The right Windows laptop for you. Save money – avoid upselling (2024 computer guide)

The right Windows laptop for you depends on your needs and budget. You may have high needs (performance, capacity), but you can’t have a low price (mutually exclusive). We show you how to determine your needs and avoid marketing hype.

A laptop is more than the sum of its parts. Sure, there is a screen, central processing unit (CPU), graphics processing unit (GPU), memory (RAM), and Storage (solid state or spinning hard disk). Then there is the build quality, warranty, and repairability.

As professional users, gamers and videographers will know precisely what they need; we focus on consumer laptops and a good, better, and best scenario.

And to complicate matters, we now have AI PCs What does that really mean?

Windows versus Mac – different animals

This guide is for ‘full-fat’ Windows as it has about 80% of the global desktop/laptop market share, MacOS has 15%, and Linux/others 5%. Full-fat means the operating system has the complete range of software to do everything you expect a ‘PC’ to do.

Windows ‘S’ is a restricted OS version, more secure and can only load Apps from the Windows Store. You can upgrade this free to full-fat if you wish.

You may hear of Windows on ARM (WOA), and it is a version of Windows that runs on ARM (smart phone) processors. It can do 99% of the lighter productivity things (read more here) that you need, with the benefit of 4 or 5G, longer battery life and lighter formats. I use one when travelling, and it is perfect for video playback, email, browsing, Word etc., but not enough for heavy use. There is a Microsoft Surface Pro 9 with 5G and an SQ 3 ARM processor starting from $2339.

It is also a reasonable expectation that secondary school students have a functional knowledge of Microsoft 365 (MS Office), including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and a browser. These skills are reasonably easily transferable to the MacOS and Chrome OS equivalents or LibreOffice – free and for those that can’t use Microsoft Office.

What about Android or Chrome OS?

At this stage, we cannot recommend Android or Chrome OS tablets and laptops. Android Desktop (a Windows-like experience) is improving, but ARM-based processors are not up to the speed and power of X86.

Chrome OS looks good, but it is really for light users who are prepared to do most things in the ecosystem.

How to use this guide

Use this guide as a checklist. Give it to the salesperson and stick closely to avoid upselling tactics. If you don’t want to read the entire guide, there is a one-page checklist at the end.

Note: We use Microsoft Surface models for graphic examples only.

The right Windows laptop for you is the one that meets your needs


Uses include school, home, work-from-home, business/enterprise, creators/designers, videographers/editors, and more.

  • School laptop read – Simple tips for the best back-to-school laptops – BYOD (guide 2023.
  • Home and work-from-home are generally considered ‘productivity’ devices. This includes using Microsoft 365, email, browsing and video streaming content. We will focus on this.
  • Business/enterprise has increased durability via MIL-STD 810/H construction and often has longer warranties to match lease terms.
  • Creators often work in specific colour gamuts like Adobe RGB and Pantone, where it is critical for screen colours to match printed or digital colours.
  • Videographers need a wider colour gamut – at least 10-bit/1.07 billion colours, 100% DCI-P3 and preferably REC 2020. Read 8-bit versus 10-bit screen colours. What is the big deal?

There are tonnes of other uses. For example, emergency services need weatherproof and rugged touch tablets (Panasonic Toughbook). Warehousing needs barcodes, NFC, cameras, stock scanners etc. A Windows device will likely cover whatever your needs.


Laptops come in different formats:

  • Clamshell where the screen lifts back to an angle of between 130-160°. Some will lay flat to 180°, which may be important to creators.
  • 360° hinge, where the laptop screen can fold over to form a tent or thick tablet. Great for collaboration and presentations.
  • Tablet style (Surface Pro style) with a kickstand and detachable keyboards – great for travellers
  • Z-Fold like the Surface Laptop Studio 2 or Acer Concept D

The clamshell design is the lowest-cost way to provide maximum features, but I prefer the 360° Hinge as I can stand the notebook tent-like on the desk when using it with a dock and external keyboard/mouse etc.

Display – you look at this all day!

The resolution, screen size, display type, screen ratio, touch type and Blue Light control all have a bearing.

