Laptop Buying Guide

In this series we’ll discuss “Consumer Electronics Buying Considerations” starting with “Laptop Buying Guide”. So what are the key considerations you need to look into while buying a Laptop? Let’s get started…


Laptop Buying Guide - Laptop and Nature

1. Performance of the Laptop Processor : The Brain. 

Laptop Buying Guide - ProcessorThe Performance of the laptop depends on the processing power of the CPU. Besides others, the Processor Core Frequency, number of cores, number of threads, the cache size, the Input/Output frequency and the RAM size defines the Processing Power. The nanometer size has been shrinking and the processor generations usually gets upgraded with the need to accommodate more functionality in a single IC with the same or a smaller package size. So the fully loaded running applications contributes to a good amount of heat and noise generation, therefore an optimal design takes care of dissipating the heat and maintaining the decibel noise levels to satisfactory levels. In analogy, Processor is the Brain, always ready to achieve it’s limits with optimal design.


2. Laptop Battery : The Heart.

Faster Processor and Input/Output Ports are good and all this is achievable because of the Power Supply running in your laptop. There are multiple voltages that the chips inside the Laptop need and all these voltages are down converted from One DC Voltage coming from your charger or the battery. While the Charger down converts AC to a specific DC Voltage, the battery is the store house of current at a specific voltage. The higher the current rating in Ampere-Hour (mAH), the more current the battery can supply for a longer time. For example a 5 Volt 6000mah battery lasts longer than a 5V 4000mah battery with same application environment. This depends on the number of cells the battery has. More cells correspond to more current driving capacity.In analogy, Battery is the Heart pumping blood that is Current to all the chips (organs) of the motherboard in the Laptop.


3. Laptop Connectivity : The Sense Organs.

Laptop Buying Guide - Ports It’s all miniaturized and serial now a days. So what does this mean? The ports that connect the Laptop to the outer world are decreasing in size and increasing in data transfer speeds. The serial Port standards on your laptop has been constantly increasing the transfer speeds with the next generation of standard transferring data at a much faster speed probably with the same footprint or smaller. Take USB for example, the same sized port can be used to connect a keyboard at 1.5Mbps, Mouse at 12 Mbps, USB2.0 Pen drive at 480Mbps, USB 3.0 Pen drive at 5Gbps and USB3.1 Pen drive at 10Gbps. Even the Wireless standards are set for higher speeds. This is essentially driven by the consumer need of accomplishing tasks faster in relatively lesser time. Standards like HDMI, Display Port, Thunder Bolt, 802.11 Wireless have been constantly evolving with higher next generations transfer speeds compared to the previous ones. It’s important to select the connectivity options matching them with the already existing accessories the ports need to connect with. Thus in analogy, the Ports in the Laptop are it’s Sense Organs.

4. Laptop Display : The Face.

Clarity of picture is the key. So, a 15 inch display with same clarity as a 10 inch laptop display is better. Clarity depends on the Pixel count and the proximity of the pixels from each other for a given display size. PPI or Pixel per Inch would provide this information. In general a 4K UHD ( 4096 X 2160 pixels ) is better resolution than QUHD (3840×2160 pixels ), 2K( 2048 X 1080 pixels ) and FHD ( 1920×1080 pixels ) displays. Colour combinations and quality can play their role in selection. Higher colour combinations essentially means higher digital RGB combinations a display can support. The matte or glossy polarizer screen attached on the top of the display glass defines the usability when under the sun. In analogy, Display is the Face of the Laptop.


5. Laptop Security : The Immune System.

Laptop Buying Guide - SecurityThis ranges from Physical Security of the laptop with a Kensington Lock Port to the Trusted Platform Module(TPM) chip on the motherboard. There are a list of options to look at. The Finger Print reader and smart Card reader provides additional security against misuse of unwanted accessibility. The TPM is a special hardware on the Motherboard that stores encryption keys and passwords and keeps the platform trustworthy. So the security information present in the hardware provides a better defense against external malicious software attacks. For example, if the configuration of the system is changed unexpectedly at the start-up, the accessibility to the secure applications can be blocked providing a more secure environment until the issue is resolved. Therefore in analogy, security options in the laptop are like it’s immunity.


6. Laptop Dynamic Storage : The Memory for the Brain.

Dynamic Storage like Dual Data Rate Memory (DDR) plays it’s part in improving the performance of the laptop. The standards have evolved from DDR,DDR2,DDR3 to DDR4 ( DDR4 being the fastest) that essentially increases the read and write data speeds from/to the memory contributing to the increased performance. However, the maximum transfer speeds associated with the different memories needs to be looked at.


7. Laptop Static Storage : The Stomach.

Laptop Buying Guide - Static Storage Hard Disk Drive ( HDD ) and Solid State Drive ( SSD ) makes the static storage. HDDs comes in Terabytes now a days that is more than a 1024 Gigabytes and SSDs in Gigabytes usually. The higher the GB capacity, the more the storage option. Points to note are while HDDs comes with more capacity, SSDs are more reliable and faster because of their overall structure of not having any mechanical components like HDDs.


8. Laptop Portability : The Weight.

Light weight and small size while not compromising on the Performance is what can decide. While the industry is moving towards thinner electronics with all components getting thin and footprints smaller, this is more of a personal preference.Choose that most suits your need and can ease your stress from a long workday.



So let’s also discuss the Ports that matter in this Laptop Buying Guide


USB1 or Low Speed USB.

This is essentially a serial bus for connecting a mouse to the PC and runs at 1.5 Megabits per second that is about 1.5 Million bits/second.

USB1.1 or Full Speed USB.

This bus connects your keyboard to the PC and runs at 12Mbps. 


Backward compatible with USB1 and USB1.1 runs at 480 Mbps and this bus is rightly termed as High Speed USB.
So what is backward compatibility? In simple terms the same USB2.0 port on your PC can connect to a pen drive running at 480Mbps, a keyboard at 12Mbps and a mouse at 1.5 Mbps.


Enter USB3.0

Backward compatible with USB2.0, USB1.1 and USB1 and running at 5 Gigabits per second. That’s about 10 times faster than USB2.0. So a USB3.0 port on your PC also known as a host port can be connected to a USB3.0 pen drive, USB2.0 Pen drive, USB1.1 Keyboard and USB1 Mouse. This backward compatibility is only true for host ports like that on a PC. However, a USB3.0 pen drive would not connect with a USB2.0 Host port on the PC at 5Gbps. 

Next comes USB3.1

Host Port is backward compatible and can be connected with USB3.0, USB2.0 and USB1.1 devices. This has a data rate of 10Gbps.
However a USB3.1 device might not connect with a USB3.0 port at 10Gbps. 

And the ubiquitous USB C Port.

The beauty of USB C is the small sized connector yet with higher number of pins in the connector with multiple serial lanes, resulting in an overall increase in speeds up to 10Gbps while also catering to providing a higher wattage of power up to 100 Watts at 20 Volts to devices. The multiple serial lanes can also carry HDMI and Display Port Signals and USB C is backward compatible with all USB standards with additional adapters making it truly ubiquitous. 



Carry all video and audio on serial copper lanes. HDMI does exactly that. But what’s evolving the standard? The need of picture clarity and color has increased the pixel quantity and resolution of the display. So, Higher the Display (usually termed as HDMI Sink) pixels and higher the resolution, higher is the amount of data that need to be transferred from any HDMI Source to that Display sink. And why not? In practical terms, you would clearly see the difference between VGA and HDMI. HDMI carries much more Mbps per second compared to VGA making the picture quality much clear and crisper. Therefore, given an option to connect VGA or HDMI, always choose HDMI for a better visual experience.

How does HDMI do it?

HDMI carries three pairs of data lanes each at a specific frequency. This adds up to a much higher rate and all synchronized to a single clock pair. So your HDMI connector has multiple serial data pairs and a clock pair. This, along with Power and Ground pins are connected to the Printed Circuit Board of the product in discussion.
So let’s look at different speeds, HDMI caters to and start with the minimum ones contained in any product now a days.

