Author Topic: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season  (Read 2320 times)

Offline dailykasha

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Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« on: December 08, 2021, 11:44:58 PM »
I wrote up a laptop buying guide for some friends. Figured I would share it here in case it would be useful to anyone:

A lot of you have been asking me about what you should be looking for in a laptop this holiday sale season. I will try to do my best to answer that in as general terms as possible, but please understand that while I know a lot more about this than I should, obviously several of you know a great deal more about this than I do (If any of you guys want to chime in, feel free). For the purpose of this I am going to be assuming that you aren't a linux user, heavy gamer, crypto miner, professional graphic designer, or video editor. Also, I am only going to be covering laptops, not desktops.

Screen Size: This one is going to depend how you use your laptop. For people who use their laptop as their primary computer I generally recommend 15.6 inch. If you have a desktop and just want a laptop for travel or the like, I generally recommend a 13.3 inch screen. While 13.3 inch laptops don't sound that much smaller than 15.6, the 15.6 actually has a 37% lager area or so and that can make a big difference if you work with a lot of information on the screen. On the other hand, they are often significantly heavier than their 13.3 inch counterparts, however, that you often get better power and cooling in exchange. In terms of what aspect ratio to get, basically you take whatever you get a good deal on, just be aware that while two laptops can have the same diagonal length, some may be slightly taller and some may be slightly wider. If you specifically want one or the other, you might want to pay attention to that (first number is width, second is height).

Screen: There's a lot more to a laptop screen than just the size. Unfortunately, not all of the information about it is always reflected on the product page. If you are going to be using it in places with bright lights behind you it can be very hard to see the screen unless your screen is bright and not too reflective. Ideally, you want the screen to be at least somewhat matte and have at least a brightness of 250 nits (You will need higher if your screen is very reflective though). Brighter than that is nice if possible and will make the colors appear more vibrant, however, it can use battery faster (obviously a laptop with a peak brightness of 500 nits doesn't need to be used at 500 nits, just be aware). You ideally want something like an IPS or OLED screen. However, you will probably not find anything on color accuracy without reading reviews but on very low-end laptops the color accuracy can sometimes be terrible and make all the colors look washed.

Do you need a touchscreen or a 2 in 1? I can't answer that question for you. That depends how you plan on using your laptop. A touchscreen is generally nice but not necessary. You can do almost everything productivity related from your trackpad assuming you spend about 5 minutes learning how to use Windows trackpad gestures. If you draw or write on your laptop screen you may actually need a touchscreen.
2 in 1s allow the laptop screen to fold backwards into a tablet. Be aware that this tablet it way bigger and heavier than any tablet you're used to using and can be awkward to actually use as a tablet. If you have use for a giant Windows tablet, by all means get it, but I suspect that the vast majority of you have no use for it (although one feature I miss from my 2 in 1 days was the ability to turn the screen 90 degrees and see a whole page of Gemara/Shulchan Aruch at once without minimizing the page to the point where much of the page was unreadable).

Resolution: Ideally you should be looking for FHD (1,920X1,080 or 1080p) as a baseline. On a 13.3 inch screen you can maybe get away with HD (720p or 1280×720) but don't bother on a 15.6. If you get higher than FHD your screen will look much crisper but if you go too high, it will drain battery more than it's worth. You probably shouldn't bother going above 1440p. Don't bother spending money on a 4k laptop screen.

Build quality: You won't be able to find much information about build quality on the product page other than what the chassis is made out of. However, it can affect your experience a lot. Some laptops have absolutely terrible build quality, they feel like a piece of junk in your hands, the keyboards are just a mush, the screen rocks ever so slightly when you type making typing a nauseating experience, the trackpad is really annoying to use, the chassis feels uncomfortable, etc. These issues are generally non-existent on more premium laptops, but you run into these issues often on cheaper laptops. It's helpful to read/watch reviews if you can find any.

Keyboard layout: Look at a picture of the layout and make sure you're comfortable with it. Some don't have a numeric keypad which can be annoying if your job requires a lot of data entry (I personally literally never use mine). If you need to see the letters in order to type, make sure the letters are clearly visible. Some laptops also have a Eurpean layout with a thinner but taller Enter sign. It's rare but it is something to pay attention to. If you need to use the computer at night with the lights off, some prefer a backlit keyboard. I never really saw the point as the screen provides enough light to the keyboard generally anyways, but some people feel very strongly about the need for backlit keyboards. Once you know how your keyboard is set-up you may want to consider picking up Hebrew keyboard stickers on eBay for about $2.50 (you generally want transparent stickers with letters in a color that will be clearly visible and won't cover the English letters on your keyboard.) They take about some time to get to you so it's worth buying it immediately after buying your laptop if you need them.

Ports: Make sure the laptop has whatever ports you need. Randomly some laptops may not contain HDMI or something like that, so be sure that it has what you need. If you find one for a great price that doesn't have a port you need, be aware that dongles are cheap and welcome to the dongle life. (Oh, and don't expect to find a DVD Drive. They're pretty much never included nowadays. You can always buy an external one to play your Uncle Moishy DVDs for like $15.)

Processor: For Intel: Most people should probably stay away from Celeron and Pentium chips. i3 chips are not bad for people on a budget. You will get better performance out of a i5. You probably don't need an i7. If you do get one, you may never even notice the difference (and you definitely won't need an i9). Pay attention to the generations. 12th generation is the newest, but it just came out a few weeks ago and it will probably be hard to find. 11th generation is also excellent. You can go further back without sacrificing too much, other than things like battery life, but most black Friday sales are on recent models anyway. It's rarely worth going further back as you don't generally save enough money for it to be worth it unless you're buying used. That being said, some stores like Tiger Direct try to pull the wool over your eyes with things like a sale on a laptop with 4th generation Intel processor, so be careful. Standard chips have a G at the end. High powered ones have an H at the end. Low powered ones for extremely light laptops have a U at the end. If yours says Evo, that means it has been certified by Intel to be thin, great battery life, and efficient. It's not necessary to get an Evo, but it's nice.

