Science & Technology



Jim Rossman: Going laptop shopping? Read this first


Published in Science & Technology News

CPUs, RAM, SSDs ... there are so many choices. What should you buy?

As the holiday season approaches, I usually get asked for advice on picking out a laptop. This year was no exception.

Apple users were presented two new MacBook Pro models, and Windows users had the release of Windows 11.

There’s something new for everyone.


Apple just released 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros with a new design and Apple’s new M1 Pro and M1 Max processors. They join the 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air that use the original M1 processor.

In 2020, Apple moved away from Intel and started making its own processors.

Apple’s M1, M1 Pro and M1 Max give users some interesting choices.

For most people (including me), the 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro (starting at $1,299) or the cheaper MacBook Air (starting at $999) are more than enough for home use.

If the bulk of your use is for video conferencing, web browsing, email and streaming video, these cheaper Macs are perfect.

If you are a photographer, videographer, graphic artist, app designer or someone who makes a living with a computer, the M1 Pro and M1 Max are almost more than you could ask for.

I don’t mean to dissuade home users from buying a 14- or 16-inch model. If you have the money or think you need the power, go for it.

The Pro and Max models start at $1,999 for the 14-inch M1 Pro and $2,499 for the 14-inch M1 Max.

The 16-inch M1 Pro starts at $2,499, and M1 Max starts at $2,699.

As for specs, Apple’s M1 processors have the CPU, RAM and storage all built into the M1 chip.


You can’t update the RAM or storage, so you need to get as much as you think you’ll need when you make your buying decision.

My advice is for home users is to buy the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the standard amount of RAM, which is 8 gigabytes, but to buy the amount of storage you think you’ll need for now and the future. A 256-gigabyte solid state drive is the standard, but I think 512 GB (an extra $200) is a worthwhile upgrade for most people.

If you are a power user considering the 14- or 16-inch models, 16 GB of RAM is standard and an upgrade to 32 GB costs $400.

As for choosing M1 Pro or M1 Max? The Max really shines when doing graphic-intensive tasks. The Max has twice the memory bandwidth of the M1 Pro. has a great article on which new model is right for you.


There are way too many Windows laptop brands to talk specifics.

Every place I’ve worked in the past 25 years has used Dell computers, but I’ve tested a few from Acer that I really like.

I’m sure Black Friday will bring some sales.

Some specs to look for are the processor, RAM and internal storage.

I prefer Intel processors like the i5 or i7 with a minimum of 8 GB of RAM (and 16 GB is better). Other processors like the AMD Ryzen are also really good.

If you have a choice, choose a model with a solid-state drive that uses memory chips instead of spinning platters to store your files. Solid-state drives have no moving parts, and their speed is unmatched.

If you are a gamer, or buying for a gamer, look for a model with a separate graphics processor, also called a discrete graphics processor.

[object Object]