Screen resolution

1280 x 720p (HD), 1920 x 1080p (FHD), 2560 x 1080 (UWFHD), 2560 x 1440 (QHD), 3440 x 1440 (UWQHD), 3840 x 2160 (4K) and many more.

This is the number of horizontal and vertical pixels on the screen. As you increase screen size, pixel size remains the same showing a grainier effect (dots per inch). For example, a 1280 x 720p HD may look good to about 11” but terrible at 13-17”, where FHD, UHD, and 4K will be excellent.

  • HD (720) screens – we do not recommend these anymore.
  • FHD (1080) screens are entry-level and acceptable for 13-14” laptops.
  • UWFHD (1080) has an Ultra-Wide 21:9 ratio, wider than the normal 16:9. Most content will expand to fit the width, but movies, etc., will display with side or top black bars. These tend to be in larger laptops with narrow bezels to fit the screen into smaller bodies.
  • QHD (1440) are higher resolution 16:9 screens best for larger laptops.
  • UWQHD (1440) is a 21:9 version like UWFHD.
  • 4K (2160) are 16:9, 4K screens. We have not seen any Ultra-wide versions yet.

The exception to all these is Microsoft Surface laptops that use a 3:2 ratio (13.5:9). These are for productivity as they are taller screens that better fits an A4 sheet of paper. The Surface Pro 9 has a 2990 x 1920 resolution (297ppi), and the Surface Laptop 5 13.5/15” has 2256 x 1504 and 2496 x 1664. Great for productivity, but when viewing 16:9 movies, you get top or sidebars.

Resolution Summary

  • Good: FHD up to 14”. It is what most users will buy.
  • Better: QHD simply because it has more pixels and works best with 15-17” screens.
  • Best: 4K, but you need an application to use 4K effectively.
  • Avoid UW ultra-wide 21:9 screens.

Screen ratio (16:9, 16:10, 3:2, 21:9 and more)

You will see from the resolution section above that 16:9 is preferable for general use (same as a TV screen). Not all Apps support 21:9 UW screens.

I use Microsoft Surface laptops and appreciate the 3:2 ratio for productivity. But I use dual 32”, 4K, 16:9 monitors for work. More on expansion options later.

Screen Size (10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17 and fractions thereof)

Screen size is entirely dependent on what you use it for. For example, if you open MS Outlook or Gmail, it will take the entire screen – the larger the screen, the larger the font size.

The larger the screen, the heavier the laptop and the more power it uses, which lowers battery life.

Lower-cost laptops have 11-14” HD screens (1280 x 720 or 1366 x 768 TN). These are not recommended. Why? Colours are unnatural, viewing angles can be limited, and these usually use lower-powered CPUs.

Display Type (IPS, VA, TN LCD or OLED)

OK, if you must: TN (Twisted Nematic) LCDs are the lowest cost offering poor viewing angles, poor colour gamut, and variable quality from multiple Chinese manufacturers. It is for those who don’t care about image quality.

Good: VA (vertical alignment) LCD offer higher contrast (the difference between its black and pure white, sometimes up to 6000:1) and lower response times (good for gamers). These tend to have narrow viewing angles, which is not so much an issue on a laptop.

Better: IPS (in-plane switching) LCD offer better colour accuracy and wider viewing angles but at the expense of contrast (how black the blacks are) and screen response times. IPS construction allows for touch screens.

Best: OLED is the best and most expensive, offering rich, accurate colours, pure blacks (infinite contrast), the lowest response times, and a near-OLED TV experience. OLED supports touch. Prosumer users will appreciate this.


An average laptop has at least 250 nits of brightness across the screen. It will reproduce Standard Dynamic Range (SDR). This means it is bright enough to use in office lighting conditions. The higher the nits, the more ambient light it can take.

You will see various claims of higher HDR 400/500/600/1000/1400 or even Dolby Vision capability. These VESA certifications help, but the nits measurement is for a microsecond on a small section (2 to 10%) of the screen. This is called peak brightness (or high brightness mode) and can show some High Dynamic Range (HDR) video content. Dolby Vision requires Display1000 or more and will not look the same as a Dolby Vision TV.

Brightness Summary: Look for at least 250 nits or more. You are unlikely to see Display HDR400 in lower-cost laptops. Avoid lower nits.


