# Laptop Buyer's Guide 2020 Table of Contents: [TOC] --- ### Introductory Remarks Below you will find some recommendations/guidelines I consider when looking at laptops: It ended up turning into more of a comprehensive guide than a "pick-this-one" once I got started typing it up. I hope it helps guide you in the right direction due to the wide/broad selection of options out there. 🙂 My employer currently offers HP and Lenovo laptops for work machines. examples of one of the models from each mfg: * HP ProBook 450 G6 : https://www.cdw.com/product/HP-ProBook-450-G6-15.6in-Core-i5-8265U-8-GB-RAM-256-GB-SSD-US/5375335 ![](https://i.imgur.com/pb1D9B1.png) * Lenovoemployer T490 : https://www.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/thinkpad/thinkpad-t-series/T490/p/22TP2TT4900 ![](https://i.imgur.com/AfCUC38.png) --- **The rest of this guide is assuming personal device not purchased through your work/employer.** --- ### Size: Do you have a good reason for wanting a 17"? Those are typically the largest, heaviest, and most expensive laptops. #### Most common sizes are 13" and 15". Laptop size and screen size typically go hand-in-hand. --- ### Gaming: I wouldn't worry about if a model is labeled "gaming"... that is usually a marketing gimmick. What really matters is if the machine has the desired specs/performance to meet your use-case or needs. #### Gaming designation usually means that there is better graphics capabilities which would be useful for 3D modeling, CAD, video editing... (and yes gaming, too). The most common thing to watch out for here is if all the rest of the specs are the same for a competing machine... are you paying extra for flashy lights? RGB lighting is a common way for manufactures to cheaply raise margin on an otherwise identical device. --- ### CPU: Intel vs AMD is typically the decision here. Until the last year or so, Intel was the industry leader. This has wildly flipped in AMD's favor with the new Ryzen CPU's. #### --> I am now recommending AMD Ryzen for new purchases. I would stay clear from 1st gen Ryzen (1xxx series) but those are rare. ... #### Intel: 8000 series or higher/newer (8th gen). Current series: 10xxx. #### AMD: Ryzen 2000 series or higher/newer. Current series: 3xxx ... (4000 series coming later this year) ... * Intel: i3, i5, i7, i9 --> would look like "i5-10210U" ![](https://i.imgur.com/63pxCkH.png) https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/processors/processor-numbers.html * AMD: Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7, Ryzen 9 --> would look like "Ryzen 5 4600U" ![](https://i.imgur.com/fj6fbWL.png) https://www.servethehome.com/amd-ryzen-5-1600x-and-1500x-6-core-and-4-core-announced/ --- ### RAM: 8GB minimum these days. 16GB or more recommended. --- ### Storage: 256GB minimum ssd (solid state drive) 500GB ssd recommended Make sure to go with an ssd / solid state drive these days. Mechanical spinning hard disk drives are slow and are more likely to fail from drops, bumps, and regular use aside from being slow. NVMe drives are a new type of ssd that are even faster than older ssd's. --- ### Brand: If you know and trust or are stuck with a particular brand, go with it. Else, it doesn't much matter. What matters is specs and build quality. Even the best companies have put out some bad models and not as popular companies have made some great ones. --- ### OS: Windows 10 (Microsoft) Mac OSX (Apple) Chrome (Google) Linux / Ubuntu (open source) For most in-store purchases, Windows 10 is going to be your basic option. Chromebooks are great if you can get used to the workflow, but unless getting a premium model like a Pixelbook, you will likely be getting bottom of the barrel hardware. Apple Macbooks ship with Mac OSX. Some OEM's offer Linux as an OS and is often the favorite among software developers, network engineers, as well as people wishing to have more control over their machine and software. You can select Ubuntu to be pre-installed on the Dell XPS 13 (9300) developer edition! If you aren't sure about sticking with Linux, I recommend getting whatever hardware you want and then you can test it out by booting off of a usb stick. Windows 10 now offers the option to try/run Linux as if it were an application, but I recommend going 100% Linux for my personal rigs when possible (personal preference). --- ### I/O: If you need to plug in usb sticks or wired keyboards or mice or anything, make sure to have a USB type A port (rectangle). Some of the wonderful thin-and-light models only come with USB type C... which is awesome if you are ok with using a dock or adapter dongles whenever you need to plug in extra hardware like a jump drive. They make great USB-C docks that can let you plug in an extra monitor, keyboard, mouse, jump drives, etc. from a single cable connected to your laptop. An example is the Dell XPS 9300. Its super portable but only has USB-C ports which may be a deal breaker for some people. https://www.pcmag.com/reviews/dell-xps-13-9300 ![](https://i.imgur.com/mJRWQ2q.png) --- ### Screen: Size goes hand in hand with the size of the laptop in general. Most popular sizes are 13" and 15". There are differences in screen technology, but for basic office work, most everything would be fine. #### Additional options include considering if you would like a touch-screen. #### Resolution: * 1080p is standard and should be a minimum. * 1440p is preferred but few models offer this at this time. * 4K is generally not a good option for laptops. The additional resolution puts strain on the cpu/gpu and can limit battery life. In a traditional laptop setting, 4K is basically imperceptibly different than 1440 and