If you’re in the market for a new laptop today, you’ll be faced with a dizzying array of options ranging from a few hundred dollars to low five-figure prices. You will find different build qualities, specifications, display types and more, all of which make it a challenge to choose the best laptop for you.
It’s tempting to get mesmerized by the latest and greatest machines and spend far more than you need or expect. The thing is, there are legitimate reasons to spend less on a laptop in 2023, and trust me – it hasn’t always been that way.
You probably don’t need much power
I’m going to use the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED as an example of an affordable laptop that offers a winning combination of performance, features, and price. For just $700, you can buy the ZenBook with an AMD Ryzen 5 7530U CPU, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, and a 14.0-inch 2.8K OLED display. This is a great price for a great laptop.
You might be tempted to think that a laptop that costs $700 can’t possibly compete in performance with a laptop that costs twice as much. And you would be wrong. I reviewed the entry-level configuration of the ZenBook 14 OLED and it was as fast as the Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 8 with an Intel Core i7-1260P. At the time, the Lenovo was priced at $1,700.
The point is that you need to pay close attention to your computing needs. If you use your laptop for general productivity and media consumption tasks like email, Web browsing, Office applications, and streaming content, almost any laptop today will be fast enough. You’ll only run into problems if you’re spending under $500, and even then, you can find a laptop with adequate performance if you look hard enough.
When is it worth spending more money to get more power? Primarily, if you’re a producer seeking video-editing workflows or a gamer who wants a laptop that can maintain high frame rates at 1440p or higher, you’ll want to look at more expensive laptops. In those cases, you’ll want a more powerful CPU and faster discrete GPU, and both of these things increase the price of a laptop.
The best displays are more affordable than ever
If you’re looking for a great display that delivers dynamic colors, deep blacks, and great High Dynamic Range (HDR) performance, a quality OLED panel fits the bill. Once again, I draw your attention to the $700 ZenBook 14 OLED, which offers exactly the same. The ZenBook’s display delivers detailed and accurate colors, incredibly high contrast and plenty of brightness, and even runs at a fast 90Hz.
It’s incredible how little you have to spend on a great display. The ZenBook isn’t the only option, and even IPS displays have improved significantly over the past several years. The Apple MacBook Air M1 and M2, both of which can be purchased for under $1,000, have excellent IPS displays, and the same can be said for many if not most Windows laptops.
Probably the only display technology that really commands a premium is mini-LED, which has so far only come on expensive Windows machines and Apple’s MacBook Pros. But you’ll also have other reasons for buying those laptops, including the need for very high performance. I can’t stress enough that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a great laptop display.
Don’t think you need the latest generation
Some people believe that you need to buy the latest generation laptop, and many people put off purchasing in the hope that something better is on the way. For the most demanding users, once again those who need the best available performance, this may make some sense.
But for many people, the previous generation offers more than enough features and performance while often costing much less. In fact, a good reason to wait for a new generation to be released is that the previous generation is often available at significantly lower prices.
Apple is a prime example of this. Right now, the company is still selling the MacBook Air M1, the first generation to use Apple’s new silicon chips, for $1,000. If you agree to purchase from a third party, you can often find the base model for $850. At that price, the MacBook Air M1 is a great machine, offering plenty of performance, phenomenal battery life, and a great display combined with Apple’s excellent build quality.
There is no point in spending more
There may have been a time when you would have had to spend $1,500 or more on a laptop to get a good machine. If so, then those days are long gone. Today, you can spend less than $1,000 and get good performance, long battery life, and a solid build, and you won’t have to sacrifice on things like display quality. I’ve only focused on one laptop, but there are many others.
This welcome trend will likely continue through 2024. But, don’t let this stop you from buying a laptop right now. Just be sure to do your research first.