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Laptop Buying Guide – 2021 – TechEye

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Whether you’re a college student working on your thesis, an employee rushing to meet a deadline, or a gamer eager to try a new game, using a good laptop will make your life so much easier. While tablets and mobile phones have become a popular choice in conducting work, socializing, and even gaming, there is still quite nothing like having a laptop. With a laptop, you can use an actual keyboard to type sentences. With a laptop, you get a bigger screen – the better to see that report or game with. And, with a laptop, you get the benefits of a computer desktop, plus a rather critical interest: it’s portable.

Every person has different needs and preferences when it comes to laptops. A gamer, for instance, will have different requirements than that of a writer. With the myriad of laptops out there with varying sizes, characteristics, and prices, it could be quite a challenge finding the right one. There are so many things to consider; it’s challenging to identify where to even begin. Don’t worry, though, because, in this laptop-buying guide, we will help you determine what specs and features to consider when buying one. Yup, we’ll be giving you the rundown of anything and everything you need to know about laptops.

Best 2-in-1 Laptop

HP Spectre x360

HP Spectre x360

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Best General Use Laptop

Dell XPS13

Dell XPS13

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Best Gaming Laptop

Alienware Area-51m

Alienware Area-51m

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Dell XPS13

Dell XPS13

Best General Use Laptop

“Whether you want a laptop to work on-the-go, or be able to play anytime, anywhere, Dell’s XPS13 is a top choice.”


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Laptop specifications:

  • Display: 13.3” 1080p (1920×1080 FHD) featuring the InfinityEdge WVA Display
  • Processor Type: Intel Core i7-8565U
  • Processor Speed: 1.8GHz
  • Memory: 16GB RAM
  • Storage: NVME SSD 512GB (Solid State Drive)
  • Operating System: Windows 10 Pro

Whether you want a laptop to work on-the-go, or be able to play anytime, anywhere, Dell’s XPS13 is a top choice. Considering it is the company’s prime offering when it comes to laptops, it delivers. The machine features a sleek, modern aesthetic that contains within it some powerful tech. The XPS13 is powered by an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor (or i5 in some variants) that is enough to run nearly any application or program. Not only that, however, but the XPS13 also finally fixed one of the line’s most problematic issues: the webcam placement. With the new model comes the relocation of the webcam to a front and center position. It fixes one of the biggest criticisms the laptop line has received in previous models.

Is it too late for Dell, though? Because the competition did not stay idle over the years. The XPS13’s competitors have caught up. And the Ultrabook market has transformed to include other powerhouse laptops. However, the Dell XPS13 maintains its position at the top with several critical features.

Customizability

One key feature that sets the Dell XPS13 is its customizability and different configurations. You can make it as powerful as you want by installing an 8th gen quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU. You can make it run smoother with 16GB of RAM. You can choose from different chassis color options. And you can select an ultra-crisp, 4K display that will show anything from games to movies at an ultra-high resolution of 3,840×2,160. The choice is yours.

Battery Life

One feature many Dell fans were wishing for was more extended battery life. And Dell delivers with the XPS13. Because of this time around, the battery delivers up to 12 hours of use on the 4K variant. On the Full HD variant, it can go as high as a whopping 21 hours. While the 12 hours of the 4K option doesn’t sound much, it is. Because a 4K display gobbles up a lot of power, and 12 hours of continuous work is very impressive.

Aesthetics and Other Features

A problem with the previous version of the XPS is the controversial webcam, which was not in the center above the screen. This new model finally corrects that flaw. The keyboard feels very tactile and responds very well, and the touchpad feels very sleek. And the shell, featuring an anodized aluminum lid and base combined with woven carbon fiber for the deck, is a brilliant design choice.

Price

It is perhaps the only possible drawback for the XPS13. Depending on the features you will choose, the laptop can cost anywhere from $1,149 to $2,479.


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Alienware Area-51m

Alienware Area-51m

Best Gaming Laptop

“They have proven time and again that their products are on the cutting edge for playing games anywhere.”


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Laptop specifications:

  • Display: 17.3” FHD
  • Processor Type: Intel Core i9-9900K
  • Processor Speed: 3.6GHz
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060
  • Memory: 32GB RAM
  • Storage: 1TB SSD
  • Operating System: Windows 10 Home

Alienware has always been the go-to brand when it comes to mobile PC gaming. They have proven time and again that their products are on the cutting edge for playing games anywhere. The Area-51m is no exception and brings to bear the best technology available out there placed inside a laptop chassis.

Don’t expect anything less than the best, especially since the laptop gaming market is now very cutthroat these days. Competitors left, and right is working very hard to take the crown from Alienware, but the Area-51m will make it even harder to do so.

Power and Graphics

Perhaps the most notable feature of the Area-51m is its unparalleled laptop power. It goes against the trend of sleek, thin laptops, and opts for a large chassis to contain all its muscles. It features at least an Intel Core i9-9900K 3.6GHz processor, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPU, and 32GB DDR4 RAM. These features make the Area–51m the king of the hill when it comes to laptop gaming.

With specs like these, the laptop can smoothly run nearly any available modern AAA games out there. Even the less-powerful variants that feature 16GB DDR4 and GeForce RTX 2060 can still do the job easy. Not only that, but the same hardware makes the Area-51m also the ideal laptop for on-the-go photo and video editing work, 3d modeling, and many other graphically taxing tasks.

Because of all of this processing power, the Area-51m features two power ports. Yes. Two power inputs for a 330W power block and a 180W power block. You can opt to use just the 330W one, and it will make the laptop run, but the battery won’t charge.

