Buying the best laptop is about more than looking at the specs. Although individual laptop reviews and the spec sheet play a critical role in buying a laptop, there are still common pitfalls that laptop buyers come up against.
To help you avoid a healthy dose of buyer’s remorse, we rounded up 8 common laptop-buying mistakes to avoid while looking for your next machine.
The first thing in "Best Laptop Buying guide" is There are some great budget laptops out there, but just because they’re cheap, that doesn’t mean they’re going to do the job you want or have all the features you need.
Let’s say you’re deciding between a dual-core and quad-core processor. You want to run many applications at once, but you chose the dual-core processor because it’s a little less expensive. Now you have a system that’s not as powerful as your needs demand, and that problem will plague you until it’s time to buy again.
Rather than jumping for the lowest price, it’s best to find the laptop that will actually serve your needs and then cross-reference that with your budget.
Conversely, the most expensive laptops might tick every box, but if you pay for features or hardware you don’t need, you’re just wasting your money.
The chances are good that if a laptop strains your budget, it has something that you don’t need. A new MacBook Pro with top specifications can cost over $6,000 — but very few people need 4TB of storage space on their laptop. You can get yourself the same machine with the same specifications apart from less storage for half that price, and you can get plenty of cheap storage from an external drive.
Gaming laptops can be notoriously expensive, but you don’t need all that hardware if you’re only playing indie games. Buy what you need, and try not to go overboard.
It’s an old bit of advice, but it still holds. Unless you are obsessed with getting the latest tech, a new laptop should last a few years, and likely more if you want to save money on another purchase. Instead of buying a laptop exclusively for your needs right now, you should buy one for where you think you’ll be in a couple of years.
You might be tempted to opt for a base model for its low price tag, with something like 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive. That’s going to limit its long-term appeal, though, because it will quickly run out of storage space and may not handle multiple applications well. Going for a step-up model with a bigger drive and more RAM is probably a good idea.
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Not all laptops include the ports you depend on. Many modern laptops, like our favorite Dell XPS 13, only have Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C ports. If you need USB-A or an SD card reader, make sure your chosen laptop has those specific ports before buying or budgeting for an adapter.
A device boasting a 4K display is certainly worth more than a cursory glance, but it’s not always the right choice, as smaller screens don’t let you enjoy the full benefit of the higher resolution.
Worse still, 4K screens can have a big impact on your device’s battery life. Many 4K notebooks have lackluster endurance with higher resolution screens, and really, you won’t see many benefits. Unless you’re buying a super high-end gaming laptop or one with a huge screen, we’d recommend 1080p for savings on your wallet and battery life.
If you can, always give the laptop you’re considering a proper test drive before buying. Many everyday laptops are available for testing at big brick-and-mortar stores such as Apple, Best Buy, and the Microsoft Store, allowing you to fiddle with the touchpad, keyboard, software interface, and other components that substantially differ from model to model.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of features absent from the spec sheet, such as the touchpad’s responsiveness or the visibility of a glossy screen in daylight, and there’s just no substitution for getting a real hands-on feel of what it’s like to use.
If that’s not possible, buy from an online store with a strong return policy.
A bigger display allows for a more expansive and often better viewing experience, but it also cuts into the portability factor. A laptop’s size often determines the size of the keyboard and trackpad, meaning you’ll likely be cramped when opting for a laptop measuring less than 13 inches.
The best way to figure out what you need is to consider how you’ve used laptops in the past. A smaller ultrabook may be a viable option for frequent travelers, but for those looking for a standard laptop, you’ll probably want to opt for one with a 13.3- or 14-inch screen. If you rarely leave your home with your system, consider a 15.6-inch model for maximum screen real estate.
Tunnel vision is bad news when buying a laptop. While it’s fun to pit spec sheets against each other, avoid picking out one particular specification as your favorite and only look at that factor. While you should have a baseline specification in mind — to ensure that you get the performance you need — don’t obsess over maximizing any single specification.
It’s easy to be excited about paying a little extra for double the RAM, for example, but most people don’t need more than 8GB unless they are using some serious software for work purposes.
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