For all of you non-techies out there, I get that figuring out how to choose a laptop is difficult. And when it’s a laptop on a budget, then scratch that, it’s near impossible. I’ve already told you all about Chromebooks, and shown you some incredible Chromebook deals; now I’m going to give you a handy laptop buying guide for any budget with some of my best budget laptop picks for 2015. This is especially useful if you’re looking on the cheaper side but don’t want to scrimp on the things that matter. Just… being a non-techy, you have no clue what the things that matter even are.
If you’ve come here looking for specific laptop types, rather than how to choose one, I’ve put 3 of the best laptops at the end of this post. You can find the 12 best budget laptops of 2015 over on this post though, with the best budget all-rounders, the best budget chromebooks, and even a budget gaming laptop!
GB, MB, RAM, TB, HDD, OMG…. I think we’re all a little bit confused. So let’s just take a step back for a second.
Before I start explaining what exactly you need to look out for in your next laptop, and what features you can afford to cut corners on, you need to tell me what you want to look out for. Nothing technical, just before you start considering different laptops make a list of what exactly you need a new one for. Even if this is just a laptop you want to play about on the internet and watch movies on, that’s fine, write it down. What I’m going to do is help you take that list and put your money to each of those features, so you’ll end up buying a laptop that’s perfect for exactly what you need it for.
- 0.1 Here are 2 examples of people looking for the best budget laptops of 2015 and what they need one for:
- 0.2 What The Laptop Different Components Actually Do And Other Technical Speak Explained
- 0.3 Other Things You Can Scrimp On:
- 0.4 How To Buy The Best Budget Laptops 2015
- 0.5 What Are The Best Budget Laptops Of 2015 In The UK?
- 0.6 1/ The Acer C720 11.6-inch Chromebook
- 1 SEE MORE: The 12 Best Budget Laptops 2015 In The UK >>
Here are 2 examples of people looking for the best budget laptops of 2015 and what they need one for:
- The first is someone who needs this laptop for home and work. She’s an illustrator, and needs to make sure Photoshop can be installed for her to work on. Before she chooses what laptop to buy, she needs to do a Google search for what computer specifications Photoshop needs to be able to work properly. She’ll write these down on her list, and make sure that whatever laptop she buys meets or exceeds these specifications.
- The second example is a guy who needs no programmes installed, he just needs a laptop to chill out on. His laptop will be mainly used for the internet, Netflix watching and replying emails. For him, he’d need a laptop that could handle surfing the internet with speed, with a large enough screen for him to happily watch movies on, and a good enough resolution for him to watch in HD. Maybe speaker quality would even be important to him. He might be able to get a cheaper laptop than the lady above, but without writing down what he’s using it for he probably won’t realise it.
What The Laptop Different Components Actually Do And Other Technical Speak Explained
1/ RAM (Memory)
Ahhh they’re trying to sell me a sheep with this laptop! Terrible jokes aside – RAM is the memory of your laptop, and the more you have the quicker your files and programmes will load. Some articles argue that 4GB should be the minimum amount you go for, but honestly 2GB will get you by and the higher amount you get the better.
- When It’d Be Ok To Scrimp On The RAM Of Your Budget Laptop:
I don’t think there’s ever a reason to really scrimp on RAM as it’s such an integral part of any computing. I would say that there’s no huge need to get over 4GB if you’re not going to be making your laptop do anything too taxing though.
Think of this like your laptop’s brain. The bigger it is, the quicker and more efficiently it’ll do things. It’s absolutely essential for multi-tasking. But what should you be looking out for? AMD is a great budget processor (and perhaps the minimum one you should get). Intel Core i3 is what you’ll really want if you can stretch your budget though, with Intel Core’s i5 and i7 the two up from that.
- When It’d Be Ok To Scrimp On The Processor Of Your Budget Laptop:
If you don’t need a really powerful laptop. A smaller processor is perfectly acceptable if all you need your budget laptop for is the internet, watching things and typing. If you’re wanting to play games or power large programmes like Photoshop, you should opt for a better processor.
3/ Hard Drive (or HDD)
This is where you’re going to put all your stuff. Your documents, music, movies, pictures all live here, so the bigger and better it is the more it’ll store. The absolute minimum size you’d want is 32GB, anything more than that is a bonus.
- When It’d Be Ok To Scrimp On The Hard Drive Of Your Budget Laptop:
Go smaller if you don’t have much to install. If you’re worried about all of your files, don’t be. It’s really only things you install that you need to worry about taking up space on your hard drive (like games, or programmes like Photoshop), because if you ever run out of space for general documents and photos you can get external hard drives, USB sticks, or even back them all up on the Cloud with Google, Apple or Dropbox.
I know what you’re thinking, you don’t need the battery explained! And no, nowadays you really don’t. Most retailers will tell you what average battery time you can expect from the laptop you’re looking at before you’ll need to plug it into the mains, but if you’re unsure the minimum battery type you should be looking for is a 4-cell battery. And remember, the better the other components on your laptop are, the more the battery will struggle and drain quicker.