Design and Aesthetics

Just like any PC chassis or modern console, the Area-51m looks just as good as it performs. However, it doesn’t go over-the-top with the edgy design elements. It is sleek, it looks clean, and most importantly, it seems very next-generation. It doesn’t scream out loud with the aesthetics and is more like a supercar than a beefy rugged pickup truck.

And just like a supercar, the moment you lift the hood (or in this case, the lid), you’ll be left in awe as well. The RGB lighting on the keyboard, touchpad, logo, and power buttons give a dazzling light display that you can customize to your tastes. It has two color options, Lunar Light or Dark Side of the Moon, which are white and black variants, respectively.

Be warned, however. All that power and muscle means the Area-51m weighs like a beast at a vein-popping 8.54 lbs. It is enormous, yes, but every inch has features that will make your laptop gaming the best experience you can get.

Usability and Other Features

A gaming laptop should be able to handle all sorts of peripherals. And the Area-51m can do this with its multiple ports. 3 USB 3.1 Type-A ports, a Thunderbolt 3 port, a Mini DisplayPort, HDMI port, Ethernet port, and an Alienware Graphics Amplifier. Yes, you can amplify your Area-51m even further with external GPUs. Oh, and let’s not forget the headphones and microphone jacks.

The TactX keyboard isn’t the usual noisy mechanical keyboard most gaming laptops have. But the features don’t stop there. Because of the laptop’s size, the keyboard features a full numeric keypad on the side as well as numerous macro keys. The trackpad is pretty standard, but as a gaming laptop, you will probably be using a gaming mouse anyway.

There is one feature. However, that will be quite undeniable and be very hard not to notice: the fans. All the power this laptop contains within will generate a lot of heat, and fans are an absolute must to make sure the machine doesn’t overheat. And these fans are loud. It is one of the most significant drawbacks this laptop has regarding its construction.

With the other one being

Price

All those cutting-edge gaming features come with a hefty price-tag. With a starting price of USD 1,900 for the entry-level variant, the Area-51m is not a laptop for someone with a tight budget. However, if you are dead serious on getting the best gaming laptop around, then the Area-51m is worth every dollar.


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HP Spectre x360

HP Spectre x360

Best 2-in-1 Laptop

“If you’re looking to get a laptop that can also work as a tablet, then 2-in-1 laptops are for you.”


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Laptop specifications:

  • Display: 15.6” 4K 3840×2160
  • Processor Type: Intel Core i7-8565U
  • Processor Speed: 1.8GHz
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce MX150
  • Memory: 16GB RAM
  • Storage: 512GB
  • Operating System: Windows 10

If you’re looking to get a laptop that can also work as a tablet, then 2-in-1 laptops are for you. And the HP Spectre x360 is the best choice out there now. It is not just because it is the latest iteration in the HP Spectre line, and it is also because it elevates the 2-in-1 laptop market. Not only is it one of the most beautifully designed 2-in-1 laptops today, but it is also one of the most powerful. The x360 carries the legacy of the Spectre line in that it too features potent hardware compared to its counterparts in the genre.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, the 360 means it can rotate the display to turn it into a tablet, thus the 2-in-1.

Screen and Power

The critical elements of a 2-in-1 laptop are the touchscreen and the processing capability. And the Spectre x360 delivers on both in spades. Depending on the variant, the screen can feature anywhere from 1,920×1080 Full HD, to a whopping 4K 3,840×2,160 display. The screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass NBT, ensuring high-quality durability. It works well with just the fingers, but even better with a stylus that comes free with every unit.

Different and wide viewing angles are possible thanks to the in-plane switching tech that the x360 has. It allows you to set the screen in almost any angle and configuration you want with no deterioration in image quality. On the flip side, if you’re working in public and want to keep your screen away from prying eyes, you can turn on the HP Sure View technology. It limits the viewing angles to make sure only you can or someone right beside you can see what you are doing.

The x360’s display capabilities complement the Intel Core i7 processors that come with each unit. And this line of processors is quite fast for laptops of the type.

It makes the x360 the right choice for those looking for a 2-in-1 laptop for various purposes.

Design and Aesthetics

The x360 only made subtle changes from the previous model; however, it makes a world of a difference overall. Despite being a larger-sized unit than its predecessor, the x360 features a unique look. It has diagonal top corners, a sleeker speaker grill that is above the keyboard, and Bang & Olufsen speakers for listening to various media.

This model also features a fingerprint scanner, a new addition to the line. No more password typing every time you need to log in. Just place your finger on the sensor, and you’re good to go.

The keyboard is simple but effective, with very pronounced flat square keys that go deep when pressed and have very tactile feedback. A touchpad is also present and sits right in front and center of the keyboard. One drawback, however, is that the touchpad doesn’t respond as fast as most other laptops, which is ironic considering how well their touchscreen works. So when using the x360 in laptop form, you will want to have a mouse handy if you’ll be doing a lot of work.

Aesthetics-wise, however, there is nothing negative to say about the x360. While it is a little heavier than its predecessor, it’s barely noticeable, and you can easily carry this machine around anywhere. The screen border, keyboard, and lid are in a gorgeous black color, paired with a bronze/gold trim on the edges of the machine. It’s simple, and it’s sleek, it’s beautiful. Plain and simple.

Usability and Other Features

Don’t let the x360’s 2-in-1 capability fool you. It is a full-fledged laptop complete with the different peripheral ports necessary to get the job done. It has two USB-C ports, one of which is actually on the diagonal corner of the unit. It receives any peripheral plugged in there out of the way when you’re working. It also has a microSD port for secure file transfers and an audio jack for listening to music and other media. Lastly, it features an actual physical switch for the webcam, which makes it easy to keep your privacy intact without having to use any software.

