How Much Should I Spend on a Laptop [The Surprising Truth]

How Much Should I Spend on a Laptop

Value is important when making this decision. Most users spend between $600 and $700 for a laptop. But is that enough to get you the tangible benefits you need to get work done? There’s no doubt a laptop is a (very) effective tool but choosing from among the many different options out there can be overwhelming. Want the truth? How much you should spend on a laptop depends on a variety of factors – What works for one user may not work for you, and vice versa. That’s why we put together this resource. No affiliate links.  No laptop suggestions.  We’re just going to give the facts, details and tidbits we used to arrive at the best decision for us in hopes that it will work for you too. Ready? Here we go.

Should You Even Spend Money on a Laptop?

Obviously, we think so. 

Whether you’re at home, on the road or at a LAN party, a laptop is a powerful tool for all your demanding applications.  And its versatile enough to go with you everywhere.

But there’s a wide variety of form factors, sizes, features and prices that makes choosing the best device challenging. That’s why we’ve put together several guides for you here, here and here.  Still, the question remains:  should you err on spending more or less for a laptop?

Spending Too Much for a Laptop

While the average consumer spends about $600 for a laptop, some machines go for exponentially more.  You can wind up spending too much because it’s easy to be taken in by the bells and whistles extravagant machines offer.

When does it make sense to spend more for a laptop?

For students, commuters, and home users that usually only have one computer. Buying a more expensive laptop is an apples-to-apples value proposition because you get more performance from a more expensive device.

If you’re due for an upgrade, you’ll find no shortage of outstanding laptops. But while there’s something to be said for buying the best PC you can afford smart buyers are always aware of their needs:

Resist the sway of flashy numbers and over-emphasized specs – Popular Science.

If, however, you’re needs include playing games, or you’re work involves high-end graphics. Shelling out a few more bucks for a gaming rig or workstation level laptop won’t leave you seeing red.  

Not Spending Enough for a Laptop

Underspending for a laptop could cost you in other ways.

A sizeable number of users spend less than 700 bucks for their laptop.

But not spending enough can be detrimental to your productivity – 7 bills may seem like a lot of money for a laptop. But it’s like spending $15,000 for a new Hyundai Accent.

With a budget of 700-hundred-dollars your limited to Chromebooks, some multimedia machines and a handful of Ultrabooks. Performance-wise, they’re adequate. But cheaping out usually means losing out on overall value.

So, what’s the answer?

Many times, the decision between spending high or low comes down to picking a focus between portability and power

Ideally, a laptop is going to live with you for years. Paying more for your PC will reward you every time you flip open the lid with increased speed, better typing accuracy and a sweet view.

If, however, your activities mostly consist of firing off emails and surfing the Web, a cheap laptop like a Chromebook can serve you well. 

The Average Cost of a Laptop

Again, the average cost of a new laptop is between $600 and $700. Sure, you miss out on some luxury features. But you’re in full view of efficient Chromebooks, powerful Ultrabooks and tech-heavy multimedia machines. 

No matter the price-bracket, all laptop research and development laboratories doggedly search-out new ways to deliver a better experience to you. Below are the 3 main budget categories we use to distinguish laptops and the experience you can expect from each: 

Budget Laptops

These are low-cost laptops that can handle everyday computing (and more) efficiently. They run either a Windows 10 or Chrome OS (operating system). And with units going for less than $400 the focus is of course on value; achieving the perfect balance between price and features is the secret sauce for a happy purchase. You’ll need to be prepared to make a few sacrifices like flimsy keyboards to get other features like a potent CPU.

Midrange Laptops

Not quite budget, not quite premium. Yet you get the best of both worlds between the extremes of an anemic Chromebook and a notebook with a graphics card that can run older games and less demanding titles. Even the cheapest midrange laptop is suitable for basic tasks like browsing the web, word processing and working on spreadsheets. There’s enough performance to run Windows well, it’ll have a strong chassis and a comfortable keyboard. You can expect a 15-inch screen, integrated graphics and 4GB to 8GB of RAM. Wireless connectivity is universal along with a webcam and Bluetooth support. It’s no surprise the midrange laptop is the #1 choice for everyday computing tasks! Still, there are trade-offs worth considering.

High-End Laptops

Are you in the market for a productivity workhorse? A screaming machine for your games? Or a fantastic ultraportable for work? Then a premium notebook is where it’s at.

Between $800 and $1000 you’ll find the best laptop computers delivering the most value for your money. Study reviews of laptops and you’ll find that expensive notebooks consistently receive higher scores than cheap ones. 

Why?

Because a powerful laptop with better features will:

  • Decrease the amount of time you spend waiting for apps to load.
  • Feel more engaging to use as you type out emails.
  • And the entertainment factor goes way up.

High-end laptops are adept at focusing your money in the areas that count. 

And, the Best Laptop for the Price?

Again and again we see that between $800 and $1000 is where you’ll find the best laptops for the price.

On average, this is where you get the most consistent value.

But you don’t have to spend this much to get a good deal – The best laptop for you may not have all the luxury features, but it won’t leave you un-settled and feeling like you sacrificed quality.

Even after you’ve decided on a budget, choosing a laptop can be overwhelming. There’s a wide variety of options out there, but there’s a lot of junk that cut corners on important hardware too. 

