Over the last year, your laptop has probably taken a beating. With you stuck home it’s seen an endless stream of Zoom calls, spreadsheets, Youtube spirals, and Netflix binges.
If your current laptop is crying out for retirement or you’re new to working from home, you’re going to need a machine that you can rely on. Something that can take your workload in its stride.
Unfortunately, unless you work in IT, choosing a WFH laptop can be a bit of a struggle. Product descriptions are filled with technical jargon that makes most of our heads spin!
To make things a bit easier and to help you get back to work, we’ve got 5 top tips that will help you pick the right laptop for WFH.
1. Windows or Mac?
Before we get into the minutiae of laptop components and specs, let’s look at the larger differences.
The first choice you’ll want to make is to decide whether you want a Windows laptop or a Macbook.
Windows laptops are made by a huge range of companies, but they all run on a Windows operating system. That means that functionally they have a lot of similarities. The menus, navigation, and settings will be familiar across many different brands.
Macbooks are only produced by Apple. They run MacOS which is quite different from Windows operating systems.
When it comes to choosing between Windows or Mac it really comes down to your budget and your personal preference.
If you are an avid Apple user, maybe you’ll enjoy the integration of all of your devices and the familiarity of the macOS. However, if you’re more concerned about the cost then you’ll definitely want to go for a Windows laptop. They come in at hundreds of dollars lower than Macs.
In the past, there has been a split between creative and business users. Creative users tended to go for Macs and business users opting for Windows. However, this divide is less apparent nowadays.
The specs of a laptop are where things tend to get a bit jargon-heavy. Unfortunately, it’s important to have a basic understanding to make sure you’re getting a machine that can meet your needs.
Here’s a breakdown of the key specifications you need to make note of.
- Processor – The processor is the brain of the computer. It tells all the other bits what to do and makes all the programs run. The better the processor, the quicker your computer will execute tasks and the more tasks it can manage.
- RAM – This stands for random access memory. RAM is a form of storage that helps your computer manage multiple programs and processes. Essentially it’s a waiting room where the things you are working on can hang out until you need them.
More RAM means you can have more programs and applications running simultaneously.
- SSD or HDD – These are two forms of hard drives. Your hard drive is where all your data and files are stored.
SSD stands for solid-state drive while HDD stands for hard disk drive.
HDDs are the older form and contain a small disk that spins as data is written or accessed. SSDs store the information on multiple memory cards so there are no moving parts.
In general, SSDs are quicker, more reliable, and take up less space. They are, however, more expensive than HDDs.
- Screen resolution – Pretty much every laptop nowadays is at least HD ready. If you want a sharper image, look for a full HD screen. The very best screens available as of writing are 4K screens. These are mainly aimed at gamers.
When it comes to a WFH laptop you’ll need to have a good understanding of the demands you’ll be placing on your laptop.
As a general guide, if your work involves general office work, flicking back and forth between spreadsheets and documents you’ll need the following specs:
- Intel i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 processor
- 4 GB RAM
- 128 GB SSD
- Full HD Screen
The above is a bare minimum recommendation. You’ll be able to work, store your data, and get fairly decent speeds.
For an ideal experience, you’ll want to go for a machine with slightly higher specs. Try looking for a laptop with the following specs:
- Intel i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 processor
- 8 GB RAM
- 256 GB SSD
- Full HD Screen
If you’re looking for a laptop with the above specs you’ll want to try a Dell i7559 or similar.
Laptops come with a range of ports that enable you to use USB pens, hardware like keyboards, mice, cameras, and graphics pads.
At the bare minimum, you’ll want at least 2 USB ports. This will allow you to use memory sticks and hardware.
If you want to plug your laptop into a TV or monitor you’ll usually need an HDMI port. This can be handy if you’re sick of being chained to a desk and staring at a smaller screen.
If your wireless isn’t up to speed, you might want to look for a laptop with an ethernet port. This will let you plug directly into your internet modem.
You’ll also want to make sure that your laptop has an audio jack port for your headphones and microphone. Some laptops are moving away from having a separate port for the headphones and microphone so don’t be alarmed if you only see one port.
In the golden age of Zoom calls, if you don’t have a webcam, you’re a bit stuck.
Most laptops come with a built-in webcam. They’re usually 720p in quality. This isn’t HD but it is more than suitable for Zoom or Skype.
There are a few laptops that have 1080p webcams but they tend to be more expensive and generally not worth the cost.
Some people like to get laptops with webcam covers. This is to reduce the amount that cybercriminals can see if they hack the camera. If you are concerned about safety, then that’s something to consider.
Not every keyboard is the same. Some are backlit, some are cushioned, and then there’s the fairly large size range available.
First things first, backlit keyboards are not necessary unless you’re working in low light. If you’re a bit of a late-night crammer, then backlighting can be useful.
Most laptops use chiclet keys which basically means that each key has its own cut out in the board below. These keys have a soft membrane below which is depressed when you hit a key and this tells the processor what letter or number was hit.
Some keyboards are softer than others. Some are quieter than others. Mostly this is a matter of personal preference. Check the reviews to find out how other users feel about the keyboard and whether it would suit you.
The main thing to think about is the range of keys available on your keyboard. If you work with numbers, you’ll probably want a laptop that includes a number pad. Keyboards that include number pads are full keyboards.
Keyboards without number pads are known as tenkeyless and are quite common on laptops with screens smaller than 14 inches.
Choosing your WFH laptop is an important decision. After all, you’re going to be working on it 5 days a week for the foreseeable future!
Hopefully, these tips will help you choose the right laptop for you.