One key point of concern for anyone purchasing a 2-in-1 laptop is the screen hinge. However, there is nothing to worry about the x360’s screen hinge. It is built to be sturdy and durable, able to take numerous transformations from laptop to tablet with no difficulty or wear and tear. It feels solid at any angle, and you won’t have to worry about damaging the computer when switching. Just the same, however, it doesn’t hurt to be careful when using it.

Lastly, the x360, as mentioned earlier, features a free HP Active Pen stylus. It sets the x360 apart as most manufacturers won’t include any for free. It is a very sturdy tool for digital art illustrations, photo editing, presentations, and more.

Price

It is where the x360 shines. Depending on the specs you will pick, prices start at USD$ 1,100, increasing as you choose more high-end variants. Considering the features, it packs, the x360’s price is quite competitive compared to the rest of the market and is a solid choice for those looking for a 2-in-1 laptop.


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Laptop Buying Guide: Things to Consider

Choosing a Platform

This first task could be quite tricky because every operating system has its advantages and disadvantages. Currently, there are three to choose from. You’ve got Chrome OS, macOS (for Mac computers), and, of course, Windows. Choosing an OS is entirely subjective, and no one best OS trumps the rest. But with this simple overview of these three systems, we hope you’d be able to narrow down your search.

Chrome is Google’s operating system. It may be found on cheap Chromebooks like the Samsung Chromebook 3. The OS is pretty straightforward, but comparing it to the other two, it’s a little restrictive. When it comes to the user interface, it’s a lot similar to that of Windows’. You get to drag windows from one spot to another, too. The primary application it uses is the Chrome browser. The main drawback of Chrome OS, though, is that most of the web apps won’t run without an internet connection. Good thing this flaw is already being addressed by Google, as there are now a good number of Chromebooks that can run via Android.

So, if what you need is a laptop primarily for surfing the net, that is, checking emails and social networking sites, and chatting with colleagues and friends, a Chromebook is an excellent option for you. These laptops also have impressive battery life and cost generally low. Chromebooks are also a popular choice among parents because it’s relatively impenetrable by malware.

If you’re decided on getting a Chromebook, get one with a RAM of 4GB and a storage of 16B. For the resolution, 1920 x 1080 is the most ideal. If you are going to use Android apps, you may also opt for a 2-in-1 laptop (more on this later).

  • Apple macOS High Sierra (to be replaced by Catalina)

If you’re considering getting a MacBook, know that all of them run on macOS Mojave, Apple’s latest operating system. In terms of functionality and features, it’s a lot similar to Windows 10, but the user interface is a tad different. Instead of the ‘Start’ menu, we find on Microsoft laptops, MacBooks have an apps dock at the bottom of the monitor. It makes use of the digital assistant, Siri, as opposed to Microsoft’s Cortana. MacBook users have a unique ability to receive text messages and phone calls and carry out transactions through Apple Pay. They can even unlock their MacBooks using the Apple Watch.

The drawback is that Macbooks aren’t touch screens.

Last but not least, you’ve got the Windows operating system. Running on significantly more laptops compared to Chrome and Mac, Windows is the most flexible among the three systems. Windows laptops vary in price range, from below $150 to thousands of dollars. These laptops come in a plethora of features – there’s dual graphics cards, fingerprint readers, and even touch screens.

The latest version is Windows 10, which offers numerous enhancements from its predecessors, Windows 7 and 8. With Windows 10, you can now switch from desktop to tablet mode and vice versa. The ‘Start’ menu now comes with live tiles and a pretty impressive digital assistant, Cortana.

Windows 10 launched in July 2015 and has made a ton of enhancements ever since. For instance, you can now ask Cortana follow-up questions. You can also use your stylus practically anywhere, too.

Laptops running on Windows 10 are ideal for everybody – parents, students, corporate employees, you name it. And most notably, we deem Windows 10 to be the single OS of choice for gamers. We’ll explain this later on.

Choosing the Best Size

Another key characteristic that you need to decide on is the size of the laptop. You’d want to carefully consider the size that fits you best because, unlike the RAM or ROM, you won’t be able to upgrade or change it once it doesn’t meet your needs anymore.

If your priority is portability, you’d want to get a smaller, lighter, and thinner laptop. But, do take note that these laptops typically can’t support the high-end CPUs and graphic cards that bigger ones do. Ultrabooks are an exception to this general rule, though. These laptops are lightweight and slim and have the same performance as larger laptops.

You need to ask yourself exactly how portable you want your device to be. Generally, laptops come in the following display size categories:

The thinnest and lightest options on the market today are as small as 11 to 12 inches. These lightweight bad boys weigh about 2.5 to 3.5 pounds.

The next size range is 13-14 inches. In general, laptops in these sizes offer the perfect balance of function and portability. Weighing under 4 pounds, they’re relatively light as well.

Among the size ranges, the 15-inch is the most popular. Weighing at around 4 to 5.5 pounds, this is the size of choice for those who prefer a larger screen. It’s also great for people who don’t plan on carrying their laptops around that much.

Laptops with 17- to 18-inch screens are an ideal choice for gamers. Since these machines most likely stay put in one place, the weight is not an issue. These guys generally possess potent processors that enable you to play premium games.

Should You Go For 2-in-1?

2-in-1 laptops are hybrid machines that can switch into different modes – the classic clamshell, tablet, and even stand or tent modes. Nowadays, you’ll find a huge number of laptops to fall into this category, which comes in two styles. The first one is called a detachable – it’s a laptop whose screen may be detached from the keyboard. The second is one whose lid may be turned 360 degrees (also known as bend-backs).

You may choose from these two options depending on how you plan to use the laptop. If you’ll be using it primarily as a laptop, a bend-back is an excellent option. However, if you’re going to use is mainly as a tablet, then a detachable is your best choice.

While 2-in-1 laptops are incredibly impressive, you can never go wrong with the traditional clamshell laptop, as this one tends to perform significantly better than hybrids. So, if you have no plans whatsoever of using your laptop as a tablet, then don’t bother getting a 2-in-1.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Even the most high-end laptops offering the most impressive features mean squat if they’re not at all user-friendly. So, if you’re going to use the laptop to type articles, reports, or school projects, better inspect the keyboard thoroughly. Check if it has sufficient vertical travel, that is, the depth the keys go down as you type. An ideal measurement is from 1 to 2mm. You also need to check whether there is sufficient space in between each key. A backlight is also a good-to-have, especially if you plan to use your laptop in a dimly-lit place.

As for the touchpad, you have to check whether it responds quickly and consistently to your gestures. An excellent way to test this is with a pinch-to-zoom method. If the laptop is going to be used for business, a useful feature is a nub – that red circle in between G and H. This will help you navigate your machine without needing to lift your fingers from the keyboard’s center row.

The Specs

Many different factors go into a laptop. As such, when you’re on the search for the perfect machine, you’ll inevitably come across some confusing jargon. But don’t let that overwhelm you; instead, refer to our laptop-buying guide’s list of terminologies and impress salespeople with how well-versed you are with computers!

  • The Central Processing Unit, also known as the CPU, is known as the brains of the machine. Thus, it dictates how well your laptop will perform. The CPU’s intelligence is not dependent on the price of the device. As such, it is entirely possible to find a good-working CPU in affordable models. Here are some of them:
    • Intel Core i3. These processors are inferior versions of the Core i5 but are also a little cheaper. With its sub-par performance, we highly encourage that you opt for its upgraded version.
    • Intel Core m/Core i5 /i7 “Y Series.” These processors do not require fans because they run on low heat and power. They perform a tad better than Celeron, but inferior to the Core U series.
    • AMD A, FX, or E Series. These AMD processors are called APUs instead of CPUs. The performance is pretty decent, considering the somewhat affordable price. This is ideal for people who will only use their laptops merely for surfing the net and checking social media accounts.
    • AMD Ryzen Mobile. AMD’s APUs meant to compete with Intel Core i5 and Core i7.
    • Intel Pentium/Celeron. These processors are commonly found in laptops below $400. These processors are some of the slowest offered by Intel, but if you’re only going to surf and edit documents, these laptops are not a wrong choice.
    • Intel Core i5. This processor is present in mainstream laptops, whose priority is giving you the right balance between performance and price. Just like Core i7, Intel Core i5 also available in Y series, which indicates lower performance and power.
    • Intel Core i7 is an upgrade from the Core i5. These processors have four cores and use higher wattage, which translates to faster performance. There’s also another variation to this processor called the Core i7 Y. Relative to the Core i7, this processor is inferior in performance and power.
    • Intel Core i9. These processors boast of relatively speedier performance compared to other mobile chips. These run only on high-end laptops and tend to cost a lot. As such, only opt for this processor if you’re planning to use your laptop for gaming and other demanding applications.
    • Intel Xeon. These are immensely powerful processors ideal for video editing, 3D modeling, and professional-grade engineering. Battery life is not that impressive, though.
    • Ice Lake and Comet Lake. These 10th Gen processors are set to power the new generation of laptops. Ice Lake is a 10-nanometer card with enhanced graphics. It has four cores and supports Wi-Fi 6 and Thunderbolt3. Comet Lake, on the other hand, is a 14-nanometer card that focuses on raw performance.
  • Connectivity is crucial if you are going to bring your laptop everywhere you go. 4G LTE is a good option – you will need to subscribe to a plan and pay extra, but doing so will let you have an internet connection on the go. A good laptop with fantastic connectivity options is one that supports the latest Wi-Fi 6. Also, look for a laptop that has Bluetooth 5 – this standard is the most recent and provides enhanced connectivity for Bluetooth devices such as headphones and mice.
  • DVD/Blu-ray Drives are not necessarily the most modern of features, since movies and series may now be easily downloaded online. But, in case your job calls for you to read and write discs, either get a laptop that has this feature or buy an external DVD or Blu-ray Drive. These cost less than 20 bucks and connects through USB.
  • Display. You want to get a laptop that has more pixels because those will give you brighter and sharper images. A lot of budget laptops come in 1366×768 displays – these are okay, but not as desirable than, say, an HD 1920×1080. Newer laptop models come in 4k or Ultra HD resolution – which makes images look even more amazing. However, these models eat a lot of power, which means their battery life isn’t that great.
  • A Graphics Card provides a high-quality graphics display. It is essential in making images look good, bright, colorful, and defined. Such as in CPUs, graphics cards also vary in performance. Low-end laptops typically have GTX MX250 or Nvidia MX250 cards. Mid-range machines have RTX 2050 or 2060, and high-end laptops have RTX 2070 or 2080 cards. While there already is a graphics card integrated within a laptop, you can also get an external graphics card to enhance your visual display further. But, we suggest you only do so if you’re going to use your laptop for high-res video editing, gaming, and 3D modeling.
  • While ports aren’t technically a must-have, it would be better for your laptop to have the right connections you need. The majority of mainstream laptops today have HDMI and USB 3.0 ports. Some laptops even have USB Type-C ports or Thunderbolt 3, which is compatible with USB Type-C as well. What’s excellent about Type-C ports is that you may use them to connect to universal docks and chargers. Other ports, such as headphone jacks, Ethernet (essential for gamers), and SD card slots, are also lovely to have.
  • RAM. Low-end laptops, those whose price tags are below $250, typically carry only 4GB of RAM. But, even if you’re on a budget, get a laptop with at least 8GB. Some people opt for 32 and even 64GB RAM – these are great for gamers and video editors.
  • Storage Drive. Also known as the hard drive, this is the part of your laptop that stores all the data. If you’re not going to need a lot of storage, we recommend a laptop that has an SSD or a solid-state drive instead of a hard drive. SSDs will let your laptop perform a lot better and faster. The NVME or the PCIex4 SSD provides speed three times that of the standard SATA drive. Low-end laptops typically use eMMC memory, which is also an SSD but isn’t as fast as a hard drive.
  • Touch Screen. This feature isn’t necessary if you’re buying a clamshell laptop. You won’t benefit much from it and will even lose 1 to 3 hours of battery life. But, if you’re getting a 2-in-1, a touch screen is a must.

