5 common mistakes to avoid when buying a laptop

You covet that amazing new Ultrabook with a ridiculously thin form factor, 4K display and a chassis made of unobtainium. You want it so much.

But hold on a second. Even if you can afford the asking price for the latest, hottest piece of laptop tech, it doesn't mean you should buy it. Manufacturers want you to buy it, but we want you to buy the right laptop for you.

Here are five mistakes to avoid making when you're buying a new laptop.

More: Windows Central Laptop Buyer's Guide

1. Get an unnecessary high-resolution screen

Do you need a 4K touch display on your laptop? Really? If you're a content creator dealing with photos and video, then yes, you probably want the very best, highest resolution display you can get. But if you're doing spreadsheets and writing email, it's a complete waste.

Not only will it make the price of the laptop go up, it'll make the battery life go down. By contrast, a 1080p display will mean fewer pixels to push, better battery life and a lower asking price. Don't be fooled into thinking a 4K display is for you if it really isn't.

2. Pay manufacturer prices without shopping around

The manufacturer will always be the most expensive place to buy any laptop. Those companies want to sell the laptop at the price they decide, and you're always paying top dollar.

Instead, shop around. Hit up places like Amazon online, or go to local stores and see what deals are available. You won't always find one, but if you don't look you definitely won't, and you may find yourself paying more than you need to.

3. Don't consider connectivity

That sleek Ultrabook with a single port sure does look nice. But wait, where do you plug in a mouse, phone, or an SD card?

These are all points to consider when buying a laptop. Don't just go for the newest, fanciest, thinnest design without thinking about what you need to plug into it. Are you prepared to carry around a bag full of dongles just to use USB accessories or connect to an external display? If you need a card reader or an HDMI-out connection, get a laptop that has them.

4. Don't consider the future

That new laptop you're looking at will be great for you now, but how about a few years down the road? Laptops are like new cars, as soon as you take them home the value plummets.

Make sure you cover your bases. One handy trick is to find out if you can upgrade parts like RAM and storage down the line. You may need more in the future as your computing needs intensify. If you can add more instead of buying a new laptop, your wallet will thank you.

5. Don't see it for yourself before you buy

If there is any physical chance you can see your preferred laptop in a store before you drop your money, GO SEE IT. Reading reviews and buyer's guides online is a great place to start, but what they won't tell you is how you feel about it.

Do you like how heavy it is? Is it comfortable to type on? Is the screen bright enough? Can you fit it inside your bag? There are lots of questions to ask yourself before making a purchase, and many are best answered with the hardware in front of you.

Your tips

Those are five mistakes we recommend you avoid when buying a laptop, but what about you? How do you make sure you're buying the best laptop for you? Let us know in the comments.