AMD: The current generation is Ryzen 5000. The 3 generally competes with the Intel i3, the 5 generally competes with the Intel i5. The 7 generally competes with the Intel i7, so the same rules generally apply. All three are excellent, generally shoot for the 5. You can go back to the 4000 series without sacrificing much, but it's generally not worth going further back than that. Three AMD Ryzen 5000 mobile processors still come with Zen 2 architecture: the Ryzen 7 5700U, Ryzen 5 5500U, and Ryzen 3 5300U. The Ryzen 7 5800, Ryzen 5 5600, and Ryzen 3 5400 all are Zen 3 architecture. Zen 3 architecture is better than Zen 2, but both are excellent. You can get either AMD or Intel. Both will serve you very well.

Apple m1: For the first time, there is now a serious competitor to Intel and AMD, the new m1 macbook chip. It's phenomenal. Obviously, macbooks are expensive, but they're excellent. If you are getting a macbook, you should definitely be getting an m1 macbook. Unfortunately, the m1 MacBook air only comes in 13 inch screen, which is small (see screen sizes for more on that). You can get a larger screen with the MacBook Pros, but then you are spending way more money. You're getting an amazing device, but it's very, very expensive.

RAM: 8 GB is plenty for most people unless you're a very heavy multi-tasker. Still, if you can get 12 or 16 for cheap, it's sometimes worth spending a bit extra for it. I generally stay away from laptops with only 4 GB (unless the RAM is upgradeable and you aren't scared of upgrading it yourself).

Storage: Make sure the laptop you are buying comes with an SSD, not an HDD. This is probably my single biggest rule. Decide how much storage you need and be aware that for an SSD to run properly you need some breathing space. I've heard that you should leave 1/4 of it empty, and while that number seems high to be, you definitely don't want to fill it all the way up. It often helps to see how much space you've used on your previous laptop to get an idea how much space you will need on your next. For most people 256 GB is plenty, but 512 GB is certainly nice.
(PSA: if your laptop is like 3-6 years old and slow, there's a good chance that you don't need a new laptop. You just need to upgrade the Hard Drive from an HDD to an SSD for like $45 [and maybe add some RAM if you only have like 4 GB].)

Graphics Card: You don't need a graphics card unless you do professional graphics work, crypto mining, heavy gaming or the like. A discussion of graphics cards is not relevant to the vast majority of you so I will skip it other than mentioning that if the laptop you are looking at comes with a low-end graphics card you may not even see better performance than the integrated GPU that comes with modern processors with integrated graphics (every one that will be coming in a laptop you are looking at).

WiFi Card: If you are given the option, definitely spend the extra $10 or so to get a 2X2 WiFi card instead of a 1X1. Preferably look for AX200 or higher. I'm not interested in going through all the differences here. It's a lot to explain for something that people will probably generally just go with whatever comes with the laptop (and they're generally easy and cheap to upgrade yourself if necessary).

Chromebooks: So you found a Chromebook for like $100 and are wondering if you should just get that instead of spending five times the price on a laptop. Cheap Chromebooks are basically nice tablets with keyboards attached. If that suits you, you'll do well with it. They're fast and light, but don't expect to be able to do serious multi-tasking or heavy work on them. If you just want to browse the web and write some word documents and excel spreadsheets on them, you'll probably be fine unless you're doing something very complicated. Also, it's often only worth getting if you have a laptop available as well, even a slow one, as there are some things that you just won't be able to do on a Chromebook and you will need a laptop.

Price: (Windows) Prices are higher because of inflation and the chip shortage, however, I was actually pleasantly surprised to see that there are plenty of great deals despite that already now, and I have a lot of hope for Black Friday. Obviously, the amount you spend should depend on your financials and what you use your laptop for. However, be aware that a $200 laptop is a different ballpark than a $400 laptop, which is very different than a $600 laptop. If you are on your laptop for hours a week, it's not worth getting a $200 laptop. It will cause you more pain than it's worth.

Bonus Deals: Many Amex business cards also come with 10% off at Dell and the AMEX business Platinum also comes with $200 off at Dell, which can lead to amazing deals.
You're also likely to have other credit card deals this holiday season, so look out for them.

What I would look for before pulling the trigger: This will obviously depend on what your budget is, here are some examples: For approximately $300 I would hope for the screen size I want, an 11th Gen core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 5300U processor, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB SSD. As far as everything else goes, you generally get what you get and you don't get upset.
For approximately $500 range I would hope for the screen size I want, an 11th Gen core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor, 8 GB of RAM, 512 GB SSD, and decent build quality.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2021, 01:04:05 AM by jj1000 »

Offline Euclid

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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2021, 12:27:02 AM »
Excellent!

Offline Jojo202

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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2021, 08:29:13 AM »
Well written and thorough. Great job!

Offline YitzyS

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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2021, 09:15:48 PM »
Wow, really great guide! I added a link to it at the end of the wiki on the Laptop Deals Master Thread.

Offline dailykasha

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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2021, 11:46:31 PM »
Thank you so much! Quite an honor!

Wow, really great guide! I added a link to it at the end of the wiki on the Laptop Deals Master Thread.