Battery Life

If you’re going to use the laptop as a gaming rig or will be using it at a place with an outlet nearby, battery life won’t be such a significant factor for you. But, if you plan to carry and use your laptop in various locations, you’d want to get one with at least 7 hours of battery life. If you have the budget, you can even get one with eight-plus hours. When checking for battery life, don’t rely on what it says on the box. Check online reviews and third-party results from other sources.

Budget

Nowadays, you can find reliable laptops for $150, but don’t expect it to give excellent quality, display, and performance. Manage your expectations and take a look at this laptop-buying guide to know what kind of laptop you’ll find based on your budget.

  • $250 and below. These are your Chromebooks and subpar Windows laptops. These have very minimal and sluggish processors. If you need a second computer or a machine the kids can play with, these laptops will do.
  • $250 to $600. At this price range, you can expect laptops with pretty impressive specs, such as 8GB of RAM, Intel Core i5, and a hard drive with 500GB. But, these laptops most likely won’t have a long battery life, an SSD, or HD resolution.
  • $600 to $900. When your budget goes higher, you can expect to see high-end laptops with sleek designs. You’ll get great perks and features such as full-HD resolutions and SSDs. Some examples include the Asus ZenBook UX33FA and Lenovo IdeaPad 530s.
  • Over $900 – Laptops that cost more than $900 will give you a combination of power and portability. Apart from lightning-speed processors, discrete graphics, and high-resolution displays, they’re also extra light and thin. The Dell XPS 13 and the Apple MacBook Air have such features and cost over $1000. Mobile workstations and premium gaming rigs typically cost from $1500 to $3000.

The Brand

The brand is also vital in picking a laptop. When choosing a laptop, you need to look at how each brand compares to competitors when it comes to performance, value, and design. Reliable brands include HP, Dell, and Asus. On the other hand, MSI, Alienware, and Acer are excellent brands for gamers.

Apart from having great specs and features, you also need to consider technical support. As of writing, the best brands that over timely and accurate tech support are Apple, Razer, and Dell.

Later on, in this laptop-buying guide, we will be sharing with you a list of laptop brands and their current state in the business.

Resolution

Since you’ll be spending hours staring at your monitor, you’d want to get a laptop with a screen that’s easy on the eyes. An excellent resolution is critical in making graphic displays bright and vibrant. As much as you can, try to get a laptop with a 1920×1080 Full HD pixel resolution. Nowadays, manufacturers are starting to offer laptops with 4K resolutions. While they do provide an impressive display, they tend to cost a lot more than Full HD laptops. If you’re a content creator, a 4K-resolution laptop is the right choice. Otherwise, it might not be worth it.

Laptop Buying Guide: Brands

As we’ve mentioned earlier, the brand is a significant factor in choosing a laptop. We can’t call this a laptop-buying guide without giving you a run-through of the various tech brands and how they’re doing today. This review is based on tech support, design, and user reviews.

Acer

In 2019, Acer brought some impressive innovations in their laptops, such as the incredibly slim Acer Swift 7. It offers a wide gamut of gaming and mainstream laptops for every budget. However, users have given Acer mixed reviews this year. Also, we find some of their newest designs kind of lacking.

Alienware

This Dell subsidiary is famous for its impeccable gaming laptops. They continue to make significant innovations (such as their redesigned Alienware Command Center software), making them the top choice for gamers.

Apple

While Apple is one of the large tech brands in the world, their laptops aren’t doing so well this year. They’ve been scrutinized ever since they released the Air Keyboard, which users found to have several flaws. And even though they did release the stunning Retina display MacBook Air earlier this year, we see their laptop designs a bit too boring and repetitive.

Asus

Asus continues to impress us with its significant innovations, such as the ScreenPad and ErgoLyft hinge. Their designs are always superb and never fail to give people a wide array of options to choose from.

Dell

For many years Dell has and continues to be a trustworthy brand. The Austin-based company has always been at the top when it comes to their laptops. You can expect their products consistently to deliver a stellar performance and come in the sexiest and slimmest build.

HP

This year, HP gets the number one spot as the best laptop brand. It’s no surprise that the brand has consistently received excellent reviews. They never fail to provide us with top-performing products with beautiful and innovative designs.

