If you’re looking to finally upgrade your laptop to a new model, but aren’t as clued up on what the specs on a laptop mean, then you’ve come to the right place! Finding are specs on a laptop isn’t as difficult as you might think, although the many technical terms that pop up when you search for processing power, storage space, and screen resolution can be confusing.
No matter if you have a Windows laptop or an Apple Macbook, most laptops have the same classification of specs that make up their build. Even 2-in-1 laptops that can be converted into tablets are made up of the same base components. We’ll be covering everything you need to know, from the operating system to graphics cards, and make your life easier.
Stick around as we dive in!
Specs & Terms
Many elements make up a laptop, but you’ll often see 5 main computer specs being referred to whenever you look for a new desktop computer or laptop. There are the processor, the screen size and display resolution, the main storage (sometimes referred to as the SSD storage), the RAM, and the graphics card.
There are other features that you want to keep in mind like battery life, operating system, and several ports, but these aren’t the ones we’ll be focusing on in this article. Keep in mind the purpose of your laptop when deciding what baseline pc specs you need as the specs of a data science laptop will differ greatly from a college or casual laptop.
Nevertheless, let’s dive into what exactly the specs of laptops are in great detail!
The Processor is one of the most important parts of the laptop and acts as the brain of the device. It processes your inputs and is in charge of ensuring that it all goes smoothly! When determining what processor your laptop needs, there are mainly two different brands that dominate the space – Intel and AMD.
Modern laptops come with i7 or i9 core processors, and it’s a general rule that the larger the number, the quicker the processor speed. Desktop computers are the same, so if you change your mind then the knowledge carries over.
You should get by on an i5 processor, but you may want to increase this if you’re planning on doing more than just studying like video editing. Though, the more powerful the processor, the higher the price.
However, not all i5 or i7 processors are made equal, as you’ll find that there are consistently newer generations of processors released each year. An 8th-generation i7 will perform worse than the latest 11th or 12th-generation i7.
And as for which brand you should purchase from, there’s not too much of a difference between them. Intel has had a long track of consistency when it comes to its processors, but you can’t go wrong with a newer AMD Ryzen processor.
You’re never going to complain about an i7 processor, but if you have a tight budget then an i5 will still suffice. Aim for a generation of two lower than the latest generation, as this will make will allow your laptop to be dated in more time.
Thankfully screen size is a lot more intuitive to explain than the processor of a laptop – it’s what you’re looking at to read this article!
The screen size and screen resolution go hand in hand and make up the primary display features you’re likely going to worry about. Screen size is simply how big the screen of your laptop is and usually correlates with how big and bulky your laptop is.
The display resolution is the number of pixels that your screen has and usually works with the graphics card, which we’ll get to later. The standard HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 is what most laptops come with, and these integrated graphics should be fine for most users.
If you’re going to be creating and editing images, or working with Cricut 2, then you may want to upgrade your display to a 4k display or purchase an external monitor.
This one is another intuitive one to explain, as it speaks about how much memory your device can hold. Storage comes with two main types, HDD and SSD storage.
HDDs are often referred to as hard drive storage and provide you with a large amount of storage. They can often be quite bulky and load programs quite slowly, but you’ll likely never run out of space if your laptop comes with 500 gigabytes or 1 terabyte of storage space HDD. If you’re a college student using your laptop just for work, HDD is often cheaper and does the trick.
SSD is often referred to as a solid-state drive, and comes with less storage but accelerates how much your programs are downloaded and open. How much space you need is dependent on what you’re doing, but keep in mind that you can always add more storage. If you’re in the data or computer science field, loading programs with SSD storage is recommended
You likely want to grab at least a 500 gigabyte HDD or at least a 128 gigabyte SSD, but if you’re on a budget then feel free to scale down. What’s more, how much memory you need may change down the line and thankfully you don’t have to stick to just HDD or SSD! We recommend you purchase a laptop that has hybrid HDD/SSS storage.
In addition to the processor, the RAM is one of the most important functions of a laptop. RAM stands for Random Access Memory and is temporary storage for your various programs so that they load quickly when you revisit them.
