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How to Choose a Laptop

Laptop

How to choose a laptop is not an easy task, in addition to the number of manufacturers we find in the market, we also have to add everything we need to know about them, both in hardware and design and performance.

That’s why we offer this small article in which we will know the keys to choose a good laptop.

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Are you ready? In this tutorial we will explain step by step how to select the best laptop according to our needs.

If there’s one thing that stands out from the laptops of today’s era, it’s the overwhelming power it can offer us, especially laptops designed for gaming.

Computers with truly fast processors and graphics cards that deliver desktop-like performance. However, the price has also risen in comparison with those of other years, placing us in astronomical figures and even surpassing the 2,000 to 3,000 .

The obligatory step: What are you going to use it for?

It may sound silly, but it’s a basic question we should ask ourselves before buying a piece of equipment. It will depend on spending half a year’s salary or paying only 500. Let’s see how we can use a laptop and more or less where we can move in terms of features:

Gaming: we will need a laptop with a dedicated graphics card, and at least 16 GB of RAM unto a Core i5 or i7 processor.

Here we distinguish between Nvidia GTX cards of the previous generation, with much cheaper prices, and RTX cards of new generation with more expensive equipment, but with performance almost on a par with a desktop computer.

Size and weight are not important, what counts is gross performance and efficient refrigeration.

Office and studies: here we are going to need a medium sized laptop, with a 15 or 17 inch screen and if possible ultra book for better manageability. The ideal is to have a good autonomy and normal hardware, Core i3 or i5 and without the need for dedicated graphics.

Design and CAD: we will also possibly need a dedicated graphics card, and unless we need ray tracing, we can opt for one of the previous generation, for example, GTX 1050 Ti or 1060. A good screen, yes, 15 or 17 inches with good calibration and color. It wouldn’t be a bad idea if it included Thunderbolt 3.

Multimedia: we do not need a powerful equipment for this purpose. Something cheap, with ample storage, preferably hybrid with SSD + HDD 1TB and integrated graphics that will be able to reproduce content in any resolution.

Travelling: what matters here is portability. An ultra book with a 15 or 13 inch screen will be more than enough. Aluminium for good durability and a long battery life with the help of low power and low consumption hardware.

Everything will depend in part on the taste of each user and what they want to spend, pro with these basic notions we can have a team suited to different needs.

Basic hardware performance or autonomy

The basic hardware of a laptop includes the processor, the RAM memory, the storage and the graphics card, which we will deal with in a different section, as well as the storage.

For the more advanced and gamers we can also take into account the chipset and the hardware expansion capability of the motherboard.

Intel or AMD

The truth is that here where we have more possibilities is in Intel, there are more laptops that mount Intel CPU than AMD, especially gaming laptops like the AORUS. The star processors are the Intel Core in its different versions, which we can also identify clearly for what use they are oriented:

Intel Core i3 8130 and variants: ideal for multimedia, office and travel laptops. With interesting power and very low power consumption, they will be able to perform all kinds of undemanding tasks.

Intel Core i5-8250 and variants: it is a somewhat more powerful processor in multitasking, above all, and that some low-end gaming teams mount it. That we want something a little more bearable is a very smart option to buy an i5.

Intel Core i7-8750 and i9-8950 and variants: these processors have 6 cores and some of them with overclocking capability. They are mounted on high-end gaming equipment and portable for design. Don’t expect great autonomies, because brute power prevails here.

AMD Ryzen 3, 5, 7: the same can be said of laptops that incorporate Ryzen as the processing core. They are the minority, but the Ryzen 3, 5 and 7, with up to 6 cores, are from lowest to highest power.

We do not recommend buying a laptop with Intel Celeron, Intel Y family or M, because they offer us very low performances compared to the Core. Although they will be recommended for users who want something very basic and with a very low consumption.

RAM

The situation is similar to the previous one, although simpler to summarize and understand. The more RAM we have, the more programs we can run simultaneously. Windows can consume up to 4 GB if it has plenty of memory, and more if we start opening applications.

That’s why we recommend an amount of memory equal to or greater than 8 GB, and of course it will have to be DDR4, which is the one that has been installed for a few years now. The favorite speed will be 2666 MHz, installed in most mid- and high-end laptops.

But the most important thing of all is that the motherboard has the capacity to expand this memory. So, when buying a laptop, even if it has only 4 GB of RAM, let’s look for two SO-DIMM slots inside, and that its specification makes it clear that the memory is expandable.

Base plate

The motherboard on a laptop is usually not as clear to identify as a desktop PC. That’s why the main thing in it is that it has hardware application capacity, as in the mentioned case of RAM memory.

Another aspect to consider in them, especially for gaming equipment will be the type of chipset installed.

At Intel we have a fairly wide range of chipsets, which from higher to lower performance we have: CM246 with 24 LANs PCIe, QM370 with 20, HM370 with 16, HM175 with 16 as the new generation. But there are more of them that are very similar in capacity and variants of these cited.

Storage

Storage is fundamental, since the capacity to expand memory in a laptop is usually not as extensive as in desktop computers.

That’s why we must choose an equipment that already comes from the factory with a good configuration and capacity, or at least know that it is expandable. As always, we’ll have two types of HDD storage or mechanical hard drives and SSD or solid drives.

The solid storage is basic, we will distinguish them by the acronym SSD and it is necessary nowadays to have one where to install the operating system.

Ideally, it should be an SSD M.2 NVMe PCIe x4, which are the fastest on the market. They are directly connected to a slot in the base plate, and it is possible to expand the capacity with a larger unit.

We recommend at least 256 or 512 GB of SSD storage if we have a mechanical disk also inside, otherwise we should opt for 1 TB SSD drives.

The mechanical disks are the ones of all the life, connected by means of SATA III and ideal for great capacities and to keep files.

If we are going to use our laptop for design or gaming, we should have capacity for a 2.5 inch drive of 1 or 2 TB. But please don’t use it to install the operating system on it. The new AORUS 15 range, for example, has configurations of 512 GB SSD + 2 TB HDD, which are highly recommended.

Graphics card

Virtually all laptops have graphics built into them, specifically inside the CPU. In addition, they are very valid for most tasks such as navigating, viewing content in 4K or even graphic design.

But if we want to play, render videos or work on CAD/CAM design, the best thing would be to have a dedicated graphics card, if, as with desktop computers.

Previous generation low-end gaming systems or workstations have Nvidia GTX 1050 while mid-range models have GTX 1050 Ti or GTX 1060, and high-end models have GTX 1070 or 1080.

They are very powerful cards in Max-Q design (ultra-thin) very recommendable to play and design, and are also cheaper equipment than those that bring the new generation cards.

Thus we arrive at the new generation gaming laptops, inside we have Nvidia RTX 2060, 2070 and 2080 Max-Q with ray tracing capacity, much more processing capacity and giving a performance of 70% compared to desktop models, but consuming only the third part.

They are very expensive equipment but very powerful. Soon we will also have laptops with Nvidia GTX 1660, 1660 Ti and even 1650, which are also new-generation mid-range graphics.

Laptop normal, ultra book or 2 in 1

In the market we can find countless models of laptops with different hardware configurations, but almost all manufacturers, such as AORUS, offer these models in three different categories, normal laptops, ultrabooks or Max-Q design and two in one.

The normal laptops are the ones we have traditionally had for years, are equipment with a thickness of more than 2 cm, built in plastic or aluminum and a weight usually greater than 2 or 2.5 kg. It has almost all good expandability of hardware and space for sufficient cooling.

Then we have the new laptops with Max-Q design also called ultra books that are characterized by being very thin, with thicknesses less than 2 cm even closed.

They are much less heavy and are generally built in metal, and not because of them they are less powerful, because there are real beasts with high-end hardware inside them.

Finally we have the laptops two in one, which are those that have a normal design or Max-Q and also have touch screen and even the ability to operate them as a tablet or with the hardware directly installed behind the screen. They are usually small, about 13 inches, and ideal for travel.

The screen and the size you need

Just as important is the internal hardware as in this case the screen, why? Because it is basically what marks the total size of the laptop, its manageability and also the purpose for which we are going to use it. In the market we will be able to find several generic screen sizes, among which are those of 13, 15.6 and 17.3 inches.