Offline JM

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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2021, 08:23:30 AM »
@dailykasha Great job! I would probably note that a Mac might not be the right choice for most peoples needs. The Apple Eco System is great, and they are great devices but for the type of the people they're meant for. creative work/ios dev/maybe if you have no work/business related needs for your computer or as an extra device. If doing anything spreadsheet or business/work related - windows is a much more efficient environment for that. Excel (and Microsoft office in general) is vastly different on mac and prevents about 95% of efficiency related tools and keyboard shortcuts

Offline AsherO

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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2021, 10:37:09 AM »
@dailykasha Great job! I would probably note that a Mac might not be the right choice for most peoples needs. The Apple Eco System is great, and they are great devices but for the type of the people they're meant for. creative work/ios dev/maybe if you have no work/business related needs for your computer or as an extra device. If doing anything spreadsheet or business/work related - windows is a much more efficient environment for that. Excel (and Microsoft office in general) is vastly different on mac and prevents about 95% of efficiency related tools and keyboard shortcuts

When you’re buying a Mac you’re buying into an ecosystem/experience and paying a premium for it. Some people have a preference for macOS for all sorts of reasons (or are just ignorant fanbois), anyone else who’s on a budget should likely just buy a Windows machine (or a chromebook if that’s all they could afford and will suit their needs) .

Offline JM

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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2021, 10:53:32 AM »
When you’re buying a Mac you’re buying into an ecosystem/experience and paying a premium for it. Some people have a preference for macOS for all sorts of reasons (or are just ignorant fanbois), anyone else who’s on a budget should likely just buy a Windows machine (or a chromebook if that’s all they could afford and will suit their needs) .

Agreed - I assume that this guide is going to be utilized by those that are less familiar with the different options and so noting that by a mac may help people make an informed decision as opposed to spending the extra $$ because they heard "macs are great"

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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2021, 11:18:21 AM »
Great write up thanks!


Offline nirc

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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2021, 06:38:15 PM »
thoughts on Dell business vs consumer laptops?

Offline WonderingYid

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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2021, 07:08:32 PM »
I wrote up a laptop buying guide for some friends. Figured I would share it here in case it would be useful to anyone:

A lot of you have been asking me about what you should be looking for in a laptop this holiday sale season. I will try to do my best to answer that in as general terms as possible, but please understand that while I know a lot more about this than I should, obviously several of you know a great deal more about this than I do (If any of you guys want to chime in, feel free). For the purpose of this I am going to be assuming that you aren't a linux user, heavy gamer, crypto miner, professional graphic designer, or video editor. Also, I am only going to be covering laptops, not desktops.

Screen Size: This one is going to depend how you use your laptop. For people who use their laptop as their primary computer I generally recommend 15.6 inch. If you have a desktop and just want a laptop for travel or the like, I generally recommend a 13.3 inch screen. While 13.3 inch laptops don't sound that much smaller than 15.6, the 15.6 actually has a 37% lager area or so and that can make a big difference if you work with a lot of information on the screen. On the other hand, they are often significantly heavier than their 13.3 inch counterparts, however, that you often get better power and cooling in exchange. In terms of what aspect ratio to get, basically you take whatever you get a good deal on, just be aware that while two laptops can have the same diagonal length, some may be slightly taller and some may be slightly wider. If you specifically want one or the other, you might want to pay attention to that (first number is width, second is height).

Screen: There's a lot more to a laptop screen than just the size. Unfortunately, not all of the information about it is always reflected on the product page. If you are going to be using it in places with bright lights behind you it can be very hard to see the screen unless your screen is bright and not too reflective. Ideally, you want the screen to be at least somewhat matte and have at least a brightness of 250 nits (You will need higher if your screen is very reflective though). Brighter than that is nice if possible and will make the colors appear more vibrant, however, it can use battery faster (obviously a laptop with a peak brightness of 500 nits doesn't need to be used at 500 nits, just be aware). You ideally want something like an IPS or OLED screen. However, you will probably not find anything on color accuracy without reading reviews but on very low-end laptops the color accuracy can sometimes be terrible and make all the colors look washed.

Do you need a touchscreen or a 2 in 1? I can't answer that question for you. That depends how you plan on using your laptop. A touchscreen is generally nice but not necessary. You can do almost everything productivity related from your trackpad assuming you spend about 5 minutes learning how to use Windows trackpad gestures. If you draw or write on your laptop screen you may actually need a touchscreen.
2 in 1s allow the laptop screen to fold backwards into a tablet. Be aware that this tablet it way bigger and heavier than any tablet you're used to using and can be awkward to actually use as a tablet. If you have use for a giant Windows tablet, by all means get it, but I suspect that the vast majority of you have no use for it (although one feature I miss from my 2 in 1 days was the ability to turn the screen 90 degrees and see a whole page of Gemara/Shulchan Aruch at once without minimizing the page to the point where much of the page was unreadable).

Resolution: Ideally you should be looking for FHD (1,920X1,080 or 1080p) as a baseline. On a 13.3 inch screen you can maybe get away with HD (720p or 1280×720) but don't bother on a 15.6. If you get higher than FHD your screen will look much crisper but if you go too high, it will drain battery more than it's worth. You probably shouldn't bother going above 1440p. Don't bother spending money on a 4k laptop screen.

Build quality: You won't be able to find much information about build quality on the product page other than what the chassis is made out of. However, it can affect your experience a lot. Some laptops have absolutely terrible build quality, they feel like a piece of junk in your hands, the keyboards are just a mush, the screen rocks ever so slightly when you type making typing a nauseating experience, the trackpad is really annoying to use, the chassis feels uncomfortable, etc. These issues are generally non-existent on more premium laptops, but you run into these issues often on cheaper laptops. It's helpful to read/watch reviews if you can find any.

Keyboard layout: Look at a picture of the layout and make sure you're comfortable with it. Some don't have a numeric keypad which can be annoying if your job requires a lot of data entry (I personally literally never use mine). If you need to see the letters in order to type, make sure the letters are clearly visible. Some laptops also have a Eurpean layout with a thinner but taller Enter sign. It's rare but it is something to pay attention to. If you need to use the computer at night with the lights off, some prefer a backlit keyboard. I never really saw the point as the screen provides enough light to the keyboard generally anyways, but some people feel very strongly about the need for backlit keyboards. Once you know how your keyboard is set-up you may want to consider picking up Hebrew keyboard stickers on eBay for about $2.50 (you generally want transparent stickers with letters in a color that will be clearly visible and won't cover the English letters on your keyboard.) They take about some time to get to you so it's worth buying it immediately after buying your laptop if you need them.

