Choosing a new laptop may be more difficult than you might imagine. The market is now full of proposals and disentangling the different brands is becoming more and more complicated. For some months we have been trying to clarify our buying guides and today we wanted to create a sort of manual to understand what are the aspects to take into consideration when buying a new notebook.
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- SCENARIO OF USE
- VIDEO CARD
The first questions we have to ask ourselves to choose our notebook are:
- What will i do with my laptop?
- What are the most suitable features to do what I set out to do?
This aspect is of great importance because according to our needs we should turn to one category of products rather than another. In recent years, a series of product families have been created, divided precisely by intended use. We therefore have gaming laptops, those for content creators, those powerful and suitable for working on the move and finally those a bit simpler and aimed at home use, excellent for replacing the old home desktop used just for browsing and controlling. the emails.
The differences between these types of products are not always well defined. In fact, it can happen quite often to come across PCs to play that are on paper equally suited to creators. In fact, both categories need a lot of computing power to manage large photo libraries, to do video editing or on the other hand to allow the most recent titles to run without uncertainty. Similarly, the opposite can happen, as we have seen with the MSI Prestige line: laptops dedicated to creative work but powerful enough to allow the correct functioning of different games.
So why is it important to know what you are going to do with your PC and what are the features that will allow you to perform the task in the best way? Returning to the example of notebooks for Creator and Gamer, just to name a case, if we take into consideration only the computing power the products could seem equally suitable for one and the other purpose. Going instead to analyze the solutions in more detail, we realize that there are important differences, for example in the displays. The products for content creators will feature high resolution panels, with greater accuracy in color reproduction without giving too much weight to response time and refresh rate. On the other hand, the products designed for gamers will certainly be equipped with high refresh rates and very low response times, even at the expense of resolution and color accuracy.
So you understand that asking these questions is essential in order not to risk buying a product whose potential we would not exploit or which seems to us to be suitable for our needs but in reality hides characteristics for which we find solutions on the market that offer more specifications at the same price. suitable for our type of use.
After defining the type of use we will do with the laptop, the first component to be careful of is definitely the processor. Until a few years ago the choice was almost obligatory and pointed straight towards solutions with Intel CPUs. Over the past two or three years, things have changed and AMD has returned to being a more than viable alternative, especially with its latest CPU series, the Ryzen 4000 mobile, capable of high performance and low power consumption.
The supporters of one or the other brand have sparked a great controversy about which is the best choice. However, there is no definitive answer to this question, both brands have a great know-how behind them and are able to make CPUs of the highest quality. One thing they both have in common is the way these two big companies share their mobile processors. In fact, there are two macro categories:
- U Series (Ultra Low Voltage)
- H Series (High Perfornance Graphics)
The first stands out for its low power consumption (usually 15/25 W) and is often integrated in thin and light notebooks, with a small-sized heat dissipation system. The performance is therefore discrete but not as high as the H series processors. The latter are used on laptops that are often heavier and thicker, suitable for gamers or for creating multimedia content. Consumption here increases (starting from 35 W) and to be cooled correctly they need a more complex and often noisy dissipation system.
In reality, for Intel processors there is a third series of CPUs, distinguished by the letter Y. The latter is characterized by an even lower power consumption (5/7 W maximum) and is often found in fanless notebooks, ie without fans. engaged in cooling. Obviously in this case the computing power is reduced to the bare essentials and the typical use is linked to the management of light documents and web browsing.
Within the two series U and H the processors are then divided according to a very precise and incremental scheme in terms of power and number of cores:
- Core i3
- Core i5
- Core i7
- Core i9
- Ryzen 3
- Ryzen 5
- Ryzen 7
- Ryzen 9
Here, too, the scheme with which the products are classified is common to the two brands and as the number that identifies the series increases, there is a tendency to increase performance, thus passing from a Core i3 to an i5, or from a Ryzen 5 to a 7. , there is an increase in integrated cores, that is the number of processing cores of the processor, but also in the frequency at which they operate. All this obviously remaining within the same CPU generation: at this moment we have reached the tenth generation of Intel Core processors and the fourth for AMD Ryzen.
In addition to all this, it is also necessary to take into consideration the CPU generation, as it could totally change the type of processor. For example, a Core i5 from two past generations may not necessarily be better than a latest generation Core i3, quite the opposite.
So what is the best CPU for my use? If your routine includes only browsing, YouTube videos, social networking and basic programs like Word then a basic range of the U series can easily suffice. Adding to these needs the use of programs a little more demanding such as those for converting files or for complex mathematical calculations then it is better to opt for solutions with multiple cores, such as an i5 or an i7 and the corresponding R5 and R7, always of the U series. Moving on to an even more demanding use that involves an intense use of programs for managing multimedia content or video games, simulators, 3D rendering software and the like, the advice is to make the leap towards H.
