What laptop should I buy? This is a much harder question than you might think. It is not simply what you should buy, but rather, how are you going to be using it? What is your budget? Is performance important or do you just want the basics? In this article, we will hopefully answer most of your questions and make the important decision of “what laptop should I buy?” easier. Let’s get started.
What do you expect to get out of your machine?
This is a more important question – in my opinion – than budget, as you may need a lot of performance that can only be achieved in devices with higher price tags.
In the Intel world, there are 6 different CPUs to choose from: Celeron, Pentium, Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7, along with the Core m series which sits somewhere between the Pentium and i3 or i3 and i5 depending on the model, with the i7 being the highest end and the Celeron being the lowest.
On the AMD side, you can expect the A8, A10 and FX series APUs and CPUs. These are generally going to be lower performances than Intel’s offerings and will be found in lower priced notebooks.
There is also the question of how much RAM you need, with 4 GB being the minimum available most of the time with options going up to 32 GB and beyond. The last piece of hardware that will determine performance is whether or not the notebook has a dedicated graphics card. This will be necessary for gaming and heavy applications like Photoshop and the like.
So what do you expect to get out of your machine? If you are mainly going to be doing basic tasks like browsing the web and word processing, then almost any computer configuration will be just fine. But if you are more of a gamer, you will need a notebook with an i5 or i7 with at least 8 GB of RAM and a dedicated GPU. If you are more of an app developer or graphic designer, you are going to want to get one of the best configurations possible (check out the section on mobile workstations).
This information is what you need to be thinking about when you move on to the next section: budget.
What is your budget?
Some people know exactly what they want and will pay any amount to get it, but most will have a budget that they will need to stick to. I talked about specifications and what you expect to get out of the notebook first before budget. I did this because it is important that you get what you need for school, work or your needs and then come up with a budget based on how much the devices that meet your criteria cost. If you are in no hurry, it is worth saving up for a better product that will do everything you need it to than get a machine that will not be able to.
Later in this article, we will go into detail about different options for different classes of notebooks based on your budget.
Best budget notebooks
If you are just going to use your computer for basic tasks or you have a dedicated desktop for heavy loads, then getting a budget laptop may be the way to go. Do not expect extraordinary specs or crazy feature sets, but for the price, they will do almost any basic task you will need just fine. We have a guide on the best budget laptops to buy here.
Best school notebooks
This section will offer notebooks a step above the budget category with better specs and hardware geared more a student in college or high school.
Our picks in this section offer thin designs and great battery life, perfect for students that will be away from the charger all day. Here are our choices:
Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro
Lenovo’s Yoga series of ultrabooks are great for someone who wants a tablet and notebook all in one. This ultrabook allows the user to flip the screen around for use as a tablet or flip it back for a notebook experience.
As far as specs, this notebook offers a 13.3” display with a resolution of 3200×1800 powered by an Intel Core M 5Y70, 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD.
I/O is pretty good for this notebook, with 2 USB 3.0 ports, mini HDMI, headset jack, DC in that functions as USB 2.0 and a 4 in 1 card reader.
Be sure to check out the Yoga 3 Pro from $838.90 from the link below!
Apple MacBook 12
MacBooks are a very popular choice do to their size, weight and battery life, along with everything they have to offer.
The MacBook 12 is a great choice if you are looking for a notebook that can last all day without the need for a charger and still offer a solid experience. The MacBook 12 offers a single USB Type C port along with a Retina display and either an Intel Core m3, m5, or m7, 8 GB of RAM and either 256 GB or 512 GB SSD.
Check out our review of the MacBook 12 and be sure to check the MacBook 12 out at the link below starting at $1199!
Apple MacBook Pro 13
If you want a MacBook but want a little more power, the MacBook Pro 13” is the perfect choice. The MacBook Pro 13” offers a 2560×1600 13” display, 8 GB of RAM and either 128 GB, 256 GB or 512 GB SSD powered by a dual core Intel i5 or i7 ranging in speed and model depending on your configuration.
Apple’s I/O choices are a little bare, but you can expect 1 HDMI port, 1 SD card reader, 2 USB 3.0 ports, 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports and a headset/microphone jack. Check it out at the link below starting at $1249!
Best gaming notebooks
If you are a gamer on the move then look no further than a dedicated gaming laptop. These notebooks, if you can even call them that, are geared to offer a great gaming experience with specs that rival most desktops and enough gimmicks to fill a warehouse.
