Laptop Buying Guide
If you're looking for ThinkPads, check out the ThinkPad page.
- 1 Considerations
- 2 New Laptops
- 2.1 General Buying Advice
- 2.2 Regional Recommendations
- 2.3 Gaming Laptops
- 2.4 ThinkPads
- 2.5 Chromebooks
- 2.6 Toughbooks
- 2.7 Apple Notebooks
- 3 Used Laptops
When buying a notebook, pick only two:
- Low price
- Build quality
It's important to consider the build quality of the product purchased. If the notebook is going to be used for many years, paying extra for build quality is a plus. Hardware manufacturers DO sometimes design and create the hardware so that it doesn't last; see Wikipedia:Planned_obsolescence.
You'll also want to consider these factors when getting a new machine:
- Consumer experiences. Are there common problems that are reported by multiple people? Even doing a Google search on the brand and model will give you useful information.
- What do you want to use it for and how often will you use it? Sometimes it's better not to go overkill in price if you're just going to browse Facebook (and in fact, if you're just going to be browsing the net on your machine, you're better off getting a netbook or a Chromebook.)
- Life expectancy. Consumer feedback will give you an idea of this.
- Location and number of air vent(s). Also consider if other parts, such as the screen, will obstruct/does obstruct the air flow (i.e. like the Dell Studio XPS 1647).
- Average operating temperature.
- Average battery duration.
- Casing. Does it conduct heat well? Is it at least reliably sturdy? Check out consumer feedback for this.
- How easy it is to get access to the CPU, heat sink, RAM etc. Uou might need to apply new thermal paste, or swap out the RAM/hard drive/CPU one day.
- Power adaptor output wattage. You can find this out by multiplying the voltage by the current (in amps). This is important because sometimes laptops can run on lower watt adaptors, but have reduced performance. You also might need to replace it one day.
- Power adaptor sturdiness. Will the wires in it break easily? Is the adaptor long enough?
- Power socket location. Is having the cable plugged in to the back or the side of the laptop better for where you will be using it?
- Drivers. Consumer feedback will help with this.
- Webcam, speaker and microphone quality.
- Screen. IPS screens are better in pretty much every aspect compared to TNs and VAs, and your eyes will notice this no matter how you use your laptop. If you're willing to spend that little bit extra.
- Hard drive type, capacity and size. A decent capacity SSD will make a large difference in performance on even a slow machine. Make sure you get a 2.5 inch hard drive, not a 3.5 inch-otherwise it won't fit.
- RAM, number of RAM slots, and RAM type. This applies more to older machines, but more RAM can usually increase performance. Also, make sure it is whatever RAM type is most modern (DDR4 at the time of writing). Also, if you do decide to purchase extra RAM, make sure you get laptop RAM and not desktop RAM. Laptop RAM is more expensive, and smaller, and so desktop RAM won't fit.
Of course, you won't find a perfect machine, but with the right considerations, you can find one that ticks most of the boxes.
General Buying Advice
- Avoid laptops with A4-12xx, A6-14xx, E series by AMD, and Celeron, Atom, or Pentium from Intel. Those processors are budget processors.
- Installing a fresh copy of the OS on a new laptop is generally a good idea, to remove manufacturer provided bloatware.
- L shaped power connectors will break less than standard ones.
- If you plan on running something other than windows on your laptop, be sure to check and double check the support for your model and specific hardware configuration.
Where it specifies not to buy from a retail store, it means that you shouldn't just go into a retail store and buy your machines (making yourself vulnerable to sales pitches and in-person marketing). Find the cheapest location to buy from, and have it shipped if it works out to be cheaper.
US New Laptops
- Go to LaptopScribes A curated list of current laptops you can try, maintaned by anons.
- Select desired laptop by price.
UK New Laptops
- Avoid the likes of Cash Converters and CEX at all costs, you will be ripped off.
- Overclockers UK stocks a number of more expensive laptops, but are generally poor value.
- CCL Online stocks a number of good well specced laptops, but expect to have to sift through a fair bit of junk to find them.
- Consider buying your laptop straight from the manufacturer, you may get a better deal.
Canada New Laptops
- Go to Memory Express and filter your desired specs on the left.
- When CAD is near par with USD, there are often better deals in the US, even with duty and shipping considered.
AUS New Laptops
- Go to MSY or PCCaseGear for cheap laptops.
- Buying from most Retail stores (Harvey Norman, Myer, Dick Smith) aren't recommended because they're very expensive, but they do offer you an opportunity to try out a laptop.
NZ New Laptops
- Go to PriceSpy to get a good price comparison
- As with AUS, buying from most retail stores is also not recommended.
Sweden New Laptops
- There's Prisjakt
Switzerland New Laptops
- If you want to buy in Switzerland, always check for prices at Toppreise.
- It is recommended to order laptops in Germany, as the selection is much higher and the prices are much lower. If you order a laptop from the EU to your Swiss adress, you'll have to pay taxes on it. To circumvent these, ship it to a warehouse in the EU, like LAS-Burg (Northwestern CH) or Lieferadresse Konstanz (Eastern CH), which only charge a few Euros for their service.
