What Little Things Matter To You When Buying A New Computer?

When buying a new computer, we all consider performance, storage and many other standard specifications, but often what makes or breaks a machine are the little things. Perhaps it's heat dissipation, design, the number of USB ports or something else entirely.

What small things matter most to you when buying a desktop or laptop? Tell us in the comments below.


    As A DJ, I prefer not having to lug around an extra USB Hub with all my other gear, so 3+ USB ports are a must, preferrably 3.0. Also, 14" screen size is pretty much the maximum I would go.

      Yes! 3+ USB ports.
      But, I got caught out with my Dell laptop. There are 3 usb ports, but 1 of them is so close to the power cord, only very slim usb plugs can be used. Not enough room for a memory stick, for example. Ended up resorting to a hub after all.
      Buyer beware.

        I looked over some Sony Vaios at an exhibition that all seemed to have USB ports and other items stuck in the most awkward places, getting in the way of cords or hands. If I'm buying online I insist on a good 360degree view if the device to get some idea of the layout and port availability.

          Thats just too picky. USB ports can only be at the back or the sides non of which are "awkward"

    Quality of keyboard matters a lot on laptops. Especially if you do a lot of typing as I do.

    Most lappie manufacturers pay lip service and the keys either have weird placements, are too small or are too spongy.

    That's why I always (and will continue to) buy T-series Thinkpads and insist the work ones are too. Their desktop-esque keyboards are a godsend

    Some key sizes on the laptop, like the shift and delete keys, I never used to care but after working more on my laptop and less on my PC it has become important to me.
    Also I've now started to care more about heat dissipation and the noise the fan makes as a result and it's always something I now look for when reading reviews.

    Don't really sweat the small things for PCs as I can make tweaks, but you can't mod a laptop as freely like a PC.

    The keyboard. I will never use those god awful keys that most laptops have. I'll take island keys thanks.

    As a software developer that has to work from home and a office, keyboard is my number one concern followed by usb ports. Poorly placed delete, page up/down and ctrl/alt/fn keys as well as tight spacing between keys really slow me down. Having a minimum of 3 usb ports is also important so I can easily turn it into a "desktop" machine at the office. Screen resolution and size is third and RAM after that. Most laptops have good enough battery life these days and processors have reached the point where most of them more than meet my needs.

    The price, the quality of the input devices, the quality of the screen and the durability.

    1920 x 1200 WUXGA. On a 15 inch screen.
    I have this on my old Dell laptop, and I refuse to step down to a lower resolution.
    Which means my machine won't be replaced any time in the near future. Unless Apple comes out with a 15 inch Macbook with a Retina [or similar] display.

      ... and has done for some time now. But the price of them is absurd.

    LED's I have to say... Well with my desktop, I keep a very "blueish" theme to it, LED Backlit keyboard, LED mouse, LED mousepad, etc.. I even installed an blue LED fan onto my computer which ended up being too noisy, so I further purchased a fan controller for that with Blue LED's...

    For laptops they must have a good quality keyboard that is backlit.

    A matte screen. Alas, very difficult to find nowadays or only available at the top-end of a range.

      Would putting a matte, anti-glare screen protector on it improve things? It could be an option.

        Those things work amazingly well for some things. My mate put one on his tablet and it is incredibly good at hiding grubby fingermarks. Unfortunately it also changes the colour perception of the screen - you lose a lot of blacks - which would be a deal-breaker for me.

        Angela - my Samsung Series 9 has a matte screen so there are still some out there.

          Yeah, I thought something like that might be the case. It all depends on the user's needs, I guess.

          I am one of those who has always preferred no protector when it came to computer screens (though on mobile devices it's a must IMO) but I recently got a new laptop with a high-end screen so I thought I would try one. The most annoying bit is the subtle stippled effect (most noticeable on white/light backgrounds) but I found I have gotten used to it and the extra peace of mind is nice. I am not doing any graphic design on it or anything though, so the affect on the colour is not that concerning.

          I have also seen a few matte screens out there, MSI's GE/GT gaming line of laptops all use matte screens AFAIK.

            I've never felt the need to use a screen protector on anything. Most of the time I reckon I'd rather put up with a few scratches if I had to. I am always careful when it comes to putting my phone in my pocket, e.g. I would never put it in the same pocket as my keys or loose change, although with Gorilla Glass even that is probably not an issue any more. I can't imagine how my Playbook's screen could get scratched so I am even less concerned about it.

              I am the same with keys, etc. even with a screen protector, but from reading about Gorilla Glass apparently it still isn't resistant to the tiny, superficial scratches from small grit, etc. in your pocket and the environment that will cloud the screen over time, hence why I still like to use a protector. The high quality ones are smooth and clear and you can't even tell they are there.

              Last edited 04/03/13 8:34 pm

                Maybe but they are also a million times softer and start to get scratches almost immediately, which kind of defeats their purpose. Nobody keeps a phone long enough for the glass to become "clouded" by tiny scratches.

