What Type of Laptop Do do You Need?
When choosing a new laptop, it’s important to first consider a few key factors. You want it to function best for your particular needs and purchase one that will be worth your investment. In general, most laptops support a wide range of uses, but as you’ll see in the following chapters, some work best for specific careers or hobbies.
A new laptop is something you’re potentially going to spend a lot of money on and that you’ll want to have for many years. Discounted laptops may tempt you, but sometimes spending a little more for better functionality is worth it. And although there are a lot of multi-purpose laptops, some models support specific demographics, like gamers, students, families, and artists, or professionals with particular tasks, like design or travel.
Take a few minutes to think about what functionality you require from your new laptop, then find specific chapters detailing models that support your necessities.
If you need some help, try our quiz below that will point you in the right direction! Answer the questions and calculate how many times your answer connected to each letter - A, B, C, D, E, F.
What Do You Do?
A. I’m a professional or amateur gamer.
B. I’m a professional in the fine arts field (ie. designer).
C. I work from home or I’m a stay-at-home parent/guardian.
D. I’m a real estate agent who uses a laptop a lot.
E. I’m a remote worker/travel blogger/digital nomad.
F. I’m a student.
G. I’m a writer.
H. I’m a photographer.
I. I’m other.
J. I’m looking for a cheap laptop.
How Often Will You Travel With It?
A. Not often, but maybe sometimes.
B. A good amount, especially for meetings related to work/design.
C. Almost never, unless you count from the couch to the kitchen table.
D. Occasionally, to-and-from the office or to meetings.
F. Depends on my classes for the day.
How Many People Will Use It?
A. Mostly just me!
B. Probably only me, since I use it for design projects.
C. Me, but also my partner/kids/parents/family, etc.
D. Only me - I use it for work so I must be careful with other users.
E. It’ll be mine, but since I take it everywhere, maybe my partner/friend/stranger-at-the-coffee-shop will use it from time-to-time!
F. Mostly me, but also perhaps my sibling/roommate/classmate/friend.
Will You Use it For Hobbies?
A. Of course - mostly for games!
B. I love art and design, so I’ll use it for that.
C. At home, sure! And my family will likely use it for hobbies, too.
E. Yes, of course, when I’m bored while traveling or at the coworking space!
F. Yep, just as long as I’m finished with homework and studies!
Will You Keep A Lot of Stuff on It?
A. Yes, all my games, for sure.
B. My design files can be big, so yes!
C. Nothing specific, but my family will use it for lots of different stuff.
D. Oh, yea, lots of work files, but probably nothing too huge.
E. Yes! Lots of big files, for travel and nomadic work.
F. Just school assignments, mainly.
Now that you’ve taken the quiz, tally your results by calculating how many times your answer is associated with each letter. Whichever letter had the most answers relates to the type of laptop you should consider!
If you answered...
● Mostly A’s → Gaming
● Mostly B’s → Design
● Mostly C’s → Home/Family
● Mostly D’s → Work
● Mostly E’s → Travel
● Mostly F’s → School
● A Combination → Multi-Purpose
Types of Laptops
Now that you have an idea about what type(s) of laptop you’re looking for, you can start your search! This eBook will help you decide which laptop is most suitable for you, your uses, and your desired functionality. Within each category, we give you 2-3 of the best options currently on the market.
Each option will support its category, but will also have specifics that make it best for particular uses. Some laptops will overlap, as many fit a wide variety of uses and functionality. Our goal is to offer a few different choices with a range of perks so that you get the laptop that will be most beneficial for you. We want your purchase to be well worth the investment. Let’s get started!
Alienware Area 51m
Specs: i9 Intel Processor (9th gen), NVIDIA® GeForce RTX, Magnesium Alloy Body, Up to 32GB memory, Up to 512GB SSD, Up to 1TB HDD
If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line gaming computer, this is it. Its brand has been manufacturing the best gaming laptops for a long time now, and it’s well-deserving of its reputation. As a bonus, this laptop supports several upgradable options so you can customize it to your needs. This is great if you want to build up your laptop for your specific gaming interests while starting with a trustworthy foundation.
