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Shopping for a new computer requires reading through and dealing with a lot of jargon. From various types of processors to knowing the difference between memory and storage, there’s a lot of information. But the process doesn’t have to be intimidating. Arguably, we’ve never had so many worthwhile options for a laptop or desktop.
As you begin researching your next PC, let us help. Below you’ll not only find some recommendations for laptops, Chromebooks, and gaming PCs, but you’ll also find some advice on what to look for.
So let’s start with the recommendations, then move on to our sage advice.
Microsoft’s Surface line ushered in 2-in-1’s that easily switch between tablet and laptop modes, and with the latest generation Surface Pro, Microsoft has built an impressive piece of 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 build for improved performance, and add more memory or storage if you need something more powerful. But for most people, this configuration is plenty for most work or personal tasks.
The one catch? The Surface Pro 8 doesn’t come with a keyboard, so you’ll need to buy the $79 Surface Pro Signature Keyboards separately.
Need a Windows laptop with more horsepower 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, thin design not only looks good, but lends itself to portability. The XPS 13 weighs in at just 2.64 pounds and is only 0.58-inches thick. It has a 13.4-inch touch display that you can use to tap and swipe your way around Windows.
For those who are always on the go, the XPS 13 makes a lot of sense. However, if you plan on connecting a lot of accessories to it, you’ll want to find a USB-C hub or dock since 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 delivers a lot of computing power and battery life. The MacBook Air uses Apple’s own M1 Apple Silicon processor, 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD for storage. That’s plenty of power for basic tasks, photo edits, multi-tasking and even video projects.
There’s a Touch ID sensor that doubles as the power button, making it easy to sign in to your MacBook Air using a fingerprint. The biggest downside? It has only two USB-C ports, so you’re going to 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 newest MacBook Pro models offer more power than the MacBook Air and a design that harkens back to the good ol’ days. They brought back the MagSafe magnetic charging connector, an SD card reader and an HDMI port. You can pick between a 14-inch or 16-inch design, and either route you get to pick between two new Apple Silicon processors.
The M1 Pro and M1 Max both 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 being a laptop that simply runs the Chrome web browser. They’re now akin to a full-fledged operating system, albeit one based on Chrome and Android. The Chromebook Spin 713 has a 13.5-inch display that’s powered by an Intel Core i5 processor, 256GB of storage and 8GB of memory. And as its name implies, you can spin around the display to transition the 713 from a standard laptop to a tablet, using 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’s services, like Drive and Gmail, for work, school or daily computing tasks.
Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet is an impressively affordable Chromebook that won’t exactly blow you away when it comes to performance, but it can easily handle daily 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 display, 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 several gaming PC builds, each one designed to fit 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 of your choosing and hit that 60 frames-per-second benchmark.
If you’d rather build a gaming PC of your own but don’t want to deal with sourcing the components, check out NZXT’s BLD KITs. You get all of the parts, tools and instructions to walk you through putting 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)
After a powerful gaming PC that you can take on the go? The Asus ROG Strix G15 offers just that at a respectable price. It features a 15.6-inch 1080p FHD 300Hz display that’s powered by a Ryzen R7-5800H CPU, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti (aka a dedicated graphics card), 16GB of memory and 1TB of storage.
All of those 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 that the more RGB you have on a gaming PC, the better you are at gaming.
There are many factors to take into account when looking for a computer. Keep in mind, this computer is likely going to last you several years (maybe longer!), so don’t only look at how you use one right now, but also what you may end up needing in the future. By future-proofing your investment, you’ll save money and keep headaches to a minimum.
Look at the processor that’s included in your build and Google the model number. For example, if the processor is an i7-1165G7, look it up to see how old it is. I can tell you just by looking at the number that it’s an 11th Gen processor, so it’ll support Windows 11 and all of the security features it requires. But, you don’t want to find a good deal on a computer only to later find out it’s using an older processor that won’t let you install or upgrade to Windows 11.
If you’re shopping for a Mac, Apple is in the middle of moving away from Intel processors and over to its own Apple Silicon processors. Apple will support its Intel models well into the future, but I recommend getting a Mac with Apple’s M1 chips. We’re already starting to see some features in software updates that are limited to Apple Silicon processors, and that trend is likely to continue with each major update.
For both Windows and Mac computers, you’ll want something with at least 8GB of memory or RAM. If you’re doing a lot of video editing, photo editing and multitasking then you’ll want to consider upgrading to 16GB of memory.
As for storage, I’d shy away from a computer with 128GB of storage. The exception to that rule is for Chromebooks, simply because most of your files will be automatically synced to your Google Drive account and not take up space on the device.
It’s surprising how fast a hard drive fills up, so either have a plan for offloading extra files and folders to a cloud storage provider like iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive or get a hard drive that’s bigger than you think you’ll need. Remember, with the exception of gaming computers and some laptops, you’re stuck with the specifications of the device you buy — there isn’t an option to add more storage or memory yourself.
Prices are accurate and items in stock at time of publishing.