Contrast is the difference between the blackest black and whitest white that a screen can produce. Only OLED screens can deliver perfect black and infinite contrast ∞ :1 (the pixel is turned off).

View any LED/LCD screen contrast claims with a grain of salt. Makers use rubbery figures like Dynamic (DC), FOFO (Full On/Full off), Advanced Contrast Ratio (ACR), ANSI Checkerboard, and more because they allow ridiculous figures to be used in marketing hype. VA panels typically quote 2500:1 or more. Don’t believe LED/LCD contrast ratios over 3000:1.

The Static contrast ratio compares the brightest and darkest shade the system can produce simultaneously and will typically be between 500 and 1000:1 (higher is better).


Most laptops cover most of the sRGB colour gamut (this is web colours and what an inkjet will print and is 72% of NTSC).

As you spend more, you will start to see Rec 709 (Old standard), DCI-P3 (Movie), Adobe RGB (photographic), and REC 2020 (ultimate new standard or CIE 1931).

  • General use: sRGB
  • Photo editing: Adobe RGB
  • Movie editing: DCI-P3

Gamut summary: sRGB is all you need, although DCI-P3 means more realistic movie colour reproduction (remember that laptops do not have TV AI smarts).

Even brightness

Most LCD screens have fairly even brightness, but lower-cost ones may have brighter centres or edges. It is called uniformity, and you can see it if you display full-screen colours (white, black, red, green, and blue) using the free Display Tester or Monitor Colour Test Monitor Colour Test (easier to use).

Response rate

This is the lag between receiving and displaying a signal on the screen. For most uses, this is immaterial, but gamers will be looking for <10ms Grey-to-Grey.

Refresh rate

Most screens have a 60Hz refresh rate (frames per second – 50Hz in Australia), but this can vary from 24 (low), 120Hz, 144Hz or more.

60Hz is what you need – higher rates are for gamers.

Touch type (no, 2-point, 4-point, 10-point, active or passive stylus)

MacOS has never had touch (iOS has). We don’t know why unless it does not want to spend the money on a digitiser or in-cell grid and Gorilla Glass protection or if it is a ploy to sell a truckload of Wacom digitiser pads. You can add touch to a Mac – Read espresso 17 Pro 4K portable monitor – glorious colour.

Windows has had resistive touch-enabled screens since the 80s. These allow you to use a finger or rubber-tipped stylus to move the cursor or execute left or right clicks (short and long press).

Later capacitive in-cell technology allowed two-point touch for pinch and zoom. Four and ten-point add more gestures.

These days most Stylus/Pens are Active, requiring a battery or a power source (capacitor). They use a selection of tip sizes from .5mm or more to allow drawing and 4096 pressure levels for the thickness of lines. Windows includes the Windows Ink App for essential stylus use.

From a user’s perspective, a Windows laptop with a touch screen makes sense for quick navigation and less need for a mouse (keyboard trackpads are not as intuitive as touch). If you want touch, look for a laptop that supports Microsoft Pen Protocol (MPP) or Wacom, which supports a wide range of third-party pens.

Summary: Non-touch screens are lower cost. Touch starts at around $2000.

Blue Light

Blue Light is not as much of an issue as you may believe. Most laptop screens have an adjustment, such as Night Light, Colour Profile, or Colour Temperature, that can change the screen from cool blue to warmer white.

In any case, free Apps like ScreenTemperature or F.lux can adjust the temperature if you can’t do it in the laptop settings.


Some brands offer privacy screens that prevent others from seeing your work if they look on from the side or above.

Screen Summary: Joe and Jane Average should look for a 13-14” FHD 1920 x 1080, 16:9 ratio, IPS LCD screen.

Central Processing Unit (CPU)

We will focus on productivity and not gaming or creators’ CPUs. The easiest way to explain this is via a car analogy.

There are low-power three-cylinder (like Intel Core i3 or AMD Athlon), average-power four-cylinder (Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5000), go faster V6 (Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 6000), and go very fast V8 (Intel Core i9, AMD Ryzen 7000).

