Laptop Buying Guide
24 May 2019
What screen size do you want?
10 to 12 inches: The thinnest and lightest notebooks around have 10 to 12-inch screens. However, you may sacrifice keyboard size for portability. Many laptops in this class double as tablets.
13 to 14 inches: Provides the best balance of portability and usability. Laptops with 13- or 14-inch screens usually weigh between 3 and 4.5 pounds.
15 inches: The most popular size, 15-inch laptops are the least expensive and provide plenty of desktop real estate. While most 15-inchers are easy to take from room to room, some are on the bulky side.
17 to 18 inches: If your laptop stays on your desk all day, a 17- or 18-inch system will likely provide everything you need for work and play. Many gaming notebooks are in this size category.
What's the most your can spend on a new laptop?
Up to R5000: Those in the market for a simple notebook for everyday tasks can find a capable machine for less than R5000. Think Intel Celeron or AMD E Series CPUs, 4GB of RAM and 500 GB to 1 TB of storage for Windows machines. Chromebooks need less resources, such as a Celeron CPU, 2GB of RAM and 16GB SSD.
Up to R9000: For well under R9000, you can get a notebook with an Intel Core i5 or AMD A8 CPU, 4 to 8GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive, all respectable specs. However, at this price point, many systems have lower-res screens and graphics that aren’t good enough for gaming.
Up to R12000: As you get above R12000, you’ll start to see more premium designs, such as metal finishes. Manufacturers also start to add in other features as you climb the price ladder, including higher-res screens, solid state drives and discrete graphics for those who want to play games.
Above R12000: At this price range, expect notebooks that are more portable, more powerful or both. The lightest, longest-lasting ultraportables like the MacBook and Lenovo ThinkPad X1 carbon tend to cost more than R20,000. High-end gaming systems and mobile workstations, such as the Alienware 17, usually cost upward of R25,000.
What do you plan to do most with your laptop?
All-Purpose: If you plan to use this as a family PC or want to do a little bit of everything, get a laptop between 13 and 15 inches in size that has solid specs.
Productivity / Business: If your main goal is to edit documents, design presentations or other productivity tasks, this is the category for you.
Gaming: If you want to play demanding titles, you’ll need a powerful CPU, discrete graphics and a high-res screen.
Creative Professional: If you do a fair amount of photo and video editing or 3D animation, choose this option.
Secondary PC / Light Use: You plan to give this laptop to the kids or use it for simple web surfing and email when you’re away from your primary PC.
How much do you plan to use your laptop unplugged?
Rarely: If you’ll remain tethered to an electrical outlet wherever you go, you can get by with 3 hours or less of battery life.
Sometimes: Even if you’re just sitting on your couch, you’ll want 5 hours of endurance or more.
Often: If you like to use your laptop all day without worrying about running out of power, go for at least 7 hours of juice.
Which operating system do you prefer?
Windows: Windows notebooks come in the widest variety of form factors with prices ranging from R3500 to over R50,000. The current version of Microsoft's operating system, Windows 10, adds in the Cortana voice assistant, the Edge browser and the ability to switch seamlessly between tablet and desktop modes.
macOS: Available on Macs only, Apple's macOS provides an attractive, powerful UI with an iPad-like Launchpad for your apps as well as interactive Notifications and Siri on the desktop. MacBooks tend to be more expensive, with the cheapest going for over R15,000.
Chrome OS: If surfing the Web, social networking and email are your priorities, buying a Chromebook could be a solid and affordable choice. Google’s Chrome OS provides a version of the company’s Chrome browser in an online-centric environment filled with powerful Web apps, but limited offline capability.
Do you want to use your laptop as a tablet?
2-in-1 laptops either fold or slide into tablet mode or allow you to detach the keyboard from the screen.
You prefer a more traditional clamshell notebook.