Specs: i7 Intel Processor - 8 core(10th gen), NVIDIA® GeForce RTX SUPER™, FHD Matte or OLED 4K Touch, Up to 512GB SSD, Up to 1TB HDD
What makes this such an attractive option for gamers is that it’s known to be the thinnest and lightest gaming laptop on the market. This is great for anyone who lacks space or plans to move the laptop around to conferences or friends’ houses. This perk is unique for gaming laptops, as they tend to be much bigger and heavier than others. Each Razer Blade is created from a single block of aluminum, which keeps it light at just 0.70" thick.
Asus Rog Zephyrus G15
Specs: AMD Ryzen™ 9 processor, NVIDIA GTX 1660Ti, Non-glare FHD (Pantone Validated) Display, Up to 32 GB memory, 512GB SSD, and 1TB HDD
If you’re looking for a high-quality gaming laptop but can’t spend a lot, this is the best option. It’s more affordable than others but still offers a great gaming experience. It’s also universal, as it can be used for both work and play. Its design is more subtle than other gaming laptops, so it looks more like a professional computer used for gaming, rather than the other way around.
MacBook Pro 13
Specs: Retina Display, i7 Intel Processor - Quad-Core, Up to 4TB of Storage, Up to 32GB of Memory
MacBooks have a reputation for being expensive, but if you’re going to use them for designing, they might be the best investment. This model is the newest MacBook and fits the brand’s superb reputation with its user-friendly interface. Another perk about Macs is that they offer specific design applications (like Sketch, for example) that aren’t available with other brands.
Users also love Macs for the extended battery life and their ability to easily integrate with other Apple devices and external displays. As a designer, this might make your work a bit easier with these particular features.
Microsoft Surface Book 3
Specs: ii7 Intel Processor - Quad-Core (10th Gen), Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q, Up to 32GB of RAM, Up to 2TB SSD
For designers or artists, this is a fun and versatile 2-in-1 option, as it can be used as a tablet or laptop. Artists love it because of the touch-screen feature, which allows you to draw or create mock-up designs easily, especially when using its Surface Pen with design applications. Although its base price is similar to a MacBook, you get a lot more out of its basic package, including a superb battery.
Dell XPS 15
Specs: i9 Intel Processor - 8 core (9th Gen), 4K UHD InfinityEdge anti-reflective, Touch Screen, NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1650, Up to 2TB SSD, Up to 64GB Memory
As far as home computers go, this Dell is one of the best all-around performing laptops. It has a strong body, so you don’t have to worry as much when kids are using it! It has great graphics, a decent battery life (despite its dynamic screen), and a 720p webcam, so it’s very versatile when it comes to its use. A couple of other perks include its large trackpad (easy to use for kids and older adults) and its anti-reflective touch screen (great for lounging outside and not worrying about sun glare).
Lenovo ThinkPad X1
Specs: Up to i7 Intel processor - 4 Core (10th Gen), FHD, IPS Anti-Glare Screen, Up to 16GB RAM, Up to 1TB SSD
You may have already heard of ThinkPad, as it’s a staple for computers that are powerful,
well-rounded, and have extended battery life. Families with kids will especially enjoy this option, as it’s super sturdy (with the possibility of an even stronger carbon body) and is the ideal laptop for privacy. You can easily disable the camera, and many companies prefer it due to its high privacy and productivity. Lastly, the ThinkPad has a generous number of ports that accommodate the many different needs that you and/or your family may have.
Specs: Retina Display, i7 Intel Processor - Quad-Core, Up to 4TB of Storage, Up to 32GB of Memory
Much like its perks for designers, the MacBook Pro is also a great investment for those looking for a high-performing work laptop. Creative companies often give MacBooks to employees because of their excellent functionality. It has a user-friendly interface, it seamlessly integrates with other Apple devices and apps, and has a long battery life, which is great for busy days at work. As a bonus, it’s very secure with an easy process for warranties and repairs.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
Specs: Up to i7 Intel processor - 4 Cores (10th Gen), FHD, IPS Anti-Glare Screen, Up to 16GB RAM, Up to 1TB SSD
This is a great option for a work computer because it uses Windows 10, which highly prioritizes privacy. You can also easily customize its specs and build off of its foundation to make it work best for your needs. It charges quickly and maintains a long battery life, plus it’s very durable so you can take it anywhere without having to worry. To distinguish this option from the MacBook Pro, Lenovo offers a wide variety of ports, whereas Macs have limited options. Different ports can make work meetings easier when you need to present information, share a screen on an external display, etc.
