I Need A New Laptop. What Should I Buy?

Four years ago I got an HP Spectre x360 and love it but it died after about a year. Three years ago I replaced it with a Lenovo C930.

Now I’m considering replacing the laptop again. It’s presumably fixable, but:

  • I’m on my second battery and it needs to be replaced again. I swapped the battery a year and a half ago after it stopped holding much of a charge. Now it’s again down to where at nearly the dimmest screen settings I get less than a couple of hours out of the battery. When I changed the battery the first time I somehow disconnected the fingerprint reader, but I’ve been fine without it.

  • Keys are sticking. My ‘T’ key is a problem. Sometimes I hit it and nothing happens. Other times I hit it and it gives me two or three t’s. Typos are enough of a problem with my writing as it is. The down arrow is also a problem.

I figure that after three years new machines may be better and it likely isn’t worth investing a lot of money into fixing an old one.

I could use your help with what laptop I should get. Here are key drivers of any decision for me.

  • I use one device, for the blog and also everything travel-related as well as for my job (I get special dispensation to use a personal device). I use it at home and on travel. I use it from the early morning into the evening every day.

  • I want a very good battery, speed, at least a 512gb hard drive and a good keyboard experience. It needs to be rugged because 3 years of use for me may be the equivalent of six of more years of average use. I’m taking it with me everywhere and I’m not gentle with it.

  • I chose the Lenovo Yoga last time – the only value I find in a convertible tablet and touch screen is takeoff and landing on planes. When laptops need to be put away and stowed, I flip it over and there’s never been a crewmember that’s objected to using it in tablet mode.

  • I’m not a gamer. I care about readability, but high resolution isn’t important to me when I watch movies. I’d love it if sound volume could be super loud – I’m such a one device guy that I might continue listening to something even in the shower (more than you wanted to know).

  • I don’t reboot the machine for weeks at a time. I work with a dozen tabs open in Google Chrome and a couple of other applications open, too. I need memory and enough processing speed not to slow me down. I also want a good enough camera for TV interviews if I’m on the road without access to better equipment.

    I don’t want to spend money unnecessarily, for features I won’t use or because bloated machines always have tradeoffs (like weight or battery life). At the same time cost isn’t the primary constraint since this is a productivity tool for me.

    What advice can you offer?

  • About Gary Leff

    Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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    Comments

    1. Assuming you want to stick to Windows — only because learning MacOS once you’re past a certain age and have experience with PCs can be a difficult transition — which means loss of some productivity as you’re not as fast.

      Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 probably fits the bill. I own my own company and that’s what we issue to all employees. They are NOT the cheapest on the market, but they’re real performers and workhorses. Plus you can recharge them with a smaller 65W USB-C charger which means not having to haul around a separate laptop charger anymore — so you can charge everything from a single charger (headphones, phone, laptop, other).

      You can choose between 13.5″ or 15″ screen models. Note the recommendation is for the Surface Laptop 4, not any of the tablet hybrids or other ones.

    2. Thinkpad X1 Carbon. I have bought a few since they first came out. My first lasted 7 years with heavy use. I have dropped these (open) on concrete and from the top of loft bed, had a big mirror fall on it, had it thrown by my toddler, etc and they’ve survived. They’re light and easy to travel with. The keyboards have always been outstanding. You can customize your laptop on their website. Have not really had issues with the laptop, but since I bought it with education funds from work, I bought the upgraded support, which is awesome. Someone came to my house within 24h to fix my laptop.

    3. Do you feel the need, the need…for speed?

      Solid State Drive (SSD) – the bigger the capacity, the faster your machine will work (unrelated to internet connection). I’ve had it described to me as “strong coffee for your computer”.

      DDR / RAM – Find out what the set-up is. Like if you have 8GB and there are 2 RAM slots, does that mean there’s one 8GB chip in there, or two 4GB? Because if it has one 8GB, you can cheaply double your RAM.

      I’m not techie. I just don’t like clicking and waiting…waiting…waiting…
      My machine is a 17″ HP and the size doesn’t bother me because it fits nicely in my laptop backpack that I use for my personal item.

