[Guide] How to choose a laptop on a budget 1

[UPDATE]: This guide serves as a general rule of thumb. The laptops listed here are outdated.

With the current generation that we’re all moving towards everything mobile, full-fledged computers are never replaceable. The question that we all face each time while looking for laptops is always this : which laptop is suitable for me?

With this is the time where students are hard at work looking for a new laptop for universities, I couldn’t find a better time to post this.

This is a very rough guide with some general rules of thumb of what to look for that will help you in choosing your laptop.

General rules of thumb

My friend Tan Ji here pointed out on how much should you, an average user spend for a balanced notebook in Malaysia and he came out with the conclusion of RM3000. That’s a little too much, but he also pointed out that for that price, you get what you pay for – that is the build quality, the ergonomics, warranty, cooling system, upgradability, serviceability, and many more. Here is some of my must-have while choosing laptops :

  1. Must have an SSD with 128GB of storage
  2. Minimum of Intel i3 for light users, i5 for heavy/enthusiasts/some gamers, i7 mainly for content creators and higher-end gamers. Potentially Ryzen laptops too if available in the market.
  3. 4GB RAM for lightweight usage, 8GB minimum for heavier usage/gaming and content creation
  4. Decent build quality (less flex on keyboard and screen)
  5. Decent keyboard

I got my laptop, what to upgrade?

After opting in for at least 8GB of RAM for heavier usages, I don’t insist getting an Intel i7 laptop if what you plan to do is occasional rendering of images, video, and audio. Instead, get one with i5 (if option is available) and then upgrade to an SSD instead. That’s a much more practical choice.

Of course, his guidelines are different from mine, but we are aiming at the same goal – that is to find the best laptop for the users.

Many people just look at the specs sheet and make their decision while making their purchase – which is a very bad thing to do as some brands have generally horrible build quality but great specs with a cheap price (hello Acer).  So please do not stop at researching for the best laptop by just looking at their spec sheets.

So here’s how I answer the question. I first survey what type of user you are, and then trying to tailor for that specific range of user with the lowest priced machine to suit their needs. I neglect mostly is the hard disk capacity, presence of an optical disk drive (DVD or Blu-Ray drive) and also the trackpad. I’m also going to give some of the models available for your choice and some reasons why I recommend it alongside with the cheapest price I can find, but you’ll have to really Google for the looks of each machine and for further elaboration of its specs. Personal recommendations are those which are bolded.

Light users

These are the users who are getting a laptops just for the sake of finishing their assignments, browsing the internet (Facebook, YouTube, whatever), watching movies, and does a little bit of everything else – including some light gaming or Photoshop. It’s generally going to be slower, but it does what you need it to do for a low price, at most RM1500. In any case, do upgrade to 4GB RAM.

  • Lenovo
    • G400S 59-382396 – 14-inch, Intel i3-3110M, Intel HD graphics (RM RM1299)
  • HP
    • 248 G1 – 14-inch, Intel i5-4200U, 2GB RAM, Intel HD graphics (RM 1380)

Heavy users

I don’t really know what to call this group of users – those who does a lot of work on the laptop. These users does an adequate amount of Photoshop, video editing, surfing the internet, movies – generally everything, but constrained on a budget. The perfect solution for this group of users is an all-rounder computer. This is of course the toughest of all the categories, with the price around RM1500 to about RM2500. Also, 4GB RAM might not be enough for you guys – maybe get a total of 8GB RAM in these machines.

  • Asus
    • K451LN-WX046H – 14-inch, Intel i5-4200,  GeForce GT840M graphics(RM 2199)
  • HP
    • HP Pavilion 14-n268TX –  14-inch , Intel i7-4500U, GeForce GT740M graphics (RM 2499)
    • HP Pavilion 15-n277TX – 15-inch, Intel i5-4200U, GeForce GT840M (RM 1849)

High-end/enthusiasts users

This is where things get interesting and everything matters – even the slightest bit ranging from serviceability to ports and upgradability. The price points of these laptops are from RM2500 and above, which has better processors and graphics, alongside with a more beautiful screen. These machines can be regarded as gaming machines, or workstations where you do all the editing and exporting your 3D renders, video editing, intense Photoshop and Illustrator all together.

