Free yourself from your computer desk. Laptops combine great portability with much of the same power that desktop computers offer. Start your search for the perfect laptop with our overview of the most important features to consider.
Shopping for a New Laptop
Learn how to zero in on the features that really matter to you in this video:
How will you use your laptop?
- Light use: Surfing the Web, paying bills online, e-mail and social networking, organizing and sharing digital photos
- Average use: Storing and streaming music and movies, tasks like spreadsheet and document creation
- Demanding use: Sophisticated graphics and photo editing, video production, high-resolution multitrack audio recording
More demanding users will want to invest a bit more in a higher resolution screen, a faster processor, more system memory, and a larger hard drive.
How important is portability to you?
Screen size, the type and capacity of built-in storage devices, and the presence or lack of a CD/DVD or Blu-ray drive all affect a laptop's size and weight.
Does your laptop look and feel right?
You can learn a lot about a laptop by handling it. Hinges and clasps should feel sturdy enough to withstand daily use. You should be comfortable with the feel of the keyboard and touchpad. Also, if you rely on 10-key for data entry, be sure the machine you select has a numeric keypad. If you won't have an opportunity to check it out in person, you can still check user reviews and look for recurring comments about look, feel and build quality.
Do you want even greater versatility?
The latest trend in laptops is the versatile 2-in-1 (also known as "convertible" or "hybrid") laptop. These combine the power and functionality of a touch-screen laptop (including the ability to run standard computer programs) with the added convenience and portability of a tablet.
The operating system is the heart of your laptop. It manages all software and hardware, including files, memory and connected devices. Most importantly, it lets you interact with your laptop and your programs in a visual way (otherwise, you'd be typing a bunch of computer code to get anything done).
Installed exclusively on Mac computers, OS X boasts an elegant and easy-to-use interface to complement Macs' sleek aesthetics and impressive battery life. Macs have historically had fewer issues with viruses and malware. However, MacBooks start at about $1,000, and no Mac model to date includes touch-screen functionality.
The New Windows is designed specifically around an intuitive touch-screen interface (though it can be used with a traditional mouse and keyboard), expanding your navigation options. It also features a new task manager, streamlined file management and a suite of built-in apps.
Featured exclusively in the Chromebook line of mobile computers, this OS runs custom apps and cloud-based programs rather than traditional software. It's great for surfing the Web, keeping up with your e-mail and social networks, and sharing your photos with friends and family, rather than more data-intensive tasks like video editing and hardcore gaming.
Laptop screen sizes range from about 11 to 17 inches. A larger screen is ideal for gaming, watching movies, photo and video editing, and viewing documents side by side. Keep in mind, a big screen can increase the overall size, weight and power consumption of a laptop.
Higher resolution equals better picture quality. In laptops, it also affects how much you can fit onto a screen of any given size. Laptop screens come in a range of resolutions (measured in pixels, horizontal x vertical):
- 1366 x 768: Also known as HD. Standard on mainstream laptops. Good for Web-surfing, e-mail and general computing tasks.
- 1600 x 900: Also known as HD+. Great for casual gaming and watching DVD movies.
- 1920 x 1080: Also known as Full HD. Watch Blu-ray movies and play video games without losing any level of detail.
- 2560 x 1600 and 2880 x 1800: Found in Apple's 13.3" and 15.6" Retina display, respectively.
- 2560 x 1440 and 3200 x 1800: Also known respectively as QHD (Quad HD) and QHD+. Extremely high pixel density creates stunning realism and sharp text, ideal for professional photo and graphics work as well as high-def movies and games.
Touch-screen laptops make getting around on your computer more intuitive. Tap to select, hold and drag to move items, swipe to scroll and pinch to zoom, just as you would on a smartphone or tablet. Currently available on select Windows laptops and select Chromebooks.
Your laptop's processor is like its brain. Working in combination with system memory, the power of the processor determines the complexity of software you can run, how many programs you can have open at the same time, and how fast those programs will run. Most laptops feature an Intel® or AMD processor.
Random-access memory, or RAM, is important because it helps your processor tackle multiple tasks at once. A minimum of 2GB is required for basic computing, but 4GB or more is recommended if you're into graphics and advanced photo or video editing. Most laptops have 4GB–8GB pre-installed, and some have up to 32GB. If you think you might need more memory later, choose a model that lets you expand the RAM.
Traditional hard disk drives offer larger storage capacities, but add to a laptop's weight and thickness while generating heat and noise. Alternatively, solid state drives (also known as SSDs or flash storage) are much lighter, faster, cooler and quieter than hard drives — but they're also much more expensive per GB, so typically provide less storage space. Some laptops feature a hybrid drive, which combines a hard drive with a solid state drive for the benefits of both.
Manufacturers' battery-life claims range from just a few hours up to 12 hours or more.
Laptop enhancements —such as increased processing power, larger and higher resolution screens, faster hard drives, or the addition of an optical drive — will drain your battery more quickly.
Ports and Connectivity
Here are the most common types of ports:
- USB 2.0: Connects external drives, gaming controllers, smartphones, MP3 players and other accessories
- USB 3.0: Transfers data faster than USB 2.0, but only when used with USB 3.0 devices
- Thunderbolt: Ultra-high bandwidth for fast data transfer between devices featuring a Thunderbolt or MiniDisplayPort connection
- HDMI: Connect a projector or display HD media on your flat-screen TV
- Media-card slots: Transfer photos from your digital camera or camcorder
Shop Online or In Store
Find a wide variety of laptops on BestBuy.com. Your local Best Buy store also has a selection of laptops. Plus, our friendly Blue Shirts are there to answer questions and help you find all the must-have accessories to go with your new laptop.