Laptop Buying Guide 2023: Selecting the Best Model for You
Hey there, looking to buy a new laptop this year? With so many options out there, it can be tough to figure out which one is right for you. Whether you need a lightweight laptop for basic tasks, a powerful workstation for intensive projects, or a versatile 2-in-1, this guide has got you covered. We’ll walk you through the key things to consider based on how you plan to use your new laptop. What kind of specs should you be looking for? How much storage and memory do you need? What size screen is ideal? Most importantly, how much should you budget for a quality laptop that will meet your needs?
How to Determine the Right Laptop for Your Needs
To find the perfect laptop for you, it’s important to determine how you’ll primarily use it. Are you a student, a gamer, or a basic home user? Your needs and budget will guide you to the right model.
For students, look for an affordable ultrabook or 2-in-1 with a long battery life, like the Dell XPS 13 or HP Specter x360. These are lightweight, portable, and able to run basic tasks for homework and streaming media.
Gamers will want a gaming laptop with a dedicated graphics card for playing graphics-intensive PC games. Models like the Razer Blade 15 or Alienware m15 offer powerful components, high-refresh rate screens, and RGB keyboards. These do cost more, however.
Everyday home users can get by nicely with a mid-range laptop like the Acer Aspire 5 or Lenovo IdeaPad 3. These have capable specs for web browsing, productivity, and streaming entertainment. Battery life and portability are still important for couch or bed use.
Once you determine the category you need, set a budget and stick to it. Do some research on the latest models that fit your needs and read reviews from trusted sources. Compare specs like the processor, memory, storage, screen quality, and battery life. The right laptop for you is out there, you just have to find the perfect balance of performance, features, and price for your needs. With the variety of affordable and premium options today, everyone can get a great laptop.
Key Specs to Consider When Buying a Laptop
When buying a new laptop, there are a few key specs you’ll want to consider based on how you plan to use it.
The processor, or CPU, acts as the “brain” of your laptop. For basic tasks like browsing the web or word processing, an Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 will work great. If you’re a power user who edits video or plays PC games, go for an Intel Core i5/i7 or AMD Ryzen 5/7. Performance laptops for high-end tasks should have an Intel Core i9 or AMD Ryzen 9.
RAM, or memory, determines how many browser tabs, apps, and programs you can have open at once without slowing down. For most people, 8-16 gigabytes (GB) is good. If you’re a multitasker, video editor, or PC gamer, get at least 16GB for optimal performance.
Storage refers to the amount of space on your hard drive or solid-state drive (SSD) for saving files, photos, videos, and apps. Aim for at least 256 gigabytes (GB) of space. An SSD will make your laptop feel faster than a hard disk drive (HDD). For lots of storage, you can get a laptop with both an SSD and an HDD.
A dedicated graphics card, or GPU, provides extra power for playing PC games, editing video, or running graphics-intensive software. Most laptops will have an integrated graphics card which is fine for basic tasks. For gaming or video editing at high resolutions, look for a discrete NVIDIA GeForce or AMD Radeon graphics card with at least 4 gigabytes (GB) of dedicated memory.
The two most popular operating systems are Windows (made by Microsoft) and macOS (made by Apple for MacBooks). Chrome OS (made by Google) is lightweight and ideal if you primarily use web apps and Android apps. Consider which OS you’re most comfortable using and compatible with the software you need.
Budget Laptops Under $500
If you’re on a tight budget but still want a capable laptop, there are some solid options under $500. These more affordable models will handle everyday tasks like web browsing, productivity, and casual entertainment.
Chrome OS-powered Chromebooks are lightweight, inexpensive laptops perfect for basic needs. Models like the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3 or HP Chromebook x360 start around $300. Chrome OS is easy to use but limited since it relies heavily on web apps and cloud storage. However, for casual browsing and streaming media, Chromebooks work great.
You can find Windows laptops with modest specs for under $500. The Lenovo IdeaPad 3 or Acer Aspire 5 offers Intel Celeron or Pentium processors, 4 to 8 gigabytes of RAM, and 128 to 256 gigabyte solid-state drives for storage. While not powerful, these are suitable for web browsing, Office apps, and casual photo/video editing. Gaming and other intensive uses will struggle, though.
