Explanation: Macs and PCs are the two main types of laptops. Macs run Apple’s MacOS, while PCs run Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Macs are sold by Apple, while PCs are sold by a variety of manufacturers such as Microsoft, Dell, Lenovo, and more. Most people tend to stick with the same operating system when upgrading their laptop. Currently, we do not support Chromebook recommendations.
Explanation: How you use your laptop determines what kind of hardware specifications you need. More demanding uses, such as gaming and video creation software, require a stronger processor and graphics card, often at the expense of weight and battery life. General use includes browsing the web, office and email applications like Microsoft Word and Gmail, streaming video like YouTube, web-based games and other less demanding software. Gaming and 3D use include 3D games from stores like Steam, machine learning development, 3D modeling using tools like Blender, 3D CAD, live streaming to sites like Twitch, and other graphically demanding software that depends on your GPU. Engineering and design use includes photo editing such as using Photoshop, video editing, graphics design, software development, CAD for engineering students and 2D CAD, engineering & science software such as MATLAB, and other CPU-dependent uses.
Explanation: The average laptop costs around $800, but the price can vary a lot depending on size, specifications, features and brand. The laptops in our database range in price from ~$100 to $4,000. More expensive laptops generally have better performance, battery life and other improved features. There are no new Macs available for less than $500.
Explanation: Screen size is the diagonal measurement of the screen from the upper left corner to the bottom right corner. A smaller laptop weighs less, so is easier to move around, and usually is less expensive. A larger laptop gives you more screen space to work with, and usually has more processing and graphics power. There are no new Macs available with a 17”+ display.
Explanation: This question helps PerfectRec find the right tradeoff for you between price and performance. We’ll help you get the performance you need, without spending extra on performance that won’t help you.
Explanation: At all screen sizes, there are lightweight, more compact options. In our database, the thinnest laptop is 0.44” thin, while the thickest laptop is 1.19” thick. The average is 0.8”. The lightest laptop is 2.16 lbs, while the heaviest laptop is 7.28 lbs. The average is 4.4 lbs. By answering this question, we can determine the level of weight and size you’re looking for. The tradeoffs for a thinner and lighter laptop usually include a decrease in performance and an increase in cost.
Explanation: Laptop battery life is affected by battery capacity, processor power efficiency, display power usage, and manufacturer tuning. We judge battery life based on web browsing runtime, the most common laptop usage. In our database, the longest battery life is 20 hours, while the shortest is 2 hours. The average battery life is 6-7 hours. FAA regulations limit the capacity of batteries in laptops to 100 Wh though many laptop batteries are considerably smaller than that. Larger laptops tend to have larger batteries.
Explanation: As laptop requirements vary among individuals, we offer customized recommendations based on your specific needs and preferences. Select the special features you require, and we'll ensure that your final recommendations include them. Selecting certain features may limit the available options on the list and remove potentially good options.
3+ USB ports: This filters out laptops with fewer than 3 total USB Type-A and USB-C ports.
Touchscreen: Filters out laptops without a touchscreen.
Number pad: Filters out laptops with a number pad.
Premium display: Filters out laptops with poor resolution, brightness, and display technologies.
2+ display outputs: Filters out laptops with fewer than 2 display outputs.
Ethernet: Filters out laptops without an ethernet jack.
Low fan noise: Filters out laptops with loud fans at idle, moderate or heavy loads.
Premium speakers: Filters out laptops with poor volume, frequency balance, and bass.
The PerfectRec portability score is a weighted score that combines two key factors that go into determining portability into a single 10 point scale. - Volume (Length x Width x Height) [50%] - Weight (50%) In our database, the average score is 6.7. Mobility score varies depending on level of performance and screen size. 13-14” laptops vary from a score of 7.1 to 9.7, with an average of 8.6. 15-16” laptops vary from a score of 4.3 to 8.9, with an average of 5.9. Lastly, 17”+ laptops vary from a score of 3.5 to 7.4, with an average of 4.3. The tradeoffs for a thinner and lighter laptop usually include a decrease in performance and an increase in cost.
The PerfectRec speaker quality score is based on volume, the number of speakers & subwoofers, location of speakers, and balance between bass, midrange, and treble. In our database, the average score is 5.9. We consider a score above 7 as great, and a score above 8 as excellent.
The PerfectRec fan noise score is based on volume and the number of fans. A higher score means less fan noise. Generally, as laptop performance increases, fan noise increases, which leads to a lower score. In our database, the average score is 6.
For minimal fan noise for regular use, look for a laptop with a score above 6.
For minimal fan noise under heavy load, look for a laptop with a score above 8.
For little to no fan noise regardless of use, look for a laptop with a score of 10.
The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the brain of the laptop. It works with all of the components in the laptop to run the programs we use regularly. Today, CPUs in laptops often have multiple cores, allowing the CPU to take on multiple tasks at once. The performance of the CPU is an important factor in providing a smooth experience on your laptop. The PerfectRec CPU score is a weighted score that combines two key factors that go into CPU performance into a single 10 point scale. - Single-core performance (60%) - Multi-core performance (40%) In our database, the average score is 6. We consider a CPU score above 4 sufficient for general use, though a higher score will reduce lag on heavier workloads. We recommend gaming and creative software users to highly consider a laptop with a CPU score above 5.5.
The Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), is responsible for processing graphics and displaying it to the screen. It can either be integrated with the CPU or in the form of dedicated graphics, separate from the CPU. Dedicated graphics are very common in gaming laptops, where strong graphics processing is required. The PerfectRec GPU score is a score that is based on graphical performance, transformed into a single 10 point scale. In our database, the average score is 6.2. We consider a laptop with a score above 4.5 capable of handling modern games at medium settings 1080p, above 7.5 for high settings 1080p, above 9 for high settings 1440p, and above 9.5 for high-max settings 1440p or medium-high settings 4K. Creative software users should aim for a laptop with a GPU score of at least 4.5.
This specification is only relevant for laptops with dedicated graphics. A MUX Switch or Advanced Optimus allows dedicated graphics to connect directly to the laptop’s display, for a 5-10% increase in performance in games. Otherwise, dedicated graphics need to pass through the laptop’s integrated graphics, causing reduced gaming performance.
The PerfectRec general use score is a weighted score that combines nine key factors that go into determining a laptop’s general use capabilities into a single 10 point scale.
CPU performance (22.5%)
Screen quality (12.5%)
Battery life (10%)
Keyboard quality (7.5%)
Speakers quality (7.5%)
Fan noise (7.5%)
In our database, the average score is 7. We consider a laptop with a score above 5 a good choice for general use.
The PerfectRec gaming score is a weighted score that combines seven key factors that go into determining a laptop’s gaming capabilities into a single 10 point scale.
GPU performance (40%)
CPU performance (20%)
Screen quality (12.5%)
Keyboard quality (5%)
In our database, the average score is 6.8. We consider a laptop with a score above 7 a good choice for gaming.
The PerfectRec engineering and design score is a weighted score that combines eight key factors that go into determining a laptop’s engineering and design capabilities into a single 10 point scale.
Screen quality (25%)
CPU performance (25%)
GPU performance (15%)
Speaker quality (5%)
Keyboard quality (5%)
In our database, the average score is 6.9. We consider a laptop with a score above 5.5 a good choice for engineering & design.
The major display technologies present in laptops are TN, IPS, OLED, and Mini LED. TN display technology is generally found in cheaper laptops. Brightness levels, viewing angles, and color quality tend to be very poor. TN displays should generally be avoided. IPS display technology is most common. Brightness levels vary depending on the quality, viewing angles tend to be excellent, and color quality is average. OLED display technology is growing in popularity, and is one of the best options available. Brightness levels and viewing angles are excellent, and color quality is unparalleled. The downsides include reflections due to glossy screen finishes that come with OLED displays and display burn-in. Mini LED display technology is also one of the best options available, and trades blows with OLED displays. Brightness levels are unparalleled, viewing angles are excellent, and color quality is slightly worse than OLED. Display burn-in is not a risk. Mini LED display technology is rare.
The refresh rate is the number of times per second (Hz) a screen updates. A higher refresh rate results in smoother scrolling and improved responsiveness in games. Most users can notice a difference in smoothness with a refresh rate above 60 Hz, but beyond 144 Hz, the benefits of high refresh rate diminishes.
The PerfectRec screen quality score is based on display resolution, brightness, refresh rate, color gamut coverage, and response time. In our database, the average score is 6.4. We consider a score above 5 as great, and a score above 7 as excellent.
USB Type-A is the most common USB port. These ports are used for connecting peripherals, such as keyboards, mice and many other devices. Some USB-A ports support charging external devices. USB A ports are larger than USB C ports.
USB Type-C is the newer type of common USB port. These ports are used for connecting peripherals, such as keyboard and mice. Data transfer speeds are generally faster than USB Type-A data transfer speeds. USB-C ports may support charging external devices. Additionally, USB-C ports may support Power Delivery, which allows the laptop to charge through its USB-C port. Some USB-C ports support DisplayPort, a technology that allows external display connection through the USB-C port. Thunderbolt is a special form of USB-C exclusively found on Intel and Apple based computers. The Thunderbolt specification guarantees high speed data transfer, charging, DisplayPort, and external graphics card support. Most, though not all, Thunderbolt ports support Power Delivery.
USB-C ports that support Power Delivery allow the laptop to charge through its USB-C port. The benefit is that USB-C is a universal port, allowing laptop owners to charge their laptops with a generic USB-C charger as opposed to a brand-specific charger. Because USB-C charging is generally limited to 100W, USB-C charging is slower than a normal charger for power hungry laptops.
HDMI ports, DisplayPorts, and USB-C ports with support for DisplayPort are the current types of laptop display outputs. It is important to check your monitor’s display inputs to determine what laptop display output is necessary. Some high-end monitors might require a DisplayPort connection to achieve their maximum resolution, refresh rate, or color quality.
Thunderbolt is a special form of USB-C exclusively found on Intel and Apple based computers. The Thunderbolt specification guarantees high speed data transfer, charging, DisplayPort, and external graphics card support. Most, though not all, Thunderbolt ports support Power Delivery.
Ethernet allows for wired network connections. As laptops have become thinner and thinner, Ethernet has become rarer. Luckily, adapters exist to convert USB Type-A and USB-C ports into Ethernet ports.
The PerfectRec battery life figure is based on WiFi web surfing runtime from review benchmarks. Testing conditions generally use the manufacturer’s battery saver mode when available. On average, laptop battery life is around 7-8 hours for web surfing over WiFi. Gaming laptops tend to have around 5-6 hours of battery life for web surfing over WiFi.
Battery capacity in laptops are measured in watt-hours (Wh). While larger battery capacity correlates with longer battery life, many complicated factors affect a laptop’s battery life in the real world. In the United States, the TSA restricts lithium battery capacity to 100 Wh on flights, thus no laptops have a battery larger than 100 Wh.