Specs: Retina Display, Up to i7 Intel Processor - Quad-Core, Up to 512GB SSD, Up to 2TB HDD, 720p FaceTime HD Camera
When choosing the perfect travel laptop, weight is key. The MacBook Air is extra lightweight while still featuring a long battery life and a durable exterior, so it can handle constant repacking and moving. You can opt for more storage that accommodates larger files (such as photos and videos), and it features one of the best screens on the market. It’s a great laptop for work and side projects, but the screen and storage will also keep you entertained while on-the-go.
Asus ZenBook 13
Specs: i7 Intel Processor (10th Gen), LED-backlit FHD, Nvidia MX 250, Up to 16GB memory, Up to 1TB SSD storage
This Asus laptop is a great travel laptop with a compact size, exceptional sturdiness (known as “military-grade durability”), and long battery life. You don’t have to worry about moving it around, nor carrying your charging cord with you. It also features a unique design that lifts the keyboard up to create an optimal typing position. This is easier on your wrists, which is especially good for bloggers and writers. A unique perk with this Asus model is that its trackpad turns into a small touchscreen, so you can easily jump back and forth to different programs, much like having a second monitor without the hassle of its size.
Samsung Chromebook 3
Specs: Intel Celeron Processor, HD LED Display, Anti-Reflective, 4GB Memory, 32GB SSD
Chromebooks may not offer as much software and flexibility as Mac or Windows, but you truly cannot beat the price for the level of functionality. It’s an affordable option that is lightweight, fast, and still has one of the longest battery lives available. One reason why travelers love this option is that it easily connects with the Android Play Store, so all the apps you enjoy on your phone can also work on your laptop seamlessly. It integrates with your Google accounts, as well, so you can store all your files in one place.
Specs: Retina Display, Up to i7 Intel Processor - Quad-Core, Up to 512GB SSD, Up to 2TB HDD 720p FaceTime HD Camera
We have to recommend the MacBook Air for this category as well. It’s an extremely versatile laptop, so you can use it for any discipline, whether it be design, computer science, liberal arts, etc. As a school-friendly company, Apple offers a decent discount for students and teachers. It’s lightweight, durable, and features a long battery life and a lot of storage. But what students love about Macs is that they can connect to other Apple products and onto larger displays thanks to its Thunderbolt 3 feature.
Lenovo Yoga 730
Specs: Up to i7 Intel Processor (8th Gen), UHD IPS, Glossy Touch Screen, Up to 16GB Memory, Up to 1TB SSD, 720p HD Camera
Students will love the features of this laptop, especially when writing papers or taking notes in class. It has a user-friendly touch screen display and a unique design as it can fold 360 degrees, so it can be used much like a tablet. It’s portable, lightweight, and thin, but still maintains an 8-hour-long battery life. Aside from operating great for school, it’s also a decent laptop for entertainment purposes, like streaming and music, which students love.
Google Pixelbook Go
Specs: Up to i7 Intel Processor (8th Gen), FHD or 4K Ultra HD Molecular Display, Touch Screen, Up to 16 GB Memory, Up to 256GB SSD
If you need to pull an all-nighter, this touchscreen option is your best friend—its battery will last up to 12 hours! As with the other Chromebook mentioned, it won’t have all the software for design and engineering features like Windows and Mac. But, it’s still a great option for students as it integrates straight into your Google accounts, and it still runs the common programs students use regularly.
Families also love this one because of its high-quality webcam, so students can keep in touch via conference calls.
ASUS VivoBook 15
Specs: Up to i7 Intel Processor (8th Gen), FHD Display, Nvidia MX 130, Up to 16gb RAM, Up to 512GB SSD, Up to 1TB HDD
If you have a wide range of different needs, it may be best to find an all-around, well-performing, multi-purpose laptop. This ASUS variety is an excellent option at an affordable price. It’s thin and lightweight, so it’s very mobile, yet offers powerful performance with its i7 processor. You can easily use this model for work, travel, or home. Plus, it has dedicated graphics for both designing and gaming.
