Shopping For A New Laptop? Here Are The Seven Worst Mistakes You Can Make
#1 - Buying An Underpowered Device
You have to pay more to get more. This is one of the unspoken rules of life. It applies to laptops as much as it applies to anything else.
Some positive features such as high screen brightness and keyboard backlighting are a must for any laptop. But no matter which requirements you stick with, you will quickly find out that the options are limitless - and most of them look pretty much the same. That is where most folks start thinking, "why pay US$2000 for something I can get at quarter the price? After all it is only a laptop."
Few of us are lucky enough to be able to spend US$2000 on a laptop. That means compromises are inevitable. Yet some compromises are acceptable and some are not. Make no mistake: Getting an underpowered device is one of the worst compromises you can make.
Getting an underpowered device is one of the worst compromises you can make.
While fast dedicated graphics cards are a nice thing to have, fast processors are something you simply can not do without.
Assume that you will be using your new device for the next four or five years, because so many people do exactly that. Will it be up to the thrilling and unfamiliar challenges of the future? Keep in mind that laptops are not desktops. The major components are often neither replaceable nor upgradable.
Even if you are not a multitasking monster, you are still going to need a fast modern processor to handle your daily routine without frustrating delays. Ideally, a processor of that sort should:
- have a minimum of four cores
- be based on a modern architecture
- be energy efficient (to a certain degree)
Having an SSD (solid state drive) as the system drive is a must these days, too.
When it comes to estimating the price/performance ratio, you should always keep the following points in mind:
- The more you pay for it now, the bigger its resale value will be.
- Base models ALWAYS come with cheaper processors and slower storage.
- Celeron, Atom, and Pentium processors can and WILL make you miserable.
- When on a budget, consider getting a previous generation model or a second-hand device.
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#2 — Paying Too Much Attention To The Obvious Specs While Ignoring The Less Obvious Ones
In our experience, screen resolution is always among the first things people look for when scanning the price tag with their eyes: "Is it 1080p? Oh man. I want a 4K screen so much. I'd better look elsewhere then."
On the other hand, the type and amount of ports offered by the chassis, together with the built-in battery capacity, are one of those unfortunate specs that often end up being disregarded completely. This is understandable but wrong. You do need at least one USB 3.1 Type-C Generation 2 port to be able to connect an external GPU later in life. You also need an HDMI 2.0 port to be able to output that gorgeous [email protected] video stream. And, as a matter of fact, a 30 Wh battery is generally not sufficient for any laptop no matter how small, portable, and energy-efficient it is. We outline all the little details in our reviews so that you can make an informed decision.
The devil is in the details. This phrase is true as much as it is a cliché.
Throttling is the other important factor we test all the laptops we encounter for. The laptop manufacturers will go to amazing lengths to try and maximize their profits. Installing inadequate (yet cheap) cooling solutions together with inadequate energy circuits is one of the relatively painless cost-cutting measures they can go for. What this leads to is called throttling. Throttling can happen to the CPU, the GPU, or to both of these components. It is when the processor does not get enough energy or gets too hot that it starts to throttle, reducing its clocks significantly in order to get out of the danger zone. This is a big deal when continuous load scenarios such as gaming are concerned.
It is not just the laptop manufacturers that employ tricks to lure you into buying a certain product. The component manufacturers such as NVIDIA or Intel are no different. You have, more likely than not, heard of the Max Q graphics cards such as the GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q. These are essentially the slowed down versions of the proper mobile graphics cards such as the GeForce GTX 1060 (Laptop). They are slowed down intentionally so that they would be easier to fit inside very thin laptops such as the Razer Blade. The point here is that they are significantly (up to 16% in this case) slower than their full-featured counterparts. Laptop manufacturers do not usually state which version of the GPU, the fast Max-P or the slow Max-Q, you are going to get in your computer. This sort of misleading behavior clearly profits the manufacturers while doing little good for the clients.
Not convinced just yet? OK, then please take a look at the following Core i5 processors by Intel:
- Intel Core i5 7600K (desktop - four cores at up to 4.2 GHz, 91W TDP)
- Intel Core i5 7300HQ (mobile - four cores at up to 3.5 GHz, 45W TDP)
- Intel Core i5 7287U (mobile - two cores at up to 3.7 GHz, 28W TDP)
- Intel Core i5 7260U (mobile - two cores at up to 3.4 GHz, 15W TDP)
- Intel Core i5 7Y54 (mobile - two cores at up to 3.2 GHz, 5W TDP)
They all belong to the Kaby Lake family. They are all Core i5s. Each one costs at least US$200. And yet they could not be more different from each other. The one at the top of the list, the 7600K, can be up to three times faster compared to the 7Y54, the one at the bottom.
