Who do you wish to be in the future? What job do you see yourself in? Chances are you may take the laptop to college with you.
What games do you play? AAA games or simple card games?
Engineer? Chances are you may require a laptop with a graphics card after graduation.
Durability? Make sure the laptop can last a long while and is rigid enough to stand the aspect of occasional drops and hits
Portability? Is the laptop relatively portable enough to go between places
Return. How many years do you plan to get out of this? How far do you plan to go with this laptop you are looking at?
Sorry to make you continuing to think even if you want a simple one or the other answer. But given the price tag I want you to be satisfied with what you get. Heck, I am willing to work with you to find a good laptop that meets what you will need.
@okbamtheman, Connor has good points and you need to provide more information for us to give you useful advice. You didn’t mention in your other topic (and perhaps this thread should be merged into it) but, since you are asking on vexforum, I am going to assume that you are competing. Which program are you in?
For example, in case of VRC, field programming laptop is going to be subjected to continuously rough conditions, usb ports abuse, occasional drops and magic puffs of metal dust from the nearby Dremels. It will always be undercharged and asked to feed starving controllers with the last drops of of its own electricity, while you are waiting in the queue.
For that reason my team bought a relatively cheap small and light Dell laptop with underpowered CPU to make the battery last longer and also to avoid having internal fans. Because you don’t want to risk metal shavings and dust to be sucked in.
Also, you have to make sure that it has more than one regular USB port to program the robot, in case you break one during the competition.
We had that little laptop for 6 seasons and it is still chugging along.
You will definitely need a graphics card if you’re planning on more advanced CAD designing in the future. Not to mention you will need a relatively nice graphics card to play high-end AAA games even in low sensitivity. For an $800 budget, you will not get much. Once you reach a budget of $1000 then that is where you can have relatively good quality laptops that can run AAA games at relative low quality, assuming, of course, the specs are relative to the price tag.
You will find yourself in a bind if you are planning on taking the laptop to competitions. As what @technik3k said, a low-end laptop may be a better alternative when it comes to competing. But, if you are able to take care of your laptop that may initially cost you $800-1000, and not put it in the frontlines by using alternatives (like borrowing a school computer while competing instead, or carrying around a USB power bank to charge your controller), you will not only have a laptop that can help you code but you will also have a laptop that can take you to college and above.
If you are wanting a laptop “that just works” for competitions ($300-400):
4 GB ram
high battery life (10-12 hours of runtime)
100 GB SSD
3 or more USB ports
If we are talking about CAD Design (About $900-1000 price range):
8, possibly16 GB RAM
6-Core processor, possibly 8, with a max clock speed of at least 4 GHz
A graphics card. Bear in mind, technically adding a graphics card means two CPU’s for your laptop (where one, the main CPU, is designated for all-around use and another, the graphics card, is for graphics and trigonometry processing). This will cause quite a bit of battery drain, and this would be where you should only expect 4-6 hours of battery life.
250+ GB SSD
Potentially 90%+ Color accuracy display
If we are talking about CAD + Gaming, this is where things may get tricky (You may spend upwards of $1100-1500):
There is a gray line between AMD and Intel-based laptops. Firstly, with Intel, you can undervolt to get better battery life and improve your processor’s lifespan. Not to mention, chances are you have a great shot at getting a thunderbolt-capable computer (or a fancy USB-C port that allows you to connect external graphics card to, link two computers together as a peer-to-peer for 10 Gb transfer speeds, or have a really fast disc hub attached). but with AMD I have found that you may get better bang-for-buck when it comes to performance and many have a true silent-mode (where fans are completely turned off for quietness).
You should be looking at 6, but more preferrable 8 cores and a clock speed that is capable of reaching 4.5-5 GHz. Thread count should be between 12-16 nowadays.
16 GB RAM most preferably to run AAA games alongside CAD. But, bear in mind, there are some RAM sticks that may hinder a laptop’s performance. Double check that the stick is DDR4, and that there are two sticks with dual-channel mode with at least 2600 minimum mHz. But, if you plan for growth. You can consider a laptop with one stick, but at least 3000-3200 mHz so you can slap in another identical stick for higher memory speed boost when you go off to college.
250+ SSD, but you can always upgrade to 500 GB or 1 TB over time as you move into college.
Display should have around 90%+ color accuracy, alongside 120+ Hz display (Hz is pretty much the same thing as frames-per-second. So 120Hz = 120 FPS that can be displayed on the screen). Honestly, because a screen is small on a laptop, you should continue to stick with 1920x1080 displays. I feel as though 4K displays are overkill as it will REALLY slow down a laptop when playing AAA games on a budget.
You would need a graphics card, and one that is not a low-end one. A good quality graphics card may possibly increase your cost by around $150, but you will thank yourself in the long run.
For mid-range, I have something relatively close, although is quad-core:
As for high-end laptops. I was able to score an HP Omen 15 for college at a Best-Buy, at a cost of $1200 with no tax out in Oregon:
NOTE: Forgot to mention, as soon as you get a laptop, it is good practice to get a USB drive and install Windows Installation Media onto it. Then, you boot into the media device on startup and do a clean installation of Windows. Nearly every single laptop you will buy will contain bloatware that I will garuntee that you do not need (this includes even the antivirus software, which is unnecessary as there is a free alternative with nearly 100% antivirus protection. i.e. Malwarebytes). Reinstall windows and you’ll get better performance as well. Trust me, you will have a way better experience.
NOTE 2: It is a good idea to look at review videos on laptops and see their benchmarks. You should be looking at performance based upon the game you want to play, as well as how it handles cooling. A good cooler will never exceed 95 degrees C, and a great cooler will never exceed 85 while at the same time being relatively quiet below about 60-65 decibels.