Laptops and PCs are essential tools for getting work done and learning for school.
There is no guarantee that better tools (a better laptop) will help to produce better results. It will certainly make learning and working more efficient.
Regardless of whether you’re a student or a professional, here’s a buying guide on how to choose a laptop,
And hopefully, you will be able to pick the best laptop for yourself after reading this guide.
Summary of criteria you should pay attention to before buying a laptop.
- Operating System (Windows vs macOS)
- Screen (Basic vs Touchscreen)
- CPU (Intel vs AMD vs M1)
- Dedicated GPU or integrated Graphics
- Storage (SSD)
- Battery Life
If you prefer direct laptop recommendation, you can check out the article below:
- 10 best laptops for student in Malaysia
- 7 best laptops for video editing Malaysia
- 7 best touchscreen laptops in Malaysia
- 7 best laptops under RM3,000
- 5 best cheap laptops under RM1,500
- 7 best gaming laptops for different budgets in Malaysia
Okay, this may seem pointless. I know everyone has their own budget for buying a laptop, but many set their budget too low and ended up buying an inefficient laptop. I think that’s counterproductive and detrimental to the whole laptop experience.
I recommend the ideal price range for laptops used for school and basic work should be around RM2,500 to RM3,000.
No need to overspend when you’re just using it for study. And at the same time don’t underspend. I don’t recommend buying a laptop below RM1,000.
But if you insist, be sure to check my recommendation on the best laptops under RM1,500.
2. Operating System (Windows vs macOS)
Most of us Malaysians are familiar with Windows. So, that would be a good idea to stick with a Windows laptop.
The main advantage of the Windows operating system is it is compatible with all programs, software and games. It also has a large variety of laptop brands and models available, ranging from RM1,000 to RM10,000
The macOS, on the other hand, is becoming increasingly popular. However, the entry barrier for macOS is higher. It costs more than RM4,000 for a MacBook Air M1 base model. And many are not familiar with macOS.
The advantages of a MacBook is its superior build quality, smooth performance, long battery life and perfect integration with the Apple ecosystem.
Check out the video below for a full review of Mac vs Windows
One thing most users may neglect is that Apple Macbook holds insanely high resale value. If you’re those who upgrade your laptop every 2-3 years, MacBook is actually a cheaper buy when you take into consideration of resale value.
The common laptop screen sizes are 13”, 14”, 15”,16” and 17”. And every increase of an inch in size makes a huge difference to a laptop. Let’s check out the comparison of Apple MacBook screen size by 9to5mac.com.
As you can see, the 16″ laptop has a significantly larger screen in comparison to the 14″ models. Also, you should also note that Apple MacBook always uses a non-standard screen size that is slightly larger than other laptop brands.
The most common laptop screen size in the market would be 15”, which is not too small nor too big. It is the ideal screen size for most people.
People who want maximum portability can opt for a screen size of 13” or below. And those who prefer a big screen and don’t mind heavy laptops can get the 17” one.
Other than that, you should also consider the thickness and weight of a laptop. The ideal laptop weight should be between 1.2kg to 1.7kg.
For people who would always need to work on a laptop at both home and office/school, then you should get a slim and light laptop.
4. Screen (Basic vs Touchscreen)
On a laptop, the screen is just as important as the CPU and GPU. Because you have no ways to replace or enhance a laptop screen.
Basically, laptop screens are divided into two categories: the normal display and the touchscreen display.
I think the touchscreen is non-essential for most people. So, there’s no need to pay extra to get a touchscreen laptop.
But if you do think it is an important feature then this would be the first criteria for you to filter out unsuitable laptop models.
Instead, important screen specifications that you need to pay attention to are as below:
- Resolution – 1080p, 1440p, or 4K screen
- Refresh rate – 60Hz or 120Hz
- Colour accuracy – 100% sRGB
- Aspect ratio – 16:9, 16:10, or 3:2
For a productivity laptop, you can settle for a 1080p and 60Hz display. And aspect ratio 3:2 is ideal for those who always work on documents.
For gamers, the best gaming laptop should come with at least a 1440p screen, 120Hz refresh rate, 100% sRGB and 16:9 aspect ratio. 3:2 aspect ratio is not great for gaming.
But, at the same time, a higher screen resolution also equals shorter battery life because high-resolution screens consume much more power.
5. CPU (Intel vs AMD vs M1)
We all know a CPU is the heart of a laptop (same as a PC). For Windows laptops, you will have to decide whether you want to be team blue, Intel or team red, AMD.
Pros and cons of Intel processor: Best performance for gaming and content creation, expensive, shorter battery life, compatible with most software and probably run hotter.
Pros and cons of AMD processor: Cheaper, cooler, longer battery life. Best for students and developers.
On the other hand, we have M1 chips that use ARM architecture instead of the x86-64 architecture.
Pros and cons of M1 chips: Best battery life, strong processing power, great integrated GPU, but comes with various software compatibility issues. Best for content creators and software developers.
6. Dedicated GPU or Integrated Graphics
Next, you will want to determine whether you need a dedicated graphics card on your laptop.
A dedicated GPU is probably a waste of money if you’re not a gamer. Plus, it drains batteries quickly. It won’t help much with daily computing tasks. So, just skip it if you’re not a gamer.
Additionally, modern CPUs usually come with integrated GPUs like the Intel Iris XE Graphics and AMD Radeon Vega Graphics which is already sufficient for most modern online games like Dota 2, LOL, and even GTA V.
For gamers, a dedicated GPU is a must. The RTX 3060 offers a sweet balance between price and performance.
RAM stands for random access memory. The more RAM the better for laptops.
I recommend getting a laptop with at least 8GB RAM. It is good enough for a student laptop.
And 16GB RAM will be more than sufficient for all kinds of usage, whether you’re editing video or gaming.
If you’re really multitasking a lot, opening dozens of Google Chrome tabs and editing multi-layer 4K video then you will need 32GB RAM. Otherwise, 32GB RAM is unnecessary for most average users.
If you’re unsure of the amount of RAM needed, then you should get a laptop with upgradeable RAM.
Today, many ultrabooks and slim laptops in the market use soldered RAM. For these types of laptops, it is best to get 16GB RAM.
8. Storage (SSD)
Having SSD storage on your laptop is a huge advantage. It greatly impacts laptop speed. You should get a laptop with at least 512GB of SSD storage because we are constantly dealing with large files today.
The photo and video sizes are larger, and one game can easily take up to 20 to 50GB.
But, there’s an exception. For a MacBook that charges a hefty premium on its SSD storage, you should probably just purchase an external SSD.
9. Battery Life
Laptop battery life is a complicated thing. Higher watt-hour (Wh) doesn’t equal more battery life.
It depends on how well the software and hardware of a laptop work together. And also depending on how you’re using the laptop.
A gaming laptop with 80 watt-hours could only last half as long as an ultrabook with 55 watt-hours.
If you want the best battery life, then you should go for a MacBook. Or at least, you should get an AMD-based laptop.
More ports and a wider variety of ports equal more convenience. There aren’t many problems with standard laptops or gaming laptops on this aspect.
If you want the slimmest and most portable laptop, then you will have to sacrifice the numbers and choice of ports.
In short, we can’t really do much on this. This should be the least important factor. You can always buy a USB hub.