These are also some of the models that have quite a few variants and causes some major confusion for the consumers to choose the right laptop.

  • Lenovo
    • IdeaPad Y510P 59-394411 – 15-inch Full HD, Intel i7-4700QM, 8GB RAM, GeForce GT755M (RM 3020)
    • IdeaPad Y410P 59-403955  – 14-inch, Intel i7-4700QM, 4GB RAM, GeForce GT755M (RM 2640)

Yes, the general high-end/enthusiast users on a budget generally comes down to only these two models from Lenovo. Other brands are just ridiculously expensive somehow.

If you can wait a little longer for some of the newer model of laptops which are to be available a little later, high-end/enthusiasts should – and is strongly recommended to wait for the new Lenovo Y40 or Y50, which looks absolutely amazing!

[Guide] How to choose a laptop on a budget 2

The pricing and availability of the Lenovo Y40 and Y50 in Malaysia is not available yet, but then again it’s only a matter of time. The Y50 is available in the US now for about USD $1250, that translates to a hefty RM4035.62. In whichever case, we’ll have to wait for this machine to arrive to really judge any further.

Where can I buy all these recommended laptops with the price listed above?

Great question. To get the price listed above – and potentially cheaper – is to head on over to Lowyat Forums and find it yourself. Luckily, I have already did that for you.

A dealer that goes by the username of hikari85 is a trusted seller and personally I have dealt with them for quite some time. Great and efficient service with quick delivery.

Tell them I sent you there and then ask for the price with no free gifts and most of the time they’ll give you some discounts.

Here are the links for the the laptops listed above.

For Lenovo
For Asus
For HP

If you have any questions or constructive comments, do post it on the comments section below. We’ll help you out.

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  1. hi.. i just want to ask for your opinion. i am a geomatics student or land survey student. normally I used matlab, autocad, cds,arcgis and some software for gps processing like ttc. i have a thought of buying a new laptop since my current laptop is having some problem. since i will do my final year project and it is basically require me to use matlab, gps processing software and programming, so what is your suggestion the best laptop for me. i am thinking of buying macbook but a friend of mine highly not suggested it since he said he afraid of many of the software we used might not compatible with macbook.

    • Hello Jehan.

      I took some time to consider some options for you. I understand your usage since I myself am an electronics engineering student majoring in nanotechnology, and I rely heavily on simulations and hardcore computational softwares.
      Based on what I can tell you, the best laptop for you is a gaming laptop with an Intel i7 processor and decent graphics card, like the Lenovo Y50-70. Also, you can improve a lot in the performance by adding another M.2 SSD into it.

      However if that exceeds your budget, then the Lenovo Z50-70 is good enough, though you will not have a M.2 slot for the SSD.

      Hope this helps. If you have any question, do contact us from Facebook for an even faster reply 😀

  2. Hi, thanks for your post, it is quite helpful. I just want to check with you if my laptop needs are: light weight, durable and pretty fast (runs autocad, photoshop etc.), what laptop do you recommend? I’m stucked between Asus and Lenovo. Thanks!

    • Hello, it prettty much depends on your budget really. Also,any other potential future upgrades you want to get? Multiple HDDs or swapping in one SSD, something like that.

      These matters can be your decision maker! 😀

        • I could recommend you the Lenovo Y50-70 instantly, but then again it doesn’t have any optical drives.
          Assuming you’re an engineering student (like me) who needs to submit softcopy of assignments through CDs, then you might need to seek help from friends or get an external USB optical drive.

          Not planning to look over at MSI or Dell?

