Around 77 percent of American households that have computers have a laptop or a desktop. This is a huge share of the American populace, yet even with all this shared experience, shopping for a laptop is still a chore.
How can you decide which laptop is best when they all look good? That’s a problem that people choosing between HP vs Lenovo vs Dell often encounter.
We’re here to help you choose the very best laptop for you. As there is a huge range of laptops available across all three manufacturers, we’re not going to pick a model for you, as everyone’s needs are unique.
However, we are going to take a look at what you should consider when buying a laptop, from screen size to memory capacity and more.
Ready to learn more and make choosing your next laptop easier? Then read on!
What Is Your Ideal Screen Size?
One of the most important considerations when considering which laptop to buy isn’t really about internal components but screen size. Different screen sizes and resolutions give you varying levels of screen real estate to play with.
Does this matter much if you’re only going to be using your laptop to check emails and surf the web? Not so much but it can still be handy.
Where it really comes into play is with gaming and other multimedia. Lenovo, HP, and Dell all offer both 15.6″ and 13.3″ laptop screens. If you’re going to be using your laptop for many different kinds of media or intensive gaming sessions, a larger screen is optimal.
Yet size isn’t all-important: resolution matters too. A lower resolution on a larger screen means that there are fewer pixels per square inch, which results in a blurrier picture.
We’d recommend that you choose a laptop with a minimum resolution of 1920×1080 for multimedia and 1366×768 for general use. There’s a reason these are the most common resolutions worldwide.
CPU: At the Core of the Matter
Out of all the electronic components on your laptop, the CPU is the most important. This is the archetypal chip, the component that runs the complicated mathematical problems that are required to make your laptop run.
It’s easy to think that the faster a CPU is, the better, yet that’s not always the case.
Modern CPUs have separate cores, which means that they can run multiple calculations simultaneously, provided that the program allows this (most modern ones do). So, for instance, a quad-core CPU can run four simultaneous threads of calculations without suffering a drop in speed. A dual-core CPU can run two and so on.
This means that in most modern scenarios, a 2 GHz quad-core CPU will be faster than a 3.5 GHz single-core processor, or a 3 GHz dual-core processor.
A quad-core CPU is good enough for pretty much any application that you could care to run, even modern games, and all three laptop manufacturers in question offer them. If you’re only going to use it for clerical work and surfing the web, a dual-core will be fine.
We’d recommend that you consider a speed of at least 2 GHz for light duties like word processing and at least 3 GHz for gaming or photo editing.
RAM: Random Access Memory
When you’re working, your PC doesn’t want to have to dip into the hard drive every time it has to access a program that you’re using. Instead, it loads it into RAM or random accessmemory.
In this context, random access means that your computer can access it right away, without having to locate it on the disc. This is a crucial part of how RAM works and what makes it special.
So, the more the better, right? Well, that’s mostly correct.
While 8 GB of RAM will usually perform better and make your PC run faster than 4 GB, size isn’t everything. RAM also has a set speed, which determines how long it takes for your PC to access things that are on the RAM.
A speed of 3000 MHz is recommended for gaming, while lower speeds are fine for lighter work.
All three manufacturers, HP, Dell, and Lenovo all offer high-speed RAM in their laptops. If you’re going to be doing lots of gaming or other intensive operations on your laptop, look for at least 8 GB of high-speed RAM, and consider upgrading to 16 GB.
Hard Drive: Type and Space
The hard drive is where you’ll store all your files. If you pick a hard drive that’s too small, you won’t have as much space and will need to delete files to make room for new ones.
This is a big frustration, so we’d recommend that you pick a large enough hard drive for everything you need. Around 300 GB should be enough for most people but if you feel that you’ll need more space, consider upgrading to 500 GB or 1 TB.
Yet as with other components that we’ve covered, it’s not as simple as just picking a large disk.
Traditional hard drives are made up of a large magnetic platter and a fine needle that reads data on the platter. It’s like a vinyl record: this is why they make a lot of noise, the drive needs to keep spinning so that the needle can read the necessary data.
There’s a newer type of drive, too: solid-state drives. These don’t have any moving parts and are like large SD cards, which means that finding and reading data is much, much faster. In fact, if you want to make one change to your PC that will make it faster, an SSD is a great option.
The problem is they are quite a lot more expensive. If you’re more interested in a budget laptop, you’ll likely only be able to get a traditional hard drive. If you do have a bit more cash to splash however, we’d recommend looking for a laptop with an SSD.
Do You Need a Graphics Card?
Across all three of these companies, you’ll see some laptops that have integrated graphics while others have discreet graphics. What does this mean?
Well, integrated graphics put the CPU in charge of rendering the graphics, too. This is surprisingly okay on newer CPUs, but on older ones, the performance tends to suffer a lot.
Discreet graphics use a dedicated video card, which means that there’s an entire component with the job of rendering graphics. This means that you’ll have much better graphical performance at the expense of worse battery life.
If you want to do 3D rendering or gaming, you’ll need to get a laptop with discreet graphics. If you will only do light gaming or want to play classic titles, consider integrated graphics like the Intel HD graphics series. For non-gamers and those who won’t be working on rendering, integrated graphics will likely suffice for your needs.
There’s an older phrase that you might still sometimes see on laptop listings: desktop replacement. This means that the laptop is heavy and doesn’t have amazing battery life. In exchange, you get the best performance that a laptop can produce.
On the other extreme, you have ultrabooks, which are very lightweight laptops with long battery lives, but without too much processing power. Most laptops sit somewhere in between both of these.
Battery life is an important consideration for many users. If you want to carry your laptop to a coffee shop or to college, a lightweight laptop makes far more sense. If, however, your laptop is going to live at home, why sacrifice power for a feature that you’ll never use?
Aesthetics and Appearance
If you think that your laptop needs to be a grey, professional-looking monolith, you’re dead wrong. There are laptops available in every color and in a huge variety of styles.
Despite it being a tool, first and foremost, your laptop’s looks are a very important thing to consider when buying a new one. You’re going to be looking at this computer for a few years, most likely, so why choose something that you don’t love?
HP vs Lenovo vs Dell: A Matter of Opinion
There is no one laptop that is better than all the others, which means that choosing between HP vs Lenovo vs Dell ultimately comes down to the specific laptops that are on offer from each company.
Use our guide and think about what features you need in a laptop. Then take a look at the manufacturer’s catalogs and pick a laptop that meets those requirements!
For more informative content, check out the rest of our site.