Ports: Make sure the laptop has whatever ports you need. Randomly some laptops may not contain HDMI or something like that, so be sure that it has what you need. If you find one for a great price that doesn't have a port you need, be aware that dongles are cheap and welcome to the dongle life. (Oh, and don't expect to find a DVD Drive. They're pretty much never included nowadays. You can always buy an external one to play your Uncle Moishy DVDs for like $15.)

Processor: For Intel: Most people should probably stay away from Celeron and Pentium chips. i3 chips are not bad for people on a budget. You will get better performance out of a i5. You probably don't need an i7. If you do get one, you may never even notice the difference (and you definitely won't need an i9). Pay attention to the generations. 12th generation is the newest, but it just came out a few weeks ago and it will probably be hard to find. 11th generation is also excellent. You can go further back without sacrificing too much, other than things like battery life, but most black Friday sales are on recent models anyway. It's rarely worth going further back as you don't generally save enough money for it to be worth it unless you're buying used. That being said, some stores like Tiger Direct try to pull the wool over your eyes with things like a sale on a laptop with 4th generation Intel processor, so be careful. Standard chips have a G at the end. High powered ones have an H at the end. Low powered ones for extremely light laptops have a U at the end. If yours says Evo, that means it has been certified by Intel to be thin, great battery life, and efficient. It's not necessary to get an Evo, but it's nice.

AMD: The current generation is Ryzen 5000. The 3 generally competes with the Intel i3, the 5 generally competes with the Intel i5. The 7 generally competes with the Intel i7, so the same rules generally apply. All three are excellent, generally shoot for the 5. You can go back to the 4000 series without sacrificing much, but it's generally not worth going further back than that. Three AMD Ryzen 5000 mobile processors still come with Zen 2 architecture: the Ryzen 7 5700U, Ryzen 5 5500U, and Ryzen 3 5300U. The Ryzen 7 5800, Ryzen 5 5600, and Ryzen 3 5400 all are Zen 3 architecture. Zen 3 architecture is better than Zen 2, but both are excellent. You can get either AMD or Intel. Both will serve you very well.

Apple m1: For the first time, there is now a serious competitor to Intel and AMD, the new m1 macbook chip. It's phenomenal. Obviously, macbooks are expensive, but they're excellent. If you are getting a macbook, you should definitely be getting an m1 macbook. Unfortunately, the m1 MacBook air only comes in 13 inch screen, which is small (see screen sizes for more on that). You can get a larger screen with the MacBook Pros, but then you are spending way more money. You're getting an amazing device, but it's very, very expensive.

RAM: 8 GB is plenty for most people unless you're a very heavy multi-tasker. Still, if you can get 12 or 16 for cheap, it's sometimes worth spending a bit extra for it. I generally stay away from laptops with only 4 GB (unless the RAM is upgradeable and you aren't scared of upgrading it yourself).

Storage: Make sure the laptop you are buying comes with an SSD, not an HDD. This is probably my single biggest rule. Decide how much storage you need and be aware that for an SSD to run properly you need some breathing space. I've heard that you should leave 1/4 of it empty, and while that number seems high to be, you definitely don't want to fill it all the way up. It often helps to see how much space you've used on your previous laptop to get an idea how much space you will need on your next. For most people 256 GB is plenty, but 512 GB is certainly nice.
(PSA: if your laptop is like 3-6 years old and slow, there's a good chance that you don't need a new laptop. You just need to upgrade the Hard Drive from an HDD to an SSD for like $45 [and maybe add some RAM if you only have like 4 GB].)

Graphics Card: You don't need a graphics card unless you do professional graphics work, crypto mining, heavy gaming or the like. A discussion of graphics cards is not relevant to the vast majority of you so I will skip it other than mentioning that if the laptop you are looking at comes with a low-end graphics card you may not even see better performance than the integrated GPU that comes with modern processors with integrated graphics (every one that will be coming in a laptop you are looking at).

WiFi Card: If you are given the option, definitely spend the extra $10 or so to get a 2X2 WiFi card instead of a 1X1. Preferably look for AX200 or higher. I'm not interested in going through all the differences here. It's a lot to explain for something that people will probably generally just go with whatever comes with the laptop (and they're generally easy and cheap to upgrade yourself if necessary).

Chromebooks: So you found a Chromebook for like $100 and are wondering if you should just get that instead of spending five times the price on a laptop. Cheap Chromebooks are basically nice tablets with keyboards attached. If that suits you, you'll do well with it. They're fast and light, but don't expect to be able to do serious multi-tasking or heavy work on them. If you just want to browse the web and write some word documents and excel spreadsheets on them, you'll probably be fine unless you're doing something very complicated. Also, it's often only worth getting if you have a laptop available as well, even a slow one, as there are some things that you just won't be able to do on a Chromebook and you will need a laptop.

Price: (Windows) Prices are higher because of inflation and the chip shortage, however, I was actually pleasantly surprised to see that there are plenty of great deals despite that already now, and I have a lot of hope for Black Friday. Obviously, the amount you spend should depend on your financials and what you use your laptop for. However, be aware that a $200 laptop is a different ballpark than a $400 laptop, which is very different than a $600 laptop. If you are on your laptop for hours a week, it's not worth getting a $200 laptop. It will cause you more pain than it's worth.

Bonus Deals: Many Amex business cards also come with 10% off at Dell and the AMEX business Platinum also comes with $200 off at Dell, which can lead to amazing deals.
You're also likely to have other credit card deals this holiday season, so look out for them.

