How to buy a cheap laptop: BUYING GUIDE – Business Insider – Business Insider
STEP 4: Look for these specs.
Excited yet? Well, now that you realize you’re boxed in, let’s go through the features you should look for to make your purchase as painless as possible.
- First, you’ll usually find displays with a resolution of 1366×768. That’s not sharp by modern standards, and will make it harder to fit multiple windows of info onscreen. If you can find it, a 1920×1080 (AKA “1080p”) panel will be much more pleasing. Don’t worry about going higher than that.
- If possible, get what’s called an IPS display, instead of a TN one. Those are generally more colorful and easier to read at wider angles, but, of course, they’re not as easy to find for cheap. I generally prefer “matte” panels to “glossy” ones, too, as they hold up better in sunlight.
- Also, don’t fret over a touchscreen. It’s nice, but Windows 10 is perfectly usable without one, and any cheap touch-enabled devices are usually more compromised than usual elsewhere. It’s hard to find many good “2-in-1” machines in this range.
- Moving to the internals, aim for an Intel Core i5 processor. Without getting too technical, that should be strong enough to do most of what you need. If you don’t plan on gaming, a Core i3 is okay too.
- Intel refreshes those chips yearly, so look for a current, “7th-gen” model to futureproof yourself as much as possible. Be sure that chip is a “U-series” model, though (ex: Core i5-7200U). Those with a “Y” in its name (ex: Core i5-7Y54) are weaker. And if you can find an otherwise solid model with a 6th-gen chip (ex: Core i5-6200U), that’s typically strong enough.
- Having enough RAM is crucial to making the whole experience smooth. Here, you want 8GB if possible, or 6GB if the rest of the machine doesn’t have any dealbreaking flaws. Don’t settle for 4GB.
- As for storage: You won’t get many solid-state drives (SSD) for cheap, so try to make the most of your slower, beefier hard disk drive (HDD). 500GB is the norm, so if you can go higher, great. Ideally, your machine would let you upgrade to an SSD if you ever find the cash down the road.
- Dedicated graphics processors, or GPUs, are rare, so if you see any Nvidia GeForce unit in your machine, consider it a bonus. Those are only really tenable for those who want to play games anyway.
- Battery life is mostly about what you can live with. Just know that companies tend to overstate their projections.
- It’s a similar deal with ports and connectivity. You’ll want to ensure your device supports the fastest 802.11ac WiFi standard, if nothing else. It probably wouldn’t hurt to have a few USB 3.0 ports on there, either.
Again, you’ll have a hard time finding an affordable laptop that hits all of these points, but Acer’s Aspire E5-575G-53VG comes close. It’s not svelte, but for $550, it checks off the display, CPU, RAM, storage, and WiFi boxes nicely, and it has a solid GPU for occasional gaming.