- When It’d Be Ok To Scrimp On The Battery Of Your Budget Laptop:
If you’re going to be using your laptop mainly plugged in, then don’t worry about battery life. But if you were hoping to choose a budget laptop you could take to lectures, use on commutes, use in meeting or work on in class then go for a longer battery life.
5/ Graphics Card
Almost as straightforward as the battery is – the graphics card just makes your screen show images and videos. The better the graphics card, the quicker and better the images your shown will be. The minimum standard you’ll want for this is integrated graphics.
- When It’d Be Ok To Scrimp On The Graphics Card Of Your Budget Laptop:
If you’re planning on using your budget laptop for things that don’t need to be looked at in stunning quality. A basic graphics card will handle Netflix and Youtube fine, but you might want to upgrade if you need to edit images, videos, play games, or if you’re planning on making this your media hub and quality really matters to you. In fact, most games require a certain standard of graphics card before you can even install them!
6/ SSD (Solid-State Drive)
Laptops don’t often come with an SDD as standard, but if you spot this on one you’re looking at it basically just speeds up your computer and gives you extra space for your stuff.
- When It’d Be Ok To Scrimp On The SSD Of Your Budget Laptop:
Always. Really, these are lovely extras and you’ll really notice the difference of having one, but they’re absolutely not necessary for a budget laptop. It’s like getting a new car and finding out it has a connector for your iphone – a brilliant added extra but not one you need to drive you from A to B.
7/ MB , GB, TB
WHAT ARE ALL THESE ABBREVIATIONS?! It’s like laptop makers purposefully don’t want you to know what you’re looking for so they can sell you something you don’t need… Ahem… Well, these normally equate to how big something is, or, how much something like a hard drive can hold. And here’s how big each one is:
- MB = Short for megabyte. There are 1000MB in 1GB
- GB = Short for gigabyte. There are 1000GB in 1TB
- TB = Short for terabyte. And you really don’t need to know about anything bigger than this
8/ HDMI and USB slots
Pretty much everyone must know what a USB stick is by now – it’s a little device you can pop into your laptop and save files onto, so you can easily transfer them between devices. You need to make sure, if you’re planning to use any device on your laptop that connects via a USB type connector, that the laptop you’re buying has enough USB slots for this. HDMI is the usual connector type between a laptop and an external screen or TV (and makes sure that if what you’re trying to stream through it is in HD, you can watch it in HD). If you’re planning on using any kind of external monitor or TV, you’ll also have to make sure your laptop has a HDMI slot available.
- When It’d Be Ok To Scrimp On The Number Of HDMI & USB Slots On Your Budget Laptop:
If you don’t need to connect many things via USB and you’re not considering streaming things from your budget laptop to an external monitor or TV.
9/ Disc Drive
This might seem crazy if you’re used to PCs, but not all laptops have disc drives! So if you’re buying one and planning to install any programme from a disc, you need to make sure the laptop you choose has a disc drive or buy an external one that connects via USB.
- When It’d Be Ok To Scrimp On The Disc Drive Of Your Budget Laptop:
If you have nothing to install that requires a disc. If you don’t, but you’re fretting about whether you’ll need it in the future, let me put your mind at ease: It’s almost 2015. Most things you can download. And if you can’t, you could always buy a small external disc drive, but it’s doubtful you’d ever need one if you don’t now!
10/ Operating System
The operating system is probably going to be the most important thing to you and how you use your laptop. The major operating systems are:
- Google Chrome OS
If you’re used to using one more than the others, you might want to choose a laptop that has the same operating system built in.
11/ Notebook vs Laptop vs Chromebook
Notebooks are much the same as laptops; just much smaller and optimised for basic functions. They’re mainly for using the internet and other basic functions like writing in Microsoft Word. These are the perfect tiny companions for students and workers that need to work on their commutes, take notes in lectures and meetings, writing essays and using basic webcams and microphones for skype chats.
You can install things on notebooks, but they don’t have the power to handle anything too big. Chromebooks, however, can’t install anything. They run on Google Chrome OS and you can only install apps. These are perfect for much the same things as notebooks are though, and are rising in popularity. So much so that I wrote a post hailing them as the best laptop under £500!
Other Things You Can Scrimp On:
- The Design
I know I know, you want your new laptop to be something beautiful that you can show off to friends and use out and about without feeling embarrassed. But really, does the design matter all that much to you? As PC Advisor points out, if you get a laptop that’s a little less well made then you’ll save a bit of money. Luckily, budget laptops can still look the part. Some Chromebooks, for example, have such sleek and gorgeous designs that you’d never believe they’re as cheap as they are! And if you really don’t like the looks of your new laptop, just get it a cover or case.