The video card should be evaluated together with the CPU as it roughly determines the power of our laptop. If you are not planning to play games or graphics, then you can skip this chapter entirely. Current GPUs, both those integrated into the processors and the dedicated but low-end ones, are able to withstand all the workloads to carry out any daily operation as well as manage an external monitor.
Moving on to solutions with discrete graphics, the choice is quite complex but substantially the more you spend, the more power you have available. Generally to play games in Full HD on a 60 Hz monitor, even a simple low-mid-range GPU is fine, say an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 -1660 or RTX 2060. If we want to have a smoother experience instead, because we have a available a monitor with a higher refresh rate or simply want to increase the resolution to 1440p, then you have to look at the medium-high range, such as an RTX 2070 or 2070 Super. And finally if you are gods enthusiast and you do not want to compromise then go straight to the highest end of the market to play in 4K or with refresh rates above 120 Hz. In this case we are talking about NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080.
Memory is one of the most underestimated elements in choosing a laptop, but it is probably among the most important, especially when we look at the budget range. As for RAM, our advice is to buy a notebook with at least 4 GB. Below this threshold we are faced with solutions that are no longer sufficient for all today's tasks, even for the less demanding user, and in a short time you will find yourself with a slow PC with continuously saturated resources.
For archiving, the choice is basically divided between two types of memory, SSD (Solid State Drive) and HDD (Hard Disk Drive). To have a PC that is always responsive and fast, the choice is one and only one: buy a laptop with SSD or a hybrid solution but which has the operating system installed on the SSD. The solutions that still offer only one HDD are few and should be avoided if possible.
In some occasions, hybrid solutions (SSD + HDD) are still useful because, although slower, mechanical disks have a lower cost per GB and are convenient for storing large files or those documents that we do not need every day and which we therefore do not have to access quickly.
Returning to SSDs, there are two types of disk on the market. These differ in the interface through which they communicate with the system which can be of type Sata 3 or PCIe. The fastest drives are those with a PCIe interface. For most users the Sata SSDs are still sufficient and allow you to save a few euros at the time of purchase. Obviously, if we turn to high-end products, we must expect to find an equally high-caliber SSD inside the notebook.
In the world of smartphones that of OLED displays is now a full-blown hegemony, but if we look at the universe of notebooks, LCD panels remain by far the most popular. There have been attempts to bring panels with OLED technology to laptops but, both for a matter of costs and for the characteristics of these displays, the use of more classic solutions is still preferred.
So how do you choose the ideal display? Let's start with the resolution. For 13 or 14-inch notebooks, 1080p is the ideal resolution, or even better, 1440p. Going further on 4K resolutions I find it senseless as with such a small diagonal too high a density brings more problems than benefits. Going up diagonally up to 15 or 17 inches certainly makes more sense to increase the resolution, but we must not forget the power consumption. It might seem like a minor problem and is often underestimated but the difference is actually considerable and the reason is quickly explained. 4K solutions consume more battery for two reasons:
- The first is easy to understand and lies in the number of pixels to be calculated by the GPU. The higher this number, the greater the effort required from the video card and consequently consumption will also rise.
- The second is a bit more complex but can be simplified in this way: panels with LCD technology are not made up of pixels that emit their own light, but are backlit. The higher the pixel concentration, the more power the backlight will need to achieve an acceptable level of screen brightness.
At the lower end of the market, laptops with 1366p TFT displays continue to be sold. Stay away from us: such products are no longer advisable and at an equally low price there are now solutions that offer Full HD panels.
Do not underestimate the finish of the screen which can be matte or glossy. If you plan to use the laptop often outdoors, or in environments where you have light sources that can cause reflections, the best choice is to consider a matte display or one that has an excellent anti-glare treatment, such as the MacBook Pro. 16 (review).
Last but not least is autonomy. Also in this case, the available budget makes the difference. Today it is in fact almost impossible to find an inexpensive notebook with a very large battery and only the latest generations of processors are able to have sufficiently low power consumption to allow many hours of use to be obtained even with modules of discrete capacity.
The question is quite complex and cannot be summed up only in: more battery = more autonomy. The equation is valid only with the same hardware and type of use. If these conditions are not met, the variables involved are many and can lead to unexpected results. For example, a notebook with an H-series CPU, dedicated video card and a large 99 Wh battery might have a shorter life than a PC with a Y-series processor and a significantly smaller battery, even below 50Wh.
These were only part of the things to look out for when looking for a new laptop. There would be many other aspects to consider such as a good quality webcam for those who make a lot of video calls, good speakers for those who watch movies or TV series and still a good selection of ports for those who can't stand additional dongles and adapters. However, these are all aspects that must be evaluated from time to time and only and only you can know which of these surrounding characteristics may be important.