  • 13 inches: they are very good for travel and very manageable due to their small dimensions, but if you use it a lot it might be something small. They are also generally less powerful and come in 2-in-1 configurations.
  • 15.6 inches: is the standard size, good dimensions for both traveling and working long hours with it. It is recommended to have at least Full HD resolution and is the minimum diagonal to play in a decent way and for design and editing work.
  • 17.3 inches: they are not the most manageable, but they are the ones that almost always offer resolutions higher than 1080p. If your laptop is going to stay normally on your desk at home or you want it to play, 17 inches are indicated. Plus, they have more room for powerful hardware.

Then we must also pay attention to factors such as panel technology, which may be IPS, with greater accuracy in the colors, but always with the doubt of bleeding, or TN or VA panels faster, cheaper and very good for gaming, but with more saturated colors and less viewing angles.

Also the incorporation of an X-Rite Pantone certificate that assures us real colours is very important and it is that companies like Aorus / GIgabyte incorporate it in their high range.

With these sizes, a Full HD resolution (1920x1080p) is almost always recommended as the pixel density will be correct and more than sufficient for almost all tasks.

Although there are screens at 4K resolution (3840x2160p). If you also want it for gaming, rate it to have a frequency of at least 144 Hz to experience a much more fluid image and the presence of AMD FreeSync technology.

The battery, the great concern of a laptop

If we want a laptop, the minimum we can ask is that it be portable, and that the battery lasts at least 4 hours. The life depends largely on the hardware inside, on the screen, and on the cells of the battery itself.

If we want to travel, and that our equipment endures at least 4 or 5 hours, we will have to go to a laptop with a battery of at least 4 cells, or that has a small screen and little powerful hardware, for example, Intel Core i3, Celeron or even Atom.

The laptops with Google’s Chrome OS system are almost the most autonomous, but, of course, they are oriented to very basic tasks.

If we buy a laptop with a 17-inch screen and powerful hardware, the minimum we can ask for is a battery of 6 cells or more, and even so we will have to pay attention to the consumption profile, because they are equipment that consume quite a lot of energy.

If we also want to play, it’s better to have the charger nearby, because despite having good batteries, the games consume a lot of resources and the autonomy will be reduced to just an hour or two at most.

Connectivity, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Thunderbolt 3, etc.

In today’s era almost all high-end laptops implement Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, interface invented by Intel and operating under USB Type-C and providing a speed of 40 GB/s.

Through this USB you can charge your laptop, connect compatible 4K monitors, and even eGPU (external graphics cards). They are expensive laptops, usually ultrabooks and design-oriented.

If we want to stay in something more “normalito”, the minimum we can order is a pair of USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A and Type-C and several USB 3.1 gen1. An Ethernet connector for wired network will also be highly valued, although it is not usually brought by ultrabooks, for reasons of space.

One thing that is mandatory is a Wi-Fi card, it is recommended to implement Bluetooth 5.0 and dual band Wi-Fi connectivity 2×2 at 867 Mbps or 1.73 Gbps to have a good experience in streaming, browsing and gaming.

We look forward to laptops with 802.11ax protocol, successor to 802.11ac and much more bandwidth.

Keyboard and touchpad

The size restrictions that laptops have, for example, make adding a mechanical keyboard or a numeric keypad will be a rather complicated task.

Normally we find chewing gum type keyboards, a variant of the membrane type, in most laptops, independent of their range.

In this sense, everything will depend on the quality of the membrane chosen, Apple is undoubtedly the one that has better keyboards in this aspect.

In high-end and gaming laptops, mechanical keyboards with low-profile Cherry MX switches are increasingly being used.

In addition, many have backlighting such as the new AORUS range, especially as they are portable and designed for playing.

First of all, we must avoid that the keyboard has the typical sinking in the central zone due to its poor quality. Something that will get worse and worse and make it impossible for us to write correctly.

Exactly the same thing happens with a laptop touchpad. This is one of the most important ways you interact with your computer, so it should work well.

Many manufacturers, for the sake of simplicity, install the buttons on the main touchpad itself, which leads to a somewhat off-hook touchpad with a terrible feeling of movement and slack. We recommend that you check this aspect before buying a laptop, or one that has separate buttons and the traditional way.

Many others do not respond well to the movement of the finger or fingers, since almost all the current ones allow the entry of multitouch gestures.

We need to check if our touchpad works properly, and correctly detects tactile clicks and gestures, because otherwise, we are going to have a bad experience and force us to use an external mouse.

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