- The Screen Size
Of course you’re going to want the biggest screen size you can afford no matter what you’re using your laptop for, but to keep the price down just try to consider a size down. If you’ve got an external monitor then this is a big point – the screen size shouldn’t matter all that much to you. And on the plus size, the smaller the screen the more portable the laptop is! Size doesn’t always matter either; look at some different sized laptops in a shop and you might find you don’t mind a smaller screen so much.
- The Weight
To be honest, a lot of the cheaper laptops are still pretty light. But you can shave some more money off if you go for a chunkier model that weighs a little more. This will make it a lot more difficult to carry around with you, but if you’re planning on keeping it in one spot it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
- The Model
Unsurprisingly, older model types cost a lot less than newer ones. In most cases this won’t make them much worse, as long as the technical specifications you need are there. Again, the older models never seem to have the best looks, but if that’s not an issue for you then you can save a lot of money on them.
How To Buy The Best Budget Laptops 2015
Right, have you still got your list? The one you wrote detailing exactly what you want this laptop for? Good, next you need to admit to yourself that because you’re on a budget, your laptop’s not going to be the best of the best in all areas. You’re going to have to scrimp on some things, and that’s fine. Just make sure it’s not on the areas that matter to you. You can still get one of the best budget laptops 2015, don’t even
If you’ve read the list above you should have some idea of what you want and what you want to save on. So now what? Well, here are some tips to help you figure out how to choose a laptop.
- Go In Store (But Not To Buy!)
If you’ve got no idea what laptop to choose yet, and you want to see the best budget laptops 2015 in the UK, pop into a retailer you know that sells them. I’d suggest Currys or PC World, Tesco, or Argos. Really you want to pick a place where you’ll get some information from the sales reps. Keep in mind that they’ll be made to push certain models, so take everything they say with a pinch of salt. You can see the models up close and personal, and try a few of them out to see how they feel in person.
If you’ve done your research and decided on a laptop, this would be the perfect time to have a little play on it and decide if it actually looks and works the way you imaged it to. If you haven’t, note down which ones you liked the most and go home to research them a little bit more.
- Go Online (To Find The Best Prices)
Look for some reviews of the best budget laptops 2015, and read up on many more laptop buying guides until you start to feel like you already own the laptop you’re thinking about buying! Once you’re that familiar with it and content with what you’re going to purchase, start comparing prices.
- Buy Your Budget Laptop At The Right Time
Don’t buy one of the best budget laptops of 2015 at the wrong time (and no, I don’t just mean in the wrong year…). Make sure you get it in a sale, so you could get a bit of extra money off. The Black Friday sales that have just gone by are a great example – but many retailers like Currys are still putting on Christmas deals up until the day, and then along will come the Boxing Day sales!
What Are The Best Budget Laptops Of 2015 In The UK?
This isn’t an easy question, because as you’ve hopefully figured out by now, different people need different laptops. So even though I think my Chromebook is the best thing since sliced bread, an illustrator would probably get so frustrated with it that they’d bash it against a wall (although, they’d definitely lose out on a refund then…). I’ll give you 3 great starting points for different people though.
1/ The Acer C720 11.6-inch Chromebook
This is basically just my way of saying Chromebooks are awesome. I think they’re one of the most reliable laptops, but they won’t be right for everyone. I wrote in detail about why I love Chromebooks so much after spending almost a year working on mine, but here’s a quick summary:
- They’re incredibly light and portable, so taking them to and from work (and lectures if you’re a student) is easy.
- Their battery just lasts forever. I haven’t charged the one I’m working on right now for 6 hours now and it’s still going strong.
- Thanks to the Google Chrome OS it’s speedy at flicking between internet tabs.
- Chromebooks are good if you need a budget laptop to mainly: use the internet, listen to music, watch videos and do basic photo edits (using Chrome extensions and apps).
2/ The Toshiba Cloudcook CL10-B-100 11.6-inch Cloudbook
The Toshiba Cloudbook has been made for light working use with Microsoft Office Apps, and heavy media use with an Intel HD Graphics Card. It looks gorgeous for the price, and comes pre-installed with Windows 8. It’s aimed at working professionals and students; perfect for taking notes on, light enough for commutes and with a beautiful screen to play movies and videos on. For the pricetag it’s amazing value, and I’d argue it makes a good substitute for a Chromebook if you’re not comfortable using Google Chrome OS and you’d rather stick to Windows.
3/ Lenovo Flex 10.1-inch Multimode Touchscreen Laptop
This is another budget laptop that would make an excellent media hub. A 320GB HDD is more than enough space to store all of your files, 4GB of RAM means it’ll speedily snap between applications and you’d never believe it has two different modes as well as a touchscreen and HD camera for the price! It’s still light and portable, but you do take a hit on the battery with only a 4 hour average battery life. But, like we’ve discussed, if you want one of the best budget laptops 2015 you have to take a hit on quality somewhere!
If you’ve got any other questions about how to choose a budget laptop let me know in the comments below or over on Twitter or Facebook and I’ll answer it straight away!
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