Buying a refurbished or gently-used laptop is an eco-friendly way to save money. Check major retailers like Best Buy, Dell, HP, and Lenovo which offer refurbished models with decent specs for under $500. You may find Core i3 or i5 processors, 8 gigabytes of RAM, and a 500-gigabyte hard drive. Be sure to check the warranty and return policy, though used laptops do carry more risk.
For basic needs on a budget, you have solid options to choose from. While performance and storage are limited at this price point, if you go in with realistic expectations any of these affordable laptop types can serve you well for everyday tasks. Focus on reputable brands, opt for solid-state storage if possible, and consider models with a touchscreen display for easier navigation. With regular web browsing, productivity, and media consumption in mind, a budget laptop under $500 can do the job.
Top Laptop Brands of 2023
When it comes to laptops, you have many brands to choose from. Some of the top brands in 2023 are:
Dell makes high-quality, affordable laptops like the XPS, Inspiron, and Latitude series. The XPS line is their premium brand, offering the latest specs for performance and graphics. The Inspiron is their budget-friendly, all-purpose option. The Latitude series is aimed at business users. Dell is a reputable brand that provides good value at various price points.
HP is another very popular, reputable brand that produces laptops for home, business, and gaming use. Their Specter, Envy, and Pavilion lines offer stylish, powerful laptops with solid build quality. The Specter series is HP’s high-end line, with premium designs and components. The Envy series provides a good balance of performance and value. And the Pavilion is HP’s most affordable, mainstream option. HP also makes gaming laptops and workstations under their OMEN brand.
If you prefer macOS over Windows, Apple is the obvious choice. Apple’s MacBook Pro and MacBook Air are highly capable, beautifully designed laptops. The MacBook Pro is Apple’s most powerful laptop, aimed at professionals who need performance. The MacBook Air is an ultraportable laptop for everyday basic tasks. Apple laptops are known for their sleek, minimalist designs, high-resolution Retina displays, and long battery life. However, MacBooks do generally cost more than comparable Windows laptops.
Lenovo makes some of the most popular Windows laptops for home and business use. Their Yoga, IdeaPad, and ThinkPad series offer versatile, well-built laptops at a range of price points. The Yoga series are Lenovo’s premium convertible laptops with 360-degree hinges. The IdeaPad line provides solid, affordable laptops for everyday needs. The ThinkPad series is aimed at business users who need power, performance, and durability. Lenovo is a reputable brand that provides very good value.
In the end, you can’t go wrong with any of these top brands. Choose a brand and model line based on your needs, priorities, and budget. Stick with a reputable brand, read reviews from sources you trust, and you’ll find a laptop you’ll love!
Mid-Range Laptops From $500-$1000
If you have a budget of $500 to $1000, you have some good options for a mid-range laptop that should suit most basic needs. These models offer better performance than budget laptops, with more powerful components that can handle everyday tasks like web browsing, productivity, casual gaming, and multimedia.
Processor and Memory
Look for at least an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 processor and 8-16 gigabytes of RAM. These will allow for smooth multitasking and running multiple tabs or apps at once without lagging. Some options also offer a dedicated graphics card for playing popular games in medium settings.
A solid-state drive (SSD) of at least 256 gigabytes is ideal for fast boot and load times. Some models may have both an SSD for the operating system and programs, as well as a larger hard disk drive (HDD) for storage. Aim for a minimum of 500GB of total storage if you have a larger media library or want to store lots of files.
Expect a 15-inch or smaller 1080p display, though some models do offer higher resolution or touchscreen options. A full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution is perfectly suitable for most needs. Look for an IPS panel for wider viewing angles.
You’ll typically get 6-8 hours of battery life for basic tasks, which should get you through most of a workday without charging. Battery estimates can vary depending on screen brightness, wireless usage, and more demanding tasks like video editing or PC gaming.
