2022’s Gaming Eon’s Guide
Our editorial team has a combined 60+ years of experience writing about tech and reviewing the latest devices.
Gaming Eon’s Tips
Why you can trust our picks
For each category, we carefully considered the needs and wants of each market segment. For example, the business traveller will need quite a different set of features from the pro PC gamer. We then assembled a list of available models in the American marketplace, bearing in mind that iteration in the laptop space means that often older units may sit available for some time at retail, even given that a newer model may have emerged from a given manufacturer.
Where we had a direct review of a given laptop, we used that as our primary guide, but where we didn’t, we looked across reputable review sites and consumers review ratings to quantify our picks. Even for those units where we had a review, secondary sources were considered in order to reduce any potential bias or missed features or issues with a given laptop model.
Laptop design is a key criteria across any type of notebook computer. Here, we consider both the build quality of a given laptop – you don’t want it falling apart on day one, after all – but also features like the quality of the keyboard and trackpad, carrying weight, external ports, network connectivity and screen quality. Again, your need for these features will vary by usage type and budget.
Performance will vary by model, but the reality in the network space is that most manufacturers are working from standardised parts from makers such as Intel and AMD, so we look carefully at both real-world and benchmark results to assess any given laptop. Many manufacturers also extend the feature set of given laptops with additional software. Sometimes this has genuine value, while in other cases it can clutter up a notebook, requiring a tedious uninstall process if all you want is that basic computer experience without frills or pester boxes for unwanted subscription software.
While the laptop market has significantly overtaken that of desktops, portability is still an important factor for any laptop, whether you need that portability to encompass travelling across the planet or just across the living room. That’s where a careful assessment of battery life comes into play, especially for ultraportable and 2-in-1 models where a degree of portability is assumed. We test with a range of benchmarks to get a baseline figure for each laptop we review, as well as assessing third-party reports on battery life where we haven’t reviewed a specific model to come to our conclusions.
Finally, of course, there’s price. While it’s feasible to score a bargain on just about any given laptop – yes, that does include Apple models, although that’s almost always through third-party retailers – we work from the manufacturer’s recommended retail price to balance laptops against each other and against the expectations of that market segment. Notebooks are a very mature market category and the differences in expectations and pricing for a budget laptop are immensely different from a Pro-grade workstation laptop or gaming laptop, for example.
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Types of laptops
You have two main options to consider when choosing a laptop:
- Laptop computers. Also known as a notebook computer, a laptop offers all the functionality of a desktop computer in a portable, lightweight device. It features a screen that’s usually somewhere between 11 and 18 inches, a touchpad mouse and a keyboard. Options in this category include laptops from brands like Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo, as well as Apple’s range of MacBooks and Google Chromebooks.
- 2-in-1 laptops. Also known as convertible or hybrid laptops, 2-in-1 models can be used just like an ordinary laptop, but can also be converted to a tablet whenever the need arises. They feature touchscreens, detachable or flip-around keyboards and slimline designs to make them as portable as possible. The Microsoft Surface Pro is one of the biggest names in the 2-in-1 space, while other manufacturers like Dell, HP and Lenovo all offer their own convertible devices.
If you’d prefer the portability and convenience of a tablet, check out our tablet buying guide. Alternatively, if you’re in the market for a more traditional desktop device, our desktop computer buying guide has plenty of useful info. If you’re a hardcore gamer who’s undecided as to which type of computer is best, check out our complete guide to gaming PCs vs gaming laptops.
Most laptops come with one of the following operating systems:
- Windows 10. Windows is available on a wide range of laptops, from cheap entry-level models right through to top-spec machines of $4,000 or more. Known for its flexibility and ability to run an extensive range of programs, Windows is a popular and familiar choice for many buyers.
- macOS. Formerly known as OS X, the macOS operating system runs on Apple MacBooks. It’s known for its user-friendliness and will be instantly familiar to anyone who has used previous Mac operating systems.
- Chrome OS. This web-based option from Google comes on Chromebook laptops and is designed to offer a simple, streamlined operating system. If you’ve got an Android phone, you shouldn’t have any trouble using Chrome OS.
Consider the other computers, smartphones and tablets you have around the home to ensure compatibility. For example, if you run a Windows desktop PC and Android phones and tablets, choosing a MacBook Pro as your laptop could make it tricky to move files and programs between devices.
Three things to consider
Make sure you consider the following factors before deciding on the best laptop for you:
- Consider your needs. How you will use it will determine which features are essential and which ones are unimportant. For example, if you’re looking for a lightweight model you can use for work while travelling, ease of use and portability will be key. If you’re a gamer, you’ll be looking for features like a high-powered graphics processor, high-resolution screen and lots of RAM.
- Don’t pay too much. When you’re shopping for a new laptop, it’s easy to get sucked into the temptation of getting the latest tech. But before you upgrade to something much more expensive than your original budget, make sure you actually need all the features you’ll be paying for. If you’re not going to need the extra RAM, storage space or processing power, don’t pay for it.
- Weight and dimensions. If you travel a lot with your laptop, check the weight and physical dimensions. Make sure you also consider the size and weight of the power supply unit attached to the power cord.
How to compare laptops
When choosing a laptop, consider the following factors:
2-in-1 laptop prices start at around $400, while you could pay $4,000 or more for a top-spec model.
In terms of resolution, a 4K screen might be a handy addition if you’re a gamer or you stream a lot of video content. However, high-resolution screens are expensive and can drain the battery quickly. Also, think about whether you want a laptop with a touchscreen.
If you’re a gamer or you run powerful video editing software, look for a high-end processor. However, if you’ll only be using your laptop for basic tasks like checking emails, web research and word processing, a cheaper CPU will suffice.
Consider whether you need an HDMI out port for video, and which wireless standard does the laptop support?