Laptops have come a long way from the bulky and expensive devices they were over two decades ago. Now ultra-thin laptops, gaming rigs, and hybrid laptops have taken over the world. Computer users are no longer saddled with a large, bulky beige box parked on top of an office desk. Now, computers can be brought anywhere – airports, cafes, schools, and living rooms.
However, the gamut of choices consumers have also meant there is much confusion as to what kind of laptop one should get. While some people, like gamers or designers, require a specific type of laptop, the majority of users just need all-purpose laptops. This device is versatile, affordable, carries all the essential features, and can be used for a multitude of purposes.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about all-purpose laptops or general laptops and the best models out on the market today.
Different Types of Laptops
Not all laptops are created equal. Some are cheaper and very basic, while others boast of powerful graphics or an extended memory.
There are at least four major types of laptops, each with their particular functions and features.
All-Purpose/ General Laptops
All-purpose laptops are more about function than form. They are geared towards practicality, so features are usually pared down to the basics. These devices have full QWERTY keyboards, wireless Internet access, and varying screen sizes. They can be used for many purposes, from researching, to writing papers and doing basic presentations, running simple games, and streaming movies.
All-purpose laptops are often small and compact enough to be easily stored and carried. They are more affordable than other types of laptops, with some good models starting at about $300. Moreover, while this type of laptop has fewer features, many models are fast and powerful.
As the name implies, this type of laptop is geared towards workers and business people. They have features not typically found on consumer or all-purpose laptops. They have sleeker designs, are made of more durable materials, have additional built-in security features, and have extended warranties. These laptops also have provisions for expansion and have several connectivity options. However, the extended service details and added features mean that business laptops are more expensive than all-purpose laptops.
This type of laptop will give you two devices for the price of one. It is as portable as a tablet with the characteristics, software compatibility, and computing power of a laptop. Also, like a laptop, it has a keyboard and a large display screen. The keyboard can be folded via detachable, rotating hinges that can pivot up to 360 degrees. These hybrid laptops are very versatile and portable. They are also powerful enough to be able to complete tasks like data inputting and word processing.
When it comes to gaming, nothing can come close to a desktop computer. However, gaming laptops under 1500$ can give desktops a run for their money. These devices are capable of giving a total gaming experience, with impeccable sound and impressive, high-resolution graphics. Gaming rigs are more expensive and usually carries the fastest processors, maximum memory capacity, and the latest in video and graphics technology.
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Pros and Cons of Choosing a General Laptop
It is always a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of a product before making a purchase. There are distinct pros and cons to choosing a laptop, a tablet or a desktop computer.
- Size and Portability: One clear advantage a laptop has over a desktop is portability. A general laptop or all-purpose laptop has all the components of a desktop computer, plus the convenience of being able to take it anywhere. You can work even while you are on the move. Of course, when it comes to weight and size, a tablet is the clear winner.
- Flexibility: A general laptop or an all-purpose laptop has an advantage over tablets concerning flexibility when it comes to peripherals. Anything that can be connected to a desktop, like a printer, can also be connected to a laptop. Users also have other options when it comes to the mouse and keyboard.
- Power: Desktops and laptops have the same components when it comes to graphics, memory, and processor. However, these components lose power the smaller and more portable the device is. This is why an all-purpose laptop runs slower than a fully packed desktop computer. It also doesn’t have room for additional graphics or sound cards. However, some high-end laptops or gaming rigs can be as powerful as a desktop computer.
- Battery Life: One big disadvantage when using a laptop is the relatively short battery life. This means that users have to find a power outlet for their device every few hours or so. Still, some models boast 10 to 12 hours of battery life, like the MacBook Air. How long a laptop’s battery life depends on the design and specs of the device.
