Notebookcheck

Top 6 things to avoid or consider when buying an Ultrabook

Top 6 things to avoid or consider when buying an Ultrabook
Top 6 things to avoid or consider when buying an Ultrabook
About to drop $1000+ on that brand new laptop? Here are a few things to keep in mind before making that jump.
Allen Ngo, 🇷🇺

Though this is far from being an inclusive list, we want buyers to keep an open mind on other key factors of a laptop beyond just thinness, first impressions and price. The following applies largely to Ultrabooks as gaming laptops and business laptops will have their own special sets of considerations and cautions.

1. Avoid 768p Display Options

Major OEMs like Lenovo, HP and Dell like to offer a very range of display options from 768p all the way up to 4K UHD. Other than the more attractive starting price, however, 768p should be avoided in most circumstances. Not only is the resolution lower than 1080p, almost all 768p panels also tend to be more poorly calibrated with shallower colors, poorer contrast ratios, dimmer backlights, and narrower viewing angles. The end result is an ugly visual experience in more ways than just resolution when compared to 1080p or greater.

2. Consider USB Type-C Charging

The USB Type-C standard was supposed to consolidate what we love about standard USB Type-A and then some. Unfortunately, USB Type-C has since branched into a huge mess of multiple standards with some ports supporting Gen. 1 speeds, Gen. 2 speeds, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3, or charging all depending on the laptop in question. Out of all these auxiliary features, charging over USB is one of favorites as it allows you to recharge the laptop with almost any inexpensive third-party USB Type-C charger. It's a feature you'll be glad to have especially when traveling or if you happen to lose the original charger. 

USB Type-C charging means you can use the same charger for your Nintendo Switch, Android smartphone, tablet, and Windows laptop
USB Type-C charging means you can use the same charger for your Nintendo Switch, Android smartphone, tablet, and Windows laptop

3. Avoid Overpriced Budget Laptops

Low-tier laptops like the HP Pavilion or Dell Inspiron tend to start at very affordable prices of $500 or less. However, these prices can quickly skyrocket to $1000 or more when configured with lots of RAM, storage, or unnecessary extras. These overly-configured SKUs would then cost about as much as mid-tier models or even high-tier models from the same manufacturer.

A recent example is the entry-level HP Pavilion x360 15 configured with 12 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD for $800 to $1000 USD retail. For that much money, you would be better off investing in the mid-range HP Envy x360 15 or flagship HP Spectre x360 15 instead which are objectively better built and longer-lasting.

Cheap entry-level laptops can become overpriced if configured with too much RAM and storage
Cheap entry-level laptops can become overpriced if configured with too much RAM and storage

4. Consider Older Processor Generations

It's true that you don't need the latest and greatest for a good experience. We recently proved that an Intel 10th gen CPU is only marginally faster than the an older 8th gen CPU despite the $200+ price difference.

Still, there is a cutoff point before we consider a laptop to be too old or slow. As of this writing, laptops with processors older than Kaby Lake-R are hard recommendations since the raw performance jump from Kaby Lake to Kaby Lake-R is quite significant. Be wary of sales on older laptops equipped with the Core i5-7200U, Core i7-7500U, or any AMD laptop not powered by a Ryzen CPU.

5. Avoid Models with Poor or Difficult Customer Service

It's all fun and games until your hard drive dies, a port stops working, the display randomly shuts off, or if the clickpad becomes jumpy and unreliable. Purchasing directly from OEMs or major brick-and-mortar retailers will grant that extra layer of protection in case if something goes wrong. Relying on laptop brands with little to no local customer service presence, like Xiaomi, carries greater risks than say HP or Lenovo.

6. Consider Upgradeable RAM and Storage for Longer Legs

The longer you use a laptop, the more RAM and storage you'll likely eat up. Thus, one of the cheapest ways to extend the life of your laptop is to upgrade the RAM or storage yourself down the line. Laptops with easy serviceability will make troubleshooting less of a hassle in the long run.

Upgradeable RAM and storage will typically come at the cost of size and weight. Some users will prefer the smaller and sleeker profile that non-upgradeable components are able to offer. In this case, just be aware of the trade-off between portability and upgradeability.

Easy access to the SSD, RAM, battery, and expansion slots will make troubleshooting easier and less expensive
Easy access to the SSD, RAM, battery, and expansion slots will make troubleshooting easier and less expensive
Read all 4 comments / answer
static version load dynamic
Loading Comments
Comment on this article
Please share our article, every link counts!
> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2020 03 > Top 6 things to avoid or consider when buying an Ultrabook
Allen Ngo, 2020-03-15 (Update: 2020-03-15)
Allen Ngo
Allen Ngo - US Editor in Chief
After graduating with a B.S. in environmental hydrodynamics from the University of California, I studied reactor physics to become licensed by the U.S. NRC to operate nuclear reactors. There's a striking level of appreciation you gain for everyday consumer electronics after working with modern nuclear reactivity systems astonishingly powered by computers from the 80s. When I'm not managing day-to-day activities and US review articles on Notebookcheck, you can catch me following the eSports scene and the latest gaming news.