  3. Hi there. Your post is a life saver! I realised you posted this a year ago though, so i went to that HP link you gave and I saw this:
    HP Beats 15-p016AU Beats Colour 15” 1920×1080 Touchscreen / A8-5545M / 8GB / 1TB / DVD / Win8.1 / AMD Radeon HD 8510G Graphics / 2YW / BackPack RM1999 , Promo @ RM1849

    What do you think about this one? All I need is something that won’t crash or fail on me again when I use it for thesis writing, photoshop, illustrator, filemaker pro database and heavy use of office almost simultaneously. ASUS got a lot of bad reviews from my peers and myself lately so I try to avoid buying it again. Ran out of budget, 1500 is all I could go with actually but if this one is good, maybe I’ll consider. Thank you so much!

    • Hey – sorry for the late reply!
      The budget is a little tight, and I really hope you can squeeze a little more from your budget to make it possible to get a Lenovo Z50-70. This is the most suitable all-rounder choice for your tight budget.

      The HP Beats laptop you mentioned is okay too, but do note that HP’s support for switchable graphics between discrete AMD and Intel integrated graphics is very poor.

      Hope this answers your question. Do hit us up on Facebook for a quicker reply!

  4. Hi, thank you for the post, it’s a great review and a lifesaver too. Though I’d like to ask your opinion coz I’m still a computer illiterate. I’m a mechanical/chemical engineering student, I need to use a lot of software like JEMAI-LCA software, ALOHA software, SPSS software, EstimateS software, EndNote X7 software, and Microsoft Publisher. Sometimes I have to do some posters and illustrations using Adobe Photoshop too. Hope to have a Built-in Microsoft, with Word, Excel, Powerpoint and still need to burn on a CD/DVD drive to give to lecturers. I opt for a good quality laptop that can still run in a long time period with a good warranty. Though my budget is around RM2000 more or less.. Can you recommend me a good one? Thank you very much for reply, I’ll be forever in-debt.

    • I don’t really have anything particular in mind, but if you have the budget, actually the ASUS ZenBook is quite good. Long lasting battery life and the screen is matte, so it’s easier to read on it.

  5. I am a basic home user but I want to invest in a good laptop (one that can last for 5 yrs), which one should I go for? Appreciate your advice.

    • Hey Mojo, we have another article on best laptops to get back in November 2015, but I think it’s worth a refresh now.
      It truly depends on what you want, but below are two laptops which are very suitable for your use.
      Just remember to get 8GB of RAM, and you’re good!
      http://ho.lazada.com.my/SHE78P (14-inch; 1080p; Intel i5-5200U; GT940M; RM2,499)
      http://ho.lazada.com.my/SHE8TJ (15.6-inch; 1080p; Intel i5-5200U; GT950M; RM2,788)

    • Hey there online shopping platform, I shopped at Gemfive before 😛
      Anyway, Skylake laptops are already here, but they’re a little expensive at the moment.
      Doesn’t offer much performance change but requires a lot of new hardware.

  6. Hi, I’m an electronic engineering student.. i’m looking for a budget laptop that support MATLAB n other required softwares ..which one would you prefer?

    • Hey Adam, you’re just like me – another E&E engineering student 😀
      Anyway, I suggest you to get either the ASUS K501LX-DM006H or ASUS K401LB-FA003H. Again, both are identical other than the size itself.
      I recommend this because it has a decent GPU in it, and you can move from pure E&E to simulations, and in the end to image processing if you see the interest in those fields. Whichever case, the GPU can be used for OpenGL in most simulation software, so it will not be wasted.

      Just remember to get 8GB RAM. You’ll be good to go.

      Come back again if you have any questions!

  7. But the K series are not available in market.. they said it’s the last old generation… so any other choice that you would prefer ? Asus or any other good brand

    • You can look at the ASUS ASUS K401U-BFR011T. Again, same case with the earlier models I recommended.

      Technically, “old generation” but the specs are still relevant. Problem is, many consumers are not going to jump to Skylake-based CPUs since it will need DDR4 RAM. It’s really expensive!!!


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