Buying a laptop these days might seem like a daunting task given the countless options that exist today. There are so options for every possible component, but its best to start making your choices based on what you’re going to be using it for. Would you be gaming plenty on it or is it just for watching movies? Is this going to be your work laptop or the machine that gets you through college? The technical terms, the numbers, they may all seem a little overwhelming but don’t worry. We are going to break every technical aspect, every jargon, every specification into easy to an easy to understand guide which will make your buying decision a breeze.
Once you have shortlisted the key specs and features you need, you can refer to our various handpicked suggestions in various sections that will help you pick the right laptop for you. So, go ahead and start your journey here by checking out the key features you should consider.
Use cases – First thing for you to think about is how you will be using the laptop. In general, use cases can be broken up into four types we’ve listed all four below, with an example of what kind of applications and word make up the different usage type.
- Light use
This kind of use requires very little effort on the part of the computer to do what you ask of it. This includes things like Surfing the Web, paying bills online, email and social media. You should also be able to watch movies or stream content.
- Medium Use
People who do a lot of typing for work, need to browse and edit photos. You could be a student who needs to do a lot of research, meaning innumerable tabs of your favourite web-browser. If you have a library of full HD movies, your media player would need a slightly more powerful laptop so that the movies can play without any lag.
- Heavy and Demanding use
If you’re a content creator or an avid gamer, your laptop will need to feature the most high-end components. Whether its running Photoshop or video editing tools or maybe even playing PUBG, your needs require a very specific set of parts in your laptop so that you can get the most out of it.
Once you’ve determined your use type, here are the top 6 features you should consider which will help you decide on which laptop will be your next best companion.
Benefit: Better the Processor, the more you can get done on your laptop.
What is it: The processor is your computer’s brain. The more powerful a brain, the more it can do and do it faster.
Processors are made by two companies; Intel & AMD. – You will generally find Intel or AMD processors in laptops. Each company makes various categories of processors series. Intel has its Pentium, Celeron and Core i series while AMD has A, FX and Ryzen series of processors. Here’s a breakdown of what makes each processor series ideal for which kind of user. Click here to know more about each processor series.
- Intel Pentium
The Intel Pentium processors come labelled as Gold and Silver. They are found on the most basic laptops and only if you fall in the “light use” category. They can only laptops which will be used for light browsing and maybe watching a YouTube video or two. Anything more demanding and the processor won’t be able to keep up.
- Intel Celeron
The Intel Celeron series is slightly more powerful than the Pentium, offering enough power to run multiple heavy Excel files or make intricate PowerPoint presentations.
- Intel Core i3
Now in its 8th generation, the Intel Core i3 processor is the stepping stone into more powerful CPUs. Core i3 processors allow better multitasking and open the gateway to 4K video playback.
- Intel Core i5
The middle ground between moderate and heavy usage. Laptops with the Core i5 processors can be adequate for light gaming, editing photos and anything your average workplace can throw at you.
- Intel Core i7
The most powerful of Intel’s processor for the laptop, machines that come with the Core i7 processor are ideal for avid gamers, professional photo editors and even video editing.
- AMD A Series
AMD’s A series consists of A4, A6,A9,A10 and A12 processors, increasing in power respectively. These are generally found in light (A4, A6) to moderately powerful laptops (a10 and A12).
- AMD FX Series
Meant to be the flagship of desktop CPUs, the FX series has only two processors for laptops and are called Accelerated Processing Units or APUs for they also integrate AMD’s Radeon graphics chip into the processor.
- AMD Ryzen
The Ryzen processors are the crown jewels of AMD’s processor lineup. With Ryzen 3 series offering the same level of performance as an Intel Core i5 and the Ryzen 7 series offering performance matching Intel Core i7.
All processors have cores and clock-speeds, the combination of which decides just how powerful a processor is. However, it’s not like a processor can have countless cores or unchecked clock-speed. You can understand Cores and Clock Speed better by clicking here.
Benefit: More Cores = heavy duty multi-tasking
What is it: Cores are like the numbers of workers in a factory. The more workers you have, the more work gets done in the factory. But cores aren’t all that determine the overall performance of the processor, you should also consider the clock speed.
ProTip: Processors which have four or Quad cores are more than enough for most day-to-day use
Benefit: higher clock speeds mean things get done faster
What is it: Generally depicted in Gigahertz (GHz), higher clock speeds indicate how fast the cores on your laptop can run. If the number of workers in a factory are like cores, then the speed at which they complete their job is the clock speed.