Mid-range laptops offer a sweet spot of performance, features, and value that should handle all your daily computing needs. While more premium laptops do offer additional power and higher-end components, these models provide a well-rounded experience for everyday productivity and entertainment without breaking the bank.
High-End Laptops Over $1000
High-End Laptops Over $1000
If you’re looking for maximum power and performance, these high-end laptops are for you. Be prepared to pay a premium price for premium components.
These laptops typically have the latest and most powerful CPUs like the Intel Core i7 or i9, or AMD Ryzen 7 or 9. They’ll also likely have a dedicated graphics card, like an NVIDIA RTX 2060 or better, to handle graphics-intensive tasks like video editing, 3D modeling, or gaming. With fast solid-state drives, at least 16GB of RAM, and a full HD or 4K display, these machines are built for speed and multitasking.
Some options to consider in this category include:
- Apple MacBook Pro – For creative professionals, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is a powerhouse. Choose from Intel Core i7 or i9 CPUs, AMD Radeon Pro 5000 graphics, up to 8TB of storage, and 64GB of memory. The stunning Retina display, Touch Bar, and long battery life are hard to beat. Of course, you’ll pay a premium for the Apple brand.
- Dell XPS 15 – A favorite for Windows users, the Dell XPS 15 is a high-performance laptop with a beautiful nearly bezel-less 4K display. Configure it with up to an Intel Core i9, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti graphics, 64GB of RAM, and 2TB of storage. It’s stylish, fast, and built to last.
- Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme – For business users who want power and performance, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme should fit the bill. Choose from Intel Core i7 and i9 processors, NVIDIA GeForce 1650 graphics, up to 64GB of memory, and dual 1TB solid-state drives. The durable and lightweight carbon-fiber body, crisp 4K display, and legendary ThinkPad keyboard are perfect for productivity on the go.
- Razer Blade 15 – Billed as the “world’s smallest 15.6-inch gaming laptop”, the Razer Blade 15 packs a ton of power into its thin and sleek aluminum chassis. Get up to an Intel Core i9 CPU, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 graphics, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage. The 240Hz full HD display provides incredibly smooth graphics for gaming, video editing, and more. The downside? It’s expensive, and battery life could be better.
In the end, you’ll need to weigh performance, features, brand preferences, and budget to choose the high-powered laptop that’s right for your needs. But with the latest chips, graphics, displays, and components, these premium laptops are built to handle even the most demanding computing tasks.
Best Laptops for Students
If you’re a student, you have some special considerations when choosing a new laptop. Here are some of the best options for students in 2023:
Chromebooks are lightweight, inexpensive laptops that run on Google’s Chrome OS. They’re perfect for basic tasks like writing papers, browsing the web, streaming media, and more. Models like the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 and HP Chromebook x2 offer detachable keyboards and long battery life at very affordable prices.
Apple’s MacBook line offers premium build quality and performance for students. The MacBook Air provides excellent value with an M1 chip, Retina display, and all-day battery life. For more intensive tasks like video editing, the 14-inch MacBook Pro is a great choice. While MacBooks cost more upfront, they tend to last a long time.
There are many Windows laptop options for students with a range of prices and specs. Look for models with at least 8GB of RAM, an Intel i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 processor or better, and 256GB of solid-state storage. Two great choices are the Dell XPS 13 and HP Envy x360. These provide the power for multitasking while still being thin, light, and having great battery life.
In summary, think about how you’ll use your laptop and choose a system that meets your needs while also fitting your budget. For basic productivity, a Chromebook could work well. If you need more performance for multimedia work, a MacBook Air or Windows ultrabook would be a perfect fit. Whichever you pick, be sure to take advantage of student discounts to save some money on your purchase!
Best Laptops for Business Professionals
When choosing a laptop for business use, there are a few key factors to consider based on your needs and priorities. As a professional, you’ll want a laptop that is fast, powerful, secure, and able to run essential software. The following are some of the best options for business professionals.
