How I Chose a Laptop

In my book on van life, I wrote about my struggle surrounding the purchase of a new vehicle. You never get exactly what you want, or that very thing ends up with a crucial flaw unmaking its viability.

When it comes to a new laptop, things are much the same way. Too cheap means poor quality, but sometimes going pricey isn’t much better. The carnival marches on.

Initially, I set out with the objective of securing a machine that would properly balance between gaming, video editing speed, and a large storage capacity. The first aspect was less important, as I don’t game much anymore, but it’s rare to find a model with a basic graphics card which can do the others equally well.

After some preliminary searching, I found the Acer Nitro 5. This guy seemed to have the right combination of features for a good price, although it also appeared too good. As it turns out, the model enjoys subpar battery life, and the build quality plus graphics card are not terribly impressive. Furthermore, Acer’s reputation is spotty, to say the least.

Buoyed by some positive comments about Asus, I investigated the TUF FX505DT, which was a step up from the previous one, albeit still at a solid price. A couple of factors turned me away from it though, including the limited storage options and mediocre reviews for the Ryzen processor. To be fair, reviewers may be techies themselves, but for me a laptop is a long-term investment, not something for a couple of years.

Another one that received attention was the Lenovo Ideapad L340, a feller with good general reviews and a largely positive manufacturer reputation. I have heard that Lenovo’s quality declined over the past few years however, probably driven by the same industry obsession with cheap build material to subsidize costs.

I would almost end up pulling the trigger on the L340, save for it’s less capable processor and, once again, poor storage options. Someone will start screeching about the cloud or externals right now, but I’m, old-fashioned when it comes to memory.

My final and conflicted stop would be with the HP Omen 15-CE198WM. I currently own an HP that has lasted almost eight years, and the Omen offered a decent provision of storage, graphics performance, and speed wrapped up in one. Probably a bit too expensive given the age of the components, but I’m happy with the results thus far. My biggest gripe would be the fan noise and slightly jagged edges on the exterior.

Regardless of what you choose, a laptop is prone to having issues at some point, so I elected to purchase a 4-year protection plan through Asurion, which is less costly than options from other providers.