To separate the wheat from the chaff, below are some of the chief components we scrutinize when reviewing laptops:

Portability – this is related to screen size. The whole point of purchasing a laptop is that it’s easier to pick-up and take with you than a desktop computer. As such, the larger the screen, the heavier the laptop tends to be. 15-inches marks the sweet spot between a good viewing experience and portability for most users.

Performance – we’re talking components like Memory, CPU, and Storage. Dialing in how much you need of each will ultimately determine how much you spend on a laptop. However, as technology improves one of the costs is that you’ll need more memory to do even the simplest tasks. Most laptops today come with at least 8GB of RAM.

Battery Life – isn’t that important. That is unless, you’re a commuter, you travel a lot, or you use your laptop in environments where power outlets are scarce. Then battery endurance becomes high priority.  If this describes you, then the best laptop for the price should come with at least 8-hours of battery life unplugged.

Brand – We have a saying here at Gigabyte Kingdom, “brands matter.” If you’re used to a specific laptop brand, you know where everything is generally. Every brand prioritizes something different which can make transitioning to another laptop stressful. 

The Average Lifespan of a Laptop

According to Computer Hope, most laptops begin to run into performance and reliability issues within four years.  

There are two underlying causes for this phenomenon:  1) component wear and tear; 2) software evolution. Overtime, the laptop won’t be able to keep up and you’ll need an upgrade.

Which begs the question: before you even spend on a laptop, how often should you buy a new one?

Laptop lifespan differs from laptop to laptop. But the average lifespan is between three and five years;  (for example, the laptop used to write this article was purchased in April 2016 and is beginning to show the tell-tale signs that’s it time for a replacement).

But just so we’re clear, when we’re talking about the average lifespan of a laptop, there are two types of lifespans that need addressing:  operational lifespan and useful lifespan.

Operational and Useful Lifespan 

Operational lifespan is a measure of how long the laptop unit will function properly. 

Useful lifespan is how long the laptop system can run advanced programs by meeting minimum system requirements.

To bring these two concepts into full focus:  the laptop unit can run great after 10 years, but the system begins showing its age when you try to run the latest applications. That’s because programs place high demands on the system which includes components like the CPU, RAM and even the graphics card.

In other words, operationally the laptop unit can work fine after 10 years. Usefully, the same laptop system may no longer be able to load the latest programs and apps.

Why Is That?

Because of a little thing called planned obsolescence.

It’s a dirty little trick crafted by the computer industry – and now adopted by the auto and other industries – in which the laptop you purchase at a premium today becomes a relic in just a few short years; it the reason why your iPhone 5 no longer works as well as it did when new.

Planned obsolescence means you’ll always need to upgrade to a better CPU, graphics, and system memory. One of the ways to get around planned obsolescence and increase laptop lifecycle is:  when shopping for a new laptop, prioritize the ones with a service hatch or that allow you to make upgrades with ease. Changing components is comparatively cheaper than replacing the entire laptop unit every few years.

Best Month for Buying a Laptop

Some say September, April and May.

But the real answer depends on you.

Spring – Often, new laptops pop up with fresh flowers during the Spring season. This is simultaneously when chip manufacturers like Intel and NVIDIA un-veil new components.

Late Summer – Like new cars, this is when many retailers roll out their latest models. This is also when the back-to-school shopping frenzy is in full swing.

Holiday Season – This is generally a good time to buy a laptop if you want discounts. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are promotion and clearance event days that practically guarantee you’ll save money.

Timing the Market

Timing the purchase of a laptop – like timing the purchase of a stock – can be tricky. Prices fluctuate throughout the year. You could be waiting to purchase a laptop and sometimes it’s taken off the shelf without a special promotion.

Obviously, the best time to buy a laptop is when you need it. If your current laptop just bought the farm and you have a project due in a few days, suck it up and buy a new one.  If you’re laptop works but shows signs of age, you’re in a better position to try and time the market, but you need be strategic.

How to Be Strategic

The rules are wonky when it comes to laptops. Sometimes you’ll find that the oldest models cost just as much as the newer ones; or the older model is even more expensive!

If there’s a particular laptop you’ve had your eye on, pay close attention to the manufacturer’s announcements. This will clue you in on specific release dates. But this doesn’t always imply that the older model will go on sale.

Like the laptops themselves, not every new release means a significant change in performance. Also keep in mind that while an evolutionary improvement of a chip or component on its own may not seem that significant, laptop manufacturers use this as an opportunity to improve their offerings.

By waiting strategically, you can save some money or benefit from newer technology.

In Summary

Ready to Buy Your New Laptop? Smartphones may be ubiquitous, tablets may be commonplace, and now smartwatches are a thing. But for tasks like creating spreadsheets and video editing, there’s no substitute for a fantastic keyboard and a big screen. Midrange laptops are the number one choice for everyday computing tasks. But because of planned obsolescence, the cheap laptop you scored today might need a replacement in a year. And, even as the price for better technology goes down, the price of the end-product goes up. Which means knowing exactly what you want from a portable PC is more critical than ever. Now that you know the highs and lows to secure the best laptop for you. Think about how much time you spend on a laptop every year. Every month. Every day. A laptop (like a car) is a product that can provide you with amazing utility for a long time. We don’t recommend going broke in your quest for a good laptop. But budgeting a few extra $100 for the features you need will reward you every time you use it.