ProTip: Remember, the more powerful a processor (more cores + fast clock-speed), faster it will drain your laptop’s battery. Think of it like your CPU as a sports car and your battery as the fuel. The faster you run the car, the more quickly it will drain the tank.
Memory or RAM
Benefit: More RAM = Better multitasking.
More RAM means more applications can run at the same time without lagging or hanging.
What is it: RAM is the internal memory which stores all open Apps, files, and games you may be playing. More RAM allows more of these to be open and still allow for a seamless, hang-free experience. Typically laptops come with 4, 8 or 16GB of RAM, but 8GB is an ideal number to settle on. There are a few other aspects about RAM that you may want to consider, so click here to find out more
The Latest RAM type is DDR4, which is faster, more efficient and is becoming the new standard vs the older DDR3, which is slower and consumes more power.
Pro Tip: Buy a laptop with DDR4 RAM as it saves power, improves Battery life, and future proofs your laptop. DDR3 RAMs are cheaper, but there is a good chance that DDR3 RAM may soon be extinct, and any upgrades or replacement will not be possible.
With time, the applications you have, the Operating System you use, will be upgraded to newer versions, and need more RAM. This may cause some slow-down in performance or the system hanging frequently. This is when upgrading the RAM can keep the Laptop use-able for longer, especially if you’ve bought a laptop with just 4GB of RAM.
Pro-Tip: For most users, we recommend 8GB RAM given how much RAM the programs use today. However, if you plan on gaming or using heavy software’s like Photoshop, AutoCAD etc, you should consider at least a 16GB RAM.
Benefit: Choosing the right display for your needs will make or break your experience with the laptop.
What is it: The display is what you engage with on the laptop. It is where you see your movies, play your games or even do all your typing. Each person's needs are different and finding the right one is super easy. Displays come in all sorts of sizes, incorporate all sorts of technologies and resolutions and there are some that are even made for very specific uses. Ideally you should look for a display with 1080p or Full HD resolution, but there are some other factors you may need to consider if your needs go beyond the light use case. Click here to find out more.
Benefit: Bigger displays make content easier to see. Screens come in several sizes, all measured diagonally.
What is it: The most common screen size is 15-inches, but there are also 11, 13 going up to massive 17-inch screens on a laptop. Do remember though, bigger the screen, heavier the laptop. This is simply because of the all the glass that goes into making the display, which has to be made durable and hence, the added weight.
Pro Tip: If you need to carry your laptop around a lot, then consider a laptop with a display between 11 to 14 inches.
Screen Type: IPS vs. Non-IPS
Benefit: IPS displays show colours the way they were meant to be, all while allowing 2-3 people to huddle around your screen without any loss in brightness.
What is it: For those looking for the best visual experience which means great looking colours and viewing angles. choose a laptop with an IPS display. If you are on a budget, you can just go for a display that is not IPS. It will also bring the cost of the laptop down. Viewing angles means
Pro Tip: For most use cases, non-IPS displays would work, however, if you’re into creative work or like watching movies with friends, then an IPS display makes all the difference.
Benefit: Higher resolution = sharper image. Higher resolution = More clarity.
What it is: Resolution is a number that tells you how many pixels there are on a display, usually measured in terms of width x height. Higher number of pixels delivers higher clarity or sharpness. Sometimes, you will also see it referred to as HD-Ready (720p) , FullHD (1080p) or 4K (2160p). However, higher resolution comes at higher costs, and hence, you should evaluate your need..
Pro Tip: Full HD is currently the best resolution to have on a display as it is the perfect balance between good visuals and battery life.
Bezels are the black plastic border that surround the screen on your laptop. They may not look very pretty, but they serve to protect your screen from accidental damage. Bezel less is the new trend which allows laptop makers to give you bigger displays without increasing the size of the body, but a complete lack of bezels could make your screen easier to damage.
Matte vs. Glossy Display
Glossy displays are very common on laptops, and for good reason. Glossy displays generally make the colours on the monitor pop, but glossy displays also mean a lot of reflections. Matte displays have started becoming more common and are best suited for people who do a lot of content creation and need absolute clarity for work, as these displays come at a premium.
Benefit: Responsible for the quality of visuals you see on your screen
What is it: A graphics card is a dedicated chip inside your laptop whose capabilities are represented in gigabytes. Just like RAM, more GBs on your graphics card, the smoother your games will run, even in 4K. Even software for photo and video editing like Photoshop or Premiere and design software like AutoCAD require a graphics card to function properly. If you are going to be gaming or doing a lot of content creation, you may want to pick a machine with a graphics card. However, not all graphics cards are the same and so, click here to know more.
