When someone asks me what kind of laptop to buy, my first two questions are, "How much do you want to spend?" and "What size do you want?" This week's question focuses on that second decision. It's hard to know how big a PC you want when you don't know what size you need.
Reader asaf1989 is buying their first laptop, and they have portability in mind. They're a student and plan on using their laptop mostly for browsing the web and for productivity apps. They want to know if they should get a 14-inch laptop or a 15.6-inch machine.
Here's the thing: Your choice of display size largely depends on your own preference. For the sake of fitting the computer in a backpack, I'd suggest a 13- or 14-inch machine, but many people carry around bigger laptops all the time (especially gaming versions). But the smaller machines are often lighter and more portable, making them easier to carry around from class to class.
When you're choosing a display, though, there's a lot more to consider than just the size of the screen.
We usually recommend that you get a laptop with at least a 1920 x 1080 (also known as 1080p or FHD) display. That's generally the standard, though still, even in the year 2018, some laptop companies cheap out with 1366 x 768 displays.
The resolution is effectively the number of pixels that can fit on your screen. So, you may be able to find a 14-inch display that shows off more content (or makes it look sharper) than a 15.6-inch display, or vice versa. Keep this in mind when looking at laptop screens at any price.
4K probably isn't worth it for most students, unless they're doing a lot with graphics or are editing video in 4K.
The size of a laptop can be deceiving. The machine's true size isn't relative to just the screen, but to the bezel around the screen. If there's a really thick bezel, the whole laptop will be bigger.
A 15.6-inch laptop like an XPS 15, which has very little bezel, can feel closer to some 14-inch laptops in size. So, don't go only by the screen, but rather by how much plastic or metal surrounds that display.
Touch or Nontouch?
Do you want a touch screen? That will limit your selection. It might also make you pick a 2-in-1 over a clamshell, because, in my opinion, a touch screen is a more natural fit in a 2-in-1. While using Windows in tablet mode is useful for some people, others see it as a battery drain. And touch screens are often glossy and reflective, so if you don't want a mirror sheen, you may want to consider a nontouch screen.
If you're making a decision in a store and can't research beforehand, you'll have to rely on the specs available to you. But when we test laptops, we also check out the brightness, color accuracy and vividness. On gaming laptops, we'll also comment on the refresh rate. You can learn more about all of this in our screen guide.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag