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How to choose the best laptop for you

It seems like everyone is moving onto tablets and notebooks as they become smaller and easier to use. However, there are many people that still champion purchasing a solid laptop to use in their daily lives. When considering which is best to buy though, there vast array of products can be overwhelming and may even give you a headache. Here is our simple guide on choosing the best laptop for you.

Why choose a laptop?

At leisure, the laptop is a multimedia scrapbook. You can visit relatives and show them holiday snaps, take it to a friend’s house and play them your MP3 collection, or pack it for a weekend retreat and tune into the Sunday Premiership match on the built-in TV tuner.

In the design-conscious home, smart wireless entertainment notebooks can drive the desktop into dusty corners. “Dainty Italian desks look awful with monitors trailing wires,” says Helen Kirwan-Taylor, author of Home UK. “The wireless revolution is laptop-driven.”

For all their flexibility, laptops have drawbacks, and there remains a performance gap between a £1,000 desktop and an equivalent notebook. Dell vice-president Tim Mattox is on record as saying that the premium is more than £200. For many, though, that’s a price worth paying.

Mobility vs durability

The allure of mobility, of course, isn’t everything. Because it is virtually impossible to upgrade a notebook, you are stuck with what you buy until it is obsolete (often in three or four years), or breaks down (maybe sooner). Either way, fixing problems on a laptop is more complicated and expensive than on a desktop.

Improvements in technology, such as Intel’s Centrino standard, with wireless capabilities built into the motherboard, and low-power chips, have advanced performance and, crucially, battery life, while enabling manufacturers to produce ever smaller laptops. The stylish Samsung Q30, for example, will easily handle spreadsheets and presentations, and keep running for more than five hours — a key consideration for anyone who wants to work through transatlantic flights. Despite Intel’s assertions, there are alternatives to Centrino, including third-party plug-in wireless WiFi cards or similar chips, such as AMD’s Turion 64.

A more worrying stumbling block for laptops comes from miniaturisation. Keyboards can be as cramped and less responsive than a tin of sardines, while the mouse is replaced by the annoying touchpad, making it all too easy to inadvertently delete an hour’s work. A separate plug-in mouse is a must. Even better is a wireless one. Fiddly controls and a screen that you cannot adjust to a comfortable viewing height can also have long-term health implications. Never work with a laptop on your lap. This is why manufacturers increasingly call them notebooks.

Try before you buy

If possible, test-drive a potential purchase, even if you end up buying the machine online. That way, you can check build quality to see if those flaps and flanges are up to the rigours of life on the road. Many are not. Screens, too, are a matter of taste, with the highest-resolution widescreen machines offering stunning video playback, but native text that is set up squintingly small.

Your biggest dilemmas will be choosing the right-sized laptop and trading off performance for portability. At one end of the scale, powerful desktop replacements are ideal for the home, but at a back-breaking 4kg, useless on the move. Lightning-fast components belie the adage that notebooks are slow, but battery life is often paltry.

“Ultraportables”, on the other hand, are shiny silicon sandwiches designed to complement, rather than replace, a desktop computer. Performance is adequate for business applications and web access, but you won’t be editing your next Cannes entry on one. Somewhere between the extremes of portability and power lies the laptop that suits you. The challenge is to find it.

Choosing the right laptop for you will, no doubt, take lots of time and research but we cannot stress enough how much this time invested will help you in the long run. If you choose correctly you will have a friend for life and enjoy an easy way to stay in contact with the rest of the world whilst getting all your work done. If you have any specific questions about laptop brands we would be happy to help you out. Just get in touch via the contact us page.

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