These days, it’s not unusual for individuals or families to have more than one type of computer. If you’re looking to carry your computer to work or on vacation, you obviously need a laptop. And some have slimmed down to weigh as little as a couple of pounds.
If mobility isn’t a concern, get a desktop, because it’s very likely that you’ll get more performance for the same money—plus more flexibility in customizing the machine once you buy it. (That’s one reason lots of serious gamers have desktops.)
Choices among computers are becoming more confusing as the boundaries between categories blur. For instance, some new desktops are almost as small and inconspicuous as a laptop. Conversely, you can easily find a laptop that’s just as powerful as a typical desktop. And then there are some slightly unconventional categories, such as laptops that can be used like tablets and all-in-one desktops that don’t need a separate monitor
Top 10 Notebook Computers
- HIGH PERFORMANCE LAPTOP: The Chromebook C330 is equipped with a MediaTek MT8173C Processor, Chrome OS, 4 GB...
- SLEEK & STYLISH DESIGN: Sleek, stylish and secure, this 360 degree convertible laptop is less than one inch...
- Intel Celeron N3050 processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of Solid State Storage
- Simple and secure Chrome OS
- 11.6 inch ( 1366 x 768), 16:9
- Intel Celeron Processor N3060, 1.6 GHz to 2.48 GHz
- 7th Gen Intel Dual Core i5-7200U processor (2.5GHz, up to 3.1GHz),
- 8GB DDR4 SDRAM Memory, 256GB Solid State Drive, Intel HD Graphics 620
- AMD Quad-Core E2-7110 APU, 1.8GHz
- 4 GB DDR3L-1600 SDRAM system memory, 500 GB 5400 RPM SATA hard drive, SuperMulti DVD/CD Burner
- 17.3 Inch diagonal HD+ SVA BrightView WLED-backlit (1600 x 900) Display, Intel HD Graphics 620, DVD/CD burner,...
- Choose your color from Black/Blue/Silver/Gold, Choose your CPU: 1) Intel Core i5-7200U 2.5 GHz (Turbo 3.10...
- 8th Generation Intel Core I5-8250U Processor, Quad-core - Upgraded performance with smooth responsiveness and...
- 16GB Intel Optane - Get near SSD performance without sacrificing the storage of your traditional hard drive....
- Celeron N3050 1.6 GHz
- 2.0 GB RAM, 16.0 GB eMMC Solid State Drive
- 15.6 in HD WLED-backlit touchscreen display (1366 x 768)
- 7th Generation Intel Core i3-7100U 2.40 GHz dual core Processor (3M Cache), Intel HD Graphics 620
- Choose 4GB, 8GB or 16GB system memory for multitasking Adequate high-bandwidth RAM to smoothly run multiple...
- Choose Hard Drive from 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB SSD, 1TB/2TB HDD; provides massive storage space for huge files,...
Many people have moved away from desktops in the past decade. However, they still may be useful for many consumers. Desktops typically offer more performance for the money than laptops and are less expensive to repair. They may allow for a more ergonomically correct work environment, generally come with better speakers, and allow you to view your work on a larger screen.
Laptops let you use your computer away from your desk, but you pay for that mobility with a keyboard that’s a little more cramped, a higher price, and (sometimes) reduced performance. A laptop can also be more difficult and expensive to repair than a desktop.
Whether your main consideration is portability or power, screen size will be an essential factor in deciding which type of laptop is right for you. See our computer ratings (available to CR members) for more.
Features To Consider
All About Drives and the Battery
Solid-State Drives: SSDs are a different type of storage technology, letting your computer access data without the moving parts required by a traditional hard drive. They are also the single largest performance boost you can give a computer over an identical computer with a hard drive.
SSDs don’t have the spinning disk of a conventional hard drive, so they use less power, work more quietly, and should be more resistant to damage—and less likely to fail mechanically. And because there are no moving parts, access to data should be quicker.
Also known as a hard disk, this type of drive uses a spinning hard disk and uses more power than a solid-state drive. It is also slower overall. Bigger is better. Hard-drive sizes are measured in gigabytes and terabytes and commonly range from 250GB to more than 1TB.
Speed is equally important and is measured in rpm (revolutions per minute). A slow hard drive will take longer to start up the OS and programs, and complete tasks (such as installing programs or scanning your hard drive for viruses).
Lower-priced hybrid drives, which combine a hard drive with solid-state memory, represent a good compromise.
Blu-ray Disc (BD) drives are the newest standard. They’re capable of playing Blu-ray movies and can store 25GB (single layer) or 50GB (dual layer) of data.
Many of today’s laptops come without an optical drive, saving weight and cost. With high-capacity flash drives available, extra storage isn’t a problem on these models. But installing older software—usually distributed on a CD or DVD—could be a problem. Most of today’s software is distributed via download, so there’s little need for an optical drive.
When not plugged into a wall outlet, laptops use a rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power. Laptops go into sleep mode when used intermittently, extending the time between charges. You can lengthen battery life if you dim the display, turn off WiFi connectivity when it’s not needed, and use only basic applications. An increasing number of laptops have batteries that cannot easily be removed by users, which means they’ll need to be taken to service centers when they die.
Another important factor when choosing a processor, especially for laptops: Lower power consumption equals longer battery life. If you’re looking for a very basic or budget computer to browse the web, email, and work on Office documents, basically every processor on the market should be sufficient. If you plan to watch high-resolution videos or play mainstream games, you should consider the Intel Core i5 and AMD’s Ryzen line of processors.
How Much Memory?
The more memory a computer has, the faster it is, up to a point. Memory is measured in gigabytes (GB). On both desktops and laptops, 8GB has become common, with 16GB found on higher-end devices. Unless you regularly have multiple large apps open at the same time, 8GB should be your target.
Windows 10 brings a more uniform interface across a variety of devices: computers, tablets, Xbox consoles, and smartphones. In addition, “universal apps” developed for Windows 10 will look and work the same on a variety of devices. And far more games are available for Windows computers than for Macs.