Buying a Laptop on Prime Day? Check out these 5 essential tips first

Razer Blade 2021
(Image credit: Razer)

Prime Day is Amazon’s annual members-only sales event that is due to take place on 21st - 22nd June. It features extensive discounts on all manner of products store-wide, including all kinds of gaming hardware and technology - laptop deals very much included.

We’re hoping that some of our picks for the best gaming laptops make the cut, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see some familiar items from the likes of Alienware gaming laptops and Razer laptops as well. If you’re interested in a sneak peek of what could be to come, or want to get a feel for what’s already being discounted, we’ve got your back with some of the best Prime Day laptop deals this side of the sale.

Asus Chromebook C523NA Laptop

(Image credit: Asus)

Budget: You get what you pay for

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 - and rarely come with any kind of SSD.

$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 below - 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. 

What to avoid when buying a laptop this Prime Day

Crucial Ballistix RAM

Don't cheap out on your RAM (Image credit: N/A)

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. 

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.

Size Matters: Pick the display that’s right for you

Dell compared

(Image credit: Dell)

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.

Work laptops: What do you want it to do?

Dell XPS

(Image credit: Dell)

Chromebooks: 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.  

Enterprise: If you’re looking for a competent laptop that you can work with at home or the office, then you will no doubt be looking for something lightweight and powerful in the processor department, with little regard for the graphics grunt. The CPU would need to be fit to run intensive programs such as Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, and all manner of proprietary software with ease. 

Having a fast computer is also essential for multitasking as well as hooking up to an external monitor - or several displays at once. For example, the HP Spectre x360 - is not only lightning-fast and lightweight but built with 2-in-1 functionality from the get-go.

Razer Blade 2021

(Image credit: Razer)

Gaming laptops: What you need to know

If you’re looking to take your first steps into the world of PC gaming this Prime Day and want to do it portably, then the conversation becomes a little bit more involved. There are all kinds of qualifiers that need to be established to suit the kinds of games that you want to experience, as well as whether you’re opting for high-fidelity visuals over buttery smooth performance. To make things simple, it can be broken down into four major categories:

Display: As you may note, 4K is becoming increasingly more available on the latest TVs, laptops, and even smartphones. At the same time, gaming at Full HD (1080p) is still the way that the majority of laptop users like to go, as high-refresh rates can allow for higher FPS and better details in-game. Typically, 4K panels are monstrously expensive when paired pre-built with top-end cards as well. Basically, what you should get varies on your budget and how you want to play. 

Processor: To make a long story short, the faster your processor is, the easier time your laptop will have running video games effectively. There are two manufacturers of chipsets for gaming computers, with strengths and weaknesses for both; Intel Core and AMD Ryzen. If you’re aiming for an Intel build, you want to look out for at least an i5 or above (Core i7, Core i9), and a Ryzen 5 or greater (Ryzen 7, Ryzen 9) for optimal performance. 

Graphics card: Much like with processors, your choice of graphics card is also a two-horse race. Nvidia’s RTX line of GPUs is perhaps more prevalent in many laptop configurations (RTX 2060 Max-Q, RTX  2070 Super, RTX 3070) but AMD’s Radeon RX range - while not quite as powerful in terms of raw performance and ray-tracing capabilities - offer a decently priced alternative if you can find builds with their spec (RX 5700M, RX6700M). 

RAM: As touched upon above, RAM acts as your laptop’s short-term memory bank; the more of it you have, the more you can do. This information is crucial when considering a gaming laptop on Prime Day. 8GB RAM is the absolute minimum you will need for gaming in 2021, with 16GB widely considered to be the standard when it comes to flexing those settings sliders up to max.

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the best Prime Day laptop deals and, now that you’ve been armed with that knowledge, perhaps you’d like to be clued up ready for the Prime Day TV deals with our straightforward guide on the six tips you need to know when buying a TV on Prime Day. There's a strong chance we'll be enjoying some brand new Prime Day PS5 deals too.

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.