In the beginning, there was an office. Then, the coronavirus hit; and suddenly, we’re all working from home. No wonder the demand for laptops has soared — in fact, gadget stores have reported that they’re selling up to 5% more laptops since the first wave of quarantine began!
During times like this, most of us do need reliable gadgets to help us work from home efficiently. But before splurging your hard-earned money on huge investments, do the much-needed research! In the words of my colleague, buying a laptop is a big commitment — so, make sure you know how to choose a laptop that best fits your needs.
Also read: Work from Home in the Philippines? It’s Tough, But We’re Coping
How to choose a laptop — the basic specs
Disclaimer: I’m no computer geek myself. This article is a collaboration with my brother, Sam, who has assembled plenty of computers since his elementary days. He came up with a vlog on this particular topic; I decided to come up with an article based on it, for the sake of slower folks like me who need a written list of things to consider when choosing a laptop.
1. Central processing unit (CPU)
What it is: “Ito yung parang utak ng computer. In general, the better the processor, the faster your laptop is.” — Sam
How to choose a CPU
If you’re under a tight budget and only need your laptop for basic tasks, you can settle with entry-level CPU processors. The latest entry-level CPU processors can now manage a bit of multitasking — word processing, spreadsheets, and web browsing included.
If you’re interested in investing in a laptop for gaming, go for a mid-range processor: Ryzen 5 or Intel Core i5, at least.
Does your job require a more powerful core processor for graphic designing or video editing software? Best to invest in a higher-end CPU such as a Ryzen 7.
Suggested CPUs in 2021
High-end: AMD Ryzen 9 3950X; Intel Core i9-9900K
Mid-range: AMD Ryzen 5 3600X; Intel Core i5-9600K
Entry-level: AMD Ryzen 3 3100; AMD Athlon 300GE; Intel’s Core i5-10600K
2. Graphics processing unit (GPU)
What it is: “Para ito sa gamers and video editors out there. Ito yung nagpo-process ng graphics natin. If your focus is office work or school work, you don’t really need this.” — Sam
In other words, if you’re a gamer or a video editor, invest in a higher-end GPU. If not, then you can just prioritise a good CPU. Many CPUs come with GPUs nowadays.
What it is: “There are two types of storage right now: HDD (hard disk drives) and SSD (solid state drives). SSD is smaller in capacity, meaning mas onti ang files na mase-save mo. Pero, it’s a lot faster than HDD.” — Sam
Should I choose an HDD or SSD?
Short answer: If you have Wi-Fi connection and access to cloud storage, go for SSD. An SSD with smaller storage (at least 128 gigabytes) still promotes faster laptop speed than an HDD with large storage space.
Unlike the SSD, the HDD has been around for decades. In other words, it’s a proven and tested technology. The years have also led to more affordable HDDs with more storage space. Some HDDs have up to 1 terabyte of storage space.
On the other hand, SSDs are a newer innovation. They can be costlier (around ₱2,000) than HDDs, but they make your laptop load software and applications faster. SSDs are also lighter than HDDs, so your laptop can run relatively cooler.
4. Random-access memory (RAM)
What it is: “We usually think na bigger RAM equals faster speed. There’s some truth there, but it’s not necessarily the case all the time; most of the time, your laptop won’t even maximise all of its memory.” — Sam
In other words, if your job requires a lot of multitasking, you’ll need a bigger RAM. The bigger your laptop’s RAM is, the smoother its performance will be. These days, a 4-gigabyte RAM is forgivable. But, you can upgrade your laptop to a higher RAM if you’re constantly finding it lagging.
Also read: 10 Best Budget Laptops in the Philippines for Under ₱30,000
How to choose a laptop — other things to consider
Obviously, you need to work around your budget when choosing a laptop. If you’ve been saving up for a while, or if your office has given you a work-from-home allowance, then you can explore more expensive options. If not, then come up with a budget and stick to it.
Write down your essential tasks that come with your job. When you have a clearer view of what you need your laptop for, then you can more easily compromise on other aspects you don’t really need. After all, you have the option to upgrade your laptop in the future. You don’t have to splurge all in one go.
Suggested budget laptops (under ₱20,000)
- Asus X415MA-EB132T
- Lenovo Chromebook C330 81HY0000US
- Acer TMB311-31-C9F6
Consider all the specs mentioned above before buying a laptop. Don’t just get a cheap laptop for the sake of getting one. If your gadget won’t perform as needed, it’ll just be a waste of money.
Aside from the specs above, consider the size, screen quality, and keyboard quality of the laptop. Depending on your job, you will want to prioritise a laptop that keeps you the most comfortable even while working.
Sam advises that the best way to estimate the durability of a laptop is checking its warranty. If the laptop’s warranty is only good for three years, then you can expect that the laptop will only last for three or four years (unless you’re really good at taking care of your laptop!).
Also read: 10 Items That Will Make Your Digital Nomad Life a Whole Lot Easier
Working from home can get overwhelming — breathe and take it step by step! Eventually, you’ll learn how to choose a laptop wisely. Eventually, you’ll conquer the work from home set-up, too! We believe in you!