Home Guides Laptops The ULTIMATE Laptop Buying Guide for 2017 & Beyond

The ULTIMATE Laptop Buying Guide for 2017 & Beyond

Guy working on laptop

The best you can get without crippling your wallet

Have you been thinking of upgrading your laptop, or thinking of buying a secondary laptop for personal use and yet balking at the cost involved? Don’t go any further. Here is a list of best laptops between $200 to $1000 available today. But first let’s alert you on the features to check for.

We all love laptops – those light, cool and compact machines that have enough processing power to run applications which needed big computing machines in the last decade.

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This is what makes it the best personal tool that can be used for work, play and entertainment; all packed into one package. Although the upcoming tablets and smart phones have comparable processing capabilities, still there is a level of comfort while working on a laptop that you just can’t replace.

So for the people who share my love of laptops, here is a list of things you should definitely check out before you buy one:

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So which platforms are you most comfortable with Mac, Windows, Linux, or Chrome OS?

The market is flooded with a variety of laptops, but almost all of them come with a one of these three operating systems pre-installed: Windows, Chrome OS or Mac OS X. Linux is an open source operating system and its users usually go for a laptop, which doesn’t come with a pre-installed OS, i.e. just DOS.

If you ask us, it is a personal choice, Mac users will say that the OS has a ceaseless performance, and the design is very sleek and stylish; on the other hand windows users will say that they are just too used to windows to change to some other OS, if nothing else. So, here are some features of each OSs which can help you decide which one you want to go for:

  • Windows 10: First of all, it is the most popular operating system and is used by companies, artists, and for personal use all the same. The number of different laptop models available with Windows are much more than any other OS out there. Windows 10, the latest version of the Microsoft’s flagship operating system, and was created as an OS which can be used with equal ease on touch enabled devices and that without it.It is definitely an upgrade to Windows 8, with which the company has introduced the new feature of switching between tablet mode and desktop mode, they also released Surface 4 designed to work ceaselessly on the update OS. It also comes with the new Cortana voice assistant.
  • Apple OS X: MacBooks by Apple come pre-installed with the Mac OS X, the proprietary Apple OS. The user interface and experience is completely different from the traditional windows interface with the Start menu and the Taskbar, which is substituted by a dock of apps at the bottom of the screen. People using other apple products like iPhones, iPods or iPads feel at home with its iconic features.The Mac OS also offers superior multi-touch gestures with its trackpad, it also allows you to take calls and text from your other iOS devices like IPhone. But, there are no touch enabled MacBooks available in the market at this time, so if you want a touch enabled Apple device you’ll have to settle with an iPad, although it’s not really a settlement as they newer versions of IPads are very powerful devices.
  • Chrome OS: When Chrome OS was first released, one of its first advertisements was along the lines, “We are ready, are you?” unfortunately as it turns out the world wasn’t yet ready for them. The hard disk free inexpensive Chromebooks come with Google’s own OS, which is simple in design but very secure. But these laptops have limited capabilities.The user interface is kept very similar to traditional main menu and desktop, but the main and sole app you use is the Chrome browser. Devices with Chrome OS are apt to surf the Web and check emails and social activities on the go as they are very light and easy to carry around, and offer up to 10 hours of battery life not just in theory but in daily use too.
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Do you want a touch screen, or an Old-school Clamshell Laptop?

In the last two years, a new category laptop called “2-in-1s” have carved a market for themselves. These devices allow users to switch between the traditional laptop and the tablet, which are even easier to carry around.

These devices usually come with either a detachable screen or screen which can bend back 360 degrees. These are an especially good option for users who want to use their laptop for artistic purposes like painting, editing etc.

As they can be used as an alternative to an electronic slate or external touch enabled screens they need for their art, they can enhance their performance and produce better results with a 2 in 1 than a clamshell laptop.

How big a screen do you want, remember bigger the screen heavier the laptop?

Laptops can be categorized according to their display sizes, here are the categories mentioned with their features:

  • Ultra-Thin Laptops:

Screen size – 11 to 12 inches

Weight –  2.5 to 3.5 pounds

These are very thin and maybe lightest laptops available

  • Thin laptops :

Screen size – 13 to 14 inches

Weight: Under 4 pounds

These provide an apt balance between portability and productivity.

  • Laptops

Screen size – 15.6 inches

Weight – 4.5 to 6.5 pounds

It is a classic one-off if you need a bigger, better screen, you will have to carry around the extra weight.

  • Pseudo desktops

Screen Size: 17 to 18 inches

These are desk laptop and can be used as a one-stop entertainment system for you or a gaming station as they usually come with dedicated graphic processors and power you need to play high-end games at the highest of fps. You can use them as a massive workstation, which would offer high-level productivity standards.

Specs, Specs, Specs!! Things to check out

Laptops are a combination of a number of different components, listed here are the essential components of a laptop system, which have a direct and significant impact on the performance of a device and its usability:

CPU: The central processing unit or as it is taught in junior school is the brain of a computer system, the type, make, generation of the processor has a direct and huge impact on productivity. But choosing a processor depends on the end-user needs, if you don’t use applications which need to do heavy processing, then even the less-expensive models may suit you and satisfy your needs. Here’s a list of the popular processors available:

  • AMD Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) A series or 5th generation Intel (Dual) Core i3 / i5

Use: Mainstream laptops for daily use, these provide the best possible performance at the lowest possible price. Intel’s Core i5 is a more enhanced version of its older i3 version, though both have dual cores. Radeon’s A series come with a new accelerated processing units with better capabilities, but are less popular even though they show similar performance levels

  • 6th generation Intel (Quad) Core i7

Use:  Gaming, video editing and workstations, these are power houses which can give you the same level of productivity you except from a desktop

  • AMD E-Series Accelerated Processors or Intel® Pentium® /Celeron®

Use: These provide basic processing power enabling you to do fundamental stuff like watching videos, viewing and editing documents and surfing.