    I'm a stickler for a "zero dead pixel" policy. I know having a dead pixel or two is essentially inconsequential and to insist on having no dead pixels at all is somewhat environmentally irresponsible (as well as slightly anal), but to have them on a brand new laptop really bugs the hell out of me.

    Last edited 03/03/13 12:16 am

      I've used literally dozens of TFT screens over the years and I have only once encountered a dead pixel, in a cheap AOC monitor. When TFT screens first became popular it was something that was always front of mind but this is the first time I have seen it mentioned in ages.

        Good point. I should point out that it's been years and years since I've purchased a laptop for myself (possibly even 10 years).

    I don't want Fn keys overridden by other features. My Dell laptop theoretically allows you to set your preference in BIOS but it resets to "multimedia" keys every time I reboot. This means I end up turning off my wifi every time I click F2 to edit something.

    Even though the things I use my laptop for are pretty much exactly the same as they have always been, evolving technology has completely changed my priorities when looking for a new machine.

    When I bought my first laptop in 2006, using it on stage meant the CPU load was regularly sitting around 80% and peaking in the mid 90's. On my current laptop those same songs will barely hit 10% and even newer material is only marginally more CPU intensive. I used to also have to worry about graphics for running 3DS Max and Combustion but in 2011 I was amazed at how well Intel HD3000 graphics handled OpenGL in the viewports of those applications. So much so that I got rid of my Radeon powered Vaio and bought an ultrabook.

    These days what matters more to me is balanced performance. So I still look for Core i7 but what matters more is the speed of the storage. Since upgrading my Dell M4400 to an SSD a few years ago, I could not go back to a mechanical HDD. Modern high-spec laptops are so well balanced that in day-to-day use my Samsung Series 9 is significantly slicker than the 8-core MacPro at work. The Mac has far more raw grunt for rendering 3D and stuff like that but it takes ages to start applications and load large files, which makes it feel much slower most of the time.

    Screen real estate is also an issue, which is why I went for a 15" Series 9 with 1600 x 900, but it is mostly attached to a monitor so it's not a vital factor. Things like keyboards and trackpads are a zero priority for me but weight is an issue as I carry it on the bike quite regularly.

    The number of USB ports is a factor but not something I wouldn't trade style for. And style is quite important to me as I do a lot of freelance graphics work and being able to pull my laptop out and impress someone in an interview never hurts my chances of picking up work (although it is usually my Arc Touch Mouse that grabs everyone's attention).

    Last edited 03/03/13 10:15 am

    Smaller screen. 13 or 14 inch is a pretty sweet spot. Anything bigger and it's like you're lugging around a desktop computer, anything smaller and it's not usable.

    Quality keyboard with *all* the needed keys on there. I don't want a number pad, but I do want Pg Up/Pg Dwn, Insert, Delete, Home, End, Print Screen, Pause/Break. Looking squarely at Apple here, with their horrible keyboard. Unfortunately other manufacturers have taken that as a sign it's ok to follow as well (Delll XPS).

    Nicer things to have are a clit/nipple mouse, much better than any trackpad will ever be. Good graphics card, but the Intel HD 4000 cards these days can actually play *some* games now, so this is becoming less important (I don't want a "gaming" laptop at all). Matte screen would be lovely, but hardly likely to happen, to many idiots out there that think shiny = better.

      That's a bit condescending to call people idiots just for having a different preference. I simply prefer the look of a glossy screen, it seems to make the colours/blacks "pop" more IMO. There are very few times where I am using my laptop in direct light, so the reflectivity issues generally don't concern me.

      Last edited 03/03/13 2:25 pm

    Good keyboard, preferably with the Control key not displaced by the Fn key, and tolerable trackpad (personally I find them all inferior to a mouse, but of course that doesn't stop some being downright 'orrible.)

    On a laptop, an IPS screen is a must. If it's TN, I'm not interested. I also much prefer it to be matte rather than glossy.

    Plastic hinges are also a deal-breaker. Give me a metal chassis or rollcage, and metal hinges.

    Finally, a nice, clicky keyboard is absolutely necessary. With a trackpoint and fingerprint logon.

    My Thinkpad X230 meets all these requirements.

    While I've only just got my second laptop, I found that I definitely prefer matte screens. Good quality screens with matte finish make it look like paper :)

    I also like a backlit keyboard. For some reason, in light, i don't look at the keyboard to use it. But with lights out, I'm as blind as a bat

    Keyboard Keyboard Keyboard. I use a proper mechanical switch keyboard (Ducky) connected to my laptop at home, and absolutely expect the laptop keyboard itself to approach a reasonably similar quality for typing. Best are: most Lenovos, Apple, some Dells and most Sonys. It can't be that hard to do a decent keyboard. Just pay for a better engineer and make them do their job.

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