The Best Lightweight Laptops
If you’re in the market for a laptop, you have some decisions to make. Do you want a mobile powerhouse or something ultra-portable? Unless you have an unlimited budget, you cannot have both. Do you want the style of Apple or the much cheaper and often more bang for the buck Windows? To help you make sense of all these questions, here is TechJunkie’s guide to buying lightweight laptops.
Desktops have a distinct advantage over laptops. Once you buy one, you can (usually) upgrade components should your needs change. With a laptop, aside from adding memory or changing the drive, you’re stuck with what you buy. That’s why research is vital.
I cannot tell you what to buy as your needs will differ from mine. What I can do is outline the process that will result in you buying the most suitable lightweight laptop for your needs.
Set your requirements
The very first thing you should consider before looking at lightweight laptops is what you want to do with it. Is it for school or college? Will you be using it for gaming? General surfing and watching Netflix? Or will you be doing something more serious like CAD or editing movies?
Answering these questions will help you decide what kind of specs you need, what size screen would work best and whether you can go the lightweight route or the powerhouse route.
You also need to set a realistic budget depending on those answers. With prices ranging from as little as $300 to over $3,000, it’s important to set a budget and stick to it otherwise things could quickly get out of control.
Set your expectations
A laptop is a significant investment, one that should last you a few years at least. Like many big ticket items, you should buy the best version you can afford while not buying too much laptop for your needs. What this means is buying the one with the fastest processor, most RAM and largest hard drive without buying something that you will never get the most out of.
Style or substance? I have nothing against Apple. I think the design and build quality of their products are without peer. But I also think they are very overpriced. A good quality Windows laptop around the $1,000 mark would increase to around $1,500 for an equivalent MacBook Pro. You are then also tied into the Apple ecosystem with little freedom to move.
If budget or bang for buck is an issue, go Windows. If you love design and already have Apple devices, a MacBook or MacBook Pro may hit the mark.
Lightweight laptop specifications
When looking at laptop specifications, you want to consider screen size, processor, RAM and hard drive. The latter two are flexible as they are one of the few elements of a laptop you can upgrade.
Screen size depends on budget and projected use. If you are working, studying or playing games, a larger screen may offer benefit. They come at a price though. The larger the screen the more expensive the laptop so consider carefully. The minimum resolution you should consider is 1920 x 1080 (1080p) resolution. That is full HD. Anything more may be a waste unless you are video editing or really want to spend your money.
Along with screen size and type is the form factor. Laptops used to be laptops but now there are hybrid laptop and tablets too. They are often referred to as 2-in-1. Some products offer a touchscreen laptop that splits in two to offer a tablet for maximum portability. There is a price premium to be paid for this feature but it may perfectly suit your needs. The Microsoft Surface Book is one such hybrid. It is also the most expensive. Others include the HP Spectre x360 or the Dell Inspiron 13 7000.
Currently Intel i5 processors offer an excellent balance between performance, longevity and battery use. Intel i7 laptops are available but would only really give you benefit in processor intensive programs like CAD or batch file conversion. The average user would be better off buying the fastest i5 processor you could afford rather than a slower i7.
There is a little more to consider when selecting a processor. This guide is a good read if you would like to learn more.
RAM is measured in GB (gigabytes) and the more GB you have, the better. A practical minimum now is 4GB of RAM. If you can get more within your budget, do it. RAM speed is less of an issue despite what the marketing material says. You can upgrade RAM at a later date with many laptops.
Laptop hard drives are now usually SSD or hybrid drives. SSD (Solid State Drives) are best as they are much faster and have no moving parts. They are more expensive though. Hybrid drives are a mix of SSD and hard drives and are quite fast too. A minimum storage size should be around the 500GB mark. Anything more is better.
Most laptops will have integrated graphics chips rather than separate graphics cards. Some laptops will have discrete graphics, which means there is a separate mobile graphics card inside. This will offer better graphics performance for gaming or graphics-intensive programs but isn’t necessary for general use. As you might expect, laptops with discrete graphics are more expensive.
Other considerations when selecting a lightweight laptop include battery life, the number and type of ports and connectivity. If you have a specific purpose in mind, you should match those considerations to that need. Otherwise, an HDMI port, a couple of USB 3.0 ports, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities will cover the basic requirements.
Optical drives are usually no longer included with laptops. CD and DVD use is now rare so if you think you may need to use either, you will also need to factor in the cost of an external optical drive. They are relatively cheap and will use USB to connect to your laptop.
Choosing the right laptop for your needs does involve quite a lot of research. Given how much investment such a purchase requires, it makes sense to perform your due diligence before hitting the stores. Hopefully this lightweight laptop buying guide has helped.