While all this can be a little overwhelming to process, special tools such as our very own Processor Comparison tool exist that will help you get to the bottom of things.
#3 — Buying A Laptop Simply Because It Looks Good
We humans are social creatures. Many things in our life revolve around social status. A laptop is one of the things that can help define and elevate your social status, so that is why many people judge a laptop by its appearance first and foremost. The thing is, this is hardly a good strategy.
The lowest tier 12-inch MacBook model with the Core m3 processor looks 100% the same as its pricier counterpart based on the Core i5. Yet the former will make you want to kick it with your right leg, while the latter should feel more or less useable. The difference is there, and you will feel it in the long run. Yet so many people go for the first option because it looks just as good as the second one.
Here is another example. You go to the nearest retailer with US$300 in your pocket. You are aware of the fact that getting a perfect laptop for US$300 is simply not possible, so you keep saying to yourself: "they are all the same. They are all slow and heavy and so on. Hey, at least I'll get the one that looks better than others."
There is some immediate gratification in this; but, in the long run, superior specs trump superior looks.
Superior specs trump superior looks.
Otherwise you will soon start hating the slow innards and the dim screen of your laptop even if it is more attractive than Beyoncé and Shakira combined. Just trust us on this.
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#4 - Getting A Laptop… When You Urgently Need One
You know your needs better than anyone else does. Yet meeting current needs is easy. Meeting future needs is what really matters.
If you are tired of facing your old full-tower desktop every day, and you often find yourself dreaming about getting a DTR class laptop instead, then it is time to start searching for one. If you are applying to a university in a few months and are planning on taking your laptop with you to your studies every day, but the laptop you have at the moment has a dead battery and a scratched screen, well, that means it is time to go get a new one.
Either way, you are going to do your research and identify your priorities and narrow down the list of options and then finally make up your mind. Because that is the right way to do this.
What if your good old laptop gives up the ghost tomorrow morning? Suddenly you need a new one, and you need it NOW. You are in a hurry. You are not thinking clearly. Waiting for the holiday season and the huge discounts it always brings with it is not an option. You go to the nearest retailer and get something you have the budget for. You will not be happy with a purchase that was made out of desperate need. Most people are not.
Meeting future needs is what really matters here.
So here is what you should do. You should foresee your future needs. You should buy a new laptop before you get to the point where you urgently need one. Pay attention to the discounts. Act on your hunches.
#5 — Aiming For Perfection
Making the perfect purchase is a very demanding endeavor to say the least. Generally speaking, aiming for perfection in life only brings misery, so sticking with the "good enough for me" strategy is your best bet. How many of us are married to our first crush? Well, it is no different with laptops.
Don't be afraid of trial and error.
Being stuck in analysis paralysis is no better than wasting hundreds and thousands on something you do not need simply because you liked the way it looked on the shelf.
#6 — Not Protecting Your Investment
This one is easy. If you can get a nice silicon case for your electronic pet then we suggest you should. Importing one from China will take a few weeks, but it is absolutely worth it.
If you are planning on purchasing a pricey high end model, consider insuring it against being stolen or unintentionally damaged. This will increase the bill somewhat, but hey, your peace of mind is definitely worth the additional cost. While you are at it, you should also consider paying for a year of extra warranty. Doing this will increase the resale value of your device.
#7 — Buying A Laptop When A Desktop (Or An AIO) Is What You Really Need
There is something truly awesome, magnificent, and breathtaking about being able to take your files and your work with you anywhere. You have an advantage if you are neither tied to your house nor your office. Humans love it when they have an advantage, don't they?
We love laptops here at Notebookcheck. We love chunky, seriously powerful gaming laptops. We love the cool ultraslim ones, too. Even if it is an Ultrabook with no dedicated graphics, we are still going to love it. But the ugly truth is that laptops are not everyone's cup of tea. Getting a laptop was, is and will be a rather unwise way to spend hard-earned cash for certain categories of people. Think about it for a second — no, more than that. Be honest with yourself. Do you really need that large screen and full size keyboard to be with you all the time? Chances are you will be just fine with the 6-inch touch screen of a modern smartphone.
Only buy a laptop if you are 100% certain that you need one.
If you are a small business owner in need of computers for your staff, you will probably be better off purchasing several AIOs (all-in-ones). If you are a hard-core gamer, we suggest that you should invest your money in a desktop with a fast graphics card such as NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080, or any other one, for that matter. Either way, you should be crystal clear about your needs and your expectations.