Juggling your various programs sometimes requires a large RAM, especially if you plan on using your laptop to play an intensive game. Without RAM, your laptop will have to search through its hard drive to retrieve information, which will usually take a lot longer and leave you very frustrated.
How much RAM your ideal laptop should have is about 8 or 16 gigabytes, and you’ll find that most workplace tasks, gaming sessions, and casual tasks will be run easily. It’s best to avoid anything less than 8 gigabytes and you’ll often find your programs work slowly.
The last topic of our discussion is graphics cards. There is an optional consideration when you purchase but are nice to deeply consider if you’re planning on working in image/video editing or serious gaming. If you’re just using Zoom for meetings or watching Youtube videos, then a graphics card is likely overkill.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, we haven’t even spoken about what graphics cards do. Simply put, the graphic processing unit is in charge of handling the graphical information of your laptop. You’ll most likely see this when it comes to playing intensive video games and running programs.
All laptops come with a graphics card, usually within the processor itself. If you’re planning on playing the latest AAA titles with extremely high graphical requirements or running intensive programs like Photoshop, it may be worth it to purchase one. Keep in mind that they are quite expensive and you are unable to replace them separately, so you need to choose one that will future-proof your choice.
How to Check your Computer’s Specs
A good way to get a sense of what your new laptop will be like is by checking out your own laptop’s specifications and comparing and contrasting them to the new laptop you’re looking to purchase.
It’s extremely easy to see your computer specs and find out your system information, even a toddler could do it! Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to check specs!
- Open the Windows icon on your Windows laptop.
- Click system settings or system information, based on the laptop model you have.
- From there, the various system information you want to find out, like RAM, display settings, processor, and graphics card can be found here.
- You can also use a Directx diagnostic tool to get the inside scoop.
That’s all there is to it. These instructions may be different based on the device you have, and the Google Pixelbook or Apple Macbook would likely give you the same information through a different process.
Frequently Asked Questions
That’s the main topic of our article! Hopefully, you’ve gained a broader understanding of the main components of a pc or laptop.
While reading, if you’ve had some questions brewing in your mind then feel free to read through our frequently asked questions – your question might even have been answered.
If you’re interested in buying a laptop from home school or a large-screen laptop for under 500, we’ve written articles about those too!
What are the specs of a good gaming laptop?
A good laptop that will appeal to many people needs to have at least an i7 processor, supports Windows 10 or Windows 11, has anywhere between 16 – 32 gigabytes of RAM, has at least a 500 GB SSD hard drive, and plenty of ports and an adapter to connect to the internet. If you’re planning to game or work with images or video, consider also looking at the graphics processing unit.
These are great for gaming and projecting on Google classroom, and although it may be expensive it’s well worth the investment. Gaming laptops are also a poor choice if you want to preserve battery life.
You can also check out our guide on how to remove stickers from your laptop.
What is a good number of GB for a laptop?
The bare minimum of GBs for RAM should be 4 gigabytes, but it’s highly recommended that you purchase a laptop with more than this for better performance. You should be aiming for at least 8 gigabytes of RAM, with more performance the higher it is.
If you’re curious about how to use your laptop as a monitor for your ps4 or discover the best gaming laptop, check out the articles we’ve written for them.
What is the most important spec in a laptop?
Undoubtedly the processor is the most important specification that you should be considering when purchasing a new laptop. You can choose between Intel or AMD as the main brands of processors.
We recommend you purchase a laptop with at least an i7 processor, even if you’re a non-gamer.
There you have it folks! We’ve covered the main foundation when it comes to laptops and their specs, so hopefully, you’re leaving this article with a better knowledge of laptops than when you clicked on it.
If you want to think about some laptops to purchase, consider reading through our best picks for i7 laptops under $1000 or the best 17-inch laptops with a backlit keyboard.
Writer Graham Grieve brings two decades of technical communications experience to The Holy Tech coverage. Isaac contributes articles on laptops, tablets and PCs, alongside various software and hardware guides. Isaac is a former newspaper journalist who also worked in tech communications for some of the country’s biggest corporations. He also counsels and creates material for other technology publications and hosts a podcast.
Isaac’s in-depth reporting and knowledge of hardware and software issues helps The Holy Tech’s readers learn how to choose the right products, or solve tricky problems.