Would you tow a caravan with a three or four-cylinder? No. So your need for power depends on what you are doing. The typical user will be OK with an Intel i3/AMD Athlon but don’t expect it to be fast at multitasking or to support multiple open desktops. I5/AMD Ryzen 5000 is the safest buy.

Intel versus AMD

I wish there were a clear answer. Both use the x86 instruction set and do the same thing. Most buyers prefer Intel, whereas AMD offers more power for a similar price. But where Intel is currently used in over 100 brands/models, AMD is in 28.

More important is the generation and power consumption. There is a big difference between Intel 10/11th Gen and the current 12/13th gen – particularly in power use. The same goes for AMD’s earlier generations. Always buy the latest generation or look for a runout bargain on the previous generation.

Processor power use

All need to run on both mains power and battery. Power use is called TDP (Thermal Design Power). The higher the TDP, the more juice it uses under load, meaning bigger batteries. Windows automatically throttles CPUs to 80% on battery (you can alter this).

Intel models include (refer to the Intel EVO link above)

  • HX (55-157W TDP, i5-i9, gaming, creators)
  • H (45W to 95/116W TDP, i5-i9 creators)
  • P (28-64W TDP, i5-17 – most enterprise laptops)
  • U (15-55W TDP, U300, i3, i5, i7 – most consumer EVO laptops)

AMD has (depends on the Ryzen series – 7000 shown)

  • HX (55W TDP)
  • HS (35-854W)
  • U (15-29W)
  • U or C (15W)

Now not to get too techy, but Intel goes from 5 cores/six threads (1 x Power and 4 x Energy efficient) to 24 cores (8/16 Power/Efficiency and 32 threads). AMD processors can have 2 cores/4 threads to 16 cores/32 threads.

Processor Summary

Processors are regularly updated, and Notebook Check has a reasonably complete listing where you can compare processor offerings. But don’t get too hung up on specs.

The best advice is to look at Intel Core i5-13XXU or i7-13XXU for the best power and energy efficiency balance. Note: 13 in the model number means 13th Generation.

Alternatively, AMD Ryzen 5800U or 5800HS offer this brand’s best overall balance.

Graphic processing unit (GPU)

Most will buy an integrated CPU/GPU (iGPU), which is all they need for 99% of their use. Even the low-end iGPU can play 1080p and 4K movies.

Intel Core processors have 48 to 96EU (execution units), and AMD has 3 to 12 Graphics cores.

Some laptops have dedicated GPU (dGPU) using NVIDIA or AMD Radeon Mobile GPUs. These are aimed at gamers and creators and mean little to the average user, and they use a lot more energy.


It used to be acceptable to have 4GB of RAM, but the best advice is to get at least 8, preferably 16, and maybe 32 if you are a power user.

Most RAM will be the latest LPDDR5 between 5200 and 6400MT/s. There is an X5 version for lower power use. It may have LPDDR4 or X4 (the last generation that runs at 3200 and 4267 MT/S), but that is not a huge issue.

RAM Summary: Buy as much as you can afford – 16GB is generally the minimum, and 32GB is suitable for power users.


Most laptops use energy-efficient SSD (solid-state storage – usually M2.2280 format). Older HDDs (hard disk drives, usually 2.5” format) are cheaper and larger. Storage usually comes in 128/256/512GB or 1TB or more. Size is not critical; you can plug in external storage if needed.

Depending on your needs, you should look at the PCIe NVME (Non-Volatile Memory Express) version (speeds are indicative only).

TypeSequential Read MBps Megabytes per second)Sequential Write MBps
Older SATA HDD160160
SATA III low-cost SSD500500
Gen 3 x220001000
Gen 3 x430002000
Gen 4 x240003000
Gen 4 x470005000

The faster the speed, the higher resolution video that it can record. You can easily test disk speeds using Crystal Disk Mark (peak speeds) or CPDT (a zipped .exe file) that tests sustained speeds).

Storage Summary: PCIe NVMe Gen 3 x2 is fine for most. Avoid SATA, eMMC, or UFS storage.

The right Windows laptop

Ports – Expansion

If your laptop has Thunderbolt ports, read the Docks and Dongles section below.