What I would look for before pulling the trigger: This will obviously depend on what your budget is, here are some examples: For approximately $300 I would hope for the screen size I want, an 11th Gen core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 5300U processor, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB SSD. As far as everything else goes, you generally get what you get and you don't get upset.
For approximately $500 range I would hope for the screen size I want, an 11th Gen core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor, 8 GB of RAM, 512 GB SSD, and decent build quality.
I'm getting really dizzy...

Offline yelped

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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2021, 11:09:13 PM »
I'm getting really dizzy...
Stop taking ivermectin and HCQ for breakfast then.

Offline yeshivabucher

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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2022, 12:46:24 AM »
I wrote up a laptop buying guide for some friends. Figured I would share it here in case it would be useful to anyone:

A lot of you have been asking me about what you should be looking for in a laptop this holiday sale season. I will try to do my best to answer that in as general terms as possible, but please understand that while I know a lot more about this than I should, obviously several of you know a great deal more about this than I do (If any of you guys want to chime in, feel free). For the purpose of this I am going to be assuming that you aren't a linux user, heavy gamer, crypto miner, professional graphic designer, or video editor. Also, I am only going to be covering laptops, not desktops.

Screen Size: This one is going to depend how you use your laptop. For people who use their laptop as their primary computer I generally recommend 15.6 inch. If you have a desktop and just want a laptop for travel or the like, I generally recommend a 13.3 inch screen. While 13.3 inch laptops don't sound that much smaller than 15.6, the 15.6 actually has a 37% lager area or so and that can make a big difference if you work with a lot of information on the screen. On the other hand, they are often significantly heavier than their 13.3 inch counterparts, however, that you often get better power and cooling in exchange. In terms of what aspect ratio to get, basically you take whatever you get a good deal on, just be aware that while two laptops can have the same diagonal length, some may be slightly taller and some may be slightly wider. If you specifically want one or the other, you might want to pay attention to that (first number is width, second is height).

Screen: There's a lot more to a laptop screen than just the size. Unfortunately, not all of the information about it is always reflected on the product page. If you are going to be using it in places with bright lights behind you it can be very hard to see the screen unless your screen is bright and not too reflective. Ideally, you want the screen to be at least somewhat matte and have at least a brightness of 250 nits (You will need higher if your screen is very reflective though). Brighter than that is nice if possible and will make the colors appear more vibrant, however, it can use battery faster (obviously a laptop with a peak brightness of 500 nits doesn't need to be used at 500 nits, just be aware). You ideally want something like an IPS or OLED screen. However, you will probably not find anything on color accuracy without reading reviews but on very low-end laptops the color accuracy can sometimes be terrible and make all the colors look washed.

Do you need a touchscreen or a 2 in 1? I can't answer that question for you. That depends how you plan on using your laptop. A touchscreen is generally nice but not necessary. You can do almost everything productivity related from your trackpad assuming you spend about 5 minutes learning how to use Windows trackpad gestures. If you draw or write on your laptop screen you may actually need a touchscreen.
2 in 1s allow the laptop screen to fold backwards into a tablet. Be aware that this tablet it way bigger and heavier than any tablet you're used to using and can be awkward to actually use as a tablet. If you have use for a giant Windows tablet, by all means get it, but I suspect that the vast majority of you have no use for it (although one feature I miss from my 2 in 1 days was the ability to turn the screen 90 degrees and see a whole page of Gemara/Shulchan Aruch at once without minimizing the page to the point where much of the page was unreadable).

Resolution: Ideally you should be looking for FHD (1,920X1,080 or 1080p) as a baseline. On a 13.3 inch screen you can maybe get away with HD (720p or 1280×720) but don't bother on a 15.6. If you get higher than FHD your screen will look much crisper but if you go too high, it will drain battery more than it's worth. You probably shouldn't bother going above 1440p. Don't bother spending money on a 4k laptop screen.

Build quality: You won't be able to find much information about build quality on the product page other than what the chassis is made out of. However, it can affect your experience a lot. Some laptops have absolutely terrible build quality, they feel like a piece of junk in your hands, the keyboards are just a mush, the screen rocks ever so slightly when you type making typing a nauseating experience, the trackpad is really annoying to use, the chassis feels uncomfortable, etc. These issues are generally non-existent on more premium laptops, but you run into these issues often on cheaper laptops. It's helpful to read/watch reviews if you can find any.

Keyboard layout: Look at a picture of the layout and make sure you're comfortable with it. Some don't have a numeric keypad which can be annoying if your job requires a lot of data entry (I personally literally never use mine). If you need to see the letters in order to type, make sure the letters are clearly visible. Some laptops also have a Eurpean layout with a thinner but taller Enter sign. It's rare but it is something to pay attention to. If you need to use the computer at night with the lights off, some prefer a backlit keyboard. I never really saw the point as the screen provides enough light to the keyboard generally anyways, but some people feel very strongly about the need for backlit keyboards. Once you know how your keyboard is set-up you may want to consider picking up Hebrew keyboard stickers on eBay for about $2.50 (you generally want transparent stickers with letters in a color that will be clearly visible and won't cover the English letters on your keyboard.) They take about some time to get to you so it's worth buying it immediately after buying your laptop if you need them.

Ports: Make sure the laptop has whatever ports you need. Randomly some laptops may not contain HDMI or something like that, so be sure that it has what you need. If you find one for a great price that doesn't have a port you need, be aware that dongles are cheap and welcome to the dongle life. (Oh, and don't expect to find a DVD Drive. They're pretty much never included nowadays. You can always buy an external one to play your Uncle Moishy DVDs for like $15.)

Processor: For Intel: Most people should probably stay away from Celeron and Pentium chips. i3 chips are not bad for people on a budget. You will get better performance out of a i5. You probably don't need an i7. If you do get one, you may never even notice the difference (and you definitely won't need an i9). Pay attention to the generations. 12th generation is the newest, but it just came out a few weeks ago and it will probably be hard to find. 11th generation is also excellent. You can go further back without sacrificing too much, other than things like battery life, but most black Friday sales are on recent models anyway. It's rarely worth going further back as you don't generally save enough money for it to be worth it unless you're buying used. That being said, some stores like Tiger Direct try to pull the wool over your eyes with things like a sale on a laptop with 4th generation Intel processor, so be careful. Standard chips have a G at the end. High powered ones have an H at the end. Low powered ones for extremely light laptops have a U at the end. If yours says Evo, that means it has been certified by Intel to be thin, great battery life, and efficient. It's not necessary to get an Evo, but it's nice.

AMD: The current generation is Ryzen 5000. The 3 generally competes with the Intel i3, the 5 generally competes with the Intel i5. The 7 generally competes with the Intel i7, so the same rules generally apply. All three are excellent, generally shoot for the 5. You can go back to the 4000 series without sacrificing much, but it's generally not worth going further back than that. Three AMD Ryzen 5000 mobile processors still come with Zen 2 architecture: the Ryzen 7 5700U, Ryzen 5 5500U, and Ryzen 3 5300U. The Ryzen 7 5800, Ryzen 5 5600, and Ryzen 3 5400 all are Zen 3 architecture. Zen 3 architecture is better than Zen 2, but both are excellent. You can get either AMD or Intel. Both will serve you very well.

Apple m1: For the first time, there is now a serious competitor to Intel and AMD, the new m1 macbook chip. It's phenomenal. Obviously, macbooks are expensive, but they're excellent. If you are getting a macbook, you should definitely be getting an m1 macbook. Unfortunately, the m1 MacBook air only comes in 13 inch screen, which is small (see screen sizes for more on that). You can get a larger screen with the MacBook Pros, but then you are spending way more money. You're getting an amazing device, but it's very, very expensive.

RAM: 8 GB is plenty for most people unless you're a very heavy multi-tasker. Still, if you can get 12 or 16 for cheap, it's sometimes worth spending a bit extra for it. I generally stay away from laptops with only 4 GB (unless the RAM is upgradeable and you aren't scared of upgrading it yourself).

Storage: Make sure the laptop you are buying comes with an SSD, not an HDD. This is probably my single biggest rule. Decide how much storage you need and be aware that for an SSD to run properly you need some breathing space. I've heard that you should leave 1/4 of it empty, and while that number seems high to be, you definitely don't want to fill it all the way up. It often helps to see how much space you've used on your previous laptop to get an idea how much space you will need on your next. For most people 256 GB is plenty, but 512 GB is certainly nice.
(PSA: if your laptop is like 3-6 years old and slow, there's a good chance that you don't need a new laptop. You just need to upgrade the Hard Drive from an HDD to an SSD for like $45 [and maybe add some RAM if you only have like 4 GB].)

Graphics Card: You don't need a graphics card unless you do professional graphics work, crypto mining, heavy gaming or the like. A discussion of graphics cards is not relevant to the vast majority of you so I will skip it other than mentioning that if the laptop you are looking at comes with a low-end graphics card you may not even see better performance than the integrated GPU that comes with modern processors with integrated graphics (every one that will be coming in a laptop you are looking at).

WiFi Card: If you are given the option, definitely spend the extra $10 or so to get a 2X2 WiFi card instead of a 1X1. Preferably look for AX200 or higher. I'm not interested in going through all the differences here. It's a lot to explain for something that people will probably generally just go with whatever comes with the laptop (and they're generally easy and cheap to upgrade yourself if necessary).

Chromebooks: So you found a Chromebook for like $100 and are wondering if you should just get that instead of spending five times the price on a laptop. Cheap Chromebooks are basically nice tablets with keyboards attached. If that suits you, you'll do well with it. They're fast and light, but don't expect to be able to do serious multi-tasking or heavy work on them. If you just want to browse the web and write some word documents and excel spreadsheets on them, you'll probably be fine unless you're doing something very complicated. Also, it's often only worth getting if you have a laptop available as well, even a slow one, as there are some things that you just won't be able to do on a Chromebook and you will need a laptop.

Price: (Windows) Prices are higher because of inflation and the chip shortage, however, I was actually pleasantly surprised to see that there are plenty of great deals despite that already now, and I have a lot of hope for Black Friday. Obviously, the amount you spend should depend on your financials and what you use your laptop for. However, be aware that a $200 laptop is a different ballpark than a $400 laptop, which is very different than a $600 laptop. If you are on your laptop for hours a week, it's not worth getting a $200 laptop. It will cause you more pain than it's worth.

Bonus Deals: Many Amex business cards also come with 10% off at Dell and the AMEX business Platinum also comes with $200 off at Dell, which can lead to amazing deals.
You're also likely to have other credit card deals this holiday season, so look out for them.

What I would look for before pulling the trigger: This will obviously depend on what your budget is, here are some examples: For approximately $300 I would hope for the screen size I want, an 11th Gen core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 5300U processor, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB SSD. As far as everything else goes, you generally get what you get and you don't get upset.
For approximately $500 range I would hope for the screen size I want, an 11th Gen core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor, 8 GB of RAM, 512 GB SSD, and decent build quality.
BUTP

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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2022, 11:28:01 AM »
Updates in bold
I wrote up a laptop buying guide for some friends. Figured I would share it here in case it would be useful to anyone:

A lot of you have been asking me about what you should be looking for in a laptop this holiday sale season. I will try to do my best to answer that in as general terms as possible, but please understand that while I know a lot more about this than I should, obviously several of you know a great deal more about this than I do (If any of you guys want to chime in, feel free). For the purpose of this I am going to be assuming that you aren't a linux user, heavy gamer, crypto miner, professional graphic designer, or video editor. Also, I am only going to be covering laptops, not desktops.