Integrated vs. Dedicated
Benefit: Integrated graphics are part of the processor and handle all the basics, while a dedicated graphics card enables you to game on your laptop or do creative work using Photoshop, AutoCAD or even video editing.
What it is: Integrated graphics card are present on all laptops and are just powerful enough to let you watch movies or do very light photo-editing. If you’re looking to game on your laptop, you will need a dedicated graphics card which is always more powerful.
ProTip: If you’re not going to be gaming or creating content on your laptop, a graphics card won’t do you much good.
Nvidia vs. AMD vs. Intel HD
What is it: Intel processors contain a basic graphics chip which can only do light every day work. If you want something for running games or editing photos or movies, you need to look for a laptop with a Nvidia or AMD graphics chip.
ProTip: Within each brand, a higher model number generally denotes higher performance.
What is it: Storage on a laptop is where you install Windows or Mac operating system, followed by saving all your games, movies, documents and photos. Without storage, you can’t do anything on your computer. Storage on your laptop can be of two kinds, a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or Solid-State Drive (SSD). Hard Disk Drives offer plenty of space for little money, however, SSDs offer blazing fast speeds and trade of space.
Hard Disk Drive (HDD)
Benefit: More storage for little money
What is it: A hard disk drive is a type of storage which gives you lots of capacity for little money. A HDD is generally considered slow because it has moving parts that spin at 5400rpm, severely limiting the speed at which data can be accessed.
Solid State Drive (SSD)
Benefit: Makes your Windows start faster, programs run faster.
What is it: SSD stands for Solid-State Drive. They have no moving parts and can be more than 4 times faster than a regular HDD. SSDs can start up Windows in less than 5 seconds. Your programs will run faster if you’re using an SSD. However, all this performance comes at a steep price and a sacrifice in how much you can store on it.
Solid State Hybrid Drive
Benefit: Best of speed, capacity and cost
What it is: SSHD stands for Solid-State Hybrid Drive. it is a combination of the HDD and the SSD, which means you not only get large storage space, but everything loads faster too! An SSHD unit would typically have a 128GB SSD paired with a 500GB or 1TB HDD. The OS would be installed on the SSD part along with other programs while the HDD part is used for storage, ensuring that your operating system and programs start up super-fast
Benefit: The operating system enables you to run all your favourite programs and games. Without it, your laptop is just a rectangle box.
What is it: The operating system is the foundation of the software on laptops. manages all software and hardware, including files, memory and connected devices. Most importantly, it lets you interact with your laptop and your programs in a visual way (otherwise, you'd be typing a bunch of computer code to get anything done). The most common operating system is Windows and if that’s what you like, you must make sure your laptop comes with it pre-installed. Some models of laptops don’t come with Windows in order to reduce the price. All of Apple’s laptops come with MacOS which has its own benefits. Click here to find out about all the types of operating systems you can choose from.
The most common operating system in the world, the latest version of Microsoft Windows is Windows 10. Its two most common variants are Windows 10 Home Edition and Windows 10 Pro edition. The latter has features that are more suited for businesses so as a consumer, you wouldn’t be losing anything by getting a Home version. Do note that a laptop with Windows 10 will cost slightly more than a laptop without it as there is a price tag associated with the operating system.
MacOS is the operating system found running on laptops made by Apple such as the Macbook, Macbook Air and the Macbook Pro. This OS has the advantage of offering smooth operation and in some cases, better performance on certain software in comparison to Windows. MacOS also allows Apple laptops to achieve better battery life than most Windows machines.
The choice of operating system for computer geeks, even if your laptop doesn’t come with this operating system, you can just download any of the many flavours of Linux for free and install it on your brand-new laptop.
DOS or FreeDOS is a free, command line operating system that can only do basic things like moving files around or deleting things. You won’t be able to run any common programs or a browser on FreeDOS. If you’re buying a laptop that comes pre-loaded with FreeDOS or DOS, know that you will eventually need to install an operating system on the laptop to make the most of it. You will either have to buy a copy of Windows or install Linux if you don’t want to spend anymore money.
ChromeOS is found on laptops which are called Chromebooks. ChromeOS is Google’s dedicated operating system for Chromebooks and is generally listed as a separate device type under laptops
ProTip: It is better to buy a laptop with Windows (if that’s what you’re going to be using) because a standalone license for Windows costs more than the difference in price of a laptop with and without Windows.
