from Intel. Now that Apple has started creating its own processors, you can only find the new M1, M1 Pro, and M2 chips in all the latest MacBooks.
Read More: How to check your computer’s specs on a Mac computer
The M1 is different than other processors because it is a “system on a chip,” which means it contains the CPU, GPU, and RAM all in one. According to Apple, the M1 made the MacBook 3.5 times faster than previous Intel CPUs.
The latest chip from Apple is the M2, which is 18% faster than the M1. However, it isn’t the fastest processor that Apple makes. The M1 Pro and M1 Max are up to 70 percent faster than the original M1, according to Apple.
If you’ve recently switched to Mac or Windows, HelloTech has experts around the country who can come to your home and teach you how to use a new operating system. We offer one-hour sessions where we will go over the basics of the operating system, how to use your web browser, and more.
What Are CPU Cores, and How Many Do You Need?
One of the most important things to look for when buying a laptop is how many cores the CPU has. Cores are like processors inside your CPU. They can each act alone or work together to complete tasks.
In general, the more cores a CPU has, the faster it will be, especially when using multiple programs at once.
- 2 Cores: For Basic Tasks
Dual-core CPUs are only sufficient for basic tasks like checking your email, browsing the web, and writing word documents. If you like to have multiple browser tabs and applications open at once, you might overload this CPU.
- 4 Cores: For Everyday Multitasking
Quad-core CPUs are good enough for the majority of users, including gamers. They also allow you to multitask without slowing your laptop down, and you can play some entry-level games at lower resolutions.
- 6 Cores: For Gamers and Content Creators
Hexa-core processors are designed for more demanding users that need to run intensive programs, like game streamers and graphic designers. They allow you to play games while streaming at the same time.
- 8 Cores: For Professionals
Octa-core CPUs are designed for professional gamers, editors, and engineers. These mobile workstations are powerful enough to edit 4K videos or play games while streaming and recording all at the same time. However, since they do not compromise on performance, these laptops often have a significantly shorter battery life.
Read More: What is a CPU, and how many cores does your CPU have?
What Are CPU Clock Speeds?
Clock speed refers to how fast a processor can interpret instructions and complete tasks. In general, higher clock speeds mean applications will load faster, but it only refers to the performance of a single core at a time.
Basically, a CPU with a high clock speed and only 1 or 2 cores will only be able to run a few applications, but they will all be snappy. On the other hand, a CPU with a low clock speed and lots of cores will be able to run multiple applications, but they will all be a little sluggish.
CPU speed is measured in gigahertz (GHz), and you only need 2 to 3GHz for basic tasks. However, if you are looking for a gaming laptop, you might want to buy one with a processor that can reach speeds of 3.5 to 4GHz or more.
If you feel like your computer is slow, you might not need to buy a new laptop. HelloTech can increase the speed and performance of your computer or laptop and even clean your hardware. With our computer tune-up services, we’ll make your old laptop run like new.
What To Look For in a Laptop GPU
A graphics processing unit (GPU) is similar to a CPU, but it mostly processes images, videos, and games. Most laptops these days have integrated GPUs, but gamers and content creators might want to look for a laptop with a discrete GPU instead.
Integrated vs Discrete GPUs
Integrated GPUs are embedded inside the CPU, so they are usually only powerful enough to watch movies and play low-resolution games. Discrete GPUs are separate from the CPU, and they are usually bigger, better, and faster.
If you are a gamer, video editor, or professional content creator, you might want a laptop with a discrete graphics card. Otherwise, integrated graphics cards should be sufficient for most users to perform basic tasks.
Nvidia vs Radeon
The two main discrete GPU manufacturers are Nvidia and AMD. Nvidia has generally been the faster option, especially for gaming. And while Radeon has usually been cheaper, they are somewhat comparable these days.
It is important to note that laptop GPUs are much smaller than their desktop counterparts, so they are usually 5-20% slower.
Low-End Graphics Cards
The slowest GPUs only allow you to play non-demanding games at low resolutions. These include Nvidia graphics cards that end in MX and AMD R-series GPUs. These follow the same naming scheme as AMD processors, so a Radeon R9 will be more powerful than a Radeon R7.
Mid-Range Graphics Cards
With a mid-range GPU, you can play most games at medium settings in high-definition. These include many models from the Nvidia RTX 20 and GTX 10 series (like the RTX 2080 or the GTX 1080), as well as the Radeon line of Vega GPUs.
In addition, the 8-core GPU in Apple’s first M1 chip sits in the low-to-mid range. According to benchmarks, the integrated graphics simply cannot handle modern games at high or even medium settings like Nvidia or Radeon GPUs.
High-End Graphics Cards
The fastest laptop GPUs will let you play the latest games at the highest settings, even with ray tracing and anti-aliasing. These include the newest Nvidia RTX 30 series and AMD’s Radeon RX line. Currently, the fastest GPU for laptops is the Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti, while the fastest AMD GPU is the Radeon RX 6850M XT.
When it comes to MacBooks, the M1 Pro benchmarks slightly below high-end GPUs available for Windows, while the M1 Max can compete with high-end GPUs in some benchmarks. However, MacBooks are still not considered good for gamers since most games are still only made for Windows.
It’s important to note that not all GPUs from the same line will have the same or even similar specs. In order to find out how fast a specific graphics card is and how it ranks compared to other GPUs, you can search for it by model number on notebookcheck.net.
How Much RAM Do You Need?
Random Access Memory (RAM) is like a laptop’s short-term memory. It’s where your laptop stores temporary data for the programs you are running. Generally speaking, the more RAM your laptop has, the faster it will be.
- 2 GB of RAM
With 2 GB of RAM, you will have enough memory to have a few browser tabs open, write a word document, or play very low-end games. However, you can only run one or two programs at a time before your device starts slowing down.
- 4 GB of RAM
With 4 GB of RAM, you have enough memory to run a few lightweight programs at a time. You can open a few browser tabs, do basic image or video editing, play low-resolution games, and stream music or videos online.
- 8 GB of RAM
With 8 GB of RAM, you will have enough memory to run several programs at once. You can open lots of browser tabs at once, use photo or video editing programs, stream content, and play most games at decent resolution and frame rate.
- 16 GB of RAM
With 16 GB of RAM, you have enough memory to run as many programs as you want without slowing your computer down. This amount of memory is for hardcore gamers, video editors, gaming streamers, and anyone using other demanding software.
- 32 GB of RAM:
With 32 GB of RAM, you have enough memory to edit high-resolution video (4K), model 3-D environments, or work with extremely large files. It’s also worth it if your computer needs to be dual-booted or you have several virtual machines installed.
In the end, there’s really no downside to having more RAM. The more you have, the more your laptop will use. Also, new programs and updates will require more RAM every year. So, you might want to look for a laptop with more RAM than you currently need. You can also switch out the RAM from many laptops to expand your memory capacity. If you do so, you should get two sticks that are the same. For example, if you want 32GB of RAM, you should buy two 16GB sticks with the exact same name.
DDR3 vs DDR4
When you’re looking to buy a laptop, you might notice that there are different kinds of RAM. The main difference between DDR3 and DDR4 is that the newer DDR4 sticks are faster, more energy-efficient, and have a higher data capacity.
There are also some laptops with DDR5 RAM, which is the latest generation technology. You might want to consider getting DDR5 RAM if you want to buy a high-end laptop that will last for several years.
How Much Storage Space Do You Need?
Most users these days can get by with at least 256GB of storage space on their laptops. If you have a lot of large files and apps, like games, photos, and videos, you will probably need at least 512GB to 1TB (terabyte) of storage space.
If you are looking to back up important files and photos from your computer, HelloTech is here to help. Our experts can come to your home and help you back up your data to a CD, DVD, external hard drive, or even to the cloud. We will also answer any of your questions, so you can perform your own backups after the technician leaves.
What To Look For in a Laptop Hard Drive
A hard drive is like your laptop’s long-term memory. It’s where you store all your files, folders, applications, and more. There are two types of hard drives that you can choose from: a hard disk drive (HDD) or a solid-state drive (SDD).
What Is an HDD?
A hard disk drive (HDD) stores data on magnetic spinning disks, and a physical arm sits over these plates to read and write data. The performance of an HDD depends on how fast it is, with most desktop HDDs spinning at around 5,400 RPM (revolutions per minute).
Since these hard drives have small moving parts, they are slower and more likely to break or fail than SSDs.
What Is an SDD?
Unlike traditional hard drives, a solid-state drive (SDD) doesn’t have any moving parts. Instead, these kinds of hard drives use flash memory, which allows them to load applications and transfer files much faster.
You will instantly notice the difference in speed with an SSD. Your applications will launch faster, and you’ll be able to move files faster. If you have two SSDs in your laptop, you can move files between them at lightning-fast speeds.
Read More: What’s the difference between SSD and HDD?
What Is an NVMe?
If you want the fastest SSD, you might want to buy a laptop with an NVMe (non-volatile memory express) or M.2 card. These hard drives connect directly to your laptop’s motherboard to avoid bottlenecks that normal SATA SSDs run into.
NVME drives are also much smaller than traditional SSDs, and many laptops will have two of these drives installed or available to install. This allows you to use one drive for all your applications, which will free up space on the other drive for all your files.
What To Look For in a Laptop Screen Type
When you buy a laptop, there are two basic screen types to choose from: TN (Twisted Nematic) and IPS (In-Plane Switching). TN panels are the fastest, so they are good for gamers. On the other hand, IPS laptops have better colors that look accurate from any angle.
Some laptops also have OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays that have also been used in phones and high-end TVs. These expensive displays have self-lighting pixels, which gives the screen nearly perfect contrast and vibrant colors for watching movies.
OLED displays have very fast response times, so they are also great for gamers. However, they are much more expensive and don’t get nearly as bright as regular LED monitors (also known as LCD, or liquid crystal display).
Screen Resolution: 1080p vs 4K
Screen resolution refers to how many pixels your screen has. The higher a laptop’s screen resolution is, the more details you will be able to see. Most laptops these days have Full HD (1080×1920), Quad-HD (1440×2560), or 4K (2160×3840) displays.
However, you probably won’t notice a huge difference between a 4K laptop and an HD laptop with a 15-inch screen. They are also more expensive, slower, and the battery doesn’t last as long. Plus, you can always connect an HD laptop to a 4K monitor as long as the graphics card is powerful enough to handle it.
What Is a Good Refresh Rate?
If you’re a gamer, you should also look for a laptop with a high refresh rate. This refers to how many times the image on a display will update itself (or refresh) every second. Laptops with higher refresh rates are better at handling motion, especially when playing video games or editing videos.
Refresh rate is measured in hertz (Hz), and it is directly related to how many frames per second your GPU can display. So, if you want to play games at 144 fps, you will need a display with a refresh rate of 144Hz or more.
Once you buy a new laptop, HelloTech can set it up for you and answer any of your questions. We have thousands of experts across the country who can come to your home and help you optimize your computer setup as soon as today.
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