How much should I spend on a 13-14 inch laptop?

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How much should I spend on a 13-14 inch laptop?

You can find a 13 inch laptop for as cheap as $1,000, but we'd recommend spending a few hundred dollars more. Click to see why.

If you're shopping for a new laptop, one thing that can make the job overwhelming is the sheer range in price for very similar sized laptops.

You'll really notice this if you're looking at new 13-14 inch laptops. You could spend anywhere from $999 to well over $2,000.

So what's the difference?

Thin is in: HP's EliteBook Folio 1040 G1

This week HP announced its "thinnest business Ultrabook yet", the 14-inch HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G1. At $1,399 this laptop is certainly not the cheapest laptop of this size, so why spend those few hundred dollars more?

One very good reason is the weight. The HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 starts at 1.5Kg, which isn't the lightest you'll find, though it's acceptable if you'll be carrying around a lot (we have a MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display which weighs 1.57Kg which we carry just about everywhere).

Generally we've found there's not as much choice when it comes to 13-14 inch laptops around the $1,000 mark or less, especially laptops that aren't too heavy. For example, we found a Dell Latitude 3330 with a 13.3 inch screen advertised costs $999 - the starting weight is 1.5Kg, but that's with a 4-cell battery (the HP above has a 6-cell battery). With a 6-cell battery the Dell's weight increases to 1.8Kg.

There's also a Dell Inspiron 14 7000 Series we saw advertised for $1,099, but it weighs 1.76Kg. There is a Dell Latitude 14 5000 Series we saw for $1,199 which weighs 2Kg.

Personally, we wouldn't buy a 2Kg laptop - not if we will be carrying it around a lot. Still, if you are on a budget, the price might be tempting.

So that's weight - and clearly there's an advantage there in spending a bit more money.

Another claim to treat with caution

Something also important to keep in mind: we see all sorts of claims about "thinnest" and "lightest" laptops all the time. Treat these claims with caution.

Take HP's line about the new EliteBook being its "thinnest business Ultrabook yet" - that may be, but if you're willing to step down to a 13-inch laptop, there are very well-regarded models that are lighter and cost less money.

For example: Dell's XPS 13, Apple's MacBook Air and Sony's Vaio Pro 13 (these models can be much more expensive if you choose better features, but the cheapest models have all been advertised in the past for less than the cost of the new HP).

The difference with the HP is this is a "business" grade laptop - in theory, the laptop should be made of tougher stuff than a cheap and flimsy model. It's one of various models on the market built to pass "military-grade" testing for vibration and shock.

There are also business-level features like HP SureStart, designed to "reduce IT help desk calls", security features like HP BIOSphere which "safeguards data, devices and identities" and HP Trust Circles which ensures "only approved contacts can access critical files". We question how useful these will be if you only have a couple of computers in your business and don't have an IT department.

A final thought: we've said it before, but something important you won't learn from the brochure or even the salesperson is how well the laptop is designed. It's still possible to buy a laptop that looks great on paper, but is awful to use - it's in the design of the trackpad, the keyboard and the screen. We've used a lot of laptops over the years, and this is up there as one of the most important factors separating laptops that let you get work done, and laptops that slow you down. Try before you buy.

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