Bonus Tip: If you’re installing Windows on a Linux/Dos based machine, make sure you download the correct drivers from the manufacturer’s website first, especially for your wireless and LAN cards so that your laptop can connect to the internet. Once connected, Windows 10 should download all the right drivers automatically.
Ports and Connectivity
What it is: You need these to connect your pen drives, your hard disks or to even charge your phone. Ports allow you to connect your laptop to a TV or an external display. Different ports serve different purposes, but here are a few essential ones to look for
Benefit: This is the port we’ve all come to love and use the most. We plug everything into this, our external hard disks, an external mouse and even how you connect your camera to the computer to transfer your photos.
What is it: The USB-A port is shaped like a thin rectangle and allows you to charge and transfer data at the same time. While the port itself has a specific shape, it can either operate at USB 3.0 speed or USB 2.0 speed. USB 3.0 ports are generally blue in colour, but if you want to be sure, just double check the manufacturer’s specification sheet.
Benefit: A USB Type-C port gives you faster data transfer and fast charging for your phone while allowing you to plug in the cable any which way.
What is it: The USB-C port is the newest version of the USB port and the name only describes the shape of the port. It is smaller, meaning it takes lesser space. The best part is that you will no longer be fumbling with how to insert the cable. This type of port is fast becoming common on laptops across all price brackets.
Benefit: A single port that you can plug anything, a charger, hard disk or even a monitor into.
What is it: Thunderbolt is a technology that allows any kind of accessory to be connected to your laptop through a single USB-C port. The same cable can be used to plug into a 4K monitor or something as simple as a hard drive. One cable to connect anything to your laptop is a convenience worth having.
ProTip: You can tell if a laptop has Thunderbolt enabled USB-C ports by looking for a lightning bolt next to it.
Benefit: You need this to connect your laptop to a TV, projector or a second screen
What is it: HDMI port is a connector which allow you to connect external display with fullHD resolution or even 4K! This is especially helpful if you don’t have a smartTV and you want to watch movies on a big screen.
Benefit: Allows you to connect projectors and older screens to your laptop.
What is it: Back before there was HDMI, every screen and projector had a VGA port. VGA doesn’t support high resolution like full HD, but is sufficient and essential to connect with a projector.
SD/MicroSD Card Slot
Benefit: Easily transfer content to and from your camera or smartphone’s memory cards without the need for cables or card readers.
Benefit: The right kind of keyboard can help you type faster, better at the games you play, all while ensuring your fingers don’t hurt after prolonged use.
What is it: The keys on a laptop keyboard can come in various shapes, sizes and spacing, but in general are designed in a way that some typing will get you accustomed to them easily. However, there are various different types of keyboards which are ideal for specific types of users.
Benefit: elegant, silent and faster to type on
What is it: Chiclet style keyboards generally have flat and shallow keys on which your fingers only need to slide in order to type. They are best suited for people who need the laptop for typing and are the most common type of keyboard around. If you’re going to be using your laptop to type a lot, go for this kind of keyboard
Benefit: For those who prefer to use the number keys usually found on the right side of a regular keyboard like accountants or mathematicians.
What is it: Many of us love the convenience of having the number keys to the right, and that convenience is available on many laptops
Myth: Adding a num-pad makes the whole keyboard more cramped
Truth: Laptop makers make sure that the keys on the keyboard have enough space between them for easy typing, and instead, squeeze the num-pad into a smaller area, without sacrificing ease of use.
Benefit: Bigger Battery = More hours of usage
What is it: The battery is what keeps your laptop running when it isn’t plugged into the power outlet. Usually measured in Watt-Hour (WHr). More WHr = More battery life. Also, bigger batteries usually mean heavier laptops. Manufacturers state a battery life that is tested in very ideal conditions and rarely reflects real world performance. Things like screen brightness, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, type of processor and even the load on your CPU will impact battery life.
Pro Tip: Dimming the screen brightness to 50% (or lower) and turning off Bluetooth should give you an additional hour of battery life.
Benefit: It is easy to forget a password or a PIN, which is where fingerprint scanners come to the rescue.
What is it: Security on a laptop now comes in many forms. Login passwords are the oldest and most popular method, but manufacturers are starting to also put fingerprint scanners into some laptops. If you forget your password, you can always just use your finger to login.
Myth: Passwords are easy to hack and hence, not secure
Truth: Passwords are actually very hard to crack as long as it is not your date of birth or name. Choose a complex combination of letters and numbers for the tightest security.