Laptops are fairly lightweight to hold you, and flexible enough to operate challenging applications. It is the best tool for doing serious work or playing whether you are at home, on the road or in a classroom at a college. Although standalone tablets and smartphones are always common, most people realize that it all works better on a desktop, from typing a research paper to crunching video to gaming. So what kind of laptop do you need to get? To help you out we’ve put together a laptop buying guide. There’s a wide variety of sizes, features and prices that makes it a challenge to choose the best laptop.
Microsoft, the most versatile operating system, operates on more portable devices than Chrome OS or Mac OS X. Windows laptops are available from around $150 to several thousand dollars and offer a wide range of functionality from touch screens and fingerprint scanners to dual graphics chips. Windows 10, the latest version of Microsoft’s premium operating system, offers a number of enhancements to Windows 7 and 8, including the ability to switch between mobile and laptop modes, a redesigned Live Tiles Start screen, and a versatile Cortana digital assistant.
There are a number of different types of laptops out there. If portability isn’t at the top of your list, a regular clamshell laptop with a 13- or 15-inch screen should suffice. If you need something light, look for laptops that are marketed as ultrabooks, as they usually weigh three pounds or less. One of the most important components is the processor because it is the laptop’s core. If you click a key or open a register, this instruction is performed by the processor. We would recommend a dual-core processor for simple tasks such as surfing the Web or writing an impassioned e-mail. This allows you to instantly open several windows and apps. While dual-core CPUs are perfect for multitasking, they aren’t always nice for gaming or photo editing activities.
1. ASUS VivoBook 15 Thin and Light Laptop, 15.6” FHD, Intel Core i3-8145U CPU, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD, Windows 10 in S Mode, F512FA-AB34, Slate Gray]
The Asus VivoBook S15 is one of the strongest notebooks we’ve been looking with lately. We say’ less is more’ and in recent years, the theme for laptops has definitely turned towards ultra-portables with ever smaller and lighter designs. Sometimes, though, you still need a nice big screen to play with, whether it’s a spot of close-up photo-editing for number-crunching spreadsheets at work, or just watching Stranger Things on Netflix. Asus’ VivoBook S15 fits the bill nicely, combining a large, bright 15.6 “display with strong processor performance and a slimline design that still lets Asus describe it as’ ultra-portable.’
There are also versions for business users which have either Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro. Nonetheless, Asus complicates matters slightly as most of these versions aren’t actually available from its own online store, so you’ll need to trace the VivoBook down from Amazon and other online retailers-with the i7 edition being offered exclusively by Currys in the UK, which we review here. The VivoBook is still highly portable, weighing just 1.8 kg and measuring a slim 18 mm thickness considering its 15.6-inch frame.
Admittedly, comparison to smaller 12-inchand13-inch laptops it does seem very large, yet having every 15-inch laptop down to less than 2 kg is an impressive feat, and Asus definitely did a good job with the VivoBook S15 build. And the laptop ran cool and quiet throughout all of our tests, despite the powerful i7 processor, even when running benchmarks for heavy-duty graphics.
2. Asus TUF FX505DT Gaming Laptop, 15.6” 120Hz Full HD, AMD Ryzen 5 R5-3550H Processor, GeForce GTX 1650 Graphics, 8GB DDR4, 256GB PCIe SSD, Gigabit Wi-Fi 5, Windows 10 Home, FX505DT-AH51, RGB Keyboard
Literally, the Asus TUF FX505DT sports an angular design that is consistent with the TUF moniker and includes as its predecessors the red color scheme on the keyboard. Unlike the ASUS TUF FX505DY-ES51 we tested earlier, on the cover, along the vent grille and keyboard plate, it doesn’t get red accents. Asus then went for a standard black color with a’ ASUS’ logo on the cover. This on bears, as with all budget laptops, an all-plastic construction which spans the cover, the keyboard deck all the way to the touchpad. Lately, most high-end gaming laptops from the likes of Dell and Gigabyte come with bezelless screens, but on cheaper computers the bezels often exist.
You have to do with a few sacrifices as you decide to play games on a budget and screen quality is always the perpetrator. Surprisingly, even at the low price, Asus also managed to pack a Full HD (1,920 X 1,080) resolution monitor with a refresh rate of 120Hz, with the kind of brightness you’ll see on more costly gaming laptops like Acer’s Predator Helios 300. Otherwise, at this price point, we have predicted a 60Hz computer with a fuzzy TN frame. It’s a great job displaying text, pictures look better but we feel like this laptop would do better on fast-paced videos.
The Asus TUF FX505DT-AH51 includes as convenient as possible an RGB backlit keyboard. With good key spring back and the keys are well spaced, this chiclet keyboard allows typing simple and fast. For better visibility, the WASD keys are outlined in clear white, but the spacebar has been modified in such a way that the left side protrudes outward, just in case you need more space for your left thumb. To keep up with other 15-inch gaming laptops, the FX505DT gets a number pad whose keys are slightly smaller than those on the QWERTY layout left. On the other side, the touchpad, characteristic of budget notebooks, is low and basic.
3. Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop, 15.6″ Full HD IPS Display, 8th Gen Intel Core i3-8145U, 4GB DDR4, 128GB PCIe Nvme SSD, Backlit Keyboard, Windows 10 in S Mode, A515-54-30BQ
If you are looking for a cheap quad-core laptop with a thickness of less than three-quarters of an inch, the Acer Aspire 5 A515-54-51DJ could fit the bill. This slender laptop packs in more than enough strength for daily computing tasks, and its quad-core output, though short of awe-inspiring, is respectable. A fingerprint reader and almost all-day battery life should cater to road warriors with a sense of efficiency, although they will have to settle for a monitor that is on the dim side.
