Laptop Buying Guide

Everything you need to find a laptop you’ll love.

Buying a new laptop can be confusing. Depending on what you want it for and where you’ll take it, there’s a lot to consider to find the perfect laptop. This guide covers all the important things you need to know.

If you’re still unsure, or just want to have a look at the latest tech before making a decision, pop in to any of our stores and one of our friendly colleagues will be more than happy to help you out.

Operating system

The operating system determines how you interact with your laptop, and what software is available. There are three main options, each designed for different kinds of laptop user.

Windows 10

Windows is the most commonly used operating system, with a familiar look and feel that most people will have experience using. Powerful, yet simple, Windows 10 has reliable security and is perfect for productivity. Whether you’re looking for your first laptop, or need power to work with important documents, you can find what you need from Windows.

Windows looks and feels the same whatever device you’re using it on. Whether that’s a laptop, 2-in-1, tablet, or smartphone, you can always find your way around.

Windows 10 works with all the same programs and accessories as previous versions, so you don’t need to worry about replacing anything else when you get it.

The upgraded security will keep updating for the lifetime of the laptop, so you’ll always be protected from viruses and malware.

If you’re looking for a gaming laptop, Windows is the clear choice, with the best gaming hardware and widest selection of games.

If you’ve never used a Windows operating system before, it can be initially confusing to interact with.

View all Windows laptops

OS X

OS X is exclusive to Apple MacBooks. It uses a clear desktop style and is easy to use, so it’s great for those new to computing or who prefer simple navigation.

OS X works flawlessly with other Apple devices. If you have an iPhone or iPad, it’s very easy to transfer files and apps to and from your MacBook.

If you’re of a creative sort, OS X is ideal. Popular design software, such as Photoshop and iDesign, is optimized to work on OS X, so you can get more done.

Some software and hardware aren’t compatible with OS X, so if you want to be able to use a particular piece of software you’ll need to check if it’s OS X compatible.

View all Apple Macbooks

Chrome OS

If you’re only going to be using your laptop for online shopping, emails, social media, and other web-based activities, then Chrome OS is built for you. All the frills removed, so it gets you online quickly and easily.

Easy access to web content.

Access the same app store that’s available on Android devices, so you can search through over 1 million apps.

Most PC software isn’t compatible, so if you’re looking to do anything other than getting online this may not be the OS for you.

View all Chromebooks

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Types of laptops

Choosing the type of laptop is the first decision. Each laptop is suited for different tasks and each has their own uses. Check out the different varieties, and see which is best for you.

Windows laptops

Windows laptops have the widest variety in specifications, so whether you need something simple and portable for college, or a powerful machine for complex multimedia editing - a Windows laptop won’t disappoint.

View all Windows laptops

2 in 1

A 2 in 1 can work as either a tablet or laptop – the screen flips over so you can choose how you use it. In laptop mode, you can use it like any other, and finish typing up that important document. Once you’re done, the 2 in 1 can flip into a tablet so you can kick back with a movie. 2 in 1 devices run Windows 10, which functions identically on tablets and laptops, so the transformations between the two are seamless.

View all 2 in 1 laptops

MacBooks

Macbooks look great, and can run complex software for graphic design, video editing, and other creative projects. Constructed of high quality materials, and running Apple’s OS X operating system, the distinctive MacBook is ideal for running professional software.

View all Apple Macbooks

Gaming laptops

Gaming laptops put performance first. Equipped with the best hardware, from powerful processors to advanced graphics cards, they have everything you need to run the latest games on the highest settings. Being Windows laptops, there’s a big range of specifications, so whether you’re just getting into PC gaming or already have a huge collection, there’s a gaming laptop to suit your playstyle.

View all Gaming laptops

Chromebooks

Get online, simply. The Chrome operating system is streamlined for web browsing, so if you only want to use a laptop for emails, browsing online, and social media – a Chromebook is perfect. Chromebooks also have access to Google Play, the same app store used by Android devices.

View all Chromebooks

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Processors

This is the brain of the laptop. Whenever you do anything, from clicking the mouse, to opening a file, the processor does the work of actually executing the command. For each laptop we have available, the product page covers what its processor is best suited for. Read on for a closer look at what the different specifications actually mean.

How many cores do I need?

We consider dual-core to be the minimum requirement for a modern laptop, so every laptop we sell is at least dual-core. This allows the laptop to multitask, so you can have several windows and apps running at once. A quad-core processor is much more capable, and is able to run complex software quickly. If you’re going to be using photo editing, music production, or other complex software, you’re going to want a multi-core setup.

View all Dual-core laptops

View all Quad-core laptops

What is the clock speed?