HDMI 1.4

So the clock speed that we discussed above is now driven at 340 MHz and 10 bits of data per serial lane is transferred at 340 MHz making the overall speed per lane at 3400Mbps. This multiplied by three pairs make it a total of 10.2 Gbps of data transfer between Source and Sink and hence this enables to carry 3D data and much deeper color bit per pixel as required by the sink Display. To make it simple, we’ve left out the 8b/10b encoding overhead applied to 10.2 Gbps, making the overall data at about 8Gbps. 

HDMI 2.0

The clock speed now increases to 600 MHz and 10 bits of data per serial lane is transferred at 600 MHz. So this makes the overall speed per lane at 6000Mbps that is 6Gbps. This multiplied by three pairs make it a total of 18 Gbps of data transfer between Source and Sink. This enables to carry 3D data at 60Hz and much deeper color bit per pixel as required by the sink Display.

Display that is Sink device specs need to be looked into before arriving at any conclusion. 4K X 2K display resolution at 60 Hz usually goes well with HDMI 2.0. It’s good to have HDMI 2.0 on your Source Product. But, does the Display device support HDMI 2.0 is what is to be addressed before arriving at a decision. Another key thing is the interface connector itself. This can range from HDMI-A to HDMI-E and can be a Micro or a Mini HDMI form factor.

HDMI 2.1

The new age Gamers should look at the coming up standard HDMI2.1, that would enable 4K X 2K, 8K and higher resolution with higher refresh rates up to 120 Hz.

A Note on Cores and Threads.

A Core is a Processor by itself. Any operation that you perform on PC requires specific set of instruction cycles to be executed by the Processor. So, the higher the cores the higher the processes executed at a specific core frequency.

A Thread is a subset of the process. Every application running on the PC is either single threaded or multiple threaded. Therefore more threads the processor core can handle, the better it performs with multitasking. This increase the performance of the Processor.

So what is L1,L2,L3 Cache?

L1,L2,L3 Cache are different chuck of memories accessible to the processor for speedy processing. Consider a scenario where you are sitting on the easy chair in your cabin and looking for a specific customer record. There is a small chunk of files lying on the table in front of you, you search but couldn’t find the records there. Next, you look into the drawers with relatively bigger chuck of files but couldn’t locate the records. You know that there is bigger chunk of files in the cupboard. So you walk and search files in the cupboard but still not able to find the records. You now know, more effort is required to search the record in the store room of records. so you walk to the store room, search the huge set of files and finally could locate the relevant record.
In analogy, You are the processor. The smaller chunk of files lying on the table is L1 Cache. These are just very easily accessible to the processor with minimum latency. The drawer of the table is L2 Cache. The cupboard in the cabin is L3 Cache and the Store Room is the RAM(DDR) with maximum Latency. The higher the cache size, the faster the processing time. 

We shall use another forum to discuss the blazers for your Laptop that is a good looking Laptop bag. Happy Shopping! Check the One Drop Down All Laptop tool and the Laptop selection tool based on various attributes. 


  1. Great tips. As somewhat of a layman I really struggle buying laptops. With my blog, this has forced me to look into it in more detail, and I've recently got a new Apple Airbook, which I love!

  2. Thanks for explaining in a way that even I can understand! I need to buy a new laptop, and I am always befuddled by the choices and what they all mean, so this has come at the perfect time.

  3. Wow! I already over-think and over-analyze all of my decisions, and this post has given me even more to consider when choosing a new laptop! Not your fault, though, a lot of very helpful information here 🙂

  4. Haha! This was really enjoyable. I'm actually looking at buying a new laptop whilst studying for my human anatomy and physiology exam so this did make me chuckle. Thank you 🙂

  5. Hi Ana,
    1. You need to know the resolution of the camera from which the picture was taken apart from other settings. It's important, the picture itself is of a high quality.
    2. You can set the resolution of your laptop in Display settings ( depending on the OS). Hope this helps

  6. These are all great things to think about when purchasing a laptop. I can understand that the HDMI outputs would be something one would need to consider when linking up to TV's and other devices. I am just glad that my projector still connects with a computer cable and not an HDMI cord as my lap top does not have HDMI outputs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *