Is this your first time choosing a laptop? Even if it’s not, you’ll most likely find things in this post that you never knew before.


The first thing you need to do is answer a few questions.

  1. Laptop’s purpose?
    Professional gaming, video editing, design, etc.
  2. Budget?
    Think of a price you’re willing to spend, then put a 20% margin on it. That means if you choose 1000$, your price range should be 800$ to 1200$.
  3. Is portability a must?
    Will you travel? Will you use it on a small desk?

After you’ve answered these questions, you can proceed to the beefy part of this post:


Here are the steps you need to take before choosing a laptop.

DISPLAY

Display Type

There are two types of displays available. TN and IPS.

  • TN display
    – Almost no input delay
    – Bad viewing angles (can be annoying on a laptop, but can also result in an increased privacy).
    You’d want to go with this display for professional desktop gaming.
  • IPS displays
    – Beautiful and vibrant
    – Extreme viewing angles
    They are good for laptops and mostly good for video editing and casual gaming. More modern IPS displays offer better input delay solutions that get close to the TN display.

Display Finish

A display can have a matt, glossy or glossy anti-glare finish.

  • Matte
    – Colors might seem a bit washed out
    – Good for outdoors and bright places
    Choose this display if you want to take your laptop anywhere.
  • Glossy
    – Good color representation
    – Near unusable in bright conditions due to glare
  • Glossy anti-glare
    – Good color representation
    – Reduced glare, still annoying to use when it’s bright outside

Display Resolution

That means how many pixels can the display support.

  • 1366×768 – cheap and awful, don’t you dare.
  • 1920×1080 – beautiful and optimal, go for it.
  • 3840×2160 – 4K crisp top-of-the-line resolution, you’d need this if you edit 4K images, but do know it will put strain on your GPU.

VIDEO CARD (GPU)

If you’re going to do a lot of gaming or rendering, you’d want to invest more money in the GPU.

Top of the line cards include the GTX 980M, 1050 TI, 1060, 1070, 1080.
Don’t go for 1050, as it lacks both power consumption and performance compared to the 1050 TI. The extra money is worth it.

For a more budget solution, make a list of the laptops you like using a website similar to amazon or newegg, then visit GPUBOSS and compare the GPUs to find what’s the best one among them.

Search through youtube for your video card and find how it performs at the task you want to use it for. For example, youtube “GTX 960M Fallout 4 FPS”. You’ll find users that provide results based on their own setup using the card you chose.

Make sure you do a thorough research for each laptop, as some of them might have their GPU clocks artificially reduced (like the ROG Zephyrus GX501), and while that does increase battery life it comes at the cost of performance.

Note: I still haven’t seen Ryzen laptops, but that might be the way to go for the best of both worlds when it comes to power economy and performance.
But until that happens, stay away from AMD cards. While they are very good in desktop configurations, you’d need to have 2 very different drivers in order to use them, one for the built-in Intel HD Graphics and that comes with most if not all laptop motherboards, and one for the video card. Trust me, Intel and AMD don’t get along together AT ALL.

PROCESSOR (CPU)

Make sure your CPU doesn’t bottleneck your GPU. Seriously, if you’re getting a 1050 TI, make sure you throw in at least an i7 6700HQ.
While an i7 7700HQ is better, they are almost equal in performance, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

If you’re looking for a more budget solution, make sure you compare CPUs in websites like CPUBOSS, to get the best bang for your buck.

RANDOM ACCESS MEMORY (RAM)

In today’s world, no matter what kind of laptop you’re getting you NEED AT LEAST 8GB RAM. If you have less then get ready for all sort of stuttering and banging on the laptop.
For more intensive gaming or rendering, you’d want to go with a minimum of 16GB.
DDR4 is better than DD3, but I wouldn’t pay too much attention for it unless you’re shelling out for your dream configuration.

RAM speed is usually fast enough, even when it’s DDR3 .

HEALTH AND COLOR REPRODUCTION

Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) and Health Concerns

Some laptops adjust their display’s brightness using pulse-width modulation (PWM). That means that the brightness is never lowered, it just flickers at an indistinguishable to the human eyes rate. That can tire your eyes out and produce headaches.
Some displays stop flickering at certain luminescence levels.
For more information, go to LaptopMedia , here you can find a list with laptops that offer the least amount of PWM (none being the best).
Some laptops are not displayed in their ranking list, so make sure you google them and look at their luminescence PWM graphs.
For example google “ASUS ROG Strix GL702 laptopmedia”.
Doing so will often reveal a webpage with tons of information about your laptop. Make sure you read it all if you’re interested in buying the laptop.

