Over the last couple of weeks, it seems many of the people I know have been updating their tech and looking for a new laptop. And that's meant several messages asking me "what laptop is best?". Here's how I answer that question.
It's easy to get caught up in comparing detailed specifications. When you run your eye down the spec sheet, there are so many different details it can be tricky to tell the difference. That's why I avoid the spec sheet, at the start.
Start With Budget
If you walk into a store without any idea of how much you're prepared to spend, then it's likely the sale associates will direct you to the higher end of the market. Set a budget and stick to it. That amount could be a monthly instalment, if you want to take advantage of interest free terms that may be on offer.
Size And Weight
If you're planning to cart your laptop around, then size and weight are a big deal. Many of my friends purchase a laptop as they don't have a bunch of space at home. In those cases, you can compromise on weight and size as you're not likely to be carrying the computer too far. But if you're a mobile worker, then a device that won't weigh you down too much is important.
If you're a frequent flyer, then remember that some airlines enforce weight limits for cabin baggage strictly. So, a lighter machine can be helpful.
Displays And Keyboards
While tech companies often boast about running the fastest CPUs and hardware architectures, I'm a firm believer that your computing experience will be influenced by two main things; the screen and the keyboard/trackpad.
I strongly suggest you head to a few local stores and try several devices out. Pay close attention to the quality of text and images on the screen and make sure you're happy with what you see. You're not going to ever look at a CPU for a machine you use for three years. But you're likely to spend close to 6,000 hours looking at the screen. If you don't like it, that's a lot of time spent in front of something irritating.
Keyboards and trackpads are likely to the the part of the computer you spend the most time touching.
Keyboard layouts can differ significantly depending on the size of the machine and how the manufacturer has decided to fit things in. For example, you may find Shift keys are smaller than expected or function keys are half-height. When you're in the store looking at screens, spend some time typing into a document editor and see what you like.
Mac Or Windows?
In a word - it's doesn't matter. Buy what you prefer subject to the other criteria I suggest.
Don't Completely Ignore Specs
Once you've narrowed down your selection, my rule of thumb is 8GB of memory as a minimum and 256GB of SSD storage. Some cheaper models either offer less storage or still ship spinning hard drives. SSDs are way faster and you'll appreciate that in the long run.
With processors, unless you're doing something specific that requires a fast processor, the majority of people with be happy and productive with a Core i5 processor. If you're budget can stretch to something faster - go for it. But that's my minimum.