  • HDMI – comes in 1.4 (FHD@60Hz), 2.0 (4K@30Hz) and 2.1 (4K@60Hz) standards. It is handy if you want to connect a monitor or projector.
  • USB-C – comes in 3.1 or 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps), Gen 2 (10Gbps) or USB 4.0 (20Gbps). The right dongle or dock will support 2 x 4K@30Hz monitors and a couple of USB-A ports. Some have upstream power to 60W (to charge the laptop), but it is likely you will use passthrough power from the laptop’s USB-C charger (if it uses one – see battery power later).
  • USB-A – comes in 3.0 (Blue tongue) and 2.0 (black or grey tongue). Mainly for flash drives, webcams, cabled keyboard or mouse, and external speakers (most USB speakers have a DAC – Read Creative SoundBlaster X1 DAC and headphone amp ZZ090)
  • 3.5mm 4-pole means it can support left/right stereo output (to earphones) and mono mic input.
  • Ethernet – not very common these days but can generally support 1000Mbps (gigabit) speeds if connected via an Ethernet cable to a router. (See Wi-Fi later)
  • External power – many still use a round plug pack ‘brick’ charger, generally 20V/3A/60W. The later Thunderbolt and USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 support upstream power to 20V/5A/100W.
  • SD or micro-SD. Some have slots that can take an SD card for additional storage. This is much slower than internal storage – usually 20-100MBps. Windows recognises this as a drive, so you can record to it.

Read USB and Thunderbolt cables made easy (guide).

Ports Summary: Look for a device with HDMI 2.0 or 2.1, USB-C 3.1/3.2 Gen 1 (or Gen 2), USB-A, and 3.5mm audio at minimum.

Docks and Dongles

Inevitably you will need a dock or dongle to add peripherals.

The more recent laptops may have one or two Thunderbolt 3 or 4, 40Gbps ports that need a dongle or dock to connect a monitor (or three), extra USB-C and USB-A ports, Ethernet, 3.5mm AUX in/out and up to 100W upstream power (charges the laptop). There are many brands – the ones below represent the best of their type, and we strongly recommend at least pass-through power.


Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Every laptop has Wi-Fi.

  • The lower-cost ones have Wi-Fi 5 AC and maximum connect speeds of 866Mbps, half-duplex (433 each way).
  • Most have Wi-Fi 6 AX, and depending on the Wi-Fi module, these can connect at up to 1200bps full-duplex (1200 each way). You need a Wi-Fi 6 or 6E router.
  • Some have Wi-Fi 6E AX or Wi-Fi 7 BE and can connect at up to 2400Mbps full-duplex (2400 each way) – ditto.

Wi-Fi speeds are not critical as they are more about how fast you can move a file over Wi-Fi. It is not a big issue considering that most users have 25-100Mbps NBN. Get Wi-Fi 6 or 6E if you can.

Bluetooth is usually 4.2 or 5.0/1. It supports only the SBC (low-fidelity sub-band codec). Read What is a Bluetooth aptX codec, and should you care? (Sound guide). If you expect better headphone music, you can easily and inexpensively add a Creative BT-W3 and BT-W4 – add Qualcomm aptX and Hi-Def sound to your computer using a USB-A or C port.

Windows 11/BT 5.X usually supports multi-point connection to a phone and a laptop.


Manufacturers usually quote battery life at 150 nits (or less) screen brightness, Wi-Fi and BT off, and running video and general tests from the SSD. So, this is another area you take with a grain of salt (unless you are reading a proper review).

A laptop is, by definition, a portable device. Modern Intel EVO laptops should have at least a workday battery life. And it should recharge quickly – a couple of hours at best.

But lower-cost laptops don’t use that standard; battery life is typically 4-6 hours, and recharge time is around 3-4 hours.

Battery summary: Look for laptops with at least a 50W/hr battery and use USB-C standard charging instead of a 20V power brick (most lower-cost laptops will use this). Battery life is often quoted in Milliamp/Hours or Watt/Hours – higher is better.

Be aware that only more expensive laptops will last an entire workday. You can tweak Windows settings to extract more battery life instead of higher performance.

Batteries generally last 300-500 full charge cycles and can usually be professionally replaced if they fail to hold a charge, but the laptop is still fine for you.

