It’s the question every tech worker gets asked at least once at every family gathering, “hey I need a new laptop which one should I get?” Usually followed by the phase “something cheap and good” and “can you set it up for me?” Well, here is the answer most people don’t want to hear: “It depends”.
Gone are the days when people would buy a laptop and use it for 5+ years, now it’s a cycle of every 2 years or so when the slowly collected adware brings the communal laptop to a crawl and the dust collected in the fans turns your laptop into a full-fledged air fryer. Some of the issue lies in bad laptop design and hardware but most of it comes down to user maintenance being lack luster.
The consumer laptop market is filled with loads of cheap, affordable options that are produced en masse with hardware struggling to meet the demands of the modern web and applications. As newer more powerful technology hits the market, developers from all around the world put optimization in the backseat in favor for more flashy webpages and programs that eat up all the RAM and CPU they can.
Within the sea of options you have for purchasing laptops there usually is an option most fail to consider; a desktop computer. Laptops have become the primary computing device for the majority of consumers, in 2022 laptops sold over 263 million units versus desktops which only sold just over 73 million units with projected numbers on the decline according to statista.com
The allure of having a monitor, keyboard, and pointing device all in one package certainly seems like the best bang for your buck until you consider the high failure rate of laptops and the performance degradation as the device ages. Why is this the case? The simple answer is heat kills electronics slowly over time, and laptops put out a lot of heat because of their compact design causing a lack of sufficient cooling.
Desktops on the other hand are much more resistant to this “heat death” because their components are spread out with multiple fans providing much needed air flow to the critical parts of a computer: the CPU, RAM, and HDDs or SSDs. In particular CPUs are very sensitive to heat, when they get too hot they clock down to slower speeds in order to prevent damage; to the user this is seen very clearly in the form of the computer slowing down and performing worse while doing the same tasks it used to be able to zip through.
If you don’t need the mobility of a laptop, avoid them at all costs in favor of a desktop computer.
For the average user I’d recommend a desktop within these specs:
CPU: (Intel Core i5, Intel Core i7, AMD Ryzen 5, or AMD Ryzen 7)
RAM: (DDR4 or DDR5 RAM with 8GB or 16GB of memory)
Data Drive: Solid State Drive (SSD) or NVMe with at least 256GB of storage
Some ones I recommend:
If you need the mobility of a laptop you aren’t doomed just yet, there are still options out there that won’t leave you with a paper weight after 2-3 years. The old saying of “you get what you pay for” applies in part to purchasing a great laptop, but sadly there are plenty of expensive future paper weights flooding the market as well.
A good laptop has a few features: good airflow, solid build quality, and competent manufacturer support. Airflow and cooling as touched upon earlier is essential to a long-lasting laptop, a cool laptop is a healthy laptop that’s performing in it’s best and most consistent state. Build quality is what keeps the computer from falling apart from the regular abuse it gets, a bad build quality results in broken screens, broken hinges, keyboards that stop working, etc. Finally, manufacturer support is one of the most overlooked parts when it comes to buying a long-lasting laptop, when something goes wrong you want the manufacturer to be there to fix it and hopefully quickly without costing you a dime. The same recommended specs of a desktop apply for laptops, but with laptops you have a few extra things to consider, do you want a large or small screen? Do you want a touch screen or no touch screen? Does the weight of the laptop matter?
These are all personal preferences you’ll have to consider but here are some very solid models to pick from:
Lenovo is well known for being one of the most reliable and trusted manufacturers of laptops, even having it’s own cult following that swear on buying used ThinkPads that are 10+ years old and squeezing every bit of performance and life out of them. This ideapad hits all the boxes with an intel i5 processor, 8GB of DDR4 memory, and a 512 GB SSD. It’s only drawback is it’s battery life which is only about 4-5 hours versus some high-end models that boast anywhere from 8-12 and even longer.
On the high-end part of the scale there is the ASUS Zenbook S 13 with a beautiful touch display and extremely lightweight design that is still packed with power and a super longer lasting battery life. ASUS, like Lenovo is also known for their build quality and manufacturer support that is reflected in the price but is a deal in the long term.
Now on the low end we have HP which is really a hit or miss when it comes to build quality, they make some very bad designs and some very good ones. However, this HP 14 series laptop has a solid balance of battery life and compute resources while being priced in the $300-$400 range most bad laptops fall under.
Regardless of what laptop you choose just remember to stick with Intel Core i5, Intel Core i7, and AMD Ryzen 5 and 7 CPUs. The majority of bad laptops are thrown together with cheap low powered CPUs like Intel Celerons, Pentiums, and AMD Athlons. The CPU is at the heart of everything, a bad CPU can’t be changed, low RAM and slow hard drives have some wiggle room for upgrading if you ever decide to go that route.
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