Huawei

While we did love the 2018 MateBook X Pro because of its exceptional performance, design, and value, Huawei isn’t doing so well this year. They have a somewhat limited selection of laptops to choose from, and worst of all, their tech support is quite frustrating. If Huawei doesn’t bring anything new to the table any time soon, they might be labeled as a one-hit-wonder.

Lenovo

While Lenovo is one of the most popular tech brands out there, this year, they’ve received a slew of bad reviews primarily for their poor tech support. But, they still did release a few excellent features this year and remained to offer a wide array of awesome selections.

MSI

MSI has a rather bad rep because of their disappointing tech support. Also, their designs are quite bland, and we think the company badly needs to up their game.

Microsoft

This year, Microsoft released a good number of tablets and laptops; and even added a budget laptop called the Surface Go to its lineup.

Razer

The relatively new tech brand is slowly building a good rep as they significantly improve their models.

Samsung

Samsung is another famous brand that is sadly not living up to expectations. While they do offer solid models, their designs are quite outdated and in dire need of revamping.

Conclusion

There you have it, folks. Our list of the best laptops for this year. We hope that this laptop-buying guide has helped you identify which laptop to get, or at least narrowed down your search.



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We speak to Purism’ CEO about the Librem 5 USA smartphone • The Register

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Interview In June, Purism began shipping a privacy-focused smartphone called Librem 5 USA that runs on a version of Linux called PureOS rather than Android or iOS. As the name suggests, it’s made in America – all the electronics are assembled in its Carlsbad, California facility, using as many US-fabricated parts as possible.

While past privacy-focused phones, such as Silent Circle‘s Android-based Blackphone failed to win much market share, the political situation is different now than it was seven years ago.

Supply-chain provenance has become more important in recent years, thanks to concerns about the national security implications of foreign-made tech gear. The Librem 5 USA comes at a cost, starting at $1,999, though there are now US government agencies willing to pay that price for homegrown hardware they can trust – and evidently tech enthusiasts, too.

We first wrote about the Librem 5 smartphone in 2017, considering it a privacy-centric device with a Linux OS. The Librem 5 USA, as noted, tries to use American companies with US fabrication “whenever possible.” It has a 5.7-inch 720×1440 screen with 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a user-replaceable 4,500mAh battery.

The goal is to produce a phone that can be trusted from the hardware to the OS and apps, something that Apple and Google have become vocal about, too.

The Register spoke with Todd Weaver, founder and CEO of Purism, about how things are going.

Weaver said Purism is about two weeks away from actually holding stock and selling phones, which isn’t something the company, which began with crowdfunding, has previously had to do. In the past, people have pledged funds with orders, and it has later fulfilled them; now it’s building inventory in anticipation of sales.

“We’re actually transitioning to holding stock and pushing sales,” he explained. “We’ve never had to do that before. We’ve never had to do outbound sales.”

The phone, to start at the hardware level on up, all the way to the operating system, is our manufactured hardware

Previously, said Weaver, the company’s growth has been a result of inbound requests for its products based on the material it has published about its projects.

“The phone, to kind of start at the hardware level on up, all the way to the operating system, is our manufactured hardware,” said Weaver. “It runs on a CPU that is not normally in phones.”

That would be a quad-core Arm Cortex-A53 i.MX8M running at 1.5GHz. Weaver said Purism isolated the device’s baseband modem from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth “so that you can actually turn it off with a hardware kill switch. That basically becomes the ultimate in security.”

A key thing to realize here is that baseband modems are effectively small computers running in handsets and handle the cellular communications; if a modem is compromised or made to run rogue firmware, it can potentially take over the rest of the device, hence Purism’s desire to isolate it, if the user so wishes. In fact, it has three hardware kill switches: one to cut off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, one for cellular, and one for the microphone and cameras. All three will cut off GPS, too.

The main printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) is made by Purism in the US, and its microprocessor, from Dutch semiconductor maker NXP, is also made stateside.

The chip, Weaver explained, “is normally in airplanes, in commercial-grade devices, and in cars. It’s a quad-core CPU. But the reason we had to do that was we wanted to properly isolate. So in every other phone that’s made, the baseband modem – the cellular modem – is attached to memory and CPU. Fundamentally the carriers have firmware access that’s lower than the operating system.”

To make the phone secure, Weaver said, to protect privacy and individual freedoms, Purism had to consider security at the hardware level and move up the stack.

“There are all sorts of ways that has to be solved,” he said. “We solve it from the hardware, software, applications, data, and even services.”

The point, said Weaver, is to be able to just take the device and have peace of mind and control over your own digital life.

“We started in 2014, initially just crowdfunding laptops,” said Weaver. “My goal was to produce phones. But I knew that I had to increment through because we had to show that we can manufacture devices. We can do hardware, software, and services. Our model is very similar to Apple in that regard – we produce hardware and we have an operating system that’s married to it, so that it works.

“And then we also include services that fully respect you. If you had an iPhone or an Android phone and a Purism phone like Librem 5 sitting all next to each other, the iPhone will leak probably about three gigabytes of data without doing anything. Android devices are worse. Ours will leak exactly zero bits – nothing is sent without your explicit interaction, to make a request for weather information or browsing the web.”

Research last year suggested Android and iOS beam back telemetry to base even when users opt out of these transmissions, and a complaint was raised in 2020 over what appeared to be Android’s mysterious wireless data transfers.

While working toward phone manufacturing with the release of the Librem laptop, mini PC, and servers, Weaver explained his company was refining PureOS, its Linux distribution. “It’s our operating system that doesn’t have any mystery code in it,” said Weaver. “It’s all the source code, from the bootloader on up.”