    4. I’d take a hard look at the M2 MacBook Air. I’ve used Windows and Apple and just for the overall support I’d go Apple. They did gave me support on a 7 year old MacBook Pro. You won’t get that level of support with any Windows manufacturer. Plus, Apple stores all over the world if you need support.

      M2 Air has days of battery life. The current model’s performance is bar none. And if you look at the price to performance it’s priced competitively.

    5. Been a Windows guy forever ( still have a desktop) but now have a MacBook Pro with a M1, 512GB SSD, 16 GB of memory. Yes, there is a bit of a learning curve but I’m an old fart and if I can figure it out I’m sure you could too. Got mine at Costco for $1749. Never spent that much for laptop before but I feel it’s worth it. Damn good speakers too.

    6. I love my Samsung Book Pro 360. It has a very good typing experience, very thin and light, and plenty powerful. Underrated, but priced very reasonably compared to competition and has a great tablet experience (because of weight and S Pen). Works great with a Samsung phone too. Of all the thin ultrabooks, one of my favorite keyboards. The one weakness may be the camera, though I think the newer Book2 Pro has a better camera. I think it satisfies all your requirements and it’s sleek

    7. I’ve had 2 HP Spectre x360’s and love them both. Only issue I’ve had is a bent case from dropping it. It does all you need doing. My advice: give it another try.

    8. Mac pro 16 worth the Money
      10 H ours Battery i am travel Plenty in Usa i am Owner Operator

    9. Apple has less than 15% of the PC market.

      Gee, i wonder why?

      Did all the Fan Boys miss that he likes a convertible TOUCH SCREEN? Perhaps you can fill us in on which Mac has that?

      And some of us don’t want to go buy all new software because the existing Windows OS software doesn’t work on Apple.

      But Fan Boys are going to be Fan Boys.

    10. I’m a Windows guy and can’t bear switching to Mac but if you can, try it. My wife’s 10 years old Macbook Pro still chugging along and I got her an M1 Macbook Air a year ago which is great too. You most likely don’t even need Pro, AIr should work fine for you.

      If you want to stick with Windows – switching to Mac can be quite a bit of learning, learning takes time and time is money – then take a good look at Asus Zenbook. You’ll want 16GB, OLED screen is great, good quality build and metal chassis.

    11. M1 MacBook Air. I’m typing on mine, absolutely love it. Since the M2 version is now shipping you can get the very excellent M1 models well below $1K.

    12. Assuming you’re not dead set against a Mac, you’re actually describing one. I’d say head to an Apple Store and try some out. Any actual MacBook (Pro or Air, but I’d say Pro for your work) can run MS Office or any other typical software you might need. It will handle everything else. The SSD drives are fabulous, the screen resolution is exceptional, and the pairing of devices is as well. I know it’s the “Mac Cult,” but a few years ago I bought a top-of-the-line Windows laptop because I thought I could get twice as much for the price. I returned it. There’s not much better unless you have very niche needs, but what you are describing are not. Also, for the record, it does not take THAT much learning. Windows was actually CREATED to emulate Mac. Mac is intuitive and you can change settings easily to make it work the way you want it. My Mac runs a lot more like many Windows computers as far as the trackpad and tabs, etc. I use Word on it, etc etc. So it’s not THAT big of a curve, even though it feels like it for a week or two. Consider it this year’s resolution that you got stuck with the negative on, and all the evidence is on the Macbook!

    13. Best battery life in the industry, ruggedness and build quality is in a MacBook Air or Pro using M1 or M2 processor. Their touchpad is the best anywhere. No touch screen.

      They are expensive but have excellent reliability, are fast, and battery life is amazing. But there is a learning curve switching from Windows. You will also have a better experience if your phone also is an iPhone which integrates seamlessly with the Mac. (Photos, documents, copy and paste etc)

      Personally I have switched from Mac to Windows in 1997 and back to Mac in 2016. There is some muscle memory that needed to be retrained.. Do not fall for older Macs with Intel Processors. The M1 or M2 processors are a dream. Instant wakeup when you open there screen. Fast. High fidelity color screens. I would probably go for the MacBook Air 512 GByte M2 processor. Light, fast, state of the art. The laptop will run on a transcontinental or trans-Atlantic flight on one charge. Although Chrome is often the browser of choice, Safari runs faster as uses less power. Macs operating life time of 5 to 8 years is quite normal.