Dell XPS 13
This lightweight yet powerful laptop is ideal for productivity on the go. With a vibrant 13.3-inch display, the latest Intel processors, and a long battery life, the XPS 13 handles multitasking with ease. It features enterprise-level security and the option for Windows 10 Pro for advanced protection. The XPS 13 is a highly capable yet compact laptop perfect for any professional.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
For those who prefer a traditional laptop experience, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is an excellent choice. This lightweight 14-inch laptop provides strong performance, military-grade durability, and enhanced security features like fingerprint and facial recognition. With its signature TrackPoint navigation and spill-resistant keyboard, the X1 Carbon is ideal for intensive typing and navigation. It runs quietly even under heavy workloads, making it a great option for an office environment.
HP Specter x360
The HP Specter x360 is a stylish convertible laptop that delivers versatility for professionals. Its 360-degree hinge allows you to use it as a tablet or tent mode for presentations. With options for 4K displays, Intel Core i7 processors, and NVIDIA graphics, the Specter x360 packs power in a sleek, all-metal design. HP also offers additional security features for sensitive data. For professionals seeking an adaptable yet premium device, the Specter x360 is a compelling choice.
Apple MacBook Pro
For professionals embedded in the Apple ecosystem, the MacBook Pro is an obvious option. This iconic laptop offers strong performance, an elegant design, and macOS. Models with the M1 Pro or M1 Max chip provide breakthrough speed and battery life. The MacBook Pro works seamlessly with other Apple devices and has built-in security features like the T2 chip. While expensive, the MacBook Pro is an excellent choice if you prefer the Apple experience for work.
Laptop Buying Guide FAQs
Laptop Buying Guide FAQs
So you’re in the market for a new laptop, but have some questions before making your purchase. No worries, we’ve got you covered. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about buying a laptop.
Do I need a touchscreen? Touchscreen laptops can be convenient, allowing you to navigate the screen with the tap or swipe of a finger. However, touchscreens often drain battery life faster and cost more. If you plan to use your laptop for basic tasks like browsing the web or word processing, a touchscreen probably isn’t necessary.
How much storage do I need? Storage refers to the amount of space on your laptop to save files, photos, videos, and other data. More storage means you can save more of the stuff you need. For most users, a solid state drive (SSD) with at least 256 gigabytes should work great. If you plan to store lots of photos, videos, or games, consider an SSD with 500 gigabytes or more.
How much memory do I need? Memory, or RAM, determines how many browser tabs, apps, and programs you can have open at once without slowing down your laptop. For the best performance, 8-16 gigabytes of RAM is good for most users. If you frequently use power-hungry software like video editing applications, 16 gigabytes or more is better.
What size screen should I get? Screen size comes down to your needs and preferences. Smaller 11 to 13-inch screens are the most portable, while 15 to 17-inch screens are better for multitasking and viewing details. Touchscreen or 2-in-1 laptops typically have smaller screens, usually 11 to 13 inches. Choose a size that fits how you plan to use your new laptop.
Do I need a powerful processor? The processor, or CPU, acts as the “brain” of your laptop, handling tasks like launching apps, browsing the web, and editing documents. More powerful processors like Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 are good for most mainstream needs. Basic laptops for web browsing and word processing can get by with a lower-end Intel Celeron or AMD A6 processor. For gaming or video editing, choose an Intel Core i7/i9 or AMD Ryzen 7/9.
Does the brand matter? When buying a laptop, brand is less important than specifications like the processor, memory, storage, and graphics card. However, some brands like Apple, Dell, HP, and Lenovo are generally well-rated for laptops. Check reviews of specific models you’re interested in to determine if the brand and their customer support will meet your needs.
So there you have it. Armed with the knowledge from this guide, you should now feel confident shopping for your new laptop. Whether you need a lightweight Ultrabook for productivity on the go, a powerful workstation for intensive tasks, or an affordable Chromebook for basic computing, the options outlined here will set you on the right path. At the end of the day, think about how you plan to use your laptop and how much you want to spend. Focus on the features that matter most to you, ignore the hype, and you’ll end up with a new computer that suits your needs perfectly. The world of technology moves fast, but by making a thoughtful choice now, your new laptop will serve you well for years to come. Now get out there and happy shopping! The perfect laptop for you is waiting to be discovered.