Librem 14

Purism’s quest against Intel’s Management Engine black box CPU now comes in 14 inches

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Purism, said Weaver, has been working on modifying the PureOS Linux kernel to conserve energy when idle.

“A lot of the things Android initially did to Linux, we are doing to mainline Linux, so that we can actually have these things idle down better,” he said. “Basically, it’s a better way to do nothing.”

He also said the processor tends toward the toasty side. “We pushed really hard with NXP, modified a bunch of Linux kernel development, so that we could get that cooler. It’s just that CPU runs hot. The next iteration, we’ll be using probably I.MX9 … that’s still probably two years away.”

Weaver also said some thought is being given to the possibility of soldering the currently modular modem in place, which would allow for thinner devices and would please government agencies that see a removable component as a security issue.

Asked what sorts of things are possible with a Librem phone that Android and iOS devices don’t offer, Weaver cited the way tethering works. Mobile providers often charge extras for tethering, but with a Librem 5 phone data is just data. He also pointed to disk encryption with user-controlled keys and chat applications that can handle multiple protocols, such as SMS, MMS, XMPP, and Matrix.

For people who want an alternative to Android or iOS, Weaver said it’s an easy sale. “I almost have to back them off to say that, you know, not all your apps are going to run there,” he said. “It’s got calls, text messaging, browsing the web, a calculator, but not Snapchat.”

It’s got calls, text messaging, browsing the web, a calculator, but not Snapchat

Given the benefit Apple and Google get from their respective app stores, it’s not surprising that Purism is trying to deal with what Weaver calls “the App Gap” – the vast number of mobile apps not available on PureOS at the moment.

“Initially, we developed a lot of the core applications,” said Weaver. “We also wrote a library that allows for all the existing GNU/Linux-based applications to shrink down and run on our mobile phone. So by doing that, you don’t have to write a new application, it’s just include our library, and it will now work on the phone.”

That takes some effort, Weaver conceded, and Purism has produced documentation and helped Linux developers adapt their existing apps.

Purism is also enhancing its PureOS Store by partnering with a group that’s funding Interledger, an open payment network federation system.

“We’re actually going to be adding to PureOS Store, which is equivalent to Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store, where we allow for people to charge a subscription or charge for an app,” said Weaver. “And then we also have the ability to pay bounties even, for apps that are really needed that aren’t yet developed. So basically, the solution to fill the App Gap is cash.”

“You have to incentivize developers by ‘Hey, you can get paid,'” he elaborated. “The ecosystem grows and also actually puts money towards that effort. Our business model – by selling hardware with high enough margin, having services that are attached – allows us to basically reinvest to fill the App Gap.”

Privacy has always been a tough sell in the tech industry, at least in a mass market context. But over the past decade, the Snowden revelations about the extent of government information gathering, constant privacy scandals, the online ad industry’s unrepentant intrusiveness, pushback against Big Tech and surveillance capitalism, and the always sorry state of data security have buoyed interest in privacy. Add to that trade tensions with China and the supply chain nationalism that has followed, not to mention competition and privacy regulations emerging in the US, UK, and EU, and it looks like an opportunity.

“We’re not make-or-break off any one of those issues,” said Weaver, “but by fundamentally targeting civil liberties, individual freedoms, and privacy rights, then all of those things come out, and as they do, we see an influx of sales.”

“We have devices in every letter-agency in the US and some governments from outside the US,” said Weaver. “And those devices can vary from air gap laptops, to phones and even phone service.”

Weaver declined to discuss Purism’s financial situation in detail, but said the Librem 5 crowdfunding campaign raised $2 million.

“Since then, we’ve grown by triple digits year over year and even during COVID-19, we had a growth year,” he explained. “So overall, our sales have continued to increase. And we’ve grown mostly from revenue, but we’ve also taken on north of $12 million in investment.”

Weaver said the total available market is huge – billions of people have cell phones.

‘When you’re looking at somebody who cares about privacy rights, or they care about ‘I don’t like Big Tech,’ or ‘I don’t like the duopoly a mobile phone the space,’ or ‘I don’t like the intrusion,’ or I would like to advance civil liberties,’ every one of those areas is a potential customer,” said Weaver. “And those areas are immense. So we have not had a demand problem. We have had a supply problem, from parts to actual availability.

“We lost probably about two years on specific parts to actually manufacture this device in the US. China still has a shortage. We’ve never had that lack of interest. Once we get to the point of actually holding stock, then we’re going to be able to resume promoting.”

Soon, then. ®

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This start-up is offering stressed techies the chance to switch off at its cabins

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Slow Cabins is coming to Ireland and aiming to tap into the trend for low-impact, sustainable, digital-free tourism.

A hospitality rental company targeting techies who want to digitally detox is preparing to welcome its first guests in Ireland.

Founded in 2017, Slow Cabins seeks to offer people the opportunity to spend time away from their tech lives in relaxed, remote and eco-friendly surroundings.

It is currently taking bookings in Ireland and will open its first cabins here from 1 August. As well as Ireland, the start-up has operations in Belgium and the Netherlands.

All of its cabin locations are secret to purposely encourage guests to switch off and detox from their day-to-day stresses. Guests book their cabins without knowing the exact location, but all cabins are located within a two-and-a-half hour drive from major cities.

Within about two weeks of the trip, guests receive details with the exact location of their cabin. Even then, they may have to park their cars and hike to get to their accommodation.

The idea behind Slow Cabins comes from low-impact and sustainable tourism. Cabins are equipped with queen-sized beds, log burners, solar panels, dry toilets, fire pits, grills and large windows. Each cabin is powered naturally by sunlight and water.

“Recent European studies show that our resilience improves and stress levels decrease by up to 70pc after a stay in nature,” said Slow Cabins Ireland director Matthew Parkinson.

“Getting away from it all brings peace, energy and a sense of perspective. And that’s where Slow Cabins have an interesting role to play in a fast ‘always-on’ society. Profit is not our only goal, but rather a means to create more positive social and environmental impact,” he added.

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Best podcasts of the week: Sam Smith charts 40 years of progress on HIV and Aids | Podcasts

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Picks of the week

A Positive Life: HIV from Terrence Higgins to Today
BBC Sounds, episodes weekly from 1 Jul
Sam Smith presents this series about the legacy of Terrence Higgins, one of the first people to die of Aids in the UK. The opening episodes tell the story of Terry, “the swashbuckler of life”, with London friends sharing their grief and confusion at his death. There’s optimism, too, as Smith hears from those who fought to make treatment available, and those living with HIV 40 years on. Hannah Verdier

The Last Bohemians
Widely available from 6 Jul

LA’s unsung heroines of rock’n’roll get their moment in the spotlight in the new series of Kate Hutchinson’s fierce female-applauding podcast. As always, the more offbeat characters are the best, starting with Angelyne, the “billboard queen” and hustler. Punk widow Linda Ramone and surrealist Penny Slinger are also coming up. HV

Dear Poetry
Audible, episodes weekly

Luisa Beck believes in the healing power of poetry and she’s spreading the love in a new podcast, with writers suggesting soothing texts to solve people’s problems. At one memorable point, author Luther Hughes gives a 21-year-old looking for love a poem with a powerful message: “You are that bitch – it’s gonna happen when it happens”. HV

Project Unabom
Apple Podcasts, episodes weekly

Notorious serial bomber Ted Kaczynski was the subject of an 18-year manhunt, and this podcast looks at what happened in that time. Host Eric Benson recalls Kacynski’s threats to stage more attacks if the Washington Post didn’t publish his manifesto, and shares interviews with a Dungeons and Dragons club that became the FBI’s initial suspects. HV

Algorithms
Audible, all episodes available

Comic Sadie Clark creates a podcast from her Edinburgh show – once called a “bisexual Bridget Jones for the online generation”. It opens with main character Brooke’s mum (Alison Steadman) spying explicit photos of her online. One breakup later and she’s using the dating app she writes the algorithm for, with pleasingly clumsy results. HV

There’s a podcast for that

Kristin Davis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall filming Sex and the City: The Movie in 2007.
Kristin Davis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall filming Sex and the City: The Movie in 2007. Photograph: James Devaney/WireImage

This week, Hannah Verdier chooses five of the best TV companion podcasts, from Dolly Alderton’s Sex and the City show to a Scrubs rewatch with stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison.

Obsessed With …
The BBC’s companion series to talked-about shows including Killing Eve, Peaky Blinders and Normal People is always high quality. Line of Duty brought out the big guns with Craig Parkinson, Vicky McClure and Martin Compston all giving their theories ahead of the big reveal, while Sophie Duker secured Michaela Coel for the finale of I May Destroy You. But watchalongs don’t always need high drama, as Evanna Lynch and Riyadh Khalaf proved as they bravely tackled the slowly shifting quadrangle of Conversations with Friends.

Sentimental and the City
If you initially had problems with And Just Like That’s faux-wokery but then grew to love it like a Botoxed old friend, Caroline O’Donoghue and Dolly Alderton hear you. These are women who know their stuff, with O’Donaghue uttering the words: “I don’t like the look of Big on that Peloton and I’m worried” after seeing just the trailer. Their Sentimental Garbage miniseries on the Sex and the City sequel is a place where debate about the divisive depiction of ageing, sexuality and diversity sits perfectly with lighter moments, like giggling over Charlotte’s robot lines.

Squirrel Friends: The Official RuPaul’s Drag Race Podcast
There’s not exactly a shortage of RuPaul-related pods out there, but this one comes from inside the Drag Race community, with hosts Loni Love and Alec Mapa who’ve been there and done the guest judging. Cackling and spilling of the hottest tea comes as standard as they recap All Stars season seven, dissecting all the entrance looks, performances and personalities. Their love for RuPaul never waivers, as they dish out compliments, one-liners and behind-the-scenes gossip after every episode of the hit show.

The Stranger Things Podcast
All-American father-daughter duo Addi Darnell and Darrell Darnell gently mock each other while going into the intricacies of the disturbingly lovable drama in podcast episodes that are even longer than the latest instalments. Is “whet your appetite” a thing? What’s the difference between hellfire and heckfire? And why is Eddie still languishing in high school when his teachers must be so desperate to see the back of him? No fan question is left unanswered in the deepest dive out there.

Fake Doctors, Real Friends with Zach and Donald
With nine seasons of the US medical comedy-drama Scrubs settling into its new home on Disney+, it’s the ideal time to rewatch your favourite episodes – along with its two main stars . JD and Turk (Zach Braff and Donald Faison) are now six seasons into their recaps, screeching with laughter at on-set moments and fondly remembering the times they broke down and cried. Their friendship and unmistakable chemistry is as tight off-screen as on, but occasionally they stop nattering for long enough to welcome guests such as Heather Locklear and Seth Green.

Why not try …

  • The stranger than fiction story of “Ohio’s bear king”, complete with music from Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle in Beast Master.

  • A special dose of summer spookiness, with a trio of new episodes from Danny Robins’s Uncanny.

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