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2019 Singapore IT Show – Brief Laptop Buying Guide

Looking to get a new laptop at the coming IT Show? Let’s help get you started.

IT Show is round the corner once again, from 7 to 10 March at the Suntec Convention Centre. While some people claim that the so-called deals at such tech shows are nothing special and are just gimmicks, my analysis has shown otherwise when it comes to laptops. A laptop that normally retails for $1,400 can fall to as low as $1,050 during a tech show, but curiously fall back to the same old price thereafter. So, given that the coming IT Show is rather centrally located as compared to last November’s SITEX, it may be worth a trip down if you’re looking for a new laptop.

Retailers

Typically, I prefer sticking with the “Big 4” when it comes to making a laptop purchase–that is, Courts, Best Denki, Harvey Norman and Challenger. Buying from one of these retailers provide you with the best assurance that you are getting a brand new, unopened set. They also offer the best return and exchange policies out there, which may be especially important since you rarely get the opportunity to inspect your purchase before bringing it home.

Of the lot, a special mention must go to Courts, which has a no-questions-asked 30-day refund policy. Not my proudest moment–but I once returned a laptop which I bought from Courts at an IT Show simply due to buyer’s remorse–and they obliged. Of course, this begets the question–where do all these returned units go to? But so far, my experience with Courts have been nothing short of positive. Certain manufacturers, such as Lenovo, shrink wrap their laptops with the manufacturer’s logo. Checking to see if this proprietary shrink wrap is present is one surefire way of ensuring that you’re getting a new unit.

A notable omission this year is the presence of Newstead Technologies, which shuttered its doors for good last month. Perhaps, this could be for the best–a quick search on Google reveals that Newstead had a particularly seedy reputation at these IT shows, where they could sometimes package used or demo units as new.

Stepping up in Newstead’s absence is the up-and-coming Infinito ATRIX, which has had a growing presence in tech shows over the past few years. I have not personally bought anything from them, but they also have a significant online presence over at Shopee, Qoo10 where user reviews have been generally positive. However, price-wise, they are usually about the same as the Big 4 during tech shows, so there’s no real benefit buying from them.

For gaming-oriented laptops, GamePro Shop is a good place to stop by. They have established quite a good reputation over the past few years.

Some retailers, especially the Big 4, will try to sell you some form of ‘extended warranty’. They are probably not worth the cost, given many laptops these days come with at least two years of warranty already. Used properly, a laptop should last you a good three to five years at least, and any manufacturing defect should have already surfaced itself within the first two years.

Technologies

This could be rather daunting if you haven’t been keeping up with the latest technological developments.

Some simple pointers to guide you along:

  • Avoid laptops with Intel Celeron and Pentium processors–these processors are the slowest in the market and laptops with these processors are generally bottom-of-the-barrel, mediocre offerings. One exception I can make is the Surface Go, which has a brilliant, calibrated display and comes with a higher-end Pentium Gold processor which is closer in performance to a Core i3. If you really need a laptop and are on a tight budget, at least settle for a Pentium Silver offering with an SSD. The Acer Spin 1 and Swift 1 are two such offerings. Anything in the $300-400 range–forget about it and buy a second hand laptop instead.
  • The latest mobile processors as of now are the Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 8-series and the AMD Ryzen 2000 series. Within Intel’s 8-series ultrabook-class processors, look out for the i5-8265U and i7-8565U as they are newer and faster than their older brethren, the i5-8250U and i7-8550U and typically offer faster USB 3.1 speeds. Avoid 7th generation Core processors (unless at significant discount) as they have fewer cores than their 8th generation counterparts.
  • Get a laptop with an SSD, where budget permits. A laptop with only an hard disk will be terribly slow when handling day-to-day tasks. Beware of laptops advertising “20GB” or “24GB” of memory. These are budget laptops that offer 4 or 8GB of RAM coupled with 16GB of Intel Optane memory, basically an SSD cache, together with a 1TB or 2TB hard drive. While Intel Optane makes up somewhat for the lack of a proper SSD, it still isn’t enough to match up to the performance of a laptop with an SSD.
  • USB Type-C comes in many different specifications and speeds. The most basic of the lot is USB Type-C Gen 1, offering speeds of up to 5Gbps. Then, you have Gen 2 offering twice the speed, and higher-end laptops offering Thunderbolt 3 over USB Type-C, which offer either 20Gbps or 40Gbps depending on configuration. Unless you plan on connecting an external SSD, Gen 1 is typically sufficient.
  • However, a more interesting facet about the Type-C specification is that you can potentially allow DisplayPort or Power Delivery over the same port. What this means is, if supported, you can connect an external display through the Type-C connector, or even charge your laptop using the Type-C connector. The latter, my friend, is the real game changer. With Type-C Power Delivery charging, you can hook up your laptop to an external power bank just like as you would on your smartphone. Or charge your laptop and smartphone with the same charger, saving you from carrying an extra power adapter. Unfortunately, laptops that support Type-C charging are currently few and far between (though increasing in number), and difficult to discern. Based on my research, you can try the following models (not comprehensive):
    • Lenovo IdeaPad 720s, Yoga 730, Yoga S730, Yoga C930, latest ThinkPad models
      • Tip: Such Lenovo laptops charge through the USB-C connector itself by default, so just have a peek!
    • HP ENVY ah-0029, ah-0031 and ah-0035
    • Dell XPS 13 7370, XPS 15 7570, Inspiron 7380 and 5480
    • Acer Swift 3 314-55 series
  • Make sure you get a laptop with at least a Full HD display. Budget models (though not often these days) may come equipped with a 1366×768 panel, which is to be avoided at all costs.
  • Get a laptop with at least 8GB of RAM. While 4GB may be (barely) sufficient for now, 8GB, or even 16GB, would be nice-to-have as an insurance for the future.

Questions?

Still hesitant or not too sure on how to go about with your laptop purchase? Feel free to leave a comment and I’ll try to answer your questions!

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