    14. Surface Laptop 4 is awesome. Been using one for over 2 years now and it’s been really performant with a great battery life. Consistently get over 9 hours of battery life even with heavy usage. Touchscreen works great and Windows 11 on it makes it a very productive experience. All the best with your new device purchase.

    15. Add my vote for a MacBook Air. Not hard to learn and you’ll love the technology.

    16. Just pre-ordered the new MacBookAir with M2 chip … Costco has it at $50 off and you don’t even have to be a Costco member to order it

    17. Based on ROI, longevity, reliability, speed, and user friendliness, there is only one viable option. Get a Mac laptop and you will never look back. For those who claim you will experience.a lack of productivity: They clearly have never used a Mac!

    18. Regardless of manufacturer:

      16GB of RAM is good, more is better.
      Whatever you use for storage, go solid state. 512GB is fine, 256GB is cutting it close, less than that is not a good idea.
      Don’t aim for the top CPU’s, as they tend to rob battery life.

    19. Ditto on a solid state drive – huge difference in speed. My last 2 have been Dells. Have to say I love them. Switching back to Mac has never appealed to me because of cost and learning curve. I also like to keep in the same “family” because all my other devices are Android. I honestly don’t know if they work as well with Macs.

    20. Another vote for the Lenovo X1. Nothing to add that hasn’t already been said.

    21. Switched to macs 10 years ago @ age 63. Going from a system that fights you to one that does what you want is not that hard. Semi-retired lawyer overseas most of the time. I use Pages, which is a good program, google docs if sharing, and Word for Mac is better than Word on a PC. Top notch as a communication device w/ back home. Currently have 57 tabs open on one browser; 3 browsers are in use (why? researching case law). Macs work.

    22. There is only one sensible choice – the latest MacBook Air.

      BUT as some above have pointed out – some folk have difficultly adapting to a naturally intuitive interface.

      Disappointingly, some folk seem to think that @ Gary falls into that category. I don’t.

    23. Agree with those who said the Surface Laptop, I am using the first version still but will replace with a 4 as soon as I get back somewhere I can buy one. Unfortunately my Surface Laptop’s battery completely died so I am constantly tethered to an outlet and have to turn it off if I want to move, but it is still a great performer even if it’s from late 2017. I must say I rarely use the touchscreen since it doesn’t fold in a way that makes it tablet style – I’d day the usefulness of touchscreens on traditional laptops is limited. My current and previous companies both issue ThinkPads and the difference in screen resolution is remarkable. So much more can fit in the screen of the Surface despite them being similar sizes, everything on the ThinkPad is huge and needs me to scroll or zoom out.

    24. The obvious choice is a MacBook. They last longer, hardly crash compared to Windows, seldom get viruses, etc.

    25. I first learned computers in school on Macs. Then my first computer at home was a HP Windows 95 with an Intel Pentium 75 processor. I had AOL dial-up. That was a big deal. Anyways, I had at least three Windows tower desktops and seven or eight Windows laptops from the age of 13 or 14 until my early 30s. My desktops were HP and laptops ranged from HP to Toshiba. The laptops never lasted more than a year and a half. I can’t tell you how many just busted a week or two past the one-year warranty. I finally switched to Mac eight years ago. I’m on my third Mac laptop in eight years. I also have a iPhone. Both work excellent together. The only things I don’t like about the Mac are (1) the charger — the stupid power brick or whatever you call it is clunky and a real pain in the butt, especially to plug-in at airport seats — and (2) make sure you turn-off the settings to upload everything you save to the Mac cloud. Yes, the backup is nice but it’s a real pain in the butt when you’re trying to work without internet access or in an area with a slow connection and can’t access any files because they’re all stored on the cloud, not your hard drive.

