Purchasing a laptop computer is a stressful ordeal. Finding what you need can be challenging, even if you know exactly what you’re looking for an
d what everything signifies. Trying to track down the precise model you’re looking for on the manufacturer’s website is a time-consuming process in and of itself.
The modern laptop market can be confusing, but we hope our guide will help you find your way. A breakdown of the various parts of a computer that you should consider before making a purchase follows.
Select an operating system
Before you start looking at laptops, you should determine which operating system (OS) is best for you. Thinking about what software you need to run and which operating systems that software supports will assist you in determining the hardware you require.
There are four major operating systems for computers. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a rundown of each:
Windows: This stalwart operating system doesn’t get much attention anymore, but it gets the job done. If you require Microsoft applications such as MS Office, Access, or Outlook, this is the best option. There are also more Windows laptops available than any other operating system.
Recognizing Processor Names (CPUs)
Once you’ve picked a operating system and have an idea of what software you’ll be running, you can calculate the minimum hardware requirements. The processor, also known as the chip or the CPU, is the first thing we recommend looking at.
Consumer laptop processors are primarily manufactured by two companies: Intel and AMD.
Processors from Intel
The Core series processors are the most popular from Intel. The Core i3 processor is the least powerful, while the Core i9 processor is the most powerful. We usually leave out the “core” because it gets boring.
Within each of these chip lines, Intel employs cryptic strings of numbers and letters that provide additional information about the chip’s capabilities and release date. Learning to decipher it will assist you in making better purchasing decisions. (Intel’s model naming guide can be found here.)
Is there a significant difference between Intel and AMD processors?
My experience testing dozens of both each year has taught me that it depends. Outside of very specific benchmarks, an Intel i5 is indistinguishable from a Ryzen 5. When you’re browsing the web or editing documents, they’re similar. The same is true for the Intel i7 and Ryzen 7, as well as the Intel i3 and Ryzen 3.
You’ll notice a difference in graphics performance. In my testing, both in benchmarks and in real-world use, AMD’s integrated graphics outperform Intel on graphics-intensive tasks like video editing and gaming. Intel’s most recent chip series has significantly narrowed the gap, but AMD still has the upper hand. If you’re a video editor or gamer, you might benefit from purchasing an AMD machine, but what you really need is a dedicated graphics card. (See the GPU section for more information.)
If you can afford it, Intel i7 proccessor is a worthwhile upgrade that will make your laptop feel faster. However, more power often means shorter battery life, so you’ll need to weigh that against your needs. A gaming laptop, for example, would use an i7 (or i9) processor, whereas an i3 or i5 is usually sufficient for less demanding tasks.
Similarly, the AMD Ryzen 5000 series will suffice for the average user, but the Ryzen 7000 is a nice upgrade at the expense of battery life.
Are you an expert?
If you’re compiling software, editing video, or working with massive databases, you’ll need more processing power than the rest of us. I recommend an Intel i7 or Ryzen 7 processor.