Richard Devine
Managing Editor - Tech, Reviews

Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine

  • I suggest to search for reviews, and not only one, and not only in one place.
    Other suggestion, don't buy something just because someone told you to.
    Don't go after a brand and get blind with that brand only, consider all brands and compare specs, price, reviews, and Customer Support quality is a key too.
  • Your #5 says "Dont' see it..." Shouldn't it say "See it for yourself before you buy"?
  • Well, the article is "5 common mistakes to avoid".  If it were me, I would have phrased the mistakes: "Getting an unnecessarily high-resolution screen."
    "Paying manufacturer prices without shopping around."
    "Ignoring connectivity options"
    "Not thinking about the future"
    "Not seeing it yourself before you buy" Remember, Daniel's a computer geek, not an English major.  
  • All the headings are mistakes that are made, not recommendations. I do, however, have a problem with the first recommendation/mistake. There are annoyingly many HD-ready (720p) screens around that are physically painful for young eyes (I have had that experience on a 14" laptop, do not recommend). I know there are even 15" laptops with horrendous screens around, and they are so reasonably priced people don't consider/notice it. As a relatively young person, I'd say 4K is completely reasonable on a 15" laptop. So far I've been bugged by Windows' inability to scale below 100% so stuff still takes too much room for my liking. Fortunately I can set my browser zoom to 75%, still see it clearly (15" FHD screen for now). I could see how a 14" laptop would benefit from having a 4K screen (the typical student scenario), but doubt the perks on smaller screens.
  • Last time I needed a screenshot I realized only after printing it that the FHD is only 2.1 Mpixels. My next laptop will be UHD for those reasonable 8.3 MP screenshots
  • #6 Perhaps a PC would be better...more bang by far for the buck.
  • I personally prefer Windows machines, but this shouldn't make the list. A) It's already basically included in the "don't get hung up on just one brand" mistake, and B) it's just hogwash. Macs are very good devices, and their prices are not that far from reasonably when put side-by-side with legitimate competitors. The Surface Laptop is extremely close in price to its Macbook competition, the Razer Blade, which is very similar in design, size, and usability is almost exactly matched for price with a Macbook Pro. Like I said, I agree on the basis that Windows is a better experience (thanks to Win10), but I don't think that everyone should be using Windows 10 or Windows devices. Plus, Macbook users have the benefit of using Windows with no issues (I spent over a year using Windows 10 on my late-2013 Macbook Pro before finally buying an all-out PC, and the Macbook did a phenomenal job running it!)
  • Windows on Mac makes you pay for Apple's tax plus Windows license, why should you? Just to make the Mac be useful? What about crap like Macs' touchbar? In the same area as as their touchpad! Without touchscreens!
  • I can't see the use of a 4K monitor on a small 14" laptop.  Even at 1080 things are real small on screen, so 4K would make it just smaller or you end up using the scaling and back to the 1080 resolution with maybe slightly better rendering. But I agree  that anything these days below 1080 should be banned.  15" with 768 is horrendous...
  • Don't buy computers for over $1,000... it never makes difference in day to day performance.
  • Depends. Desktop computers, uhm, the sky is the limit. Spend more, get more. Laptops? If we ignore the gaming laptops, sure, the specs will plateu at one point, around 1,000-1,200, but the quality of the build - and design, will get better. 
  • Depends on what you use the computer for. The cost is only a factor based on the budget you have, but if need professional high processing power than it will cost more, if you are only using your computer for a few games, office and internet browsing than your budget is correct.  
  • A mistake is getting a dirt cheap laptop. Usually those are HORRIBLE and won't last very long
  • very sensible suggestions. I would add: if you cannot expand ram (e.g. soldered on the motherboard), get the maximum amount you can afford even if you don't need if for now. For instance I could get by with 8GB and only occasionally need more (and could get by with some "paging" for that), but went with 16GB in my Samsung Notebook 9 as this makes it more future proof. Same thing with storage in devices like surface pro. My surface pro 3 has become unusable because of it's 4GB ram... while the CPU is still fine for what I used it for.... and the rest of the table is still great.... but that RAM limit destroy it's usability for my needs
  • Totally agree.... Last november I had to buy a new Laptop to work on a design project because my, at the time, 5 years old Asus, even with 8GB of RAM, had performance limitations and a broken display... so I wanted a newer laptop capable of 3D designs and light gaming, and my budget initially was under $2000.... but then after being convinced of getting the Surface Book with dGPU (1 gen), the model with 16GB of RAM was a little over 2000 and am glad I did. Even with 16GB of RAM I sometimes get resource warnings because my design program eats all of that with large assemblies, so yeah... The more RAM you can buy, the better.   On a side note I did the opposite for my mom, because of her needs. She had my sister's old MacBook Pro (2010) with 6GB of RAM, but she never learned how to use it and it was gathering dust, so I managed to trade it for a Surface Pro 3 (i5/4Gb/128) and she is very happy.
  • As the article says, as soon as you buy a laptop, its value plummets. So it may be wise to shop around for a used laptop as well. You can get some amazing deals and if the device is looked after, chances are that you will not have any issues with it. I have purchased several secondary laptops like that over the years and I have no regrets.
  • I would probably extend #4 to: Don't buy laptops with soldered components and lacking user replaceable battery.  This practice of planning obsolence needs to die. The only way manufacturers will learn that is if they don't sell anything. Sure, they can say removing the CPU sockets and RAM slots allows them to lower cost and make the devices thinner. I don't believe that. It's just an excuse to lower the life cycle.
  • One do....when buying.  Buy a touchscreen!!! its awesome!
  • #6 Buy a Mac because 'they don't get viruses'
  • #7 forgetting about ms signature edition.   It makes a huge difference in performance and removes a lot of frustration in the future.
  • 1st would be: avoid this pathetic windows 10 OS. don't be a free guinea pig for MS
  • While all these tips a are nice the one to go see the laptop won't apply if it's not available in your country. Trinidad for example won't have the abundance nor the powerful laptops that best buy has so it's more like we depend on reviews here since companies here charge a lot for basic features. Also dell in the Latin american region don't carry the xps or realty high end machines because In this region they are expensive and most can't afford so it does hamper the laptop buying  experience because I really do hate a cheap feeling laptop but that's where your reviews come in along with YouTube reviews and other reputable sites.