Buying the right laptop can be a bit overwhelming, especially when you need to keep your budget within a specific dollar range. No worries, there are many laptops on the market and I’m sure that you can find the right one for you. Below, I’ll give you some tips on what to look for when buying a laptop for Instructional Design that should make the decision process a little easier.
The first thing to look for is going to be your CPU (Central Processing Unit). There are three main manufacturers of CPU’s, AMD Intel, and now Apple.
As an Instructional Designer or eLearning Developer, you will need a performance grade CPU if you want to handle a lot of the common software within the field (i.e. Storyline/Captivate, Adobe Creative Suite, etc.) so go for i7’s and i9’s for Intel, Ryzen 7’s and 9’s for AMD and the M1 & M2 chip for Apple (Apple chips are new so these are what are available at the time of writing). The chips in the performance tiers are better for heavy workloads and will keep your laptop running smooth.
There are different models of each chip. For instance, intel’s i7 lineup can have an i7 that operates differently depending on the laptop. Slim laptops tend to use chips that are more power efficient and to reduce heat, but they take a performance hit, even if they are considered an i7. Larger laptops can have more powerful chips that use more power and give off more heat because they have room for the heat to go, so they will be more powerful and can handle more demanding workloads.
What you need depends on your individual needs. So do the research on the specific laptop you are buying and seek out this information. Use something like https://www.cpubenchmark.net/singleCompare.php to make cpu comparisons for free.
RAM (Random Access Memory) is simple. The more RAM the better. Ram allows you to multitask without slowing your computer down. So, if you are someone who likes to have 30 browser tabs open while you edit multiple videos, as much RAM as possible will be best for you. Get 16gb at a minimum, if you edit videos more, then go for 32gb minimum, more if possible.
Do NOT overlook the importance of your storage choice. Here’s something to get accustomed to. Stop calling your storage a Hard drive. HDD’s are a dated technology. Most modern laptops now come with an SSD (Solid State Drive), or an NVME drive (nonvolatile memory express). These are much faster and will keep your laptop moving at blazing speeds. There’s no way to simplify this speed difference, here is a video that does a good job of making the speed comparisons.
You can get as much or little storage as you need as long as you get an SSD or NVME. I would shoot for 1TB at a minimum though, this is usually taken relatively quick if you work with a lot of images and videos. Most laptops offer different storage options and some laptops allow for easy upgrades (like gaming laptops and some workstations). Fast storage is key to quick a startup on boot, quick load times with applications and a quick file explorer. There is always debate about how much you need but the most important thing is the speed. So stick with SSD’s and NVME’s.
The three things I’ve mentioned are the main and most important elements of your computer in regard to performance. The recommended ranges will get you the processing power and multitasking capabilities you need. Of course, the more money you put into your hardware the more you get in performance, but more isn’t always better. Don’t get anything that performs at a level that you will never use. If you aren’t using the resources of your laptop to their fullest capabilities daily, then you may be able to skip an upgrade and save some cash. That’s up to you.
Other things like 4k screens, touch screen options, cameras, keyboards and other features are going to vary per model and per brand. I would take the time to see what’s important to you in your daily workflow. For instance, I like having laptops that have a backlit keyboard; contrary to popular belief, this isn’t a standard feature, so it’s something I always look for.
Please reach out if you have more questions about choosing a laptop.