Screen Size: This one is going to depend how you use your laptop. For people who use their laptop as their primary computer I generally recommend 15.6/16 inch. If you have a desktop and just want a laptop for travel or the like, I generally recommend a 13.3 inch screen. I find that these days, 14" laptops are plenty portable (depends on the series, though) because of thin bezels. While 13.3 inch laptops don't sound that much smaller than 15.6, the 15.6 actually has a 37% larger area or so and that can make a big difference if you work with a lot of information on the screen. On the other hand, they are often significantly heavier than their 13.3 inch counterparts, however, that you often get better power and cooling in exchange. In terms of what aspect ratio to get, basically you take whatever you get a good deal on, just be aware that while two laptops can have the same diagonal length, some may be slightly taller and some may be slightly wider. If you specifically want one or the other, you might want to pay attention to that (first number is width, second is height). All 16:9s are almost always 13.3", 14", 15.6", or 17.3". New 3:2 ratios come out to 13.5", 14.1", 16" and 17/17.1".

Screen: There's a lot more to a laptop screen than just the size. Unfortunately, not all of the information about it is always reflected on the product page. If you are going to be using it in places with bright lights behind you it can be very hard to see the screen unless your screen is bright and not too reflective. Ideally, you want the screen to be at least somewhat matte and have at least a brightness of 250 nits (You will need higher if your screen is very reflective though). I would not settle for less than 300 nits myself, but as the OP said, it depends if the screen is matte or glossy. Brighter than that is nice if possible and will make the colors appear more vibrant, however, it can use battery faster (obviously a laptop with a peak brightness of 500 nits doesn't need to be used at 500 nits, just be aware). You ideally want something like an IPS or OLED screen. However, you will probably not find anything on color accuracy without reading reviews but on very low-end laptops the color accuracy can sometimes be terrible and make all the colors look washed.

Do you need a touchscreen or a 2 in 1? I can't answer that question for you. That depends how you plan on using your laptop. A touchscreen is generally nice but not necessary. You can do almost everything productivity related from your trackpad assuming you spend about 5 minutes learning how to use Windows trackpad gestures. If you draw or write on your laptop screen you may actually need a touchscreen.
2 in 1s allow the laptop screen to fold backwards into a tablet. Be aware that this tablet it way bigger and heavier than any tablet you're used to using and can be awkward to actually use as a tablet. If you have use for a giant Windows tablet, by all means get it, but I suspect that the vast majority of you have no use for it (although one feature I miss from my 2 in 1 days was the ability to turn the screen 90 degrees and see a whole page of Gemara/Shulchan Aruch at once without minimizing the page to the point where much of the page was unreadable).
PC Pro magazine quoted a computer repair shop guy begging people never to buy 2-in-1s, as it introduces a new design flaw, unless you are absolutely certain you will use it well. Also, every customer who broke a 2-in-1 due to its design flaw confessed to never using the feature after the novelty wore off.

Resolution: Ideally you should be looking for FHD (1,920X1,080 or 1080p) as a baseline. On a 13.3 inch screen you can maybe get away with HD (720p or 1280×720) but don't bother on a 15.6. If you get higher than FHD your screen will look much crisper but if you go too high, it will drain battery more than it's worth. You probably shouldn't bother going above 1440p. Don't bother spending money on a 4k laptop screen.

Build quality: You won't be able to find much information about build quality on the product page other than what the chassis is made out of. However, it can affect your experience a lot. Some laptops have absolutely terrible build quality, they feel like a piece of junk in your hands, the keyboards are just a mush, the screen rocks ever so slightly when you type making typing a nauseating experience, the trackpad is really annoying to use, the chassis feels uncomfortable, etc. These issues are generally non-existent on more premium laptops, but you run into these issues often on cheaper laptops. It's helpful to read/watch reviews if you can find any. PM me (mevinyavin, not the OP) if you have any questions as I have a lot of experience with this.

Keyboard layout: Look at a picture of the layout and make sure you're comfortable with it. Some don't have a numeric keypad which can be annoying if your job requires a lot of data entry (I personally literally never use mine). If you need to see the letters in order to type, make sure the letters are clearly visible. Some laptops also have a Eurpean layout with a thinner but taller Enter sign. It's rare but it is something to pay attention to. If you need to use the computer at night with the lights off, some prefer a backlit keyboard. I never really saw the point as the screen provides enough light to the keyboard generally anyways, but some people feel very strongly about the need for backlit keyboards. Once you know how your keyboard is set-up you may want to consider picking up Hebrew keyboard stickers on eBay for about $2.50 (you generally want transparent stickers with letters in a color that will be clearly visible and won't cover the English letters on your keyboard.) They take about some time to get to you so it's worth buying it immediately after buying your laptop if you need them.

Ports: Make sure the laptop has whatever ports you need. Randomly some laptops may not contain HDMI or something like that, so be sure that it has what you need. If you find one for a great price that doesn't have a port you need, be aware that dongles are cheap and welcome to the dongle life. (Oh, and don't expect to find a DVD Drive. They're pretty much never included nowadays. You can always buy an external one to play your Uncle Moishy DVDs for like $15.) Last I checked, name-brand goes for $22-30. I suppose you can buy the Chinese ones but at your own risk.

Processor: As said, this post is for basic users. As such, if you don't care about speed, any processor is enough for office work. If you do, get an i3-11xx or newer or higher, or a Ryzen 3-4xxx or better or higher. If you care about battery life, PM me (slowest option) or get a computer that is Evo certified (for the do-it-myself types).

RAM: 8 GB is plenty for most people unless you're a very heavy multi-tasker. Still, if you can get 12 or 16 for cheap, it's sometimes worth spending a bit extra for it. I generally stay away from laptops with only 4 GB (unless the RAM is upgradeable and you aren't scared of upgrading it yourself).

