What laptop should I buy for Christmas 2017?
Answer: It's that time of year again, and you might be looking at buying a laptop as a gift or maybe one for yourself. While it's hard to recommend a specific laptop for everyone, I can recommend a few important specs:
If you want a computer that is not super slow, please avoid any models with an Intel Celeron processor. In my experience, Celeron-based computers are always frustratingly slow, even when performing basic tasks. Instead, consider an Intel i3 or an AMD A8 as a starting point. If performance is important, make the jump to an i5. If you want the fastest possible laptop, get the i7. It will cost significantly more, but your laptop will perform like a desktop computer.
As we approach 2018, computers with less than 4 GB of RAM are hard to find. That's good because you definitely want at least 4 GB of RAM. If you're using a modern OS like Windows 10 or macOS High Sierra, I recommend at least 8 GB of RAM to make sure your computer doesn't have a memory bottleneck. If you like to run lots of applications at once or do photo and video editing with your laptop, I would look for a laptop with 16 GB of RAM.
Unless you have a very limited budget (under $300), get a laptop with an SSD. From my experience, this is the number one performance upgrade you can make between similar laptops. HDDs in laptops are slower than the ones in desktop computers, so an SSDs provides an even greater performance bump in a laptop. You'll have to may more for less storage, but most people don't use more than 256 GB of internal storage anyway. I would take a 256 GB SSD over a 1 TB HDD any day.
This is the most difficult spec to recommend because there are so many variations of graphics chips available. At a bare minimum, I would make sure the tech specs of the laptop at least list a specific graphics chip or video card so you konw it has one. I think 2 GB of video memory is OK, but 4 GB or more should ensure the VRAM isn't a bottleneck. If you plan on running one or more external displays from your laptop, I would look for a machine with 6 or 8 GB of VRAM.
Those are my top four specs to consider. Some other things to consider are:
- Windows or Mac
- screen size
- display resolution (I prefer a HiDPI display, but it isn't necessary)
- battery life (7+ hours is good)
- wireless options (802.11ac and bluetooth are recommended)
- I/O ports
- optical drive (usually not necessary)
- build quality (which you can only test in person)
Remember — people's requirements differ greatly based on what they use their computer for and how much they use it. While I might find a $2700 laptop to be a good value, it may be way more than another person needs. If you're looking for a middle-of-the-road laptop for Christmas 2017, you should be able to get a computer with the following specs for between $600 and $700.
- Intel i5 processor
- 8 GB DDR4 RAM
- 256 GB SSD
- 4 GB VRAM
I hope this helps and Merry Christmas!