Here’s our list of the most common laptop buying mistakes, so you can leave all potential regrets at the door. If you’d rather have some help buying a desktop, these are our favorites in 2018.
BUYING THE CHEAPEST AVAILABLE LAPTOP
There are some great budget laptops out there, but just because they’re cheap, 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.
PAYING TOO MUCH
Conversely, the best laptops in the world might tick every box, but if you pay for features or hardware you don’t need, you’re just wasting your money.
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 up to $6,000 — but very few people need 4TB of storage space on their laptop. You can get yourself the same machine with the exact 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 too, but if you’re only playing indie games you don’t need all that hardware. Buy what you need, and try not to go overboard.
BUYING A LAPTOP “FOR TODAY”
It’s an old bit of advice, but it still holds true. 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 will be in a couple 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, 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.
IGNORING PORTS AND COMPATIBILITY
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 budget for an adaptor.
OPTING FOR THE HIGHEST AVAILABLE RESOLUTION
A device boasting a 4K display is certainly worth more than a cursory glance, but its 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 don’t see a lot of benefit. 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.
NOT TRYING BEFORE BUYING
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.
THINKING SIZE DOESN’T MATTER
Size matters, especially when it comes to a laptop. Whereas a bigger display allows for a more expansive and often better viewing experience, 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.