Acer Aspire 5
Specs: AMD Ryzen 4000, AMD Radeon Graphics, FHD IPS Display, Up to 24GB Memory, Up to 1TB SSD, Up to 2TB HDD
Much like the ASUS option above, this Acer model provides a strong, multipurpose laptop that has the ability to host a variety of activities. The biggest difference is that Acer uses AMD processors instead of Intel or Nvidia, which is a bit more powerful. This means gamers will love this laptop as much as students and families. It also features a large storage capacity and higher than normal memory, which is great for designers and travelers who work with larger files.
Special Features to Consider
All of the suggested laptops above are excellent options—you truly can’t go wrong with any of them. However, when it comes to making a final decision, you may be stuck choosing amongst some common features that can leave you scratching your head. Mac vs. PC? Large vs. small screen size? Built-in graphics card?
Let’s dive into some of the most common components and discover what they are and whether they’re right for you. Some have very specific benefits to certain categories (like travel and gaming) while others serve all users. Some (like the age-old Mac vs. PC debate) will come down to personal preference and general needs.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) helps keep you and your laptop safe when using the internet, and it’s beneficial to everyone and every computer. It protects your personal information and hides your IP address, so you have greater access to websites and media. You can safely and confidently browse the web, stream videos, send messages, share files, etc.
There are many free versions of VPNs, but it’s best to pay for high-quality, trustworthy service to stay secure. It doesn’t have to be expensive, though! Right now (until June 30, 2020), one of the best VPN services, IPVanish, is running a special promo at a considerable discount. You can get a $5 Monthly Plan for life, which is a savings of 59%, forever! This type of deal isn’t common with these high-quality VPN services, so it’s a limited deal and won’t be around forever.
Any laptop is prone to hackers and security breaches. Macs are less vulnerable than PCs, but even they can be hacked. It’s best to use security software to keep your new laptop safe. There are several on the market, but PC Matic is one of the best and offers an excellent plan at a great price.
It’s important to choose a security program right away. The longer you wait, the more vulnerable your computer and personal information are to hackers. And once they get in, they can damage your computer and slow it down for life (it can be tricky to rid your computer of viruses without having to start from scratch. Protect your computer!
Time tracking software is a must for those who use a laptop for work-related purposes. If you work from home or have meetings off-site and need to keep track of your time (or manage your employees’ time), then having a reliable time tracking system is essential.
Time Doctor is one of the best. Not only does it allow you to track time, but it also allows you to take periodic screenshots for accountability, track web usage, generate reports, and even manage payroll. Plus, it’s compatible with all devices and operating systems.
Online File Storage
If you’re a designer or traveler, you probably have a lot of large files to store. Keeping them on your laptop will take up a lot of space, plus you want to back them up with an online storage system, such as pCloud. Even with Google Photos and iCloud, you can run out of storage. pCloud is recommended because it offers two different plans for 65% off! That is huge. Plus, it connects with everything else you use, including Google Drive, Dropbox, Instagram, Facebook, OneDrive, etc., and it has exceptional security features.
Although not essential, touch screens are particularly helpful for kids and families. The screens tend to be higher in quality, which makes it easier to clean and is often scratch resistant.
They’re also great for those using their laptops for design, as it can be easier to navigate without a mouse or trackpad, and you can draw, use design tools, and annotate documents. One downfall, however, is that touch screens tend to make the laptop heavier.
2- in-1 Laptop
The biggest perk of a 2-in-1 laptop is that you have a laptop and a tablet in one, which offers extra mobility and multiple uses. There are usually two options for design—one is detachable where you take the screen off, and the other is where the keyboard folds 360 degrees.
This 2-in-1 design increases mobility and use but can be more expensive with less performance than a typical laptop. It’s a great option for those looking for flexibility and mobility without needing a lot of power or memory.
Built-In Graphics Card
Nowadays, most laptops have built-in graphics cards, which are also known as integrated graphics cards. This feature allows you to perform functions that require graphics, like using the internet and watching videos, for example. Most built-in versions are powerful enough for any use, including basic gaming and design.
Those who rely on graphics more (such as gamers, designers, and video editors) might want to consider upgrading to a dedicated graphics card, which enhances graphics performance. However, keep in mind that this will make your laptop more expensive, heavier, and can shorten the battery life when graphics are in use.
