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How to buy the best laptop on a budget

Ultimately, your personal taste and your budget will determine which brand of laptop you will buy. 

asus laptop ces 2020
Image: KnowTechie

Let’s get a common misconception out of the way: the best laptop is not necessarily the most expensive. While the price has some leverage on the quality of a laptop, this isn’t the only consideration, nor is it the most important factor. What constitutes as a superb laptop depends on several essential criteria. By fulfilling these conditions, you can still buy the best laptops on an economical budget.

The problem with many budget laptops is that they underdeliver on the key features. There’s nothing as frustrating as buying a laptop, only to realize it doesn’t perform as fluidly as you had hoped. This is especially true when it comes to buying laptops for graphic design, gaming, or file storage.

An affordable laptop doesn’t mean it has to be lackluster. One thing is you can consider buying refurbished electronics. You don’t even have to buy one that’s fresh off the factory. Save hundreds of dollars by choosing quality preowned or secondhand laptops. These refurbished devices are actually tested by engineers, so you are assured of efficient functionality. Of course, you should also do your part by purchasing only through credible sellers. If you are planning to buy a laptop on a limited budget, here’s a handy guide for your laptop purchases: 

What’s Your Budget?

laptop

As much as you’d love to have an unlimited budget to buy a high-end laptop, you need to be realistic with your expectations. Setting a budget will help you decide on the best types of laptops that you can afford. With a decent budget in mind, you won’t splurge excessively or go for the cheapest options either.

The best approach is identifying the different tiers of laptops and determining which features you need the most. If your work only involves preparing spreadsheets and documents, buying an expensive laptop with advanced features won’t be necessary. In contrast, you may need high-speed machines with adequate storage when buying laptops for a team of developers and graphic designers.

To determine your budget, figure out why you need to buy the laptop in the first place. Is your current laptop too slow? Are you running out of computer storage for your work? Consider carefully what you expect from your laptop. Only then can you buy the best laptop that accommodates those needs and still be versatile enough to handle your growing capacity.

The budget you set should consider the number of laptops that you need, especially when you’re purchasing for an organization. You also need to decide how you intend to pay for these laptops. Without a predetermined technology budget, you are more likely to either overspend or underspend on the laptops.

Operating System

windows 10 your phone features

Image: Microsoft

With most standard laptops, your choice is basically restricted to the three main operating systems. You will have a couple more options on high-end laptops, but this could require a significant increase in your budget. Nevertheless, the three primary operating systems are still powerful enough to fulfill the majority of your laptop needs.

To select an OS, you will need to know the differences between them:

  • Windows OS: If you can’t make up your mind on the best operating system, Windows OS is often considered a safe bet. This is the most widely used system by laptop users worldwide, so you are unlikely to encounter compatibility and scalability issues. Most likely, almost every computer-literate person has used a Windows OS in the past. Plus, the Windows OS will give you the flexibility of choosing from a wide range of laptops as opposed to Apple OS or Chrome OS.
  • Apple OS: If you choose this operating system, you will need to pay the hefty price for a MacBook. However, the sleek design and polished interface have made these laptops a popular alternative. Apple laptops are renowned for their superior function keys and screen quality. They are also great for running massive programs such as Dreamweaver, Maya, and Avid. While some would argue that Apple doesn’t make the MacBook like they used to, most professional creatives still consider them the best option. 
  • Chrome OS: The new entry in recent years is Google’s Chromebook. While Chromebooks are cheap, they are still in their early stages of development and adoption. The initial designs were targeted to students, whereas the current models are more versatile and diverse. For people who thrive working in the cloud sphere, Chrome OS is a perfect choice. 

Laptop Design & Features

asus rog mothership gaming laptop

Image: ASUS

The optimal laptop design is best determined by how you work. Certain features that are pivotal for some people may be completely negligible for another demographic of users. Depending on your needs, you should consider the following components and features when you buy a laptop:

  • Keyboard: Is a comfortable keyboard an important priority for you? For most people, keyboard comfort is crucial and even more critical than the aesthetic appeal of a laptop. Always remember that typing for long hours on a miniature keyboard can be tiring. For the most comfortable keyboards, the ASUS laptops are ergonomically designed to provide maximum ease and comfort while typing.
  • Touchscreen: How often do you use a stylus and a touchscreen? Touchscreen support is great if you use it frequently. However, laptops with these features are more expensive than traditional ones. They also consume more battery power and weigh heavier than conventional screens. Only get laptops with optimized touchscreen support if you need it, and not just because you want a cool gadget.
  • Durability: Are you looking for a durable laptop? You may need one if you travel a lot and work in remote locations with rugged environments. The best laptop manufacturers conduct comprehensive quality testing to ensure their products are designed with strength and resilience. Ideally, you’ll want a laptop that is durable against harsh physical conditions.
  • Portability: Will you be traveling a lot with your laptop? For frequent travelers, laptop portability is an important design component. If you travel a lot, you may have to sacrifice keyboard and screen size in favor of a more portable model. A portable laptop should weigh no more than three pounds.
  • Versatility: Hybrid laptops, also known as convertible laptops, can work as standalone tablets. Some of them have detachable screens that can be disengaged from the keyboard. Others can turn up to 180 degrees, meaning you can fold them. The hybrid laptops are great for highly mobile users, even though they are costlier than traditional laptops. The HP brand is pretty well-known for its versatile two-in-one laptops.

Laptop Specs

gaming laptop

The main laptop specs that should sway your purchase decision are the CPU, the memory and storage, and the battery life. The CPU is best described as the processor that drives your computer. You can choose between low-end CPUs, which are ideal for light use. For a higher notch of functionality, you may want to upgrade to midrange CPUs, which work perfectly for basic tasks. Machines with midrange CPUs are suitable for regular office work.

You can also buy laptops with high-end CPUs if speed is important. Due to their costs, only buy a laptop with this functionality if you really need it. High-end processors are ideal for heavy 3D modeling and video editing. For these powerful laptops, you should purchase them with Intel Core i3 and Intel Core i5 processors.

For memory and storage, you would be looking at two types: RAM for short-term memory and HDD for long-term storage. For extra long-term storage, some laptops will come with SSDs (solid-state drives) in addition to HDD. 

The last spec to consider before purchasing a laptop is battery life. Choose a laptop with a battery life that’s most appropriate for your needs.

Final Recommendation

Once you have considered the above metrics, it’s time to make your decision. You should only buy what you can afford, not necessarily what you want or need. However, there are affordable laptops on the market that will fulfill most of your requirements. You can upgrade later should your budget allow, and only if it’s necessary to do so. 

The best laptop is one that can serve your needs for at least five years without the need for an upgrade. Ultimately, your personal taste and your budget will determine which brand of laptop you will buy. 

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