    26. Get a SSD for sure.
      Make sure it has plenty of hdmi, usb, card slots and i5 processor or better. You can also expand the memory via flash drives and such.
      Apple laptops are fine but you can buy 2 or 3 pc laptops for the money.
      Laptops are like cell phones, they are disposable for travelers like you. Try to get 2 years out of the machine and move on by then the battery is toast and stuff starts to go wrong. It is why many companies lease for 2 years.
      I have had Yoga laptops and like them for takeoff and landing use but don’t go to a “surface” type machine if it uses a kickstand as that won’t work on your lap on a plane, trust me.
      Additional features to look for include a lighted keyboard, and a built-in 10 key if doing financial work.
      My current laptop is an HP Pavilion i5 that I paid < $500 for and has all the features and a nice-sized screen. Has HDMI, USB C, 2 full-size USBs, card reader slot. It's about 26 months old and I'm starting to shop for a new one since the battery is about shot.
      Make sure to buy it through a shopping portal to get airline miles 🙂

    27. Check out the surface pro 8. I got the business version with LTE. Highly versitle and crew thinks it’s a tablet. Buy the $249 protection plan direct from Microsoft and it covers accidental damage for 2 or 3 years. I dropped mine recently and only had to pay $75 for a new one. Sent in and received a new one within 4 days.

    28. Beware of swollen battery offenders – Surface is one of the leaders with this problem. I lived and died by my Surface Pro models for over 10 years, but both could not hold charge very long thus needed to be charged which then leads to the dreaded swollen battery issue.

    29. I have both a Mac and a PC for work (M1 MBP and 7th gen X1). There are certain tasks that the Mac just doesn’t work for (certain Excel plug-ins I need) but more and more of my work is in the browser anyways. I really value the Mac for the battery life. It puts any PC I have used to shame and then some. The full integration with their own silicon is no joke. The ability, as an iPhone user, to continue to do messaging straight from the desktop is great too.

      None the less, they are both excellent and would easily recommend either.

    30. If you’re going to choose legacy windows & intel/amd, the best choice is a Lenovo thinkpad. They are built like tanks and keep working after years of abuse.

    31. A quick scan of these emails showed there are several MAC recommendations here. Frankly, what you described to me is the new M2 MB Air. Lightweight, long battery life. It opened for preorders two days ago; the first deliveries begin on the 15th. More robust versions between the 9th of August and the 15th. All of the Microsoft apps work perfectly, and you can have your choice of browsers with Chrome, Firefox, or safari. If you carry an iPhone, you can use iCloud to sync everything, like passwords and one drive to sync your Microsoft documents.

    32. Keys stick, eh? Perhaps keyboard interacts with the food/beverage on board your flights. No mfg. can compete with that.

    33. I was a Windows guy until I switched to MacBook in 2015. Swear by it now. Just got the MacBook Pro M1 last year. Definitely love it. I’m a heavy user for work and personal and carry it everywhere I go and travel. The small downsize is some business software I use only run in Windows, so Parallels is needed, and even then, they still don’t work in Parallels-Windows 11 if it has the M1 chip. Signed up for Virtual Desktop to get around the problem, but I’m willing to go this far to go with a MacBook. I can’t go back to a PC.

    34. FYI, a new battery and a replacement key board are relatively cheap on Amazon and both easily replace by a user, I’ve been fixing my Lenovo’s for years (T420, Win 7, touch point mouse which are impossible to find now). Just saying, in case you don’t want the hassle moving over data, re-configuring the new one – assuming it still works for you otherwise. You might also want to pry off those sticky keys, clean and blow some compressed air under there. Good luck!

    35. Ok, lots of good comments. However I switched to Mac about 7 years and I won’t ever go back. (and I’m old – but had very few issues). If you’re using an apple phone then the Mac is 100% the way to go. If you do – get the Mac Pro with the M2 chip (choose your size at the store). Most importantly get 16GB of ram – this will keep you from having to reboot.

