Sometimes, buying a laptop is like buying insurance. When you mention that you’re looking for one and ask for recommendations, people say, ‘oh it depends on what you want to use it for’. Hurm okay ya lor ya lor. I had to wrestle the information out of you guys okay before getting truly helpful tips.
Here are the four best ones I got.
#1 – Deciding which type of laptop user I am
Over the years, I’ve realised there are exactly 3 main types of laptop users:
- Gamers and hardware geeks
- Design and creative work – for video editing, photoshop, music composition
- Not (1) or (2)
The people in the first category (gamers and hardware geeks) are fine, often they are techies who know what they need. They talk about computer hardware like how women talk about makeup. Gamers be like, I need a computer with G3260 LGA1150, 120GB SSD, GTX1070 Gaming X 8GB GDDR5 and oh must have 17.3-inch 1920 x 1080 G-Sync IPS HD screen.
People in the second category is fine too. Creative folks tend to go for Apple Macbooks. Done. It’s like a cult. But seriously they are good machines – many people use their Macbooks for more than 5 years. Over the long run, that’s pretty cost effective.
But how about people in the third category, for people like me? We mainly use our laptops to surf the internet, work on documents, plus whatever vice we have (movies/music/light gaming/read ebooks/watch porn etc). We are reluctant to commit to Apple products (or if you’re like me, too lazy to learn a brand new operating system). We are comfortable with ‘hey it works’ Windows system.
So the first tip is to know what is the primary use of your laptop based on your current habits. If you’re not a gamer/hardware geek and not someone who does creative work, you’re in category 3 too, like me.
What does this mean? You can shop around and try out different laptop brands. I quite like this perk actually – my personal strategy is to have top two/three contenders and buy whichever is most value-for-money. For example, when I was looking to buy new laptop, it was between Dell XPS and Surface Note 4. Coincidentally there was a sale for SP4 and I got the normally RM6.3k machine for RM5k.
#2 – Specs – go for at least i5/8GB RAM/256GB hard disk
You can get laptops with better specs, but this specs combo is fast and dependable enough.
I’ll be honest and say that I had very little idea about the role of laptop specs before this. I’m the type to pick laptops based on their design and price. A laptop is a laptop as long as it works, right? Well not really. Last time I bought a pretty laptop for RM1k. It was so slow, I ended up selling it after a few months.
My last laptop – Lenovo Flex 14 – has the i5/8GB RAM/256GB hard disk specs. It was a blind purchase from Lazada (it was on sale) and wasn’t even that expensive at RM2111.77. I didn’t really like the design but I like the colour. Every time I brought up the specs, people comment ‘oh yeah that’s good’. And I nodded along, thinking ‘oh thank God’.
Laptops with i5/8GB RAM/256GB specs are cheap (from RM2k plus) if it’s chunky, but expensive (RM5k plus range) if it’s light and portable. I know this because when I was shopping around for a new laptop, portability is a huge factor and I can’t find anything light and portable for less than RM5k. As a guide, my Lenovo Flex is 2kg and my new laptop Surface Pro 4 weighs half that.
#3 – Fixing laptops for cheap
Laptops will have issues, and sooner or later it needs maintenance. You might also be the clumsy type (hollaaaa) and break some parts by accident. My 2-year old Lenovo Flex has a broken screen (dropped it) and had issues with the keyboard (it was sucky when the ‘e’ button stopped working). I didn’t want to drop RM500+ on screen replacement but I was forced to spend RM180 on the keyboard replacement.
This tip is from Twitter: Buy replacement parts from Taobao.com and either fix it yourself or get someone who can do it for you. It’ll be much cheaper. Thanks for the tip, @coffeestainedme!
#4 – Or splurge on warranty
Not really the warranty-buying type, but I decided to get 4-year warranty for my Surface Pro 4. Including manufacture’s warranty, it’s covered for 5 years in total. My reasons:
- Laptop malfunction rates (in 3 years), or the likelihood it’ll go kaput varies from 15.6% to 25.6%. Asus have the lowest, HP has the highest (source). Microsoft Surface have a high malfunction rate at around 25% in 2 years (source)
- Smaller laptops = more portable = more wear and tear as I bring it around = more likelihood to damage faster
- I’d love to save money and go with Tip #3 if my SP4 needs fixing, but I can’t read Mandarin on Taobao.com, despite using Google Translate. What if I order the wrong parts?
- I also don’t have a laptop repair guy/girl who can do the DIY repair for me
- I like the idea of selling my laptop when I’m ready to buy a new one. Having warranty helps to get buyers.
Warranties add on about RM350-RM500+ per year, depending on the coverage length. I got my laptop from Harvey Norman and went with their warranty plan. If I need to send it for repair for more than 2 times, they’ll replace it with a brand new machine (or a comparable one). This is not a Harvey Norman promo post – I’m just saying I got the warranty and will leave it at that.
If your laptop is cheap-ish, chunky (mainly leave at home) and comes from a brand with low replacement rate, I think you can go without a warranty.
What other tips do you have that we should consider when buy new laptop?
Please comment here so all of us can learn 🙂 Go easy on me, gamers, hardware geeks and Apple fanboys/girls.