How to Pick the Best All-Purpose Laptop for You
An all-purpose laptop is a great tool for playing or doing some work at home, while traveling, or while at a cafe. However, with laptops of varying sizes, features, specs, and prices saturating the market today, choosing the best one for your needs can be challenging. Here’s how you can choose the right all-purpose laptop for you:
Choose a Platform You Want to Work on
All-purpose laptops come with any one of the three operating systems – Chrome OS, Mac OS (for MacBook), and Windows. Choosing an operating system depends on your preference, although this can be difficult for those who are not familiar with the other systems.
- Windows 10: This is the most flexible OS. It is integrated with the majority of laptop models and has a wide range of features, from dual graphics chips to fingerprint readers and touch screens. The latest version of Microsoft’s OS is the Windows 10, which is touted to be a vast improvement over Windows 7 and 8.
- Mac OS: Every MacBook comes with the Mac OS High Sierra, Apple’s newest operating system. The OS has similar functionalities to Windows 10, except for the differences on the interface. One key difference between the two is that the Mac OS is not designed for touch, and no MacBook has a touchscreen feature.
- Chrome OS: Typically found in the popular and inexpensive Chromebooks, this operating system is secured and simple, but with limited functions. It has a similar interface to Windows but the main app used is the Chrome browser. However, many of the web apps do not work well on Chromebooks that are offline.
Pick the Size That Is Comfortable for You
Before you look at the laptop’s price or specs sheets, it is better if you pick the size that’s appropriate for you. After all, the size of the laptop affects its portability. Laptops that have a display screen of 11-12 inches are usually the thinnest and lightest. Devices that are 13-14 inches have the best balance concerning use and portability.
Laptops with 15-inch display screens are the most popular and good for those who like bigger screens. However, these devices are not as convenient to carry around. Meanwhile, 17-18 inch laptops are ideal for those who tend to just stay at their desks the whole day. The processing power of a laptop this size is high enough to boost work productivity and play games with serious graphics.
Touch the Touchpad and Keyboard
You want an all-purpose laptop that has impressive specs and is ergonomically designed. To that end, touch and check the keyboard and touchpad if you will be using it. Check if the keyboard has sufficient vertical distance (how far the key goes down when pressed), that there’s enough space between keys, and that the keyboard is tactile and solid.
You also want to see if the touchpad is accurate. Make sure it responds consistently and that the cursor is not jumpy. If you plan on using your laptop for work, consider picking one with a nub between the G and H keys for ease of navigation.
Choose Your Specs
Most laptop buyers, especially non-technical ones, can become lost in discussions about the hard drive, graphics chip, RAM, and processors. There are just a few components to focus on, like the CPU, RAM, hard drive, display, and graphics, and ports.
Be Picky About Battery Life
You want to choose an all-purpose laptop with a minimum of 7-hours battery life, even if you plan on working on a desk near a power outlet. However, don’t just believe the manufacturer’s claims regarding the model’s battery life. It is better to look for reviews and read third-party comments.
Plan Around Your Budget
Numerous affordable laptops are being offered now. If you’re on a tight budget, you can purchase a solid one for less than $200. However, a higher price range can get you a laptop with a stronger build, better display screen, and optimal performance.
- $150- $250 price range: Laptops at these prices have slower processors and minimum storage capacities. They are ideal to be used by children or as backup computers.
- $350 – $600 price range: Laptops with these prices already have decent specs, like 8GB RAM, 500GB hard drive, and Intel Core i5 processors. However, don’t expect to see a long battery life or HD display.
- $600- $900 price range: You can get all-purpose laptops with more premium designs and better finishes at this price range. Laptops also have more add-ons and features like SSDs and high-res displays.
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4 Shopping Tips When Buying a Laptop
Once you have decided on the important things like specs, weight, and even your budget, the next step is buying your all-purpose laptop.
Shopping for a laptop can be an overwhelming experience, considering all the models to choose from and the fancy sales talk that salespersons will give you.
Here are some tips to consider when shopping for your all-purpose laptops.
