Holiday Laptop Buying Tips

4/28/14 edit: If you’re cool with ubuntu, and just want something good, go here- https://system76.com/

Today is cyber monday 2014. My brother e-mailed me for tips on buying a laptop, so I’ll share them here. This is all opinion based on my experience.

Features

Processor

Unless you need to be on battery power a lot, no Celeron processors! Celerons are budget friendly, but you’ll notice the performance hit.

A dual core processor is the bare minimum nowadays. A quad core is probably most common and will do every basic task on a laptop. Today’s standard acceptable (intel) speed processor is like an i5. i3 is just okay, i7 is best. Personally, I prefer AMD processors, but they aren’t popular in laptops of the price range I would buy ($300-500). My laptop has an i5 and it’s great for everything web based.

RAM

4GB minimum. Anything higher is icing on the cake.

Storage

250GB minimum. Anything higher is icing on the cake.

Display

In a laptop, bigger is not better. Bigger means it’s a burden to move. 15″ is good. 19″ is too big. If you don’t plan on moving it, 19″ would be fine, but it being a laptop, it’s just not ergonomic. Your eye level should be at the same height as the top of your monitor. Save your neck and get something like this

Keyboard

I’ve seen some really horrible keyboards on laptops. This is probably the most common thing I see done really bad. Either the keys are not tactile, or the layout is weird and inefficient. Do you need a 9-key pad? Do you want regular sized directional arrows? Try it or look at the pictures and find one you like.

Trackpad

Some are just plain unusable. Unless it’s made by Apple, stay away from trackpads that have hidden mouse buttons under the z-axis of the trackpad. I’m not talking about your regular left/right button underneath the trackpad. I’m talking about where there are no visible buttons, you actually click the trackpad itself. Other than that, it’s hard to give advice on this one, because you can’t see if it’s bad it unless you try it. Safe alternative is just use a mouse you know you like.

Brands

Here are the brands I’m familiar with, starting with my least favorite, moving to my most favorite.

HP They can have longevity problems. Windows comes extra bloated.

Dell I hear these get hated on a lot but from what I’ve seen, they’re mostly good. There are lemons.

ASUS Starting with the classic miniature laptop, eeePC, ASUS has made quality notebooks/laptops. I bought a refurbished ASUS K53 back in 2012 and It’s been great for me. It’s built-in left mouse button has worn out, but other than that it’s always been a performer.

Lenovo/IBM The physical build style may look old to some, but don’t let that fool you. The internals are up to date and the design is proven to be rugged. The Lenovo/IBM series “T” laptops are used in space on the ISS.