Some might say that laptops are personal devices so what you might find preferable on the spec sheet is up to personal preference or your use case. However, having a powerful device and not needing some of its features is still the better deal compared to having a weak device that falls short in case you decided to expand your use case. As such, some laptop features are more desirable than others.
There are certain standards for laptops and computers that a device would do well to try to meet so as to minimize buyer’s remorse or productivity or gaming hiccups.
You’re not exactly required to follow them faithfully. Just being aware of which specs or laptop features are more advantageous than others is enough.
Do note that if your device falls short of one of the standards we’re aiming for in laptop features usually means that the laptop will come with compromises. That could come in the form of poorer durability, slower startup, or needing to replace or upgrade certain components.
In any case, these laptop features are something you’ll want as a baseline, assuming you’re in the market for a new laptop.
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A metal case or chassis is often one of the most overlooked factors in a laptop’s quality. As we all know, metal (typically aluminum), is significantly tougher than plastic. Even comparing a thin aluminum plate to a thin plastic plate in a laptop puts the former ahead in terms of feel and sturdiness.
Of course, not all laptops will automatically ship with a metal chassis. Most of the time, lower mid-range to budget options (below $1,000) will come with a plastic chassis so they can accommodate better hardware in the manufacturing cost allotment. That’s okay.
You’ll just need to be more careful with such laptops since plastic tends to flex more. That means you can’t just allow your cat to step all over the keyboard or the back of the screen, as compared to laptops with a metal chassis.
A Built-in 1080p Webcam
It’s 2022 (and eventually 2023) now; 720p needs to be a thing of the distant past. While it was once the flagbearer for the HD buzzword, it’s jarringly pixelated these days. So why are some laptops still using 720p webcams?
This holds true for most budget laptops since they’re cutting costs. But even some premium brands such as Dell’s Alienware still come with 720p webcams (which is embarrassing for the price). If you’re after gaming specs, then sure, you can safely ignore this 720p webcam.
It’s not enough to be a dealbreaker in that case. But for everything else such as Zoom meetings, online classes, or even Twitch streaming, this 720p built-in webcam just falls short. You’ll want at least something with a 1080p webcam.
Otherwise, prepare to spend several dozens of dollars more for a separate webcam that meets today’s standards for clarity and quality.
SSD as Storage
Thankfully, most laptops these days come with NVMe SSDs, which are flat storage drives the size of a thumb. They were made with laptop nanotechnology in mind. However, some brazen brands and budget options are still including HDDs or hard disk drives in their chassis.
This is not much of a dealbreaker as long as the main drive is an SSD, but if that were the case, the said main drive would probably only come with meager space (128GB or less). Just enough for the operating system.
HDDs are simply too slow these days; in fact, they’re the primary contributor to that slow and sluggish computer operation feel. Hence, the biggest upgrade a computer can have in terms of snappiness is by shifting from HDD to SSD.
For that matter, always try to go for a laptop with an SSD. A full SSD option instead of a mix of SSD+HDD is also preferable– even at the cost of less storage space; SSDs are still more expensive.
16 GB of RAM/Memory
Speaking of hardware standards, 8GB of RAM is just not going to cut it these days. Even if you’re just browsing, you might find Chrome crashing too frequently for comfort, especially when paired with Windows 11. Software requirements also go up depending on their updates, after all.
And for gaming? You can forget about 8GB because most of the latest games these days (even the ones that don’t demand much in terms of graphical processing power) require 16 GB.
Thus, 16GB is now the standard after 8GB being the standard in the past decade. Software and graphical advancements are even progressing fast these days that we just might see 32GB becoming the standard in the next five years or so.
Whatever the case, always try to aim for a laptop with 16GB of RAM. 8GB of RAM is also somewhat fine as long as there’s an expandable RAM slot next to it where you can slot in another 8GB stick of RAM; that would require you to spend more outside of the initial cost.
Like SSDs, most laptops also come equipped with IPS displays nowadays. It’s a screen technology with wide viewing angles so you don’t get color-shifting when you view the screen off-center. It’s pretty important if you’re a graphic designer or a photo editor. And it can even alleviate some eye-soreness or headaches for any use case be it work or gaming.
Still, there are some specs from the past or old laptop stocks that might utilize a different screen technology that isn’t IPS or OLED (which is more expensive). Your eyes will certainly thank you for going strictly for IPS screens (or better) when it comes to laptops.
IPS displays simply give better color precision and don’t hinder your productivity or gaming.
A Discrete Graphics Card/GPU
Again, this laptop feature is highly dependent on the budget. But let’s say you’re spending more than $1,000 on your laptop; if that’s the scenario, then it’s only fair to expect it to come with a discrete GPU instead of an integrated GPU.
Because even if you’re not gaming, the discrete GPU can take some of the load off the CPU when it comes to tasks such as watching videos or designing some simple animations. A budget discreet GPU (such as a GTX 1650, RTX 3050, or RX 6400) is still better than any integrated GPU today.
Higher-tiered discrete GPUs are certainly better for gaming, but if you’re not after that hobby, then budget ones will work fine. You’ll never know when you’ll be tempted to play games on your laptop.
At Least a Quad-Core CPU
There is also a standard for CPUs these days, and that would be at least a quad-core or four-core CPU. Dual cores are relics. Even phones now come with quad or octa-core CPUs these days, so you’ll also want the same for your laptop for smooth operation.
This is another of those laptop features that depend heavily on the budget. But even if you’re going low-end or entry-level, a quad-core CPU is still a fair expectation or spec to look for in a laptop.
Because these days, an i3/Ryzen 3 CPU typically has four cores, an i5/Ryzen 5 has six cores, and an i7/Ryzen 7 has eight, and so on.
More cores mean better performance and multitasking.
144Hz Refresh Rate
A decade ago, 60Hz was the standard and common refresh rate– even the decade before that favored 60Hz. But nowadays, eyes are more sensitive to screens and animations. People can and are known to spot the differences between 60Hz and higher screen refresh rates.
Nowadays, 144Hz or even 120Hz is the current refresh rate standard. If you compare it side by side with 60Hz, you’ll find the latter sluggish because the lower refresh rate shows fewer frames of pixel animation. This is apparent not just in gaming, but also in typical Windows operations such as dragging tabs or moving the cursor.
It’s even hard to go back to 60Hz or 75Hz after experiencing 144Hz and above. The eyes and the brain can certainly tell the difference. So when looking for laptop features, this is one of the specs that can be a dealbreaker, as 60Hz is also considered a relic of the past.