Give it a Test Run
As a rule, never buy a laptop unseen and untested. This holds true regardless of whether you plan on purchasing a new gaming laptop under 1500$ online or from a brick-and-mortar store.
Do some research before making a purchase. Write down what all-purpose laptop models have interested you, along with notes on specs you need to check, why you like that particular mode, and even questions you want to ask. Then, head on down to a reputable electronics store and see if it carries those models.
Give the laptop a test run. Type on the keyboard. Check whether you can type easily on it. What about the touchpad and the display screen? Weigh the laptop in your hands. Is it too heavy or too light? Check the casing. Does it feel like plastic or very thin metal? Do a thorough evaluation before buying.
Keep RAM in Mind
Some all-purpose laptops have expandable RAM. It might be cheaper to buy the model with the lower specs and just upgrade the device’s RAM by yourself. Installing the RAM on your own is relatively easy in today’s laptop models. The job usually entails removing a few screws on your laptop. Of course, you have to make sure of a few things first. Check that the laptop has an extra RAM socket. You should also make sure you know what type of RAM and speed you require.
However, if you feel that DIY RAM installation is a bit too much for you, just get the model featuring a higher RAM than what you previously have. It’s worth spending a bit more to avoid the stress and hassle of upgrading your laptop’s RAM.
Faster is Better
If you’re still unsure about whether you should go with the faster laptop or the one with better graphics, opt for speed. It’s a safe bet that you will likely complain about a sluggish laptop than one that’s so fast. Plus, upcoming software and apps are expected to demand more resources than what you currently use.
Think About Extended Warranty
There’s some debate regarding extended warranties. A lot of consumer advocacy groups would warn you against getting one, while sales personnel will push you to sign up for one.
Bear in mind that unlike desktop computers, laptops are portable. Which means there is a greater risk that they will be tossed around in bags, dropped from tables, played with by children, or have coffee spilled on them.
Think about how and where you’ll be using your all-purpose laptops. Will you be traveling with them? Are you going to be off to college soon? If you think that there’s a chance that something bad will happen to your laptop in the next few years, then consider signing up for an extended warranty. It’s also a good idea for college students to have some theft protection policy on their laptops.
However, always read the fine print before signing anything. Ask a lot of questions and make sure all the details regarding coverage is in writing.
Laptop Accessories: What You Should Get
The right accessories can help your laptop’s performance. However, it’s so easy to be overwhelmed by the deluge of accessories available. The question you should consider now is which accessory to invest in.
- Spare Battery: Not all laptop models have removable batteries. But if the model you chose has one, an extra battery is always a good investment, especially if you work in areas where electrical outlets are not readily available. When choosing an extra battery, pick one that’s made to work with your laptop.
Try buying the extra battery along with your device. This accessory is sometimes bundled along with the laptop when you buy it online. If you’re eyeing a battery from a different manufacturer, check user reviews first.
- Wireless Mouse: This is a necessity, especially if you travel a lot. No matter how well-designed they are, touchpads are challenging to use in certain situations. But remember that you can’t use your wireless mouse in-flight.
- Optical Drive: External optical drives are also a good investment. What’s more, you don’t need to purchase one from your laptop’s manufacturer. External drives connected by USB are typically universal, so you can shop around and look for one that’s perfect for your budget.
There’s no need to get a laptop bag or case immediately. Take your time in choosing. After all, a secure backpack is good enough for some models. However, accessories like screen wipes and extra cables are best purchased online where they’re cheaper.
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The differences between laptops, netbooks, and tablets are slowly becoming blurred, as many models now boast of high-res display screens, crisp graphics, and powerful hardware. In most cases, the size of the screen and keyboard are the only features that differentiate different models.
There are several types of laptops. However, if you are just looking for a computer that can handle simple office functions, like reports and documents, can browse different websites, communicate via the web, or stream music and videos, then all-purpose laptops might suit you.
When choosing the best all-purpose laptop for you, decide what kind of OS you want, the size, specs and even how the keyboard and touchpad feel.