20 Things to Know Before You Buy A Laptop

things to know before buying a laptop

Buying a laptop can be stressful and a big investment. That’s why we have included 20 things you should know before you purchase your next laptop.

1. Screen Size

Screen size should be a big consideration when purchasing a laptop. Do you need a bigger screen to develop photos? Are you just writing word docs? The answer depends on what you are planning on doing with your laptop. My recommendation would be if your using your laptop for a simple task then a 13-inch laptop will be perfect. If you’re using your laptop for a more time-consuming task then a 15 inch will make that process a lot more enjoyable. I wouldn’t recommend anything above 15 inches unless you really need the screen space. These bigger laptops are not very portable and can be a headache to squeeze into a backpack.

2. Display

Having a screen you like looking at for hours on end is important and shouldn’t be skipped. For most budget laptops the screens will be TN panels that have wider viewing angles which is the distance you can see the screen from aside. IPS panels are more common on premium laptops and are more color-accurate meaning the display is showing what that color truly looks like on other displays. Photographers and video editors will need these displays to aid them in their editing.

It is also important to consider pixel density most budget laptops will come with a 1080p screen which for most people will be fine. If your doing video or photo editing then a higher density screen will benefit you greater as the images and text will be a lot clearer. One word of caution is the higher the pixel density the more power consumption that display will take. This will result in shorter battery life which may be important for you.

3. Battery Life

Battery life can make or break a laptop depending on how often you have to charge your laptop. It could have all the features you need but if the thing dies every hour then it’s not going to do you any good. A lot of things factor into what affects your battery life I have created a list of the most common things.

Most Common Things To Affect Battery Life

Size of Battery

Battery size is a huge factor in how long your battery will last. If you have a larger battery then your laptop will last longer and a smaller battery will last shorter. You can tell the battery size often by looking at the specs of the laptop. Most laptops come with 2,000 and can go up to 6,000 mAh. The bigger the mAh (milliamp hours) the larger the battery.

Internal Components

The stuff inside your laptop can also affect your battery life. Everything inside your laptop needs power and different things need different amounts of power. Newer laptops have more optimized components that take less power which results in your battery staying juiced for longer. Bigger CPUs with more cores and higher clock rates will take more power than smaller CPUs with fewer cores.

4. Keyboard

Having a good keyboard is very important because that is how you interact with your laptop. If you have mushy keys then the overall feel of your laptop is going to be mushy. If you have crisp keys that feel great then your laptop will feel great. Some keyboards are smaller than others and don’t do well with people who have bigger hands. Keyboards really come down to personal preferences, just be sure to test the keyboard if you can.

5. Trackpad

Just like having a good keyboard, the trackpad should also be great. Different laptop manufacturers use different materials to build their laptop trackpads. Some trackpads are aluminum while others are soft plastic it really comes down to what you like. Size is also different, larger trackpads are better as they let you scroll faster, and applying gestures are easier.

6. Speakers

If you plan on using your laptop to watch moves then you need go speakers. Many laptops have horrible speakers that sound awful just like your elementary teacher scratching her fingernails on the chalkboard, yikes. I find that speakers located on the sides of the keyboard are better than speakers on the sides or bottom. The sound usually on the bottom and side speakers I find is more muffled.

7. Charger

Laptops all come with charges that have different shapes and sizes, so things can get confusing. A laptop that has a beefier battery will have a bigger charger which will add more weight to your backpack. It comes down to your preference but I find that smaller chargers are better on my back.

8. Operating System

This one is a controversial topic so let us get straight into it. When picking a laptop you have a decision of getting a Windows or macOS laptop (I know there’s Linux also). I personally use Windows and love it but sometimes people just prefer macOS. The only problem with using macOS is the only laptops that run macOS are Apple’s laptops which are usually on the more expensive side. From what I have found, it depends on what you’re more comfortable with.

9. Ports

Knowing what you’ll be using your laptop for will be important in looking for what ports you’ll need. Newer laptops only have USB C which may limit you in what you can do. Most people need to pick up adapters which will add cost to your laptop purchase. If your a big photographer then having an SD reader will be beneficial to you while having an HDMI port will let programmers extend their monitor. Knowing your needs will help you determine what ports you should be looking out for.

10. Video Camera

Many things going online you need a good video camera to look good in your next zoom meeting. It can be hard deciding on if you need a video camera or not and that’s fine. What is important is if you do decide to get a laptop with a video camera please don’t get the bottom view cameras. These cameras are placed at the bottom of your screen instead of the top which changes the viewing angle of the camera. Let us just say that all your friends will be looking up your nose which may be funny at first but will get old quickly.

11. Weight

Your backpack is already heavy as it is with all those textbooks that you don’t even use so why add more weight? Laptops can get very heavy and big which takes away from their portability. When looking for a laptop look for something that is light. Most 13 inch laptops are very light and will barely add any weight to your backpack while bigger laptops like 17-inch laptops will feel like your loading a brick into your backpack.

12.Touch Screen

Your phone has a touch screen so why not your laptop? If you’re an avid note-taker then a touch screen will serve you well as your digital notebook. If you love tablets then turn your laptop into your own super-powered tablet. Personally, I would say stay away from touch screens unless you absolutely need them. It adds a hefty price tag that really isn’t worth it.

13. 2-in-1

The only reason for me to have a touchscreen laptop is if it’s 2-in-1. This means the laptop can be folded down to look like a tablet. This is great if your in a lecture and need to take notes just fold your laptop down and begin writing your notes. The only catch is you need a stylist to write notes which again adds more cost. If you see yourself actually using the 2-in-1 feature then I would say go for it. If your like I would never use that then don’t get it and spend your money elsewhere.

14. CPU

Picking a CPU doesn’t have to be as difficult as some people make it out to be. Most people think they need to get the most current and best CPU on the market which just isn’t the case. A CPU from a few years ago will do just fine and will save you a lot of money. Sometimes though getting the newest CPU is needed if your doing heavy workloads like Adobe Photoshop or Premiere. If you’re not doing heavy workloads then an i5 will be perfect otherwise go for an i7.

15. Storage

We live in a world where movies, images, and games are growing in size. Storage size is more important than ever and should be carefully considered when picking a laptop. I recommend at least getting 256 GB storage and skipping past 128 GB. If you have a lot of content then 512 GB or even 1 TB will be better suited for your storage needs. It all depends on you and what you plan on using your laptop for.

16. RAM

Random access memory (or RAM for short) is a neccessary part of your laptop. RAM is a temporary storage area for data on your computer. When you begin using your computer RAM is used to store what you’re working on. For example, you’re using a web browser to view this article you probably have tabs up above. Each tab requires a certain amount of space. Say you had a few youtube videos playing, a bunch of tabs opened, and you’re using photoshop. That amount of things running could stress your RAM and make your computer freeze.

Having the right size of RAM is important. A rule of thumb is to have at least 8 GB of RAM. With technology evolving so much, applications are taking more RAM which is making computers with smaller RAM storages obsolete. If you really want to future-proof your laptop then I would recommend having 16GB of RAM.

17. Graphics

Most laptops have integrated graphics which means the CPU can process graphics. If you plan on using your laptop to play games or use 3D rendering software then you’ll need a dedicated graphics card. You can find out if a laptop has a dedicated graphics card by checking the specs sheet. Some common dedicated graphic card companies are Nvidia and AMD so look for those when searching the spec sheet.

18. Bluetooth

Some laptops don’t have the ability to pair with Bluetooth devices. If you want to use an accessory that is wireless then your laptop will need to support Bluetooth. Be sure to check the laptop your buying if it has Bluetooth that way you can use wireless mice and headphones with it.

19. Color

Every time you pull out your laptop you want to make sure it looks good. When looking for a laptop make sure the color you want is available otherwise you’re gonna be stuck with that boring grey. I personally like grey so I have nothing against people that like grey laptops. Make sure your laptop shows who you are with style.

20. Warranty

Making sure your brand new laptop is protected is a must. You don’t want your new laptop to die on you in a month and feel like you just wasted your money. Having a company warranty to protect your laptop is great reassurance that if something does go wrong the company will replace it.

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If you stuck with us all the way to the end congratulations you now have the knowledge to purchase your next laptop. Buying a new laptop can be stressful with all the options and hopefully, I have reduced that stress. I promise if you follow these 20 tips then you’ll have a laptop that will last you through college and the years to come.


I'm a college student just like you. I want to know what the best tech is so I can be successful at college.

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