Germany New Laptops
Gaming laptops used to have the fame of being more expensive and less powerful than regular gaming desktop, for modern gaming laptops this is not (entirely) true anymore. Today you can find gaming laptops that perform with up to a 10% difference from the equivalent desktop. Prices for gaming laptops are also comparable with desktops (taking into account that a laptop also includes a monitor and keyboard). Still, if top performance or dollar/performance is your gold you should also consider a gaming desktop.
Recommended Gaming Laptops
Note: This list doesn't get updated often, for more up to date recommendations you can try LaptopScribes or other of the above sites.
- Lenovo Y410p/Y510p
- +Great performance per dollar
- -Average-at-best build quality
- Gigabyte Aorus X7
- +Great specs
- +Great build quality
- Various Clevos and Sagers
- +Can be found under multiple brands (Pioneer Computers in AUS, System76)
- +Great to amazing specs
- +Fairly nice 95% gamut displays
- +highly upgradeable
- +-Average build quality
- +-Average to decent price
- -Bad support
- Asus G series (currently G750JX or G750JH)
- +Great specs (i7-4700HQ, up to GTX 780M)
- +Good build quality
- +Good support
- +Best cooling system available for the moment
- -Pretty expensive
- -Big and heavy
- -Not really serviceable
- MSI GT series (currently GT72 or GT82)
- +Great specs (up to i7-4980HQ, up to GTX 980M)
- +Less expensive than other prebuilt like Asus or Gigabyte
- +Best laptop audio (Dynaudio)
- +Can sport a 3K screen and/or SSD raid sometimes
- +Highly upgradeable
- -Somewhat mediocre build quality on older models (GT780 and GT70 models tend to have broken hinge mounts in the screen back cover)
- -GPUs of the GT780 tend to fail after 5-6 years
- -Big, short battery life and heavy like most gaming notebooks
- Alienware series (14, 17, 18)
- +Good to amazing specs (14 up to i7-4900MQ and GTX 765M, 17 up to i7-4930MX and GTX 780M, 18 up to overclocked i7-4930MX and GTX 780M SLI
- +New models have good build quality
- +Accidental damage warranty available
- +14 inch model is portable for a gaming laptop
- +Great audio (Klipsch)
- +Good deals on tablets when you buy an Alienware
- +-Customizable lights (can be turned off)
- -Expensive for the specs
Other Gaming Laptops
- Razer Blade (and Blade Pro)
- +Super high resolution 3200x1800 display
- +Super thin
- +-Razer ( good or bad )
- -Super expensive
- -Lacks many ports a normal gaming PC would have
Apple makes multiple high end notebooks for consumers, the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.
- MacBooks are easy for beginner users, while having a powerful command line for power users.
- OSX contains some of the customizability and power of GNU/Linux (owing to its UNIX architecture) while having the ability to natively run applications like Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, etc.
- Drawbacks of Apple notebooks are self-upgradability, and self-repair.
- The GUI is not free, however the kernel is. For power users this may make or break the purchasing decision.
- MacBooks are best when purchased new/Apple refurbished, for they have the highest resale value of any other PC manufacturer on the market.
- retina MacBooks have some of the highest quality displays you can get on a laptop
- MacBook Pro (latest model)
- +Great battery life (13" up to 9 hours, 15" 8 hours)
- +Great build quality
- +Great screen (although glossy/reflective)
- +Good performance
- -Li-Po Battery is glued down, $199US for battery replacement at the Apple Store. International Prices
- MacBook Air (latest model)
- +Great battery life (13" up to 12 hours, 11" 9 hours)
- +Great build quality
- +-Screen isn't as good as some higher end notebooks, but better than average
- +-Enough performance for the average user
- +Cheap when compared to other comparable ultrabooks (Vaio Pro 13, Zenbook UX301, Acer Aspire S7)
- +Li-Po Battery isn't glued down, replacements available on eBay, or $129US for battery replacement at Apple Store. International Prices
When you take in your MacBook for a battery replacement at the Apple Store, you will get a new Palmrest and Keyboard.
Used Business Laptops
Get a computer that’s built to last, is fast enough for basic tasks like internet browsing and word processing for as little as $100. HP EliteBooks, Dell Latitude/Precisions and ThinkPads are the recommended Business laptops when buying used. It's important to note that these notebooks are not built for gaming. It's also recommended to install a GNU/Linux distro on older used machines. ThinkPads have good support for most distros. Note that older hardware is generally better supported by GNU/Linux us drivers are maintained far longer than on Windows and other operating systems.
FOSS only distro friendly LibreBoot (Thinkpad) x60 laptops can be bought refurbished from Gluglug. If you know what you're doing, just get a used ThinkPad X60 for cheaper and mod the BIOS yourself.
Used Other Laptops
It's generally not recommended to buy consumer laptops second-hand. Business laptops are purchased by companies and government, usually have low wear and tear, and are sold second-hand only after a short period of time for a low price. Businesses aren't concerned with making money on sold laptops, consumers are.