December 18, 2015 11:00 am

Tech Shopping Made Easy — 5 Things to Know

Technology has become a big part of our lives; we love its convenience and we often take it for granted. This is why shopping for new devices — something most of us only do every few years — can often be a daunting task. Between complicated specs, endless reviews and technical jargon, finding the perfect laptop, tablet or 2-in-1 can sometimes be a full-time job.

Whether you’re looking for the perfect holiday gift, a new laptop for work, or to update your family entertainment room, here is a simplified approach to help you find the right device. To get started, just answer a few simple questions:

Who will be using the device, where, and for what?

  • Students: Fast Internet access, productivity apps for homework, and a lightweight design will be key. Power for gaming and a high-res screen for streaming video are important pluses.
  • Business: A device that works as hard as you do is key including running Microsoft Office and Windows 10. Secure access to company networks and the ability to run business apps are also important.
  • Entertainment: Games, streaming media and photo editing are quickly becoming must-haves.
  • Mobile: Frequent fliers will want to focus on lightweight design, ruggedness, and easy connection to Wi-Fi in a wide range of settings.

Once you’re clear on the features and capabilities you need, here are five important parameters to consider as you shop:

1. Screen. The good news is that screens are bigger and sharper than ever before. Many new devices will do an excellent job of displaying documents, streaming shows from the Internet, and playing casual games. However, if having the best screen is your key requirement, pixel count is the number to focus on. You should look at devices with a 4K screen, or 4,000 pixels of horizontal resolution — that’s roughly twice the resolution of most televisions currently on the market., Artists and designers will enjoy richer, clearer graphics, and when the workday is done it will make for some great movie nights. An example is the Toshiba Satellite Radius 15; with a starting price of $699 it’s great for movies, games and more.

Toshiba Satellite Radius 15
Toshiba Satellite Radius 15

2. Power. When looking for a powerful device, you’ll need to consider the central processing unit (CPU), random access memory (RAM) and hard drive size. Of course, just as screens have gotten sharper, processors are more powerful and efficient, so even an inexpensive device will likely have the speed and power. Most users can do their daily Web surfing, gaming, email and document management with a minimum of an Intel Core M Processor (CPU), no less than 2 GB of RAM and at least 64 GB of hard drive storage — and the newest devices today typically start with more. However, if you’ll be using this device for professional photo and video editing or hardcore gaming, you’ll need a more powerful processor. Look for devices with the latest Intel 6th Generation Core i5 or Core i7 processors and dedicated NVIDIA GeForce graphics, such as the ASUS ROG G752. If you’re doing a lot of data-intensive repetitive tasks such as scientific calculations or multitasking with large media files, opt for the Core i7, which has greater speed and a larger on-board memory cache. Power users may also want additional storage in the form of a solid-state drive (SSD), or may want to explore cloud storage solutions.

Asus G752 Windows 10 PC
ASUS ROG G752

3. Battery life. Battery life is primarily related to CPU, the physical size of the battery, and the type of tasks you’re performing. The good news is that today’s more power-efficient processors and slim battery designs typically result in much longer battery life. If you’re a frequent business traveler who needs to work, get online and present video while on the go, long battery life should be a top consideration. For you, the New Dell XPS 13 is a great option with up to 18 hours of battery life. The rest of us can probably afford to splurge on a different feature.

Dell XPS 13 running Windows 10
Dell XPS 13

4. Flexibility. With so many styles of devices on the market, choosing the perfect one can be a challenge. An easy way to narrow your preference down is to ask yourself how often you will be using a keyboard. If the answer is all the time, a laptop will be your best choice. If you’ll rarely use a keyboard, a tablet is the way to go. If, like many of us, you’ll land somewhere in between, you might want to consider a 2-in1, a convertible device that transforms from laptop to tablet and back — handy if you want to spend some time typing up your ideas, then turn around and display a demo video during a business presentation.

Lenovo Yoga 900
Lenovo YOGA 900

Size and weight are also important to consider. An extra pound of weight may not seem important — until you’re lugging that laptop from one end of the airport to the other. If you plan to spend a lot of time hauling your device in a shoulder bag, weight will matter more than if you’re choosing a device that will stay in the family room all the time. If you’re looking for flexibility first and foremost, a great option is the Lenovo YOGA 900 with a truly elegant design coming in at just 0.59 inches thin.

5. Budget. We all have a budget, of course, but if this is your main concern, there are many affordable devices on the market that will allow you to accomplish your everyday tasks — from using Microsoft Office to casual gaming, streaming video and Web surfing, and more. The HP Pavilion x2, for example, is quite a steal at the starting price of $299.99. It boasts a 10.1-inch HD touch screen and a battery that lasts more than 11 hours, with a detachable keyboard and magnetic hinge so you can easily switch to laptop mode, plus one year of Office365 Home, making it useful and affordable for the student in your life.

HP Pavilion x2
HP Pavillion x2

There are so many great Windows 10 devices out there that it is often hard to find the perfect one. But if you follow these simple tips, and visit windows.com/holiday or the Microsoft Store to compare models, you will be enjoying your new device in no time. Happy shopping!

Updated December 23, 2015 1:07 pm