Built-In CD Drive
A built-in CD drive isn’t necessary these days because almost all software is available online or with a USB drive. However, if you want to play DVDs or CDs on your computer, having a built-in drive is easier than using an external one. Those working in jobs that rely on older or less adaptable programs may want CD drives for easier installation.
The reason why many manufacturers removed built-in CD drives was to make lighter laptops and include more important hardware. Because of those reasons, as well as the option to buy external CD drivers, you won’t find built-in drives on most new laptops, and you probably won’t need them.
Mac Versus PC
You’ve probably heard the debate between Macs and PCs. Let’s look at a few important differences.
Macs tend to be more user friendly with a well-designed interface. This makes them a great option for beginners or users who don’t want to get into the nitty-gritty of computers. It’s also harder for Macs to get viruses and malware, and when it comes to repairs, their warranty is simple and easy to navigate. Macs tend to be the preferred brand for creators, designers, and video editors because there are many apps and programs that come pre-installed for artists and creatives.
PCs are a bit more complicated and not as easy to use as Macs. However, because of this, PCs have more options for available software, programs, and games with easier compatibility. They’re great for gamers in particular, but also make an excellent choice for family/home computers. With PCs, you’ll pay less for a more powerful computer.
Options for screen size come in inches: 10” 13” 15” 17+”. This is the measurement of the screen diagonally. Larger screens are best for designers and gamers, as you can see more details and have a larger space for maneuvering. A larger screen means a bigger laptop, so they can often have a higher performance because manufacturers can fit more into the laptop itself.
Bigger screens do mean larger machines, however, so battery life will often be shorter and the laptop won’t be as mobile. Smaller screens are better for traveling or for school. They tend to have longer battery life, are more lightweight, and are less expensive. And with so many options for connecting to external screens and displays, smaller screen size doesn’t necessarily mean fewer options for use.
Bonus: How To Set Up a New Laptop
Getting your new laptop is the exciting part, but don’t let the setup process intimidate you. Most of the setup for both Mac and PC is very easy to follow. We want to help you get started as soon as possible, so follow these steps to enjoy your new laptop as soon as possible!
Mac laptops use an iOs system, which is different from the Windows system on PCs. However, getting started with both is rather simple. All Windows and Mac laptops come with the operating system preinstalled, so when you open your laptop and turn it on, you’ll be greeted with a welcome message and easy setup instructions.
First Startup Process
Most importantly, it’s suggested to have your laptop plugged in when first setting it up to ensure it has enough battery power throughout the entire process. Once plugged in, the first step is the easiest part. Just turn it on! The power button is usually the top-right key on the keyboard.
First, you’ll select your preferred language and keyboard setup. Using default settings is preferred unless you plan to use a language other than English. Then, connect to your WiFi.
The next step is optional but important. If you are replacing an old Mac laptop, you can connect it to your new purchase and transfer files and settings. This makes accessing old files easy. Otherwise, you can just go straight to setting up your iCloud account which is an online method to store and share files from all your other Apple devices. Again, it makes accessing your files very simple and user friendly.
Next, you’ll simply choose a username and password for your laptop. Be sure to pick something that is secure. After waiting for a short period of time, your laptop will be ready to use!
Best Programs to Install
Once you have your laptop up and running, you’ll want to install some programs that help you make the most out of your purchase. The best programs will depend on your category and are particular to the user. The list below will help you get off to a great start with your Mac!
➢ Steam. Stream is a game store that gives you access to thousands of games to play. It’s an essential program if you’re using your laptop for gaming purposes because it makes downloading and updating very accessible and simple.
➢ Discord. A big component of gaming is building a community. Discord gives you access to different chatrooms with video chat options so you can connect with other gamers.
➢ Adobe (Photoshop, Lightroom, InDesign). Finding the right design software is key. Adobe programs are great for Macs, especially the programs that help you edit photos and create designs.
➢ Sketch. This website design and vector graphics program is unique to Mac laptops. It’s a great, user-friendly option for those looking for seamless design software.
➢ Blender. Blender is excellent for 3D art and motion graphics. Many designers specialize in these subjects, but they’re great to use on any type of product.
➢ Spotify. This music streaming platform is great for listening to music and podcasts. It also allows you to sign up as a family, so everyone can use it!
➢ VLC and PLEX. VLC allows you to watch video files on the computer. But for many families, PLEX is a great addition because it can stream the videos from the computer to the TV.
