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Buying a new computer requires reading and dealing with a lot of jargon. From the different types of processors to the difference between memory and storage, there is a lot of information. But the process doesn’t have to be daunting. Arguably, we’ve never had so many great options for a laptop or desktop.
As you start looking for your next PC, let us help. Not only are some recommendations for laptops, Chromebooks, and gaming PCs below, but you’ll also find some tips on what to look for.
So let’s start with the recommendations and then move on to our sage advice.
Microsoft’s Surface line ushered in 2-in-1s that easily switch between tablet and laptop modes, and with the latest generation Surface Pro, Microsoft has built up some impressive kit. The Pro 8 lends itself to being a versatile device for creatives, students or professionals with a newer design that sports slim bezels around a 13-inch 120Hz display.
Inside the 2-in-1 is an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory and 128GB of storage. You can customize the version to improve performance and add more memory or storage if you need something more powerful. But for most people, this configuration is sufficient for most professional or personal tasks.
The only problem? The Surface Pro 8 doesn’t come with a keyboard, so you’ll have to buy the $79 Surface Pro Signature keyboards separately.
Need a Windows laptop with more power than the Surface Pro 8? Dell’s XPS 13 Touch laptop fits the mold with an Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of memory and 512GB of storage. The svelte, slim design not only looks good, but lends itself to portability. The XPS 13 weighs just 2.64 pounds and is only 0.58 inches thick. It has a 13.4-inch touchscreen that you can use to tap and swipe your way through Windows.
For those who are always on the go, the XPS 13 makes a lot of sense. However, if you plan on connecting lots of accessories to it, you’ll want to find a USB-C hub or docking station as there are only a few ports built in here.
The MacBook Air has long been a top recommendation for students and those who need a reliable computer that integrates with Apple’s ecosystem of services and hardware. And in 2022, the $999 price tag offers plenty of computing power and battery life. The MacBook Air uses Apple’s own Apple Silicon M1 processor, 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD for storage. That’s plenty of power for basic tasks, photo editing, multitasking, and even video projects.
There’s a Touch ID sensor that doubles as a power button, making it easy to log into your MacBook Air using a fingerprint. The biggest downside? It only has two USB-C ports, so you’ll need some sort of USB-C hub or adapter if you need to connect multiple devices to it at the same time. But hey, it has a headphone jack!
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Apple’s latest MacBook Pro models offer more power than the MacBook Air and a design reminiscent of the good old days. They brought back the MagSafe magnetic charging connector, an SD card reader and an HDMI port. You can choose between a 14-inch or 16-inch design, and you can choose between two new Apple Silicon processors.
Both the M1 Pro and M1 Max add impressive performance options, with the Max version better suited for heavy video editing and other resource-intensive tasks. The base model 14-inch MacBook Pro comes with an M1 Pro processor, 16GB of memory, and 512GB of storage.
Acer Chromebook Spin 713 ($699; bestbuy.com)
Chrome OS and by extension Chromebooks are no longer relegated to a laptop that simply runs the Chrome web browser. They now resemble a full-fledged operating system, although based on Chrome and Android. The Chromebook Spin 713 features a 13.5-inch display powered by an Intel Core i5 processor, 256GB of storage, and 8GB of memory. And as the name suggests, you can spin around the screen to transform the 713 from a standard laptop to a tablet, using the Android and Chrome OS apps.
Chromebooks are ideal for someone who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on a computer or someone who relies on Google services, like Drive and Gmail, for work, school, or computing tasks. daily.
Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet is an incredibly affordable Chromebook that won’t really blow you away when it comes to performance, but it can easily handle day-to-day tasks like checking email, watching videos, or working in Google Docs.
Its 2-in-1 design comes with a keyboard and stand that quickly detaches to convert the Duet into a full-fledged tablet. It has a 10.1-inch screen, MediaTek Helio P60T processor, 4GB of memory and 128GB of storage. From young students learning at home to those who don’t really need a full-fledged computer, the Duet is a solid choice that doesn’t break the bank.
NZXT Starter Plus gaming PC ($1,349; nzxt.com)
NZXT’s lineup consists of multiple versions of gaming PCs, each designed to meet a budget and performance requirements. The Starter Plus PC comes with an Intel Core i5 processor, NVIDIA Geforce RTX 3060, 16GB of memory and a 500GB SSD. That’s more than enough power to play any game you want and achieve that 60fps benchmark.
If you’d rather build your own gaming PC but don’t want to deal with sourcing components, check out NZXT’s BLD KITS. You get all the parts, tools and instructions to help you put it all together. Prices start at $1,399 for a Starter Pro and go up from there – and yes, it’s an entertaining build.
Asus ROG Strix G15 ($1,516; amazon.com)
Looking for a powerful gaming PC you can take with you? The Asus ROG Strix G15 offers exactly that at a respectable price. It features a 15.6-inch FHD 1080p 300Hz display powered by a Ryzen R7-5800H processor, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti (aka dedicated graphics card), 16GB of memory, and 1TB of storage.
All of these specs translate into a powerful laptop for work and play. There’s even a row of RGB lighting along the bottom deck, and everyone knows the more RGB you have on a gaming PC, the better you game.
There are many factors to consider when looking for a computer. Keep in mind that this computer is probably going to last you several years (maybe more!), so don’t just look at how you’re using one right now, but also what you might need in the future. By future-proofing your investment, you’ll save money and keep headaches to a minimum.
Look at the processor included in your build and Google the model number. For example, if the processor is an i7-1165G7, search for it to see its age. I can tell you just by looking at the number that this is an 11th generation processor, so it will support Windows 11 and all the security features it needs. But, you don’t want to find a good deal on a computer only to find out later that it’s using an older processor that won’t allow you to install or upgrade to Windows 11.
If you’re buying a Mac, Apple is moving away from Intel processors and moving to its own Apple Silicon processors. Apple will support its Intel models in the future, but I recommend getting a Mac with Apple’s M1 chips. We’re already starting to see some features in software updates limited to Apple Silicon processors, and this trend is expected to continue with every major update.
For Windows and Mac computers, you’ll want something with at least 8GB of memory or RAM. If you do a lot of video editing, photo editing, and multitasking, you might want to consider upgrading to 16GB of memory.
As far as storage, I would hesitate at a computer with 128 GB of storage. The exception to this rule is Chromebooks, simply because most of your files will automatically sync to your Google Drive account and won’t take up space on the device.
It’s surprising how quickly a hard drive fills up, so have a plan to offload extra files and folders to a cloud storage provider like iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive or get a bigger hard drive than you think need it. Remember that with the exception of gaming PCs and some laptops, you’re stuck with the specs of the device you’re buying – there’s no option to add more storage or memory yourself.
Prices are correct and items in stock at time of publication.