Select Page

This is a quick-and-dirty guide on what to look for when buying a laptop! I’ve helped dozens of clients purchase new machines over the years, so I’ve got a good handle on what you should be looking for when you’re shopping.

How to use this guide

First, review the key components you should look out for. I’ve written the descriptions in plain English, and they only include information you absolutely need to know!

After that, head down to recommendations broken down by price. These are super-specific, and should help you benchmark the computers you find online or in stores.

Stick close to my recommendations and you’ll find a computer you love in no time! ?

Key components

1. Drive size

The hard drive is what stores all of your files. It’s basically a digital filing cabinet.

More storage space generally is better.

Considerations

  • If you’re creating lots of files (graphic designer, photographer, videographer, etc.), you definitely should be paying attention to your drive size. I would recommend that you go with no less than 500 GB; 1 TB is best!

2. Drive type

Drives come in two flavors now: Hard-disk drives (HDD), and solid-state drives (SSD).

HDDs are the original type of drive. They have moving parts and are more susceptible to failure. They also aren’t quite as fast as SSDs. But, they get the job done, and they’re more budget-friendly.

SSDs have no moving parts, last longer, are faster, and perform better. They’re also more expensive, but prices are coming down all the time!

Considerations

  • If computer speed and/or longevity are important to you, you should stick to SSDs

3. RAM

RAM, or random access memory (memory for short), are chips that help your computer load information, programs, etc.

Again, this is a case where more is definitely better. More RAM = a faster computer.

Considerations

  • 4 GB is the minimum you should consider
  • If computer speed and/or longevity are important to you, 8 GB should be your minimum

4. Processor

A computer’s processor does just what its name suggests: processes information.

Processors can vary widely, but they’re usually made either by Intel or AMD.

This is another case where more = faster. Faster processors, and ones with multiple cores, mean a faster computer overall.

Considerations

  • I prefer Intel’s line (Intel i3, i5, i7, etc.)
  • Budget computers are typically going to have an i3
  • If computer speed and/or longevity are important to you, i5 should be your minimum

5. Screen size

Screen size is important when you consider your needs for the computer.

Considerations

  • If portability and weight are important, a 13.3″ screen is a good choice
  • If screen real estate and/or a number pad are important, larger choices should be considered

Honorable mention: Graphics card

I’m not going to go into crazy detail about the graphics card. It’s a component that’s necessary, but typically, graphics cards are on par with the level of the machine.

Overall, unless you’re doing incredibly intensive video work or are gaming heavily, don’t worry too much about this.

If you do want more info about the graphics card, check out this guide from Tom’s Hardware.

What to look for when buying a laptop – By price range

If you’re wondering what to look for when buying a laptop, this is the section for you!

By the way, if you’re unfamiliar with the components listed, check out the descriptions above!

$499 or less

Components

  1. Drive size: 250 GB drive minimum; more if you can get it
  2. Drive type: Most will come with an HDD. SSDs are rare at this price.
  3. RAM: 4 GB minimum; 8 GB if you can get it
  4. Processor: Intel i3 processor minimum; i5 if you can get it
  5. Screen size: Depends on needs

Considerations

  • A sub-$500 laptop is a good option if your budget dictates it
  • If you’re in a pinch, a machine in this range will be alright
  • Keep in mind that this laptop will perform moderately well at first, but its performance will fade. You’ll likely notice sluggishness after a year or less

$500-$749

MOST POPULAR PRICE RANGE

Components

  1. Drive size: 250 GB minimum if SSD (500 GB minimum if HDD)
  2. Drive type: SSD (only HDD if absolutely necessary)
  3. RAM: 8 GB minimum
  4. Processor: Intel i3 minimum; you really should have an i5 at this point
  5. Screen size: Depends on needs

Considerations

  • This is the most common price range in which my clients purchase laptops
  • Once you pass the $500 mark, you should be aiming for the minimums I laid out
  • Anything less, especially in RAM, and you’re likely to hit sluggishness earlier than you’re paying for
  • Computers here should come with SSDs. An SSD makes a huge difference in performance, so it’s almost always worth the extra investment.

$750-$999

IDEAL PRICE RANGE FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS

Components

  1. Drive size: 250 GB minimum
  2. Drive type: SSD
  3. RAM: 8 GB minimum
  4. Processor: Intel i5 minimum
  5. Screen size: Depends on needs

Considerations

  • Computers in this price range should be more future-proof than others (i.e., they last longer)
  • Speed and longevity are what you’re getting in exchange for the extra cost

$1,000-$1,499

Components

  1. Drive size: 500 GB minimum
  2. Drive type: SSD
  3. RAM: 12 GB minimum
  4. Processor: Intel i5 minimum; i7 is preferred
  5. Screen size: Depends on needs

$1,499 and up

Components

  1. Drive size: 500 GB minimum
  2. Drive type: SSD
  3. RAM: 16 GB minimum
  4. Processor: Intel i7 minimum
  5. Screen size: Depends on needs

Where should you shop?

I’ve been buying computers for over a decade, and my preferred choice is still Best Buy!

Their prices are reasonable, they have sales all the time, and the sales staff does not work on commission!

How does this help grow my business?

A computer is essential for growing a business (of course). Finding the right machine for your needs is critical!

Quickly and simply answering the what to look for when buying a laptop question helps you to find the best computer for you and get back to building a business you love!