    36. Although I weighed in for a Mac, quite strongly, I will also mention that my work prohibited me from using a Lenovo, as I had federal projects and clearance at the time. I won’t speak to whether ThinkPads have gotten better or worse since IBM sold them, but that point needs to be made. As I think I recall you use Android phone, Mac may be less than a full slam-dunk, but you must at least consider that option even if you opt to stay with Windows. That said, the TCO and productivity advantage of a Mac, even when I needed to load a VM for Windows, did not require close analysis for me. The nominal cost of the Mac was a bit more, but the effective cost of the Mac was so much cheaper and my productivity so much greater, across all of my use cases and given my use of iPhone and iPad.

      You certainly have a lot of input and are ready to make your decision. All the best!

    37. I recommend a MacBook Air with M2 chip. It will provide 15+ hours of battery time. High reliability and more. I just upgraded from a 2014 MBA. It’s powerful enough for the tasks that you mention. You can also do light video editing and more. Check out YouTube review from MKhbd.

      Two weeks and you can master the switch. You’ll be glad you did.

    38. I’m typically a Windows user. A past employer had me on a 2015 MacBook Pro which they gave to me, the hardware is great and still performs very well though i absolutely hate MacOS’ file and directory structure and application management.

      My current employer asked what laptop I’d like, I asked about a MacBook and they said at least the M1 didn’t play nicely with VMs and that if i wanted to run Windows on it I’d be better off with a PC. I have a Dell Precision, it’s fantastic with incredible battery life. But then I compile code and needed a beefier machine, 32gb ram is great.

      I bought a Dell XPS 13 for my daughter for college, that’s a terrific machine for more typical daily usage. Great size, boots fast, great battery life

    39. Just an observation – does everyone truly think their current machine is “the best”? Or are people rationalizing their purchase? Has anyone bought anything and regretted it?

      I can list one machine that was a mistake – a 17″ HP Envy. Even if it was an i7 and only $650, there was a reason it was on clearance at Woot – a 17″ screen is far too large and heavy to carry around comfortably. Not only that, the touchscreen cracked due to thermal stress when we tried packing it into checked luggage. Pulled it out of the luggage, it was very cold from the flight, and heard the screen crack as we opened it. Smaller and lighter is better – if you want a bigger screen, buy a portable able to drive a large desktop display or displays.

      KId1 bought a i5-powered 2016 MacBook Air after owning an i7-powered 2010 MacBook Pro. Hugely underpowered machine – traded it in within a year for an i5 powered 2017 MacBook Pro, which still works just fine.

    40. I think if you’ve bought a few computers in your life and have used them seriously, you will understand your needs and prioritize. As technology changes it becomes easier to hit your edge cases, perhaps with other devices. For example, large desktop dislays don’t work for me as I’m on the move and also hate having all that hardware around. But, occasionally, I need the screen real estate. Now I can use an iPad for that overflow on my Mac and travel with my preferred 14 inch computer, which has the attributes that I require. There’s no perfect solution, but in this world of multiple devices, you can usually get pretty close. It sometimes forces you to re-think how you do or approach things, which is also a great exercise.

    41. Whatever you choose, make sure you don’t get a screen with the standard 16:9 aspect ratio. Go for at least 16:10 if not 3:2 – there are lots of good options for both. It sounds crazy, but that extra bit of height really will change your world.

    42. I’d go with a 13-in Dell XPS.

      – Low weight when you’ve got it on your shoulder running through an airport.

      – Avoid OLED screens, because while they do offer a better visual experience, you will get screen burn in. You can configure the XPS so as not to have a touch screen, combine this with not OLED will save you some money.

      – 16 GB ram should last you for a few years, but I would surely get a 1 TB SSD

      – 12th generation Intel chips split the cores between “performance” cores and “efficiency” cores. This extends battery life considerably, as background tasks are performed by the efficiency course which draw less power. You don’t strike me as the kind of guy that’s compiling code, or doing renderings, so AMD cpu(s), which are all performance cores, probably doesn’t apply to you

    43. I had hoped to piggy back on Gary’s request and figure out which laptop I need.

      Both of us have the same needs.

      @Gary, did you choose one and what are your thoughts?

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