➢ iWork Suite. All families need basic programs for creating documents, spreadsheets, and slideshows. iWork is the Mac version of Microsoft Office with programs called Pages (like Word), Numbers (like Excel), and Keynote (like PowerPoint).
➢ Adobe (Lightroom and Photoshop). If you’re a travel blogger or work in the creative world as a digital nomad, you’ll need some photography editing software. These two are the cream of the crop.
➢ Bear Notes. This program is used for organizing and taking notes. This is helpful when your work is remote and online.
➢ iMovie or Final Cut Pro. Both of these programs make and edit videos, so you can keep your files for memories or create vlogs for business.
➢ iWork Suite. Again, iWork is like Office for Macs, which is essential for students. You’ll have Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, which will help you create all the documents, spreadsheets, and slideshow presentations you’ll need for your classes and projects.
➢ Calendar. Student life is usually busy and all over the place. The Calendar app is particularly handy because you can stay organized by syncing meetings and appointments with other Apple applications.
➢ Notes. If you have an iPhone, you know what this is! Students can use it on their laptops to take quick notes for class, work, extracurriculars, volunteering, and more.
PCs use the Windows 10 operating system, which was created by Microsoft. There are different editions like Lite, Home, and Pro which provide various features. Most laptops come with Home edition, but some of the work laptops come with Pro.
First Startup Process
Like with a Mac, when you first turn on your laptop, ensure that it’s plugged in before setting up the operating system. Press the power button (usually the top-right button on the keyboard) and select your region and keyboard layout (default is usually what you want).
Now that you’re ready to set up your laptop, you’ll want to first connect to WiFi or connect your machine with an ethernet cable if WiFi isn’t available. Then you’ll choose a username and password. Choose one that is secure and easy to remember.
The next step is optional but recommended. It’s handy to set up a Microsoft account (or sign in if you already have one) because it makes it easier for you to access your files from different devices. In doing so, you’ll need to select a 4-digit PIN for additional security.
Lastly, you’ll want to configure your Cortana personal assistance and privacy settings. This will be unique to your particular needs, but it’s vital to choose privacy settings that keep your computer secure, especially if you’re traveling or use your laptop for work. Shortly after, your laptop will be ready to use!
Best Programs to Install
Again, each category has its own best programs. For example, if you purchased a laptop for design purposes, you’ll want to install some graphic design programs to use. If you’re a traveler, however, you’ll want applications for image editing and making videos. Below you’ll find a good starting point for PCs.
➢ Nvidia GeForce Experience. This program allows gamers to manage Nvidia graphics card updates and game graphic settings. You can download/install games from Stream, which is great for both Macs and PCs.
➢ Discord. Again, as with any gamer, it’s important to grow a community. Discord provides chat rooms and video chat with other users.
➢ OBS Studio. You can use this program to record live streams of video games to show other viewers. If you’re streaming to earn money, this is a great program to have.
➢ Adobe Illustrator. Much like for Macs, Adobe offers a lot of high-quality designing programs. Illustrator is great for vector drawing and graphic design.
➢ Adobe XD. Likewise, Adobe XD is a top program for web design. Many professionals use this software.
➢ Inkscape. Although Adobe is one of the top design software programs, it also costs money. If you’re looking for a free program for graphic design and vector graphics editor, Inkscape is a good option.
➢ Microsoft Office Suite 365. Your family will certainly need standard programs for creating documents, spreadsheets, and slideshows. With Microsoft Office Suite, you’ll get PowerPoint, Excel, and Word.
➢ VLC. VLC also works with PCs. It’s a great program for families, as it allows you to watch videos on the computer.
➢ TripAdvisor. You can use the TripAdvisor app right on your PC, which is great for planning and organizing travel. Other travel-planning apps are also available.
➢ Window 10 Movie Maker. Travelers can use this program to create and edit videos, whether it be for personal or professional reasons.
➢ Todoist. This is a great program to help keep students organized. It’s a task manager to keep track of priorities and due dates.
➢ OneNote. This is the PC version of Mac’s Notes program. It’s good for jotting down records and reminders quickly while in class or at meetings.
➢ Anki Flashcard. Students will love this app for their PC! You can use it to make flashcards when studying.