Clock speed is simply how quickly the processor functions. It’s measured in GHz, and a higher clock speed reduces loading times. This allows the laptop to load documents faster, and reduces the presence of loading screens in games.

Turbo Boost (Intel®) or Turbo Core (AMD) technology is built into some processors. These allow the processor to enhance the speed it runs at, so if you’re doing complex media production you have maximum performance. The Turbo turns off during lighter computing tasks, so your laptop’s battery lasts longer if you’re only browsing the internet.

What is the Memory cache?

Sometimes you try to open multiple files at once, and your computer slows down until it has them all open. This is because all tasks your laptop performs have to go through the Memory Cache before the processor can carry them out. A bigger cache allows the processor to handle more at once, but unless you’re running professional-level creative software like Cubase or Photoshop, this is rarely a concern.

If you are a creative professional, then you’re going to want at least 4 MB of memory cache to handle everything you want to do.

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Memory (RAM)

Random-access memory (RAM) is a key component of high-performance laptops. It’s important to note that memory has nothing to do with how many documents and programs your laptop can store – that’s Storage, which is covered in the next section.

What does memory (RAM) do?

Whenever your computer is going to perform a task, such as playing a video, it is stored in RAM before being picked up by the processor. More RAM means more tasks can be stored at once, allowing the processor to perform them faster. If you’re going to run demanding software, more RAM is necessary for your laptop to be able to handle it.

How much memory (RAM) do I need?

We’ve put together the amount of RAM we recommend for different activities. More RAM will also improve the general performance of your laptop, so if in doubt, getting more is always a safe bet.

Browsing the web
Updating social media
Watching video clips
4 GB and over
Researching and writing essays
Creating spreadsheets
Working on presentations and other office work
6 GB and over
Streaming HD films
Editing photos - hobby
Editing videos - hobby
Music production - hobby
Gaming - casual
8 GB and over
Graphic design
Editing photos - professional
Editing videos - professional
Music production - professional
Graphic design - professional
Gaming - enthusiast
CAD design
16 GB and over

View all laptops 4GB and under

View all laptops 6GB and over

View all laptops 8GB and over

View all laptops 16GB and over

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Storage

Storage is how much space your computer has to store everything. All apps, programmes, and saved documents take up storage space. There are four main types available - HDD, SSD, SSHD, and eMMC. That’s a lot of acronyms, so we’ll break down each one so you know which is best for your needs.

What is a hard disc drive (HDD)?

A hard disc drive is the most commonly used type of storage. It has the widest range of capacities available, so if you are going to be storing a lot of large files like movies or lots of software packages, you’re going to want to get at least 1 TB.

View all HDD laptops

What is a solid-state drive (SSD)?

Solid-state drives don’t have the capacity of HDD, but they make up for it in performance. An SSD is much faster, so it is great for high-performance computing such as compiling video or playing the latest games. They are more expensive however, so tend to be found on performance-focused laptops.

View all SSD laptops

What is a solid-state hybrid drive (SSHD)?

As the name suggests, solid-state hybrid drives are a combination of HDD and SSD storage. Your most-accessed information is stored in the SSD, so you get the performance benefits, while everything else is in the HDD, so you get lots of capacity too. It’s not got as good performance as an actual SSD, but it provides good value for laptops that aren’t running the most powerful tech.

View all SSHD laptops

What is an embedded multi-media card (eMMC)?

eMMC is flash storage (the same storage used on memory sticks). It’s mostly used in tablets, but it can also be found on 2 in 1s, Chromebooks, and some lightweight laptops. It’s useful for smaller devices, as it takes up less space than the other storage types, but it does suffer from reduced capacity and performance compared to the other options.

View all eMMC laptops

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Screens

Screen size is an easy way to narrow down the huge selection of laptops we have available. The most common screen size is 15.6”, but going bigger or smaller each has their own benefits and drawbacks.

Which screen size will work for me?

15.6” is the most common for a reason. You can get a lot of detail on this size of screen without losing much in terms of portability, so if your laptop isn’t going to carried around too often, it’s a great size.

14” is the ideal middle ground of portability and screen size. It’ll fit in most backpacks, and still has plenty of screen space. You can go even smaller, to 11.6” or even 10.6” - great if you want to carry the laptop with you.

For a larger screen - 17.3” is ideal (and normally the largest size available). If you’re not going to be moving it from your desk very often, and need a big screen for work on multimedia, this can be a very useful screen size.

View all 14" laptops and below

View all 15" laptops

View all 17" laptops

What are the benefits of Full HD screens?

