Laptop Buyers Guide : Laptop Suggestions for Holiday Shopping 2015

By - December 2015

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Black Friday has come and gone and if you’ve already bought your big screen 4K TV, Xbox and/or PS4 then the next thing on your list is probably going to be a computer. Whether it be a laptop or a desktop you know that you need one or a newer one to be productive for the new year. Not an easy decision to make by any means but there is no reason that it has to be hard, you just have to break it down to a few simple things and then buying a laptop becomes that much easier.

How do I Choose?

Buying a new computer consists of a few major components. First off is a budget and functionality. EVERYTHING depends on this because we all have different finances and use our computers for different reasons. Those two things directly affect how much we spend on our laptop. For example, a person who just casually surfs the web, checks their email and maybe does some online shopping doesn’t need to spend the same amount of money as a budding musician or a graphic designer would for a laptop, keep that in mind. Spend your money based on what you may need your laptop for so that way you don’t overspend or underspend. Second, is it gonna be a Mac or PC? You may be a Mac owner that needs to have a PC, or a PC owner that wants to switch to Mac. Either way you need to decide which operating system you wish to use or suits you best because although Macs and PC’s do share some similarities they are very different. Third is size, do you want something more compact or bigger? Size matters because it can affect the cost and your comfort, after all you have to carry it around with you and typically the smaller it gets the more expensive it gets. Fourth and last but not least would be the design and build quality. Yes, overall build quality and aesthetics matter. Who wants to walk around with an ugly laptop? Consider this, A big part of the reason that a lot of people buy Macs is because of their attention to design detail and the “cool” factor that it possesses as a result of that. Even if you hate Macs you can’t deny they look really cool and you tend to look cool if you’re using one even if you have no clue what you’re doing. It’s superficial but it matters. Even with that being said, it doesn’t mean PC design sucks and hasn’t gotten better over the years. It has. Significantly better. Even more so than the Macbook as of recently and there is more to choose from with the PC when it comes to design, color, etc.

217651It’s a great deal to think about but a few things about laptops are universal at this point in time. Laptops overall are lighter, nicer looking, more powerful and cheaper than ever. All of your needs can be met with your laptop and the good thing is you have a lot of variety. Just make sure that when you narrow down your laptop choice you get most of what you want because you may be stuck with that machine for a couple of years until you can buy another one.

“How do I choose?” is the question. I have some suggestions for each type of laptop buyer, remember they’re only starting point suggestions. You may or may not agree with me but these are laptops that I feel will work best for budget, function, and look. Of course YOU will ultimately decide that but any of the choices that are here will not be a bad thing and absolutely to your benefit.

Best for Budget Conscious

When I mention budget conscious I mean the laptop that you don’t spend a whole lot of money on but can go far with for a few years. These laptops fall within the $500 price range and do not exceed that. You’ll also find links to purchase these laptops if you wish.

Dell Inspiron 15 5000 Series

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The Dell Inspiron 15 5000 series was my personal pick for what I think is a reliable and affordable set of laptops. The basic model comes in at just $349 and for that you get an intel quad-core processor, Windows 8.1 (upgradable to Windows 10), 500GB HD and 4GB of RAM. Not bad for a couple hundred dollars. With this laptop you can get all of your web surfing done, check your emails, shop and use the Microsoft Office suite with no problem. You can buy it straight up at your favorite retailer or you customize one HERE This is the ideal laptop for the casual user and the student.

Other Notables

Lenovo Ideapad 100S:

Toshiba Satellite Radius 14:

Lenovo g50:

HP Pavilion x360:

Mid-Range

The mid-range laptop is what most people aim to buy. Sometimes our budgets don’t allow us that but these laptops are the most common as I see it and they give you some solid internals and features between $500 – $1000. Typically when you spend more than this you just have the money or you have a specific purpose such as gaming, music or design.

Macbook Air 13″

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I hate to be cliché here but for just under $1000 (a dollar less to be exact) I don’t have a better recommendation than the Macbook Air 13″. It gives you pretty much everything you can ask for in a laptop. Lightweight, compact, fast, easy to use with arguably the best ecosystem with their other devices. It comes standard with an Intel i5 quad-core processor and 4GB of RAM. The only drawbacks are the resolution which could be higher and the storage space being at 128GB due to the SSD but you can upgrade to a higher storage size on Apple’s website or use cloud based storage or buy an external drive. You can buy it and customize it HERE

Other Notables

Asus ZENBOOK UX305FA

Toshiba Satellite L70

Hp Spectre x360 13

High-End

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If you’re fortunate enough to be on the higher end of the budget scale then there isn’t too much that you can’t buy. If I were to choose however I would go with Microsoft’s new Surface Book. It’s a beautiful machine, It’s a tablet and it’s got a stylus. The only drawback? It’s not cheap at all BUT this is the high-end list so money is probably not a factor. You can order yours HERE.

Other Notables

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Macbook Pro Retina 15″

Best Overall

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The best laptop overall is of course going to be subjective. My measure for this is based on internal specs, design, ease of use, and years before being obsolete proportionate to cost. It’s about getting the most for your money but not necessarily being a budget laptop. This category is kind of tied because both of the laptops in this category are all-purpose and really good without breaking the bank. These great laptops are the Dell XPS 13″ and the Macbook Pro Retina 13″. Just in case you’ve never seen either of these machines you can look HERE and HERE.

The XPS 13 is easily in my opinion the best Windows laptop available and at just $799 base you get a whole lot for your money. A touch and non-touch option, glossy or matte finish screens, lightweight, Intel Core i5 processor, the much improved Windows 10 and a great looking machine. You can’t beat what Dell has put together in the XPS 13.

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The Macbook Pro retina 13″ is the quintessential everyday laptop for Mac users. If you see someone with a Macbook, chances are it’s an Air or this one. Just like the XPS, the Macbook pro retina 13″ is lightweight, has a hi-res glossy screen, super fast SSD drive, Mac OS X El capitan, Apple’s ecosystem all in probably the best looking laptop aside from the XPS. You can’t lose with this laptop.

Now What?

You’ve seen our suggestions and the question is probably “Now what?”. It’s a good question, but it’s not a question that has a definitive answer right away. Truthfully, you have to shop around. What you saw in reading this article is based on the laptops we’ve used and represents what we believe best suits each type of consumer overall (except for gamers, they’re a different breed).

Of course this is opinionated and not absolute so we could be totally wrong. If not for any other reason, use this guide as a means to make a more informed decision instead of trying to wing it and fly blindly. Also DEFINITELY do not take what your local retailer says as fact. Remember, they are trying to sell you something. Do what works for you and buy your laptop this holiday based on what you need it for. Or for the person you’re giving it to may need it for. That’s the best way to gauge it. Happy shopping!!

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Mike Bitter is a born gadget head and true lover of technology. It all started with computer classes at age 10 and his first PC the Tandy 1000. From then on he found his love and he became a gamer and a PC builder and has not stopped since. He specializes in hardware, troubleshooting and custom PC building. He’s known as the “fixer” amongst his friends whenever there is a problem with a PC or a Mac. He’s also fully immersed in all things that pertain to the world of computers and gaming. He's an 80's baby and he grew up watching technology evolve from the NES to PS4 and from the Commodore 64 to the iMac. He has a unique and minimalist perspective on technology and is here to help the average person to understand technology today.