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Laptop Buying Guide

Looking for a laptop for yourself or as a gift? It can be tough to find one that has the features and style you want at a price that makes sense. Use this handy buying guide to narrow down your choices based on the people who’ll be using it.

Laptops for kids

Apps, websites and specialized hardware make it easy and fun for your little learner to grasp concepts like colors, shapes, music, numbers, letters and more. There are a plethora of kids’ laptops on the market, like this affordable LeapFrog laptop, that are the perfect stepping stone in your young one’s education.

Laptops for students

Students need a small, lightweight laptop that can be carried to class every day in a backpack. Chromebook laptops are a great fit, offering the benefits above in addition to quick startup, handy apps and affordability. These thin and light laptops work using Google’s Chrome operating system and browser-based applications like Google Docs. All your files get stored using web-based or cloud storage with Google Drive.

Look for Microsoft’s answer to the Chromebook in the near future—the HP Stream. Its features are very similar to a Chromebook, but the HP Stream will run Windows 8.1 OS and come with 100GB free OneDrive storage for two years and 25GB of free Dropbox space. And like Chromebooks, the HP Stream will be priced for the budget-minded.

Laptops for gadget gurus

This person wants the latest and greatest laptop out on the market, complete with a sleek design and premium specs. Fast and energy-efficient processors, like the latest Intel processor (i5 or better), make multitasking easier and deliver excellent battery life. Look for a minimum 500GB hard drive and 8GB RAM to provide generous storage space for digital music and videos. Gadget gurus might also dig high-performance tablets like the Microsoft Surface 3 with detachable keyboard. And by taking advantage of the Microsoft Office suite of applications that you know and love, this tablet could possibly replace the traditional clunky laptop.

Laptops for gamers

For serious gamers, the most important aspects of any laptop will be the graphics component, the screen type, size and resolution, and the speed of the processor. Avoid integrated graphics in favor of a dedicated graphics chip like the Intel Core i7. Large screen size (17"+) and high resolution are also must-haves. The CyberPowerPC Fangbook EVO is a great example of a total-package gaming machine.

Laptops forbusiness users

Whether traveling or in the office, the business user wants a laptop mainly for writing and editing text, sending emails and creating presentation decks and spreadsheets. Speed and multitasking are the keys to success for this laptop request. So a fast duo-core or quad-core processor like AMD’s A4 or Intel’s i7 make the most sense. But don’t discount battery life, total weight, a comfortable full-size keyboard and an anti-glare screen when shopping for the right machine. Laptop prices continue to fall, so don’t be afraid to go for the best and work your way down based on your budget. Take a look at this selection of business laptops, including cost-effective refurbished models, and find the right laptop for you.

Before you hit the stores, learn the terms to know using our laptop lingo glossary.

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