How to choose the right laptop for you

May 2020

Looking for a new laptop can be a labyrinthine quest through bewildering concepts and mystifying jargon. However, it is likely to be a companion you’re going to be spending a lot of time with – and your livelihood, university grades or gaming reputation may well depend on it – so it’s worth getting it right. Our guide will help tread a careful path through the baffling terminology and impenetrable specifications, keeping you from spending too much on features you don’t need, whilst making sure you won’t be launching your new purchase out of the nearest window anytime soon.

Different laptops for different… needs

The laptop market is wide-ranging and caters to various different requirements, so the first thing to do is identify what yours are. You might be a student who just needs to be able to write essays, do research and watch TV now and again. You might need a laptop for freelance work or days when you can’t muster the energy to go into the office (or when there’s a global pandemic on). You might work in a specialised field such as graphic design, music production or video editing and need to run particular programmes, or be a gamer with demanding performance requirements. Working out what you want from your laptop is the key to finding the right one for you.

Size isn’t everything

A good rule of thumb is the bigger the display size, the more powerful the computer (and usually the more expensive), but this is not always the case. To really know what you’re buying, look out for the three amigos – processor, memory and storage. The processor dictates how powerful your computer is and how quickly it can perform certain tasks; quicker processors can run more demanding programs such as specialist design, video and music software, and games. Computer memory (also known as random access memory or RAM) should be thought of as short-term memory – things your computer keeps to hand so that it can process tasks more efficiently and enable you to do multiple things at once without becoming slow and unresponsive. By the same token, storage is your computer’s long-term memory: the more of it you have the more photos, videos, music, games and documents you can keep on your computer.

Other considerations

There are many other considerations to take into account. Different operating systems – such as Windows, Mac OS or Chrome OS – can often just be a matter of personal choice, but it’s worth thinking about the type of programs you want to run on your laptop and how well it will sync up with your other devices (iPhone and Macbooks, for example, synchronise perfectly). Portability is also key – and it’s not just about size and weight, but battery life too. To add to that, there are webcams, microphones, keyboards, touchpads, graphics cards, screen resolution and ports and connections to think about. And this list keeps growing as new technology emerges, such as two-in-one laptops that can operate as a touchscreen tablet or a traditional ‘clamshell’ laptop. This guide will discuss these features where they are relevant to the particular type of user.

Simple work tasks and student life

Generally, students are looking for a laptop that can run basic programs like Microsoft Office for essay writing, is rugged and portable enough to withstand being lugged from lecture to library and has a battery life long enough to power them through those intensive late-night study sessions when the libraries are full and plug sockets are scarce. Price is paramount, so choosing wisely is especially important, even with the incredible refurb deals and student discount at Back Market. People who need a laptop for general office-type work – responding to emails, producing documents and presentations, taking part in online meetings – have similar needs to students.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X240, lovingly refurbished by Back Market, is the perfect match. Robust but small enough to fit easily into a rucksack, its Intel Core i5 processor and 8 GB of RAM still pack a punch and are more than enough for running common applications and everyday internet browsing. Its 250 GB of hard disk space will leave you with tons of space for music, photos, films… and maybe even the odd essay. A battery king, it can sustain 15-hour sessions without a charge, and has an ergonomically designed backlit keyboard perfect for late-night work. It’s even spill resistant so might also be able to survive the occasional party. Originally produced as a high-powered business laptop in 2014, this would have cost you an arm and a leg back in the day; but with Back Market’s huge refurb deals you can get over 66% off!

refurbished Macbook Air might set you back a little bit more than the ThinkPad but it cannot be matched for portability, weighing a mere 1.35 kg. It punches above its weight, with an ample 4 GB of memory and 128 GB of storage and, like the Lenovo ThinkPad, a decent Intel Core i5 processor. For people with other Apple products, it carries the added bonus of syncing up with your phone or tablet‘s contacts, notes and calendar – vital for staying organised and avoiding those missed deadlines.

Graphic design is my passion

People who work in specialist creative industries are going to need a bit more of everything: screen size, processing power, memory and storage. Design, video-editing and audio software is often quite demanding and you don’t want to be left waiting for the dreaded egg timer or beach ball while your computer figures out precisely what you’ve just asked it to do. Portability becomes less of an issue, but you still want to be able to transport it from home to office to client meetings with little hassle. For graphic designers and illustrators especially, new touchscreen two-in-one technology has revolutionised the laptop.

The Macbook Pro is still the laptop of choice for creatives worldwide, owing to its reliable and smooth-running operating system, which works in total harmony with its purpose-built hardware. It can compete with Windows for the range of specialist software available, such as the Adobe Creative Suite, Logic Pro, Final Cut Pro, Pro Tools and Ableton Live. While these are initially very expensive machines, there are huge savings, sometimes in the region of £1000, to be found on Back Market. The late 2013 model, with a crystal-clear 15.4-inch retina screen, a powerful Intel Core i7 processor and a whopping 16 GB of memory can give most modern-day laptops a run for their money and is available for just £1,169. That’s almost a 50% discount!

The Surface Pro 3 is a tablet/laptop hybrid that is both powerful and functional, and perfectly suited for people working in creative industries, particularly graphic designers. It can be used with a detachable keyboard as a traditional laptop, but also features a touchscreen, which can be operated as a tablet using a pen, allowing designers to interact more fluidly with powerful design and illustration programs like Adobe Illustrator as if it were a humble sketch pad. Featuring an Intel Core i7 processor256 GB of storage8 GB of memory and powerful HD graphics crammed into a highly portable 12-inch screen, this is a formidable and reliable bit of kit for being creative at home, in the office or on the go.

The final boss: gaming laptops

Games are probably the most demanding programs for a laptop. If you’re purchasing with gaming in mind, you can’t afford to scrimp on specifications or you may find your new laptop is simply unable to run your favourite game without major issues. A traditional clamshell model is likely to be your best bet, as these are generally more powerful than two-in-one models, whose touch-screen features and portability aren’t terribly useful for high-end gaming. Indeed, it’s unlikely that this laptop is going to move that far from your desk, so maximising the screen inches will definitely be a priority. While there are many games made for Mac nowadays, Windows still has the most extensive range and is the operating system of choice for gamers. The three amigos also gain a fourth member, as graphics cards become as important as processing, memory and storage.

With its huge 17.3-inch display, a powerful Intel i7 Core processor16 GB of memory and 1000 GB of storage, the Asus Rog G703 is tailor-made for gaming. Its NVIDIA GeForce GTX1080 graphics card is one of the most advanced ever designed, able to operate in high definition at incredibly fast frames-per-second rates, making game playing feel more real than ever before. Only a couple of years old, you can rest assured that this machine will be able to handle developments in the games industry for years and years to come. And it’s available on Back Market with discounts in the region of 30%!

The HP Omen is another great pick for gaming. With similar processing and memory specifications to the Asus Rog, this much less chunky model packs in a whopping 2128 GB of storage – more than enough for all your games, music, photos, films and files. A slightly smaller 15.6-inch screen and a generally sleeker design makes this model much more portable and although it may not boast a top-of-the-range graphics card like the Asus Rog, its NVIDIA Geforce GTX965M is still high range, bringing desktop gaming performance to the laptop.

Whatever your needs, Back Market has them covered. And if you’re still not sure, Back Market has such good deals that you can always get a little more than you need for much less than the high street. All the laptops we refurbish are quality models that are worth refurbishing. And it’s not just money you’re saving – by choosing to re-use – over buying something brand new – you’re saving the environment too. Check out how much electronic waste you’re saving with every product when browsing our website.


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