Acer loads a bewildering range of options into its budget Aspire 5 line— at least 22 by my estimation, varying from $350 (at press time) for a dual-core AMD Ryzen 3 3200U-powered model with a 4 GB RAM bare-bones and a 128 GB solid-state disk, all the way to a considerably more beefy quad-core Core i7-8565 model with a powerful 12 GB RAM, a 512 GB SSD, and dedicated Nvidia GeForce MX250 graphics. Some models of Aspire 5 offer a 15.6-inch monitor (although I saw at least one 14-inch model), with a combination of 1080p and 720p resolutions.
The Acer’s Aspire 5 series laptops do a nice job of looking thinner and lighter than they really are. This particular Aspire 5 model is no different: Yes, it tips the scales at almost 4.25 pounds but the Aspire 5 manages to feel reasonably light at just 0.7 inches thin, especially given its sizable footprint of 14.3-by-9.9 inches. The sleek aluminum cover and tapered body of the machine render a budget laptop look pretty cool.
When it comes to display of the Aspire, let’s begin with the positive ones. The resolution 1920×1080 is the minimum we like to see while treating a 15.6-inch screen. The IPS (in-plane switching) screen of the Aspire allows for good viewing angles, with the show being fairly clear and visible even when viewed from the edge, above, or under. The matt “ComfyView” feature on the monitor minimizes glaring.
4. Asus C302CA-DHM4 Chromebook Flip 12.5-Inch Touchscreen Convertible Chromebook, Intel Core M3, 4GB RAM, 64GB Flash Storage, All-Metal Body, USB Type C, Corning Gorilla Glass, Chrome OS
The full HD touch screen measuring 12.5 inches is a highlight. It shows vivid, realistic photographs which you can share with a few close friends with a wide-angle view. Pressure response for most web games is quick, fast enough. Once Android for the Chrome OS update is rolled out later this year, the touch screen will fit you well. Chrome OS now has a laptop mode that is activated automatically by the Chromebook Flip as you turn the screen on 180 degrees. With good sound and music, the stereo speakers on the left and right side panels will fill a small to medium-sized room. It is easy to use the full-size backlit keyboard during lengthy typing sessions.
The Chromebook Flip’s 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of eMMC flash storage are twice as much as you’ll see in other chromebooks costing $200 and $300, respectively. The extra RAM helps you keep multiple windows open concurrently, while the extra capacity is appropriate for uploading any video or music files when you can’t be online, though much less than you’ll find in a Windows laptop. The microSD card slot can also be used to extend local storage (up to 512 GB) and Google provides two years of 100 GB cloud storage to help keep your data secure.
The laptop has two USB-C ports: one on the left and one on the right. Both can be used with external drives or attaching to an external monitor, but there is no need to purchase a DisplayPort, HDMI, or VGA converter for that. Use USB Type-A, actually the most popular device, you will also need an adapter for drives, although USB-C is expected to become the more widespread option within a year or two. The AC adapter provided uses one of two USB-C ports when charging and leaves one empty. Asus defends the Chromebook Flip from accidental damage insurance with a one-year guarantee (even if you’ve triggered it).
5. ASUS Vivobook Flip 14 Thin and Light 2-in-1 Laptop, 14” HD Touchscreen, Intel Quad-Core Pentium N5000 Processor, 4GB DDR4, 128GB eMMC Storage, Windows 10, TP401MA-AB21T
The Asus VivoBook Flip 14 has a tidy, if somewhat boring interface. The rounded corners, gray finish and notched base resemble the MacBook Pro, but there stop the comparisons. This 14-inch2-in-1 features a large bezel, and its cover is fairly thick. The oddly shaped laptop, once locked, reminds me of an ice cream sandwich. What’s interesting about the architecture of the VivoBook is its versatility. When watching videos or slideshows, two hinges spin the monitor around 360 degrees, turning the screen into a tablet or you can flip the laptop into tent form. The lid is centered on a shiny, silver Asus logo, and the SonicMaster branding adorns the Deck.
The VivoBook does not look cheap despite its simple design. The elegant, polished lines and textured-aluminum materials provide it with a deceptively luxurious feel. I wouldn’t be afraid of taking it to school or work. The elegant, polished curves and aluminum textured materials lend a deceptively luxurious look to the VivoBook Flip 14. Even though we don’t anticipate luxury materials at this size, the VivoBook Flip 14’s build quality is questionable. The deck bent under pressure, and the display wobbled with a soft tap. We are also worried about the design of the unit.
On the Asus VivoBook Flip 14, the 1920x 1080-resolution touch screen monitor is not very good, but at this price we’ve seen worse. Mark Wahlberg seemed very dull as I watched the trailer for the upcoming film Mile 22. As the game continued, the shortcomings of the show became more evident. Instead of a washed-out battlefield, what should have been an epic fight scene with flashing colors. The Flip 14 VivoBook is not getting really light, either. It has achieved a high brightness of 221 nits which is shy of both the performance of the Acer Spin 3 (226 nits) and the rating of the standard laptop (231 nits). The Lenovo Flex 6 (206 nits) and the Acer Aspire E 15 (215 nits) from last year were even dimmer.