causes more issues with font size and other things than what its worth. If you can get a 1440 screen in the same model as a 4k, go with the 1440 screen. --- ### Price / budget: (+ life expectancy) You can get an amazing machine for less than $1500 these days. You can get premium specs for this price with more expense typically only targeted towards high-performance parts like powerful workstation or gaming GPU's and faster or larger storage. Unless you are going with a Chromebook, I tend to stay clear of anything under $400 if you want it to last more than 2 years. Your best Windows 10 basic office machines are going to be between $400 - $1500. There are some exceptions but you need to understand what you are getting into or otherwise giving up. It also goes to say that you don't always get what you pay for as companies try to squeeze as much margin into this very saturated market. Some budget models have better trackpads, keyboards, and other hardware than some of the more expensive options out there. Do your research and try and find reliable reviews/sources for information before you buy a particular machine. #### Life Expectancy / price per year : Average life expectancy of laptops has traditionally been 4 years. Average life span of the internal battery on laptops has typically been 2 years. Many modern laptops do not have user-serviceable batteries. >"According to Gartner, a technology research firm, has found that a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds. Another survey by tech company Kensington concluded that in the lifetime of a laptop, there is a 1 in 10 chance that it will get stolen." https://securityboulevard.com/2018/09/7-shocking-statistics-that-prove-just-how-important-laptop-security-is/ Please keep this in mind when making laptop budget decisions. #### off-topic: Premium --> Mainstream --> Budget/Basic Premium hardware (...such as certain models of Macbook Pro's, Dell XPS, Pixelbook...) containing the latest and greatest CPU, ample RAM, and quality storage can last well beyond the expected 3-5 years lifespan when taken well care of. Bleeding edge eventually ends up becoming mainstream given a few years. Add a few years onto mainstream and you typically get budget hardware. As software and operating systems become more and more complex, they often demand more and more from the hardware it is running on. --- ### Other: #### Webcams + microphones built-in webcam? Not all laptops come with webcams. Please double check that your selection includes this commonly overlooked feature. Not all webcams are equal. In fact, many webcams are downright terrible in either picture quality or their counterpart built-in microphones are poor. Be sure to watch review videos when possible of these features if you aren't able to test this for yourself before purchase. Otherwise, plan on using external / add-on hardware like the Logitech c920 HD 1080p webcam, a good pair of headphones, and a quality microphone. You will need to have a plan on how to hook all of these devices up to your laptop given the generally limited amount of ports available. USB hubs and docks can provide extra functionality. #### Other I/O? Do you want a dock or need adapters for your external monitor / second screen? Some newer laptops only come with USB-C and you will need an adapter or dock to plugin USB-A (usb1, usb2, usb3) devices and drives. #### Bluetooth? Most laptops will come with bluetooth, but not all... make sure your selection includes this feature, else you may need to consider a usb adapter. --- ### Where to buy? You can find laptop deals through many options. #### Big box stores : like BestBuy and Walmart provide local in-person / hands-on opportunities to test machines before purchase (except during global pandemics 😕 ). #### Online tech stores: newegg.com bestbuy.com amazon.com all provide reviews and technical specs for each model. #### Online direct OEM (original mfg) : some common names are dell, hp, asus, acer, ... the list goes on. Sometimes you can find deals in clearance or open box at any of these resources but your mileage may vary with scuffs, scratches, missing accessories, etc. --- ### Tech Roundup: #### Top Picks: Some of my favorites are the Dell XPS 13 (9300) and the Ryzen 4000 series Asus Zephyrus G14. * The Dell xps 9300 (new in 2020) - one of software developers' favorites. https://www.dell.com/koa/search?q=9300#q=9300&t=default&sort=relevancy&layout=card&@dpsalessegment:radioGroup=bsd ![](https://i.imgur.com/XfWYwqJ.png) * The Asus Zephyrus G14 - with the brand new Ryzen 4000 series cpu! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYqG31V4qtA {%youtube ZYqG31V4qtA %} Both of these are total overkill for basic budget office work, but provide great portability and all-day performance. --- #### Budget options (Fall 2018): For cutting expense and on a budget check this video out... Keep in mind it is from Fall 2018 but is fine for general purpose basic office work : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IE-LpLibsLA {%youtube IE-LpLibsLA %} Links in the youtube descriptions for where to buy these laptop models... I've included them here as well: * Buy Surface Go On Amazon: http://geni.us/tPDTQ On Newegg: http://geni.us/pBdMSY * Buy LG Gram On Amazon: http://geni.us/wOpWj7u On Newegg: http://geni.us/qkDonn * Buy Dell G3 On Amazon: http://geni.us/C9lB On Newegg: http://geni.us/QMsS * Buy Acer Predator Helios 300 On Amazon: http://geni.us/1IMSVoH On Newegg: http://geni.us/UqS5 * Buy Acer Nitro 5 On Amazon: http://geni.us/o5NFc4p On Newegg: http://geni.us/AXRcHC * Buy Dell XPS 15 On Amazon: http://geni.us/TITF8Q5 On Newegg: http://geni.us/wL4JZcA ---