Along with gaming, these computers will be able to do just about anything thrown at them, including 3D development, graphic design and programming. The only down side is the battery life, my gaming laptop gets a whopping hour and a half of battery life. Also, did I mention how big these machines are? They are huge. Here our top picks for these behemoths:
Alienware AW17R3-8342SLV 17.3-Inch UHD Laptop
Alienware is a well established gaming notebook company, offering great features and designs for a no compromises gaming experience while on the go.
This model offers a 17.3” 4k display with 16 GB of RAM, 1 TB HDD and 256 SSD coupled with a Nvidia 980M GPU with 4 GB of memory and an i7-6700HQ. The I/O on this machine is actually a little limiting for its size with 4 USB 3.0 ports, one for quick charging, a headset jack, microphone jack, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, USB 3.1 Type C, and a multi card reader.
What makes the Alienware special is its RGB lighting capabilities, changing everything from the keyboard, trackpad and outer vents. This is definitely a nice touch and something that is just now being added to competitors’ notebooks. Pick up your own starting at $2079 at the link below!
ASUS ROG STRIX GL502VY-DS74
Asus is another really well known brand, delivering great performance and designs. This model offers a 15.6” 1080p, with 98% Adobe RGB coverage, display powered by an i7 6700HQ, Nvidia GTX 980M with 8 GBs of memory. Other specs include 16 GBs of DDR4 RAM, 1 TB HDD and 256 SSD packed into a surprisingly thin and light design for its class at under an inch thick and 4.8 pounds in weight.
Asus managed to pack a lot of I/O into this machine with 1 Mini-DisplayPort, 1 USB Type C 3.1, 3 USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, headset/microphone jack and an SD card reader. Grab yours from the link below starting at $1899!
This section is for people who need a notebook that can do it all, from game development to graphic design. This section differentiates itself from the gaming notebook section as being more of a business oriented powerhouse, not so much a gaming machine.
In this class, most of the notebooks are going to have high end displays, at least 8 GBs of RAM and dedicated GPUs ready for just about anything. The benefits to these machines compared to gaming notebooks are their size and battery life. Since these are not made to game, they will not have as high end GPUs, but that will not matter much in the art world or development world in most cases. Let’s explore some options based on your budget:
Dell XPS 15 Touch
Dell has a good reputation in the workstation class of computers for being some of the best you can buy. With their new XPS line, they keep the ball rolling with a great package for your workstation needs.
For I/O. you can expect 2 USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, Thunderbolt 3, a headset jack and a HDMI port. Check out our full review of the Dell XPS 15 Touch and Be sure to check out the XPS 15 at the link below starting at $1974.98!
Lenovo ThinkPad P70 20Er
Lenovo is known for their business class notebooks, offering one of the best keyboards in the industry along with other professional features like a third middle click button and a red “pointing stick” as it is called, on the keyboard.
The ThinkPad offers the same i7 6700HQ as the XPS, along with a Nvidia M600M workstation class GPU with 2 GB of graphics memory and 16 GB of DDR4 RAM. As far as the display and storage, the P70 offers a 17.3” 1080p display and 500 GB HDD.
As far as I/O, this notebook has a lot. You can expect 4 USB 3.0 ports, 2 ThunderBolt 3 ports, ExpressCard reader, SD card reader, Mini-DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 1.4, Ethernet, DVD burner, headset/microphone jack and finally a smart-card reader. This is the most I/O of any computer on this list, there should be no issues with using up all of your ports.
Another bonus is the fingerprint reader on the right side of the keyboard. Be sure to check out the P70 from the link below, starting at $1400!
Apple MacBook Pro 15
This is my personal notebook, and it rips through everything I throw at it, except for heavy 3D game development, but thats left for my desktop. Trust me when I say this notebook can handle just about anything thrown at it.
What makes the MacBook Pro is not a single component, but rather the whole package.
The battery life is excellent, the screen is color calibrated and a high resolution at 2880×1800. As far as I/O goes, you can expect 2 USB 3.0 ports, 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports, a SD card reader, HDMi and lastly a headset/microphone jack. Under the hood you can expect an Intel i7, 16 GB of RAM and a dedicated AMD m370X GPU with 2 GB of memory along with a PCIe SSD with varying storage options ranging from 256 GB to 1 TB.
All of this is in a thin package that can get you through the day no problem. The only con to this amazing piece of engineering is the price, which starts at $1999, and the model I am recommending starting at $2,499. Check it out at the link below.
Choosing the perfect laptop can be quite hard, there are a few different variables to consider and even with an idea of what you want to do, it is never easy. With this list, we have simplified your search with our top picks depending on your situation.
Let us know what notebook you use in the comments below!