  • Intel® Atom™

Use: These offer basic performance levels, similar to Celeron/Pentium, they do offer better battery life, and is usually used in 2 in 1 laptops.

  • Intel® Core™ M3 / M5 / M7

Use: These are low-power processors, but they produce very little heat, allowing systems with these processors to work properly without a cooling unit. They show better performance levels than their predecessor Celeron, but are in no way comparable to Core i3 / i5.

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Numbers of Cores: Single core, Dual core or Quad core Processors. The numbers of cores in a laptop determines how fast it can be, in addition to that it also enables the user to work on multiple applications without the speed and efficiency being compromised. The only disadvantage is that they tend to get hot faster, so you should get a good external fan too.

RAM: For basic usage, you can work with 2GB of RAM, but if you ask us, you should go for at least 4GB. If your budget allows for it go for an 8GB RAM, it will help you avoid a number of hassles in the future. Also check out the following things, before finalizing:

Frequency – Do check that the motherboard, and the maximum frequency it will support, for example if the maximum frequency the motherboard can handle is 1300 MHZ, there is no use in getting 8 GB RAM as it won’t make a difference.

Timing –The overall speed of the processor will depend on the delay or latency of the device. So, go for processors with lower the timings.

32 Bit vs 64 Bit – If you have high processing needs and are thinking of getting a premium processor then go for the 64 bit operating systems as they can use more than 4 GB of RAM. Whereas, a 32 bit OS won’t use anything beyond 4GB.

Storage: Storage Drive or Hard Drive has a huge impact on the performance and end-user experience, sometimes even more than the processing power of your CPU. If your budget allows it, always go for a solid state drive (SSD) rather than a hard drive when choosing the type of internal drive, because you’ll miss out on at least three times the speed they offer, if you don’t. You can compromise on the volume of SSD if money is tight, because you can always buy an external hard drive for your mass storage needs. If your budget just doesn’t allow for a SSD, try and get a HDD with 7200 rpm.

Display: Most laptops offer displays with 1366 x 768 resolution, which is mediocre at best, so if your pocket allows you, go for at least 1920 x 1080p resolution, also known as full HD. Now, laptops with even sharper display are available they offer display with 2560 x 1600p and 3200 x 1800 resolution. Laptops with display of extremely high resolution like 3840 x 2160p are also available, but they do cost a lot more, and offer lesser is the battery life.

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Graphics Card/Chip: If you have high processing needs, like gaming and video editing then you should definitely think about a dedicated graphics processor unit over an integrated graphic system.

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What is the main difference between Integrated vs Dedicated Graphics Card?

Integrated Graphic Cards correspond to in-built graphic systems, they are either soldered to the motherboard or mounted on the CPU. These Internal Graphic Processing Units use the internal RAM of the device as they don’t have any dedicated memory.

Whereas, in a dedicated graphics card, a physically separate Graphic Processing Unit card is put in place, these have their own processing capabilities and dedicated memory and hence these systems produce way better graphics, with way less delay.

Miscellaneous important things you should checkout before clicking that “Buy-Now” option

DVD or Blu-ray Drives: If you want to read those old CDs and DVDs you collected, check if the laptop you are going for has the drive, and hope that those old DVDs still work, but, don’t reject a laptop just on the basis of this, because you can always buy a USB DVD/Blu-ray drive.

Keyboard and Touchpad: Check if the keyboard is backlit or not, make sure it’s sturdy and offers solid tactile feedback with plenty of vertical travel. Also, look for an accurate touchpad that gives you a stable cursor and responds well to multi-touch gestures. If you’re buying a laptop for work, consider getting one with a nub so that you can easily navigate around the desktop without lifting your fingers off the keyboard.

Battery Life: The least you should expect is 6 hours of battery life, anything more than 8 hours is ideal.

Know what the End Use Purpose of the device is

Always keep in mind what the device will be used for on a daily, if you are planning to use it just for basic tasks such as browsing the internet, using Microsoft office and regular stuff like email, presentations etc. go for a simple laptop. However, if you are going to have higher processing needs and planning to use your laptop for playing online games and editing videos, then go for a computer with better configurations.

What is your budget, what should you expect?

Before we list out the best laptops under $700 available in the market today, let us overview what can we except from a laptop in a certain budget:

  • Below $250: Laptops in this price range include the inexpensive Chromebooks and lower tier Windows based devices with relatively slower and less storage options and slower processors. These are apt to be used as secondary devices.
  • Between $350 and $600: For $600 or less you can easily get a laptop with a decent processing unit, in addition to that you can expect 4GB of RAM, and you can also get a 500GB to 750GB SATA hard drive, maybe even 1TB. These notebooks will usually lack a solid state drive, and a 1080p display.
  • Between $600 and $900: Once you cross the $600 mark, you can acquire a laptop with premium design and stylish look. You should at least get a 1080p display, if not higher. You can expect low volume solid state drive for processing purposes and can even get an additional internal HDD for storage purposes.
  • Above $900: At this premium price range, you expect laptops to have a very good screen with more that 1080p resolution, Quad core processors, with lightning fast speed and discrete dedicated GPUs.
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