Storage: Make sure the laptop you are buying comes with an SSD, not an HDD. This is probably my single biggest rule. Decide how much storage you need and be aware that for an SSD to run properly you need some breathing space. I've heard that you should leave 1/4 of it empty, and while that number seems high to be, you definitely don't want to fill it all the way up. It often helps to see how much space you've used on your previous laptop to get an idea how much space you will need on your next. For most people 256 GB is plenty, but 512 GB is certainly nice.
(PSA: if your laptop is like 3-6 years old and slow, there's a good chance that you don't need a new laptop. You just need to upgrade the Hard Drive from an HDD to an SSD for like $45 [and maybe add some RAM if you only have like 4 GB].)

Graphics Card: You don't need a graphics card unless you do professional graphics work, crypto mining, heavy gaming or the like. A discussion of graphics cards is not relevant to the vast majority of you so I will skip it other than mentioning that if the laptop you are looking at comes with a low-end graphics card you may not even see better performance than the integrated GPU that comes with modern processors with integrated graphics (every one that will be coming in a laptop you are looking at).

WiFi Card: If you are given the option, definitely spend the extra $10 or so to get a 2X2 WiFi card instead of a 1X1. Preferably look for AX200 or higher. I'm not interested in going through all the differences here. It's a lot to explain for something that people will probably generally just go with whatever comes with the laptop (and they're generally easy and cheap to upgrade yourself if necessary).

Chromebooks: So you found a Chromebook for like $100 and are wondering if you should just get that instead of spending five times the price on a laptop. Cheap Chromebooks are basically nice tablets with keyboards attached. If that suits you, you'll do well with it. They're fast and light, but don't expect to be able to do serious multi-tasking or heavy work on them. If you just want to browse the web and write some word documents and excel spreadsheets on them, you'll probably be fine unless you're doing something very complicated. Also, it's often only worth getting if you have a laptop available as well, even a slow one, as there are some things that you just won't be able to do on a Chromebook and you will need a laptop.

Bonus Deals: Many Amex business cards also come with 10% off at Dell and the AMEX business Platinum also comes with $200 off at Dell, which can lead to amazing deals.
You're also likely to have other credit card deals this holiday season, so look out for them.

What I would look for before pulling the trigger: This will obviously depend on what your budget is, here are some examples: For approximately $300 I would hope for the screen size I want, an 11th Gen core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 5300U processor, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB SSD. As far as everything else goes, you generally get what you get and you don't get upset.
For approximately $350-$380 range I would hope for the screen size I want, an 11th Gen core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor, 8 GB of RAM, 512 GB SSD, and decent build quality.
My go-to budget choice for those who care about build quality, performance AND battery life on a budget is the Swift 3. It goes for $380-$450 with an i5, is made of metal and gives hours of battery life. One major con is soldered RAM (8GB, but still) which is not upgradeable. There are 13.5" and 14" versions. [13.5" is currently out of stock at Newegg (and do NOT buy the one with the i5-1035G4 at Walmart).] 14" is on sale at Walmart for $379, a steal: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Acer-Swift-3-14-0-Full-HD-11th-Gen-Intel-Core-i5-1135G7-8GB-512GB-SSD-Silver-Windows-10-SF314-511-51A3/534855652?fulfillmentIntent=Shipping&athbdg=L1100

Sure, you can get this without the battery life and build quality and/or in larger screen sizes for less.

Any questions related to buying laptops, PM me.
Quote from: Yisroel Tech
Layman has a lot of levels...

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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #15 on: November 30, 2022, 03:01:32 PM »
Updates in boldMy go-to budget choice for those who care about build quality, performance AND battery life on a budget is the Swift 3. It goes for $380-$450 with an i5, is made of metal and gives hours of battery life. One major con is soldered RAM (8GB, but still) which is not upgradeable. There are 13.5" and 14" versions. [13.5" is currently out of stock at Newegg (and do NOT buy the one with the i5-1035G4 at Walmart).] 14" is on sale at Walmart for $379, a steal: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Acer-Swift-3-14-0-Full-HD-11th-Gen-Intel-Core-i5-1135G7-8GB-512GB-SSD-Silver-Windows-10-SF314-511-51A3/534855652?fulfillmentIntent=Shipping&athbdg=L1100

Sure, you can get this without the battery life and build quality and/or in larger screen sizes for less.

Any questions related to buying laptops, PM me.
Hi,
If I want to upgrade my laptop from HHD to SSD, how do I get the OS transferred over? do I clone the drive? is that something a layman can do easily enough?

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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #16 on: November 30, 2022, 03:13:14 PM »
Hi,
If I want to upgrade my laptop from HHD to SSD, how do I get the OS transferred over? do I clone the drive? is that something a layman can do easily enough?
Yes, you clone it.

Layman has a lot of levels... but it's not very complicated. You need 1) A method to have both drive connected to the device at the same time (for a laptop, you'd usually need a SATA to USB adapter like this), 2 A cloning software, a lot of SSD drives come in the box with a cloning software or a license to download one, if not you can use something like Macrium Reflect Free.

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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #17 on: December 01, 2022, 03:52:06 AM »
Yes, you clone it.

Layman has a lot of levels... but it's not very complicated. You need 1) A method to have both drive connected to the device at the same time (for a laptop, you'd usually need a SATA to USB adapter like this), 2 A cloning software, a lot of SSD drives come in the box with a cloning software or a license to download one, if not you can use something like Macrium Reflect Free.

I have used a number of cloning programs over the years but Macrium is my go-to these days. One word of warning - the installer you download is just a downloader, so make sure you have an internet connection when using it. (I am offline most of the day, believe it or not, so I ran into this problem when I first tried Macrium.)
Another point - check to see what SSDs your computer supports. If it has an M2 slot also, you can do the mirror internally instead of needing an adapter. PM me the model of the computer and I'll tell you.
Quote from: Yisroel Tech
Layman has a lot of levels...