Guide to buying a laptop and not dying in the attempt

So that you do not waste your money here you have 5 basic tips

Nowadays there are countless models and brands of laptops, many times we can find machines at a similar cost but with very different characteristics, it is a matter of not being dazzled by the technical words of the seller or the manufacturer's website.

Keep in mind that laptops are very versatile because they offer portability and power but at the same time we have less flexibility to modify aspects than if they are easy to change on a desktop computer a posteriori such as the amount of Ram memory, the type of hard drive, the screen, the connections etc.

For this buying guide, from the start you have to have a couple of clear points:

  1. For which I will use it Think carefully about our current and future needs realistically, now and in the years to come. A laptop to play is not the same as one that we are going to use for office tasks; or one that we will always take it up and down than another that will not normally move from our house.
  2. The budget that is normally not unlimited and we will have to juggle to adjust our needs with our portfolio.

From here let's see what aspects we are going to take into account. For me the top 5 are the main ones,

  1. Size
  2. Processor
  3. RAM
  4. Hard disk
  5. Connectivity
  6. Other aspects (operating system, battery, graphics)
  7. Summary and recommendation.
tips Guide to buying a laptop


It is usually between 11.6 inches until 17; the size is usually linked to the weight, which can go from 1kg to "2 and peak". If we have to move it constantly to go to college, for business trips … this kilo of difference can be the cause of back pain.

If we look for mobility we have the so-called ultrabooks that are portable up to 13 or 14 inches and whose weight does not reach the kilo and a half. Fine and small but no less powerful. In this case the cost is always higher than a larger one with the same components. On the other hand they are more uncomfortable to work because the keyboard is more compressed and the screen is small. An intermediate solution that is used is to have an external monitor and keyboard to connect it when we are in the office.

Along with the size you have to look at the resolution of the screen, computers of economic range of 13 to 15 inches usually have a resolution 1366 x 768 pixels (it is correct for a basic use), but ideally we would have to look for at least 1920 x 1080 for the same screen size. It will have a higher cost but will allow us to comfortably work longer hours.


Let's call it "the engine" we can find two brands Intel and AMD, the first much more widespread and known so far, but the latest advances of the second with its Ryzen range seems to have taken the lead.

Unlike desktops here we have to take into account energy consumption, many times we will work with battery and we have to find the balance between power and consumption. That's why we have specific processors for laptops.

In a very brief way for the low ranges, cheap machines we have the Celeron range from Intel and the A4 or A6 from AMD. From here the power and price goes up to find the Core I3, I5, I7, I9 or the Rayzen 3, 5, 7 to the fastest currently the AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS. (date 7/05/2020)

It is taken from this American website you can see this updated ranking of CPUs for laptops.

ranking processors for top ten laptops

But for me it is not the most important thing, unless you want to edit video or compile, virtualize etc, I prefer to invest in Ram and hard drive as I detail below. You can save quite a bit of money on this.


Minimum 8 Gb, the price difference with one of 4 is not usually high compared to what we spend in total. In many cases later it will not be possible to expand it because it can be soldered to the board and not have any free slot to expand.

If you wanted to do video editing it would be advisable 16 Gb of Ram.

Hard disk

In this married the option is very clear always an SSD disk (solid state), it is preferable to have less capacity to a larger mechanic. Let's not be dazzled when we see capabilities of HDD teras in an advertisement versus the only 256 Mg of an SDD , certainly it is 4 times smaller, but 10 or 15 times faster.

Currently the cost of a disk type HDD Segate Barracuda Sata 3 of 1 Tb is about 40 €, the same price that has a Kingston A400 SSD 240GB, but I repeat that there is no color. With 256gb you have more than enough for normal use, it is not that you carry on your digitized film collection or the thousands of high resolution photos of your trips, for that you can buy an external drive of 1 or 2 Teras.


Another issue to keep in mind is that we want to connect to our machine, an external monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, a printer … Currently the standard is USB 3.X although it is imposing the USB-C that allows the connection of multiple devices, do the charging …

In the case of ultrabooks by size many of them only have one or two that, if it is not very old, is usually the USB-C, the larger laptops have an HDMI for the monitor, and several USB 2 or 3. In this case there are usb-c to network adapters, HDMI, usb3, VGA,

portable usb-c adapter connectivity tips

Other aspects to consider

Platform or operating system,

If you are going to use Windows, Mac OS or Chrome OS.

  1. Windows. It is the most widespread and with which we have more options of configurations and brands. They are currently in windows 10 version
  2. Mac Os: Developed by Apple They are somewhat more expensive computers but with a later obsolescence. I remember a PowerbookG4 that I had 5 years and then I could still sell it second hand easily.
  3. Chrome OS or Chromebooks. They are cheap, lightweight but more limited because their hardware is very "fair" and they need a connection to work. I would only recommend it if you only have to browse or use very basic applications but today for a little more you have a "whole" laptop.


I have not put it as the "top 5" because we have to be clear about its use, currently it is easy to find plugs anywhere. On the other hand we have already said that the processors are optimized for a low consumption, this leads us to computers that can reach 8 or 10 hours. On the contrary, in gamer or high-performance computers, powerful processors or graphics cards are "devourers" of energy and mean that we can barely reach half.

Graphics card

They are usually graphics integrated into the motherboard that make use of part of the Ram of the equipment, it is a cost saving and affects little for a conventional use of office automation. Only if you're going to want it to play you're going to need a dedicated graphics with its GPU and its specific memory. As in the desktops it can be AMD or Nvida.

Summary and price guide

I will not recommend any specific brands or models, nor stores , everyone already knows where to look and buy. I will focus on the "PC-Windows" platform which is where we have more game.

At least 8 GB ram and 256 GB hard disk SSD

At the beginning of the confinement and because of the need to buy a laptop for a friend who had to do office telework, the budget was about € 300. And the requirements for me are 8 Gb of Ram and 256 mg of SSD. I found several brand new models, the processor could be an AMD A9-9420, an AMD A6-9920 or the Intel Celeron N4000 budget processors from a couple of years ago. They were computers that came without an operating system (if you're a little handyman…) , but for less than € 400 you had several models with Windows 10 home and in a physical store, not online.

guide tips portable 8gb 256ssd

The speed of the SSD and the 8gb of memory made it boot very fast, and it worked smoothly office applications, word processor, browser, spreadsheet etc. In the photo above you can see a Core I3 and a Ryzen 3 with 8gb of ram and 256 gigs of SSD for less than € 400with Windows 10 Home installed, more enough to not fall short, always talking that we want it for an office automation use and that our budget is not unlimited.

Article written by

ESIC & UAB (Barcelona)

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