Laptop Brands

dell-laptop-image-from-delldotcomLaptop Brands: a reader asks…

I’m in the market for two new laptops to replace our aging ones. My wife and I are PC folks, not interested in the Mac. I have two questions: What are your top brand recommendations for light and powerful laptops, and what are your recommendations on specifications? We don’t do anything really taxing (no video editing or gaming), but do have a lot of multi-tasking going on. Thanks for your help!

lenovo-for-those-who-do-logoThe first question is pretty easy, I’ve tended to recommend Dell and Lenovo as the top value brands for Microsoft Windows PCs for a number of years now. I’ve found the build quality to be excellent, and customer service to be adequate. I generally tend to stay away from anything other than the major brands these days, PCs are such a commodity that everyone is racing to the bottom in terms of price, which often goes hand in hand with quality and customer service.

For some top brands you are paying a premium just for the brand name, and for some you are paying a competitive price but getting shoddy hardware and workmanship. Both Dell and Lenovo will offer you models that give a good blend of performance and reasonably low price. Those are the only two brands that I can recommend on that basis.

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computer-upgrades-ram-ssd-optical-driveAs to specifications, the basic two items that I think deserve your highest investment are in solid-state storage (e.g., an SSD), and in maximizing your RAM (critical for multi-tasking). The amount of storage space is a personal choice – if you’ve joined the cloud-storage bandwagon and are comfortable with most of your files being in the cloud (Microsoft One Drive, Google Drive, Amazon Cloud Drive, Dropbox, etc.), you can get by with perhaps 256gb of storage, otherwise I’d opt for 512gb or even 1tb. For RAM, I’d go with 16gb.

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An optional 3rd basic item would be an external CD/DVD drive. They’re cheap (like $40 or less), and if you have the occasional need to burn a CD or DVD, or play one, they can be handy. It’s a given that your new laptop will almost certainly not include a built-in drive.

samsung-1080-27inch-monitor-image-from-amazondotcomOther than that, it’s all about screen size, which is a personal choice. The smaller the screen size (12″ or less), the easier mobility (and usually better battery life), but small screens can be hard on the eyes. 13-14″ is a good compromise between portability and screen real estate. If you plan on doing most of your computing from your desk and occasional mobile use, then you might want to consider a 2nd screen. You can pick up a nice 23″ or larger wide-screen computer monitor for a reasonable price at Staples, Best Buy, Microcenter or online. That and an HDMI cable will get you a huge screen at home, and a smaller screen when mobile.

IMage of HDMI port, image from ShutterstockWhen shopping for your laptop, make sure that it has the ports that you will need. If you’re going to add a 2nd monitor, make sure there’s an HDMI port on the laptop to match your monitor’s HDMI. You might want to invest in a 2nd power supply, so you can have one always in your laptop bag and leave one at the desktop. You might even want to get a wireless full-size keyboard and mouse to use at the desk.

Lastly, there’s a lot of advertising on fancy things like touchscreens, pen input, tablet-mode options, etc. My experience is that most people may think those are sexy and want them, but in actual practice, those features get little use. Don’t pay a premium for such features. And definitely stay away from the tablets that are masquerading as laptops (Microsoft Surface Pro, I’m looking at you) – the hype definitely exceeds the real-world capability.

One Comment

  1. move quicken to new computer

    Enjoyed examining this, very good stuff, regards.

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