First, and foremost, laptops are meant, by design, to be portable. Their counterparts, desktops are the ones you don’t throw in your briefcase or backpack and take around with you. Therefore if you’re buying a laptop, instead of a desktop, one of your obvious goals is for it to be, at least a little bit, portable. Now that we’ve established that, there are obviously different degrees of portability, and if you’re considering buying a laptop, this is probably where you should begin. Let’s address the spectrum so you can place yourself somewhere on it. On one side (the light side) you have business laptops, which can weigh as little as 1-2 pounds, and is for, as the name states, people in business and/or people who travel a good amount. On the other side you have “desktop replacements,” which are mostly used by gamers, entertainment enthusiast, and maybe people in the graphic/video industry; these can weigh over 10 pounds. Then, there’s everything in between, which is approximately 4-7 pounds, and is what most people tend to purchase. If you’re a student, or someone who must traverse large distances with no car (seriously you wouldn’t believe how big some college campuses are), definitely shoot for lighter. Try to place yourself somewhere in the 3 categories first, then work from there; there’s definitely a lot of leeway here though – I know graphic designers with 11 inch laptops (who consequently use an external monitor), and students who only word process with a 17 inch laptop.
Next, let’s discuss the relationship between screen size and weight. The most obvious thing to start out with is, the bigger the screen size, the heavier the laptop. I know 17 inch laptops seem appealing, but unless you’re a die-hard gamer or watch tons of videos on your laptop (video and photo editors included), I’d stick to a 15 inch. 13 inches and under, in my opinion, is a tad small. It’s difficult to be ultra productive on a 13 inch screen, because you can’t have several windows open side by side. You could always get a 13 inch loaded with a high definition amount of pixels, but it’s never nice to have things so small that the text is straining to read. If you only really plan to word process, use the internet, write emails, and watch the occasional video, then the 13 inch might be an option. Quite simply, try and go as light as you can, without compromising screen space.
Alright, now one of the bigger aspects for many people: the relationship between size and cost. In most cases, bigger means better and better usually means more expensive. But, go on a laptop site and you may end up seeing the opposite, gaming computers an exception. I know earlier I said shoot for lighter, and now it seems as though I’m contradicting myself, but the key here is to find a balance between lightness, functionality, and price. When laptops get smaller, especially in the business aspect, they tend to get more expensive. As it turns out, it is rather expensive to cram high performance parts into small spaces, go figure. So if you’re on a limited budget, and want to maintain decent functionality, stay away from the 13” laptops. Now, let’s address the issue of big laptops. Once you go from 15 inches to 17 inches, the chassis and the screen get more expensive, and thus your price goes up – pretty simple. 17 inches is the choice for most gamers and photo/video editors, because more performance parts (like SLI enabled graphics cards) and bigger screens with more pixels. These are also reasons why you may want to consider it if you’re a serious videophile. If you’re looking for an ultimately cheap alternative there are miniature laptops that can basically word process and surf the internet for very cheap (a couple hundred).
Finally, if you’re still confused, well let me just try to tell you what I think you should do. If you’ve read the previous paragraphs, you can see that on average, and based on the functionality, weight, and price ratios, 14-15 inch laptops are probably the size to gravitate toward. This is especially true if you’re moving your laptop over extended distances (more than from the car to the home office, and from the car to the actual office). Serious gamers and people that love entertainment, and don’t plan to move extended amounts, go toward the 17 inch side. Frequent travelers and businessmen look to the 13 inch laptops. If you’re going through the airport, and/or if you have to carry something in your briefcase (as opposed to backpack or pseudo-backpack), you definitely want ultra-light. For everyone else, my recommendation, as I’ve said several times before, go for the 15 inch. Hope this helps answer some questions, but if you want some more perspective, I’ll do a follow up article soon about my experience with my 17 inch laptop.