Because there’s more pixels on a Full HD screen than a standard screen, you can see a lot more detail. This means you get a much clearer picture when watching films or gaming, and sharper text if you’re writing an essay or just browsing the web. If you’re expecting to spend a lot of time glued to your laptop screen, a Full HD screen is definitely worth it, as the clearer images and text will reduce eyestrain.

If you’re a graphic designer or in a similar creative field, a Full HD screen is pretty much a necessity, as it provides the detail required for high-end media work.

What are the benefits of 4K screens?

With four times more pixels than a Full HD screen, 4K screens provide the same level of detail as a 4K TV. If you’re subscribed to a 4K streaming service then you will need a 4K screen in order to get all the benefits. You will need to go for a more expensive laptop for this kind of screen, because 4K content requires a powerful processor and a dedicated graphics card in order to process that amount of detail.

Do I need touchscreen?

Not everyone is aware that touchscreens are available on laptops, but it’s becoming more widespread. It’s an easy way to browse videos, scroll through social media, and navigate websites. If you don’t like using a typical laptop trackpad, this can be a handy alternative to a mouse.

It works just like your smartphone, so you’ll get the hang of it in seconds.

View all touchscreen laptops

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Connectivity

Laptops connect with all sorts of things, from WiFi to external storage and additional screens. There are a few key connections to look out for.

What is AC WiFi?

AC WiFi gives a laptop the fastest possible wireless connection to fibre optic broadband. If you’re going to be streaming videos or playing online games, this is a necessity. Fortunately, AC WiFi is part of every laptop we have for £349 and over, so you’ll get the speed you need.

View all AC WiFi laptops

What is a USB port?

USB ports are multipurpose connections that are used to plug in external storage, mice, printers, smartphones, and much more. There are two new kinds of USB to look out for.

USB Type-C is smaller than previous versions, and has no “right way up” so it’s easy to plug in on the first try. It’s faster than other USB ports, but needs an adapter if you want it to work with the older USB 3.0 or 2.0 ports.

USB 3.1 is a new variety of USB (both USB Type-C and standard USB ports) that provides the fastest connection speeds. If you find yourself transferring large volumes of data over a USB connection it’s worth looking out for.

What is HDMI?

If you’ve ever connected a DVD player, games console, or SKY TV box to your TV, you’ve probably used an HDMI cable. Through HDMI, a laptop can transmit up to 4K video, so even if you don’t get a Full HD or 4K screen on your laptop you can still take advantage of the better resolution on a second monitor. HDMI also transmits audio, so one cable lets you fully connect a laptop to your TV.

View all laptops with HDMI connectivity

What is VGA?

VGA is an older type of video output, but plenty of monitors and TVs still support it. The major drawbacks that VGA has compared to HDMI is that it doesn’t transmit sound or Full HD, and it doesn’t do anything that HDMI can’t do, so if you’re planning to connect to another screen you’ll want to consider an HDMI port instead.

View all laptops with VGA connectivity

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Extra features

Once you’ve got the main components of your laptop sorted, there’s a few other features that are worth thinking about.

Do I need a laptop with a long battery life?

If you’re buying a laptop for its portability, the battery life can be the difference between a successful presentation and your slideshow blinking off just as you reach your key point. If you intend to be on the move throughout the day, and want to use your laptop for notetaking in meetings or lectures, then having a battery life of ten or more hours is vital.

View all laptops with extended battery life

Do I need a lightweight laptop?

If the laptop is going to spend a lot of time in your bag, it’s worth looking for a lighter model. Modern laptops can be extremely lightweight, so be sure to check their weight when deciding which to get.

View all lightweight laptops

Is design important?

There have been great advances in laptop design in recent years, to the point where some laptops are worth buying based on looks alone. If you’re interested in how your hardware looks, some of the newer laptops are gorgeous, and will look great on any desk.

Do I need dedicated graphics?

A dedicated graphics card is an extra internal component that handles visuals. It’s not necessary for most people, but if you’re interested in graphic design, movie editing, or gaming, it’s absolutely vital. There’s a wide variety of graphics cards - from providing improvements to media playback, up to the fanciest of cards for gaming. With the most powerful graphics cards, you’ll be able to run the latest games and power virtual reality headsets for truly immersive experiences.

View all laptops with dedicated graphics

Is my laptop optimised for Windows 10?

All of our Windows laptops are optimised for Windows 10. Some go further than that, and have a dedicated Cortana button so that you can call on the integrated Personal Assistant at any time.

To really get the most out of Windows 10, get a laptop with the Intel® RealSense™ camera. This advanced webcam lets you use Windows Hello, the new feature in Windows 10. This lets you unlock your computer with a smile, rather than a password that you probably forgot moments after choosing it. It also locks your laptop when you walk away, so if you use it in a busy office or library it provides an extra layer of security.