You can test battery life with the free Battery Optimiser

Keyboard and Trackpad

We could write volumes on this, but most laptop keyboards are chiclet style, rubber membrane activated and not great for touch typists.

Smaller laptops will forgo the numeric keypad and squash the letters and function keys into laptop space. Most 15” or larger have numeric keypads and better key spacing. So, if typing speed and accuracy are essential, a larger laptop is better. For example, if I use a MacBook keyboard, my speed/accuracy drops from 100/95% to 65/75% because the throw and actuation force is too small (for me). Ideally, a laptop needs a 1.5mmm throw and 40g actuation force (you need vernier callipers and weights to measure that), so look for the best feel.

Another trick is the keycaps.

  • Lower-cost ones use decal stick-on lettering, which wears off very quickly. Use a magnifying glass to see if there is a clear sticker around the lettering. Avoid these at all costs.
  • Some use painted keycaps and reverse the lettering out. These will last longer but are not ideal.
  • The best is where the lettering is injection-moulded into the keycap, but it is hard to identify these over reverse-painted keys.

Backlights are important, especially if you use the laptop in low light. Look for the ‘sunrise symbol’, usually on Function key 1, where you can turn the backlight on or off. The better ones have several levels of backlight.


Trackpads are meant to reduce the need for a mouse. A simple test is to see if you can swipe from the top left right to the bottom left, and the mouse cursor moves accordingly across the diagonal screen. A mouse is less necessary if it covers 100% of the screen in one swipe. If it covers less distance, then a mouse is a must.

As a rule, the larger the trackpad, the more responsive it is and the more touch points it has. Also, feel how it clicks (left and right click) and how smooth it is to use. Avoid trackpads that are not centred on the deck – offset trackpads can be challenging for left-handers and others.


No matter what anyone says, laptop speakers are small and cannot reproduce the full 20Hz-20kHz sound spectrum. Read How to tell if you have good music (sound signature is the key).

Most laptops do not have an EQ (except those that support Dolby Atmos or DTS:X), so at best, you get 2–5-Watt stereo speakers, generally down-firing under the keyboard deck.

You will be satisfied if you realise these are purely for system sounds and video conferencing voice, never immersive Dolby Atmos 3D spatial sound movies.

Some have better sound than others, usually those tuned by Harman Kardon, Bose, or B&O, but the reality is that speakers are small. It is like expecting smart phone speakers to sound good – few do.

Creative has a SoundBlaster Katana V2 is a wicked 2.1 soundbar, and we love it for PCs (and other devices), and Logitech has a range of PC speakers that use 3.5mm or HDMI connections. The new BlueAnt SOUNDBLADE – serious 2.1 sound for the computing desktop is superb.


Most laptops have crappy HD 720p cameras. These are barely adequate for video conferences if you have decent light. Some have 1080p or higher cameras that are better for video conferences and lower light. But remember that your video conference App will throttle the frames-per-second anyway to match bandwidth, so it is of little concern to a user.

Some also have Windows Hello IR camera facial log-in, which is exceptionally fast and reliable. Since using Hello, I would not return to typing in a pin or password (2FA authentication is now mandatory in Windows 11).

All will have at least a single mic near the camera. Better ones will have dual mics and noise cancelling. If video quality is the goal, there are many good USB-C webcams from Logitech and others.


Manufacturers are paid to bundle a wide range of trialware and useless apps in the hope that you will buy them. Classics include McAfee, MS/Office 365, MS Teams, Facebook, LinkedIn, Spotify, Netflix, and tons of games and useless utilities. Don’t let the bundled software sway you; you should uninstall most.


Warranty and build

Most laptops have an ABS or similar plastic chassis, acrylic plastic (PMMA) base, keyboard deck, and rear screen cover. The more you spend, the more you may get a milled aluminium chassis, metal base, and deck etc.

Look for flexing of the screen when you open it (some are shocking) and whether the chassis can be easily flexed. It is only a big issue if the laptop sometimes experiences rough treatment.

Most laptops have a 12-month Australian Consumer Law (ACL) warranty. As little inside can be repaired, look for a swap warranty (the manufacturer sends you a replacement, and you send the faulty one back—freight should be covered both ways). See the backup section later to prevent data loss.


