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Stop spending so much money on your laptop

If you’re in the market for a new laptop today, you’ll encounter a dizzying array of options ranging in price from a few hundred dollars up to the low five figures. You’ll find different build qualities, specifications, display types, and much more, all of which combine to make choosing the best laptop for you a challenge.

It’s tempting to get mesmerized by the latest and greatest machines and end up spending a lot more than you need to or should. The thing is, there are legitimate reasons to spend less on a laptop in 2023, and trust me — it hasn’t always been this way.

You probably don’t need more power

Asus Zenbook 14X OLED front angled view showing display and keyboard.
Asus ZenBook 14X OLED Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

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, a 256GB SSD, and a 14.0-inch 2.8K OLED display. That’s 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 laptops costing twice as much. And you’d be wrong. I reviewed the Zenbook 14 OLED’s entry-level configuration and it was roughly as fast as the Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 8 with the Intel Core i7-1260P. At the time, the Lenovo cost $1,700.

The point is that you need to take a good look at your computing needs. If you use your laptop for typical productivity and media consumption tasks like email, web browsing, Office applications, and streaming content, then just about any laptop today will be more than fast enough. You’ll only start running into problems if you’re spending less than $500, and even then, you can find a laptop with enough performance if you look hard enough.

When does it make sense to spend more money to get more power? Mainly, you’ll want to look at more expensive laptops if you’re a creator with a demanding video-editing workflow or a gamer who wants a laptop that can maintain high frame rates at 1440p or higher. In those cases, you’ll want a more powerful CPU and a fast discrete GPU, and both of those things tend to drive up a laptop’s price.

The best displays are more affordable than ever

Asus Zenbook 14X OLED front view showing display and keyboard.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

If you’re looking for a great display that offers dynamic colors, inky blacks, and great high dynamic range (HDR) performance, then a quality OLED panel fits the bill. Once again, I direct your attention to the $700 Zenbook 14 OLED, which offers exactly that. The Zenbook’s display provides wide and accurate colors, incredibly high contrast, and plenty of brightness, and even runs at a fast 90Hz.

It’s pretty incredible how little you have to spend on a great display. The Zenbook isn’t the only option, and even IPS displays have gotten a lot better over the last several years. The Apple MacBook Air M1 and M2, both of which can be had for less than $1,000, have outstanding IPS displays, and the same can be said for many, if not most Windows laptops.

Probably the only display technology that’s truly priced at a premium is mini-LED, which so far has arrived only on expensive Windows machines and Apple’s MacBook Pros. But you’ll have other reasons to buy those laptops, including a need for very high performance. I can’t stress enough that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a spectacular laptop display.

Don’t think you need the latest generation

An opened Macbook Air M1 sitting on a table.
Digital Trends

Some people are inclined to believe that you need to buy the latest generation of a laptop, and many hold off on purchasing in the hope that something better is coming along. For the most demanding users, once again those who need the best available performance, that might make some sense.

But for many people, the previous generation offers more than enough features and performance while often costing a lot less. In fact, one good reason to wait for the release of a new generation is that the previous generation often remains available at significantly lower prices.

Apple is a prime example. 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’re OK with buying from a third party, then 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 to go with Apple’s excellent build quality.

Overspending simply doesn’t make sense

There may have been a time when you had to spend $1,500 or more on a laptop to get a decent machine. If so, then those days are long past. Today, you can spend under $1,000 and get good performance, long battery life, and a solid build, and you don’t have to sacrifice on things like display quality. I’ve focused on just one laptop, but there are many others.

This welcome trend will likely continue through 2024. But, don’t let that stop you from buying a laptop right now. Just make sure to do your research first.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Coppock
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