How do I get improved audio?

If you know you’re going to be listening to music or watching a lot of films on your new laptop, keep an eye out for branded audio. A laptop with Bang & Olufson, Beats Audio, Harmon Kardon, or Skull Candy powered audio will feature high quality speakers, and the ability to fine tune your audio to suit your personal taste.

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You might also need

By now you should know enough to recognise your perfect laptop. There’s a few final things to consider to make sure you get your laptop set up just right.

Software

Software refers to every application you run on your laptop, from Office to Internet Security and multimedia editing. Most laptops don’t come with any of these as standard, so you’ll want to get the right one for you. Software can be picked up in store, delivered to your home, or downloaded directly from our website.

View all Software

Internet Security & Anti-Virus Software

You wouldn’t go out in the rain without a coat and you shouldn’t go online without internet security. We recommend that you pick up some Anti-Virus or Internet Security software so that you stay protected.

Internet Security protects you from viruses, and also includes additional features such as parental controls and password management. If you bank, share photos, save files, shop, email, or do anything else you wouldn’t want strangers to access, you need some kind of Internet Security to keep yourself safe.

View all Internet Security & Anti-Virus Software

Office Software

Word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software are staples of modern computing. Very few laptops come with Microsoft Office as standard, however, so if you’re going to be using the laptop for business or university you’ll want to pick it up. We offer the full range of Microsoft Office versions, so whatever you need it for, we have a version for you.

View all Office Software

Creative & Educational Software

Creative software is what you’ll use if you want to edit photos, cut videos, record music, design professional visuals, and other creative pursuits. Whatever you’re working on, we have the software for you.

Educational software helps you and your family to develop your education or learn something new.

View all Creative Software

View all Educational Software

Can I save by buying all the Software I need when I buy my PC?

Both in store and online we have lots of software bundles that offer big savings. When getting a new laptop, you can save by getting Microsoft Office and Internet Security bundled in. We have too many bundles to start listing them here, so have a look on the product pages when checking the laptops.

You can also ask in one of our stores for more details.

How can I get my Software?

You can get your software just like anything else you buy from us.

Home Delivery: Software can be delivered to your home.

Collect in store: Reserve your software online and pick it up from any of our stores.

Download: There’s a “Buy Now for Download” link available on the product page for software. This lets you download your software and start using it straight away.

Extra storage

The Cloud:
This is just the name for online storage. Anything saved to the Cloud can be accessed by any of your devices, so you can start a project at home, load it at work to collaborate with team members, and make it available to your boss when you’re done, even if none of you work in the same office.

The Cloud is great for expanding the storage capacity of a laptop, and can allow almost unlimited space for music, films, and documents.

View all Cloud Storage

External storage
If you’re going to be saving huge amounts of data, external storage gives you the space you need. External hard drives can be used to back up whole projects, while portable hard drives slip in a laptop bag alongside your computer for extra storage space while on the go.

View all Data Storage

Printers

Whether you’re printing out the occasional photo or creating large volumes of documents, a printer can be a huge help for education or business. If you’re about to start university, an all-in-one printer will let you print, scan, and copy, so you can prepare hard copies of projects without needing to go to the library.

View all printers

Cases

If you’ve taken the time to get yourself a new laptop, it’s important to keep it safe. We offer a huge range of laptop cases and bags, so you can protect it from accidental damage while out and about.

View all laptop bags and cases

Networking

It doesn’t matter how good your laptop’s Wi-Fi is if your home network is too slow to keep up. An AC router will give you the fastest possible home connection, so you can stream to multiple devices. You’ll spend more time watching videos, and less time waiting for them to load.

View all networking devices

Why should I add a Care Plan to my purchase?

With a Care Plan, you’re safe to use your laptop wherever, whenever. If your new laptop breaks outside of warranty or due to accidental damage, we’ll repair it within 14 days and provide a loan laptop to use in the meantime. If we can’t repair it, then we’ll give you a brand new one for no extra cost.

As well as immediate repairs, a Care Plan also comes with yearly health checks for your laptop, as well as a data recovery service, virus removal, and a 24/7 help and advice line so you can get in touch with our UK-based experts.

Learn more about laptop care plans

How do I set up my new laptop?

Just turn it on! Instructions will appear on screen to lead you through the set up process.

If you’d rather the laptop be fully functional as soon as you receive it, we can do the set up for you. Whatever it is you need, we can do it; creating a user account, downloading apps, installing updates, loading software, just let us know how you want it set up and it’ll be ready for you straight out of the box.

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