Laptop Buying Guide

I’ve gotten this question so many times in the last little while, that I finally just decided to write a post about it.  “What kind of laptop should I buy?”  The problem with the question is that it will be different for everyone.  So here are the questions you need to ask yourself when picking out a brand new laptop for yourself!

1. What is the screen size I’m most comfortable with?

In this case size really does matter.  If you get something too small for your needs then you may get frustrated with trying to work on such a small screen, but if you go with too big of a screen you may curse yourself when trying to travel or be “on the go” with it.  Personally I use a 15″ screen.  I don’t travel with it a ton, and do most of my work from a desk.  The extra space really helps.  When I AM traveling though, I prefer about a 13″ screen size.  The 2 inches makes a huge difference in portability.  When I’m on an airplane, the 15″ laptop feels HUGE, but the 13″ feels just right.  Screen size is measured diagonally across the screen, so do some measurements on what you currently use and ask yourself if you want to go smaller and more portable or bigger and more productive/functional.  Also keep in mind your own size.  I used to have a 17″ laptop, and while it was nice on my desk, any sort of travel with it became a huge pain in the rear since I’m such a small person.  For my size a 17″ screen would just be too big to work for my lifestyle, it would end up acting like a desktop more than a laptop, because I’d never want to take it anywhere.

2. What will you be using the laptop for?

Is it going to be a family laptop?  Are you just going to browse the internet, edit photos and post to your blog with it?  Are you going to work it till it cries out in mercy day in and day out (the last one would definitely be me).  I’m on my laptop at least 9+ hours a day.  I am often switching between several different applications, while listening to music and remote controlling computers and servers.  My laptop needs to be able to handle all that I will put it through.  The more tasks you expect your laptop to do at the same time, the more RAM you should have.

3. How important is the laptop?

This question may sound a little strange, but it’s definitely an important one.  If the laptop is going to be used just as an internet browser, and some basic tasks, if the device crashes or is out of commission for a few days, it’s not going to be the end of the world.  If a piece of hardware fails on MY laptop even for a day I would be losing money.  I need to purchase a laptop with the absolute best hardware components.  I typically purchase Dell’s XPS line of products.  Yes, they are more expensive, but the support and the hardware that comes inside reflects that high price.  Dell also has an Inspiron line of products that are less expensive, has less expensive hardware inside which reflects the lower price.  What it boils down to, is that if you will lose money if your hardware fails, you want to purchase something more expensive that is less likely to fail.  If you could do without your computer for a couple days here and there, then you can probably find something around 500-900 that would meet your needs.

4. Do you want to use it like a tablet?

There are several convertible models out these days, so this is a brand new type of question.  There are really 2 types of “convertible” devices.  One is a Tablet running Windows 8 RT, and snaps into a keyboard of some sort, but can completely detach from it’s keyboard and be used as a tablet.  The other is a Laptop that can flip over on it’s keyboard to hide it so you can use the touch screen on the laptop just as you would a tablet.  These models are usually running the full version of Windows 8 and offer  you more robust options such as being able to install programs you used in your Windows 7 devices.

So, once you figure out the screen size, how much RAM you need, and your price range, it’s time to get shopping!  Argos are offering competitive laptop deals or you can go into your local Best Buy and play around with the laptops on display to really get a feel for which brand/model you want to purchase.

As always feel free to ask me which brand/model I would purchase, but make sure you clarify those 4 questions before you ask.  😉

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I receive compensation if you make a purchase using the links.



About the author

Sarah Werle Kimmel

Sarah Werle Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 20 years of her career working as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on local NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX news affiliates, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website

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