Very few laptops are repairable hence swap warranty. But you should ask if the battery, SSD and memory can be upgraded or replaced. In many cases, these are soldered to the motherboard. A good repairability indicator is to search for the brand/model and the words ‘service manual’.

You usually find that business/enterprise laptops from Microsoft, Dell, Lenovo, HP, and ASUS are more repairable in terms of memory, SSD, screen, speakers, fans, etc.

Do not buy so-called extended warranties – they are 100% unnecessary and pure profit for the retailer.

Under ACL, warranty length is not as relevant as emerging defects found under typical use outside warranty are covered. For example, dead pixels on the screen (these should not happen). You should expect 3-5 years of typical use and up to 10 years with a battery replacement.

Backup – just do it

A laptop is an electromechanical device that can fail for no apparent reason. Microsoft offers a free 5GB OneDrive cloud backup that you can set to backup documents and photos. However, this is inadequate. Fortunately, if you subscribe to Microsoft 365 Basic, you get 100GB and Microsoft 365 Personal 1TB. Cloud storage uses broadband data, so take care if you have a slower speed and limited data account.

I prefer to back up to an external SSD drive from Plugable (Thunderbolt is high-speed), Seagate/LaCie, Western Digital/SanDisk, Samsung etc. Yes, it is manual, and I only do it weekly, but I can quickly move files from one PC to another device (including Android).

Is one laptop brand better than another?

The major brands and their sub-brands (in approximate order of price/quality) are.

Aspire Vero
Nitro (gaming) Enduro Urban
Extensa Concept D
TUF (gaming)
ROG (Strix, Zephyrus, Flow)
Gigabyte U series
Mainly a gaming brand with dGPU
Victus EliteBook
Legion (gaming)
Gram 360
Surface Go 3
Laptop Go 2 Laptop 5
Pro 9
Many gaming sub-brands  
(Gaming) Blade

However, each brand offers several levels of quality to match price points. Overall, they are pretty similar in quality and reliability. The table omitted Samsung, which occasionally makes Galaxy Book laptops and tablets with X86 or ARM processors.

CyberShack’s view – What have you learned about the right Windows laptop for you?

By this stage, you have read nearly 5000 words; a lot will not have stuck!

If you got this far, we venture you were a bit of a geek in the first place and wanted to know more.

As we stated at the beginning – use this as a guide. Look at each section and circle what you need with a red pen. Or give it to the salesperson and ask them to focus only on your needs.

The guide will eliminate devices that don’t match your needs. As a result, you may spend more but get what is most useful to you.

Guide Summary Sheet – The right Windows laptop for you (generally good, better and best)


  • Clamshell – lowest cost
  • 360° hinge – can be used in tent mode
  • Tablet – with detachable keyboard

Screen – 16:9, 250nits, and at least 13” IPS

  • FHD 1080p – perfect for most uses
  • QHD 1440p
  • 4K 2160p
  • Touch option (recommended if you can afford it)
  • Avoid Ultra-wide UW displays


  • Intel Core i5-13XXU or i7-13XXU or AMD Ryzen 5800U or HS
  • Avoid AND Athlon or Intel Celeron, Pentium, or other non-Core processors.


At least 8GB and 16GB for heavy users or Intel i7.

Storage – SSD PCIe NVMe Gen 3 x2

128/256/512GB or 1TB


  • At a minimum, 2 x Thunderbolt ports, but you will need a dock or dongle
  • Ideally, HDMI, USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 and 3.5mm


  • Ideally, Wi-Fi 6 or 6E or 7 and BT 5.X


Claimed battery run-time of at least 50% more than you need.

Keyboard/Trackpad – ideally backlit

  • Ideally, injection moulded lettering but reverse painted lettering if not.
  • Avoid small trackpads that cannot move the cursor diagonally fully across the screen.


There are not many choices as most are 720p but look for 1080p and Windows Hello login.


Most will be 12 months, but some may offer longer – don’t buy an extended warranty.


Be aware that most brands offer several levels of quality under different names.

The right Windows laptop, The right Windows laptop, The right Windows laptop, The right Windows laptop