Shopping for a new computer requires reading and dealing with a lot of jargon. From different types of processors to knowing the difference between memory and storage – there is a lot of information. But the process doesn’t have to be intimidating. Arguably, we’ve never had so many worthwhile options for a laptop or desktop.
When you start looking for your next big purchase, let us help guide you. Below you’ll find not only some recommendations for laptops, Chromebooks, and gaming PCs, but some tips on what to look for. We start with some tips on what to consider when you’re shopping on the computer and end with some recommendations of our favorite products.
Protect your investment in the future
There are many factors that you should take into consideration when searching for a computer. This computer should last several years (or more), so consider not only how you are using your computer now, but also what you may need in the future. By future proofing your investment, you will save money and minimize headaches.
Look at your device’s built-in processor and search Google for the model number. For example, if your processor is an i7-1165G7, look it up to see how old it is. I can tell you just by looking at the number that it’s an 11th generation processor, so it will support Windows 11 and all the security features it requires. But you don’t want to find a good deal on a PC only to find out later that it uses an older processor that won’t let you install or upgrade to Windows 11.
If you’re shopping for a Mac, Apple (AAPL) – Get the Apple Inc. report. In the middle of moving away from Intel (INTC) – Get Intel’s report to its Apple Silicon processors. Apple will support Intel models well in the future, but I’d recommend getting a Mac with Apple M1 chipsets. We’re already starting to see some features in software updates that are limited to Apple Silicon processors, and that trend is likely to continue with every major update.
For both Windows and Mac computers, you’ll need something with it At least 8 GB memory or RAM. If you do a lot of video editing, photo editing, and multitasking, you’ll want to consider doubling the memory to 16GB.
As for storage – I’d be ashamed of a computer with 128GB storage or less. The exception to this rule is for Chromebooks, simply because most of your files will automatically sync with your Google Drive account and won’t take up space on the device.
It’s surprising how quickly your hard drive fills up, so either have a plan to dump additional files and folders to a cloud storage provider like iCloud, Dropbox, or OneDrive or get a larger hard drive than you think you’ll need. Remember, with the exception of gaming PCs and some laptops, you’re stuck with the specifications of the device you’re buying – there’s no option to add more storage or memory yourself.
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Our top picks
Microsoft Surface Pro 8 ($899; microsoft.com)
Microsoft’s Surface line has launched 2-in-1 laptops that can easily switch between tablet and laptop modes, and with the latest generation Surface Pro 8, Microsoft has built an impressive lineup.
The Surface Pro 8 is a versatile device for creators, students, or professionals. The Pro 8 features a new design, with slimmer bezels around a 13-inch 120Hz display. Inside the 2-in-1 is an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory and 128GB of storage.
You can customize the design to improve performance or increase memory or storage if you need something more powerful. Keep in mind that the Pro 8 doesn’t come with a keyboard, so you’ll need to purchase one of the Surface Pro Signature Keyboards separately for $179.
Dell XPS 13 ($1599; bestbuy.com)
Need a Windows laptop that’s more powerful than your Surface Pro 8? The Dell XPS 13 Touch laptop fits the mold with an Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of memory, and 512GB of storage. The slim and slim design not only looks good, but is also easy to carry. It has a 13.4-inch touchscreen display that you can use to click and scroll your way around Windows.
For those who are always on the go, the XPS 13 makes a lot of sense, however, if you plan on attaching a lot of accessories to it, you’ll need to find a USB-C hub or dock. There are only a few ports available on the laptop out of the box.
Apple MacBook Air ($999.99; bestbuy.com)
Apple’s MacBook Air has always been the best recommendation for students and those who need a reliable PC that integrates with Apple’s system of services and devices. At $999, you get plenty of computing power and battery life.
The MacBook Air uses Apple’s own M1 Apple Silicon processor, 8GB of memory, and a 256GB SSD for storage. There’s a Touch ID sensor that doubles as the power button, making it easy to log into your MacBook Air with your fingerprint. Biggest negative? It only has two USB-C ports, so you’ll need some kind of USB-C hub or adapter if you need to connect multiple devices to it at the same time.
Apple MacBook Pro ($1999; bestbuy.com)
Apple’s latest MacBook Pro models offer more power than the MacBook Air, and feature a design harkening back to the good old days. For example, Apple has brought back the MagSafe magnetic charging connector, SD card reader, and HDMI port.
You can choose between a 14″ or 16″ design. There are two new Apple Silicon processors as well. The M1 Pro and M1 Max both add great performance options, with the Max version more suitable for heavy video editing and other resource-intensive tasks.
The base 14-inch MacBook Pro model comes with an M1 Pro processor, 16GB of memory, and 512GB of storage.
Acer Chromebook Spin 713 ($699; bestbuy.com)
Chrome OS and Chromebooks are no longer confined to a laptop that simply runs the Chrome web browser. It’s now closer to a full-fledged operating system, albeit based on Chrome and Android.
The Chromebook Spin 713 has a 13.5-inch display powered by an Intel Core i5 processor, 256GB of storage, and 8GB of memory. As its name suggests, you can rotate around the screen to transfer the 713 from a standard laptop to a tablet, using Android and Chrome OS apps.
Chromebooks are perfect for anyone who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on a computer or someone who relies on Google services, like Drive and Gmail, for work, school, or everyday computing tasks.
Lenovo Chromebook Duet ($250; bestbuy.com)
Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet is an impressively affordable Chromebook that won’t quite blow you away when it comes to performance, but it can easily handle everyday tasks like checking email, watching videos, or working in Google Docs.
The 2-in-1 design comes with a keyboard and stand that quickly detach to turn the Duet into an all-in-one tablet. It has a 10.1-inch screen, a MediaTek Helio P60T processor, 4 GB of memory and 128 GB of storage.
From homeschooled young students to those who don’t really need a full computer, the Duet is a solid choice.
NZXT Starter Plus Gaming Computer ($1349; nzxt.com)
The NZXT lineup consists of several gaming PCs, each designed to fit budget and performance requirements. The Starter Plus PC comes with an Intel Core i5 processor, NVIDIA Geforce RTX 3060, 16GB of memory, and a 500GB SSD. That’s more than enough power to play any game of your choice and hit the 60fps benchmark.
If you’d rather build your own gaming PC but don’t want to deal with component sourcing, check out NZXT’s BLD Kits. You get all the parts, tools, and instructions to walk you through putting it together. Prices start at $1,399 for the Starter Pro and go up from there.
Asus ROG Strix G15 ($1516; amazon.com)
Want a powerful gaming PC that you can play on the go? The Asus ROG Strix G15 offers that at a respectable price.
It features a 15.6-inch 1080p display with a resolution of 300Hz powered by a Ryzen R7-5800H CPU, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti memory, 16GB of memory, and 1TB of storage. All of these specifications translate into a powerful laptop for work and play.
There’s even a row of RGB lighting along the bottom surface, and everyone knows that the more RGB you have on a gaming PC, the better you’ll be at gaming.
Prices are accurate and items are in stock at time of posting.