Not all laptops are created equal, and if you’re in the market for a new one, doing a solid bit of research beforehand is required. After all, there are a lot of factors to take into account, from technical specs, to budget, to your personal use case. But the fact of the matter is that we all pretty much live our lives around our computers — from Zoom meetings and work assignments during the day to Netflix streaming at night — so it’s key to find a device that’s a good fit.
While finding a new laptop can seem like a big task, that’s why we’re here with our curated selection of the best laptops you can buy right now. But as is the case with any big tech purchase, there are a few basic things you’ll definitely want to consider before you add that shiny new laptop to your cart. Of course, everyone’s got their own needs (gamers are going to be looking for a dazzling 4K display, for example), but it’s good for anyone to keep the following in mind.
How do I go about shopping for a new laptop?
Choosing a laptop is mostly dependent on what you’ll be using it for. Beginner laptop owners need something user-friendly and straightforward, frequent travelers need something light with a long battery life, designers and gamers need top-notch 4K graphics and quick central processors, and everyone needs something that will last. Take stock of what you need and what you’d like your new computer to accomplish, for example:
Do you want to be able to zip between browser tabs at lightning speed? Look for a laptop with a good amount of RAM — at least 8GB.
Do you want to be able to run video games? You’ll need a fast processor, a great graphics card and as much RAM as you can afford. You’ll also want to look for a laptop with a good amount of storage space — upwards of 512GB SSD (solid-state drive) or even 1TB or more — to stash all your game save files.
Do you need to run demanding programs, like those used for photo and video editing? Similar to gamers, you’ll want to seek out laptops with lots of RAM and storage space, too, alongside a powerful processor and maybe even a 4k display.
Do you need to be able to switch from a laptop to a tablet at a moment’s notice? A convertible 2-in-1 laptop is a versatile choice that can transform from laptop mode for working and browsing to tent mode for video streaming and then to tablet mode for note-taking, drawing and touchscreen games.
Answering the above questions and thinking honestly about how you plan to use your laptop will help you narrow down exactly what type of laptop you need, and in turn, which brands you should be directing your attention to.
What size laptop should I be looking for?
Your optimal laptop size will ultimately be decided by two factors: personal preference and lifestyle. On the personal preference front, you really just need to figure out if you want a huge display, or something more portable that you can chuck into your backpack.
Lifestyle, on the other hand, is where practicality comes into play. If you commute daily or travel often and need to have your computer on your person, you’re going to want to go with something more lightweight, slim and compact. Alternatively, if you’re a huge movie buff, gamer or graphic designer who doesn’t normally take their laptop on the road with them, you can easily spring for a 15-inch (or even bigger) screen.
What is a good battery life for a laptop?
The whole point of a laptop is that it’s meant to be portable, so having a battery that keeps you ticking along for several hours without needing a recharge is pretty much a must. And there’s more to it than that, too: In terms of the larger-picture battery life, you’ll want to look for a battery that’s meant to last for charge after charge and (hopefully) one that you can replace once it does give out.
How much does a laptop weigh?
The lighter, the better should be your motto when shopping for a laptop. If you have to carry your computer with you — whether it’s from class to class around campus or hopping on a plane for international travel — you don’t want something that’s going to make your back hurt by the end of the day. Luckily, laptops are lighter than ever these days (you can find some that weigh in at less than two pounds!), but it’s still worth keeping an eye on the ounces so you don’t wind up with a machine you have to lug around.
How much should I spend on a new laptop?
The price of your next laptop is really going to come down to one thing — how much you’re willing to spend.
While we’d all like an unlimited budget for tech purchases, realistically speaking you probably have a general range in mind for how much of your hard-earned cash you’re willing to part with. If you rely on the machine day in and day out — and it’s not something you only occasionally spend time on — then getting the computer that’ll get the job done well (and is built to last) is super important. It’ll cost you more upfront, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.
That said, be aware of getting caught up in extras that seem really cool, but that you might not ever use. For example, a 2-in-1 laptop with a touchscreen and a stylus is really cool for folks who plan to draw or take handwritten notes with their laptop, but it’s not necessarily a must-have for everyone. Whatever the latest, greatest feature may be, consider whether you’ll actually use it and if it’s worth the often premium cost.
In general, you should think hard about what you’re going to use your laptop for. If you need a device with lots of power under the hood and ample storage space, aim for something in the $800 and beyond range. If you’re only using your laptop to edit the occasional Google Doc or Excel spreadsheet, then you can probably get away with spending below the $500 mark.
Is a cheaper laptop even worth it?
When it comes to tech in general, you really do get what you pay for. But, thanks to the bar-raising devices that have come out in the last few years, a cheap laptop can actually take you pretty far. It’s all about knowing which one to select — depending on what you use your laptop for the most, staying stingy might be your best option. (Here are our favorite wallet-friendly laptop models under $500, and the best budget laptops under $300, for reference.)
Which brand is best for laptops?
We’ve put together this definitive guide (based on hours of research) to the best laptops on the market. We’ve compared all the top brands that you probably have in mind like Apple, Dell and Acer, as well as other huge players you may not have even seen coming like HP, Asus and Lenovo. Trust us, you’re in good hands, no matter which one of these top laptop picks you ultimately decide to buy.