Color Reproduction

Laptopmedia’s laptop reports will also show information about color reproduction. Some laptops have 50% color accuracy, some up to 100%. Make sure you make the best choice for you, a budget laptop should sit around 50%, while an expensive one should be in the 90% mark. This is really important for graphic designers!

CHASSIS

You can use youtube to find videos and reviews about your laptops showing daily use. Often they will leave comments about the keyboard, trackpad, rigidness and thermal management. Youtube reviewers like Dave Lee and Hardwarecanucks often talk about these issues.

Keyboard
The keyboard should sit just right, should be stiff instead of mushy, should have a default layout with a possibility for added macros.
Trackpad
The trackpad should be responsive and easy to use, same goes for left and right click.
Display
The display shouldn’t bend too much with little force.
Surface
The surface should be fingerprint-resistant.
Thermal management
Good solutions inside the laptop should include separate copper tubes going from the GPU and the CPU to the fans.
A tube that starts from the GPU then goes through the CPU or vice-versa is no good.
A bad thermal solution might cause the GPU or CPU to throttle, that is to decrease its performance in order not to fry itself.

STORAGE

Solid-State Drive (SSD)

Whatever you do, make sure your laptop has an SSD inside. SSDs provide a HUGE performance boost when it comes to load times. You don’t want to skip on this one. When it comes to SSDs, don’t go below 120GB or you’ll always be running out of space and won’t be able to install programs on it.

Hard-Disk Drive (HDD)

If you want to store a lot of movies, video edit or some other job that requires a lot of storage, you’ll also need an HDD.
For an HDD, I’d go with 2TB, keeping 1TB always free.
The thing about HDDs is that the more they get filled up the slower they become. HDD memory is stored on a round platter that spins with around 5400 (laptops) to 7200 (mostly desktops) RPM.
The platter gets filled with information from the outside towards the inside, and since the outside of a circle has more space than the inside, it stores more information, and yet again, since the circle is spinning at a constant rate, the HDD can acquire more information from the outside form the circle than from the inside.
So memory stored on the inside of the circle would force the HDD to search more for that information.
The reasons why we have to defrag HDDs (but not SSDs) is closely connected to the way the HDD works, but that is a topic for another post.

PORTS

Check if the laptop you’re thinking of buying has all the ports you need.

  • USB 2.0, 3.0, Type-C
  • Thunderbolt
  • HDMI
  • Display Port
  • RJ-45 (LAN Connection)
  • 3.5mm jack

It’s often wise to look for laptops with most of the ports on the left (or right for left-handed people) or back side, as otherwise the cables would get in the way of an external mouse.

WEIGHT AND FORM FACTOR

You’d want to make sure your laptop doesn’t weigh more than 3 kilos if you’re going to travel with it, unless you’re a flagellant and like sore muscles.
Also, it’s hard to find a backpack for a 17 inch laptop, near-impossible for a bigger one.
But if you don’t plan on taking the laptop anywhere then you shouldn’t care about any of that.

BATTERY

Take a look at Cell Number and mAh. The more cells and mAh, the more the battery will last. Don’t expect big batteries from light and thin laptops.
Do know that the more powerful a laptop is, the bigger the power adaptor you’d need to power it, in some case two power adaptors are needed.

SPEAKERS

This is tough one. Most Lenovo gaming notebooks excel with good sound. If you want something special, look for a laptop that has speakers that provide BASS. There should be a proud note somewhere saying that the laptop provides a subwoofer on the bottom of the chassis.

LAPTOP ONLINE STORES

When using a website to buy a laptop, make sure you put all your requirements in the filters.

  • Budget
  • GPU
  • RAM
  • CPU
  • SSD
  • Display
  • Other.

Filter them down to 5 to 10 different laptops. Then choose one of them. Go to the next website and repeat the process until you have 3 laptops. Now choose the best amongst them by going into details.

OTHER

These are things like touch-screen, face-cam, aesthetics, microphone and hotkeys.


That’s it! It takes a couple of hours, but sooner or later you’d have your mind set and feel awesome about your new purchase!

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