What to look for when buying a
laptop

Quality and Performance

Battery life

The more games you play, websites you visit and videos you watch will mean you will need to charge your battery more often. Finding a laptop with good battery life is often a trade off between how lightweight it is vs how good a performer it is.

Performance

When using your laptop, some things will be more demanding on the technology inside than others.

Screen quality

Screen quality affects how clear and colourful things look on the screen. Most laptops will be fine if you want to browse the internet, check email, and do simple office tasks. If you want to watch movies or play games then its worth considering a better one.

Graphics speed

The graphics speed of your laptop defines how quickly and accurately things will be displayed on your laptop screen. For everyday use this isn't important but if you are planning on some serious gaming or being creative then you should consider this.

Startup speed

The quicker your laptop starts up, the quicker you can use it. When you switch on your laptop it gets all its information from its storage. Many laptops now come with a type of storage that is extremely quick and will get you going quicker each time.

Camera quality

Almost every laptop now comes with a camera built-in. If you make a lot of video calls and want it to look really clear at the other end then consider a better quality camera. If your internet connection is good your video will look as good as most video streaming services like Netflix.

Gaming graphics

Playing fast moving games can put a lot of demand on your laptop. The more realistic-looking the game, the harder your laptop has to work. If you are serious about your gaming, we have identified the laptops that have additional hardware built into the screen so that games display more smoothly and accurately than on a standard laptop.

Latest model

Like most electronic devices, laptops are being upgraded regularly. Latest models tend to have better features but you can often find that an older model will do everything you need and has been discounted giving good value for money.

Features

Operating system

Controlling everything you do on your laptop there are 3 operating systems to consider and its mostly a personal preference. Windows is the most common and great for office apps and gaming. MacOS is only available on Apple laptops, but can be a good choice if you have an iPhone or iPad. ChromeOS is designed to connect with Google services like Google Docs and Google Drive.

Storage

If you want to store lots of photos or videos, or if you are likely to use lots of apps then you will want plenty of storage. Laptops with small storage have enough for about 20,000 photos or 8 hours of high quality home videos with larger ones storing more than 400,000 photos or 150 hours of video.

Touchscreen

A touchscreen on your laptop can be handy if you are used to using smartphones and tablets - they work exactly the same. Many laptops with touchscreens are capable of converting into a tablet. By flipping, spinning or detaching the screen you can use the touchscreen to control things.

Accessory sockets

If you plug in accessories like keyboards, mice and hard drives, then you will want to check there are enough sockets - called USB ports. Most laptops come with at least 2 - be aware that lighter, thinner laptops often have the least with bigger laptops having space for more. Newer models often come with a new type called USB-C so its worth checking your accessories will work with this.

Easy login

Some laptops come with new ways to log into your device when you start it up. If you work on the move or store sensitive documents you might want to consider looking for a laptop with these advanced features. We have identified laptops that use either facial recognition or a fingerprint scanner removing the need for a password.

Detachable keyboard

Some laptops have a detachable keyboard and can be used like a tablet. This is useful if you use your laptop to give presentations or watch TV on the sofa. It is worth checking before you buy as there are some detachable laptops where the keyboard does not come included and has to be purchased separately.

Connect to TV

Many newer laptops no longer come with a connection for a TV called HDMI. If you often use a second screen for work or a TV for watching movies we have identified the laptops that still have this. For those without it can be possible to buy adaptors that will work with one of the accessory sockets (USB ports) or newer socket types.

WiFi

Whilst all laptops come with WiFI built in, if you are streaming movies or making video calls it is worth considering laptops that can cope with a faster connection.

Wireless accessories

Many accessories such as mice, keyboards, speakers and headsets can be connected without wires using a technology called 'Bluetooth'. Most laptops will work with any Bluetooth accessories but some of the latest models are able to connect more reliable, securely and have better sound quality.

Transfer photos from camera

If you take lots of photos on a digital camera, one of the easiest and most common ways to get the pictures onto your laptop is using a memory card. We have identified laptops that can read the memory cards that are used in most cameras - though other laptops without this capability may have other methods to transfer the photos, most commonly via a cable or over WiFi.

Size and styles

Dimensions

The dimensions of the device takes into account its height, width and depth. Some models can have a similar screen size but be bulkier. The latest models tend to be slimmer and have less edge around the screen.

Screen Size

Screen size will be a big thing to decide on. Think about how you will use it - a large screen will give you comfortable browsing and a better movie-watching experience. If you are on the move a smaller screen will be more portable and easier to carry around in your bag.

Use like a tablet

If you plan to use your laptop on the go using the touchscreen - or even to just watch movies in bed - you might want to consider using it more leisurely like a tablet. With this type of laptop you can fold the screen all the way back so its flat. Some also do this by spinning the screen 180 degrees so the keyboard is protected and some go further with a fully detachable keyboard.

Weight

If you will be carrying or holding your laptop a lot then weight will be an important factor. Lightweight laptops weigh in around the 1kg mark, with some even lighter than that, whilst heavier models are around 2kg and above.