When a person is shopping for a laptop, what are the most important features? That is a bit of a trick question, because the specific things you need might be different from what someone else does based on how you plan to use your laptop, but there are a few things that you should universally consider any time you’re planning to purchase a new laptop.
If you only plan to use your computer for some basic word processing or spreadsheets, there’s really no need to spend extra on a computer with a fancy graphics card. However, since most people use their laptop for work, school, gaming, and watching streaming TV or movies, a quality graphics card is essential for your viewing and gaming experience.
The two best brands for graphics cards are NVIDIA and AMD, and most computer enthusiasts agree that they both offer a great visual experience. Both offer graphics cards that range in price and total performance, and customizing your laptop allows you to choose the one that will work best for your needs.
Manufacturer-quoted battery life is almost never indicative of what the real-world experience of using a laptop is like.
There are simply too many variables that affect battery life. There is the screen brightness, the screen resolution, the number of applications you have running in the background plus whether or not you actively remain connected to Wi Fi networks or Bluetooth devices.
The operating system a laptop runs on can also play a major role in determining battery life. It’s for this reason that ultrabooks and convertibles running on Chrome OS tend to offer superior battery life than those running on Windows 10.
If you run programs that need lots of processing, stream lots of online video, play graphics-intensive games or if you transfer lots of files over a wireless network, then your battery will drain a lot sooner than what the vendor has quoted.
A good practice here is to look at the rating of the battery in Watt-hours (Wh) or milliamp-hours (mAh). The larger these figures are, the longer the battery can last. For a 13.3in Ultrabook, for example, a battery with a rating from 44Wh to 50Wh will give you the best results.
Another key thing to look for here is fast-charging. Much like modern smartphones, many new laptops also support fast-charging, which is always good in a pinch.
These days, if a laptop has only one USB 3.0 port on it, you probably ought to look at buying another laptop. Ideally, you should look for a laptop that has at least a couple of these USB 3.0 ports. They’re the most common connector port in the industry and, while you can find a dongle for anything on Amazon, it’s usually a better bet to just make sure your next laptop has them.
In addition to the baseline utility you get from USB ports (which allow you to plug in an external hard or SSD drive and backup your data or use a conventional mouse or a fancy keyboard with your laptop), USB 3.0 is about ten times faster than USB 2.0. This means that data transfers over USB 3.0 take significantly less time.
Many modern peripherals also tend to deliver the best performance on or require USB 3.0 to function at all.
If possible, you should try and take things a step further and go for a laptop with USB 3.1 ports. USB 3.1 allows for a throughput of up to 10 gigabits, double that offered by USB 3.1.
If you’re ready to embrace USB Type-C, Thunderbolt 3 ports offer an even better option. Thunderbolt 3 ports have a peak data transfer speed of 40 gigabits per-second. At the moment, the peripheral ecosystem around USB Type-C isn’t quite as mature as conventional USB 3.0 but, as more device manufacturers switch to the connector-type, it’s becoming more compelling.