Buying a laptop on Prime Day? Check out these 4 essential tips first

Razer Blade 2021
(Image credit: Razer)

Amazon Prime Day is coming up fast, and if you're on the hunt for a new laptop this year, you're going to be well served by this summer's sale. We regularly see everything from budget Chromebooks to super powerful ultrabooks on sale in this event, but there are a few pitfalls you'll want to avoid. 

We've been tracking Prime Day laptop deals for years, so we've picked up a thing or two when it comes to getting the best value for money. That's why we've compiled this list of the four tips essential to making the most of 2023's offers. In short, they centre around knowing exactly what you want to get from your machine, and how much you should be paying for that. Finding the right budget, knowing how to avoid the dodgy configurations, working out the perfect size, and keeping your options open will serve you well in your hunt. 

After all, Amazon Prime Day can be overwhelming at the best of times. Once you throw other retailers' competing offers on machines with slightly different configurations, things can get hectic. Having a solid plan in place from the get-go can mean the difference between grabbing one of the best deals on the shelves and going home empty handed (or worse, with a duff discount). 

1. Find the right budget

hands counting money at a desk

(Image credit: Pexels / Grabowska)

If we all had unlimited access to never-ending sources of wealth, then it’s no question that we would always strive for the absolute cream of the crop, year on year. Sadly, we can’t all be millionaires (we’re disheartened as well), so it’s important to temper your expectations and devise a rough idea of how much you’re willing to spend, and what’s important to you, when buying a new laptop this Prime Day.

$400 or below - Perfect for Browsing: At this price point, it’s entirely possible that you’ll be able to find a capable laptop with a good screen that will be perfect for working and streaming HD content. Laptops in this range tend to skimp on overall build quality (constructed out of plastic and not metal) as well as storage space - they commonly range anywhere from 64GB to 1TB HDD.

$750 or below - Perfect for Working: If you’re looking to bump up that budget a bit when it comes to your next laptop, you can expect to find machines boasting gorgeous screens and all-metal construction. More important, however, are the specs under the surface. Commonly, laptops of this caliber include an Intel i5 or AMD Ryzen equivalent, and either a mid-tier dedicated graphics card or high-quality integrated graphics baked into the chip. 

$1,000 or above - Perfect for Gaming: This kind of money can yield some stunning laptops. It’s a lot to throw down on a computer, we know, but you could easily get an enterprise powerhouse or a decent gaming rig with little to no compromises. The screen quality tends to be the most noticeable bump right away, along with high-end processors and lots of storage space. 

2. Know what to avoid

PNY XLR8 DDR5 RAM hero image showing both modules on a desk

(Image credit: Future / Duncan Robertson)

Non-HD screens: It’s hard to believe in 2021, but there are some low-end laptops out there configured in strange resolutions with sub-HD displays. To put things simply, the lower resolution your laptop is, the worse everything is going to look. It’s worth remembering that you’re no doubt going to be using your fancy new machine for web browsing, getting work done, gaming, streaming content, and beyond, so it would be a challenge to see things clearly when it looks like the screen’s been smeared with vaseline. 

Bad thermals: Let’s keep this short and sweet. Laptop computers, as I’m sure you’re aware, have a tendency to get rather hot and require some form of cooling - usually by fans of some kind. With some laptop models, the emphasis can be on the form factor itself with little regard for how your shiny new PC can dissipate heat. If the PC runs too hot for too long, it can begin to damage the insides and greatly affect performance - be sure to keep an eye out. 

Less than 4GB RAM: Your mileage may vary, but it’s generally accepted that the absolute minimum of RAM needed for a functioning laptop at the base level is 4GB. Think about it like this: every time you open a new tab in your web browser, run a new program or have several things on the go at once, your processor is working double-time to juggle everything and keep itself ticking over like a watch. Anything less than 4GB of RAM, and the computer might struggle to multitask effectively - this leads to laggy performance, which no one wants to go through. For gaming we'd say start with 8GB of RAM, but more on that later.

3. Consider size carefully

Alienware x14 size comparison

(Image credit: Future)

Laptops have been around in some way, shape or form, for decades. As a result, there are all kinds of benchmarks for what size a laptop should be in the modern-day. Generally speaking, there are now three common sizes that laptops are available in. These are 14-inch, 15.6-inch, and 17.3-inch. Outliers to this formula include 13-inch panels preferred by Apple for its newest line of MacBooks and 11-inch displays common on budget Chromebooks.

The vast majority of users will opt for a 15.6-inch display, as they are now the most common in circulation and supported by the most manufacturers in 2021. However, be mindful of what you want to accomplish with your device. If you’re getting a laptop for office use, something light and small will do the job over a hulking behemoth with a mega-sized screen. Likewise, if you’re after something to stream Full HD/4K content on, then bigger is always better.

It’s worth noting that 14-inch models are great for portability, without sacrificing the necessary keyboard real estate that the smaller variants have - such as 11-inch displays, where things can feel cramped and uncomfortable after extended periods of use. Again, it’s all personal preference and there’s no one size fits all when it comes to what’s right for you, but it’s something to keep in mind when considering how much you’ll be using your laptop on a daily basis.

4. Don't rule out the Chromebook

Three people looking at an HP Chromebook

(Image credit: Google Education)

For several years now, Google’s line of minimalist laptop computers has steadily been increasing in both popularity and performance. In essence, these machines are built to run entirely off of Chrome OS, Google’s suite of software, as opposed to traditional x86 (Windows) infrastructure. These programs include Google Docs and Sheets, which are free alternatives to Word and Excel respectively. 

What this means is that Chromebooks are typically much cheaper than a traditional laptop configuration, whilst also being efficient with battery life. Many offer touchscreens as well, utilizing an Android-like mobile interface. As you may imagine, they are fairly basic and are therefore easy to run and understand without having to consider the risks associated with a more conventional PC operating system (such as file corruption and viruses), making them a great choice for those who want to get online worry-free.

The drawback, however, is that you won’t be able to run anything that requires Windows. Don’t expect much more under the hood in the affordable price range either, as they come lightweight in all senses of the word.  

Don't forget to also keep a close eye on Prime Day gaming laptop deals and Prime Day PC deals if you're after something to take care of your Steam library. However, we're also rounding up everything you can expect from this year's Prime Day Kindle deals for more tech as well. 

Aleksha McLoughlin
Hardware Editor

Aleksha McLoughlin served as the Hardware Editor for GamesRadar from June 2021 until August 2022. Her main area of expertise was the PC gaming platform, which comprised buying guides, features, reviews, and news coverage on components and prebuilt machines. She was also responsible for gaming chairs and storage. She now works on a freelance basis while studying to become a university lecturer specializing in English for foreign territories. Prior to joining GamesRadar, she wrote for the likes of Expert Reviews, The Rory Peck Trust, No Clean Singing, Vinyl Chapters, and Tech Spark while also working with the BBC.