The 5 Best Laptops for Writers in 2022 (Rec. by Famous Authors) – Laptop Study

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The 5 Best Laptops for Writers in 2022 (Rec. by Famous Authors) – Laptop Study


 

It goes without saying that our most important tool is whatever we use transcribe ideas down to paper.

That might mean pen o typewriters for some writers.

But let’s face it: all writers today (even monks in Tibet) use either a computer or a laptop.

Since they’re portable, however, laptops have become the de-facto choice.

The problem is…

We can be VERY nitty picky about it. We want THE BEST LAPTOP FOR WRITERS .

Why?

Because, the better the workspace area, the better the flow of ideas.

At least that’s what we’d like to believe.

Both you and I want writing to feel as comfortable and as natural as possible.

Unfortunately…

Laptops have become the main tool for nearly every other profession so there are thousands of laptops choose from.

What’s more most manufacturers focus on POWER and leave keyboard/display design to draw and luck.

Another issue is the computer jargon they put on those descriptions. Not only are they confusing but time consuming to figure out what’s what.

Don’t worry…

Nobody here needs to become a geek squad technician to sort this out.

I’ve already done all that work for you.

But before we get to the central theme of this post which is basically a short list of the best laptops for writers I could find.

Let me say one thing:

There’s nothing wrong in buying a laptop from a local computer store.  In fact, I’d encourage you to do so because you can try them out right on the spot. You can get a feel of what it’s like to type on their keyboards and you can also get a sense of how much screenspace you need.

It’s much better than asking the smooth talking salesman who’ll be more happy to lead you into buying anything, especially if its something expensive you glanced over.

Recommended Specs for Writers

Expensive, as you’ll find out soon, does not necessarily translate to great keyboards and awesome displays. Which are really the only two things that will power motivation and draw inspiration.

Wait What?! What about CPU, RAM , storage? Yeah, uhmm, speed? Vroom vroom…

True, buying a good laptop is more than just getting a nice keyboard and a nice display.

As of 2022, however, virtually every 13”-17” modern laptop above 350$ is capable of running a word editor, +50 web browsing tab and several other everyday programs ALL simultaneously.

For the sake of completeness, let’s go over the stuff you should be wary of. 

I’ll try to summarize it here but you can check the end of this post for more details on hardware, especially if you are clueless about keyboards.

Keyboard
Since hardware isn’t likely to be an issue, this is the MOST important feature.

If you don’t understand some things I’m going to say here (travel distance, chiclet keyboards, etc), then head to the last section.

But basically these are good rules to follow so that you can get AT LEAST a keyboard that doesn’t interefere with the flow of ideas.

  • All Apple laptops have great keyboards. All Lenovo ThinkPads have great keyboards too.
  • Thin Windows ultrabooks above 700$ have GREAT keyboards.
  • 13-15” Windows laptops that are NOT ultrabooks are a mixed bag. Read reviews carefully.
  • Windows UltraBooks below 500$ usually have OKAY keyboards. Read reviews.
  • 15-17” Windows Laptops do not necessarily have great keyboards because they’re big (some do, some don’t). 
  • ChromeBooks have GOOD keyboards (they’re clicky + they have a lot of travel distance)

Most laptops over 600$ have a backlit keyboard. (Double check)
Only a few selected laptops below 500$ have the backlit feature.

Display
13”:This is the perfect balance between portability, display size, weight and keyboard size.
11”: You compromise a lot of screen space here but they’re super portable (~2.2lbs). Very few laptops here will have great keyboards though.
15” These are heavy but they have a full sized keyboard and more space than you’ll ever need.

RAM
2GB: Do not get 2GB if you want to run Windows 10/11 Home, you’ll lag even with just notepad.
4GB: This is okay for MacBooks, ChromeBooks and Windows 10 in S mode. Not okay if you decide to install Windows 11 or Windows 10 Home. You’ll lag even with just notepad open.
8GB: Perfect for multitasking in Windows 10 or Windows 11 Home. Nearly ubiquitous on modern laptops especially those above 500$.

CPU
Which one to get depends on the Operating System.

ChromeBooks/MacBooks all have great CPUs. It’s only Windows machines you have to watch out for:

So if you want to run Windows 10 Home:

Avoid anything labeled Celeron,Pentium, AMD A9/A7. Also Core i7/Ryzen 7 (the last two are unncessarily expensive+they also reduce battery life). 

I highly recommend at least 8th gen Core i3/ 3rd Ryzen 3 CPUs. Ex: Core i3 8130/1115G4 or Ryzen 3 3200U/5200U


Windows 10 S Mode/MAC OSX/Chrome OS:
Any CPU you find is fine for these operating systems. 

Storage
Almost 99.9% of laptops in 2022 have an SSD(Solid State Drive) for storage.

That’s a good thing because SSDs will make a computer turbo charged in almost every single task: from booting up your machine in 5 seconds to finding a particular word across the entire computer in less than one sec. Just double check your laptop comes with one too.

In the following descriptions I will not confuse you with jargon by restating specifications like most sides I do.

I will talk about the features that make this or that laptop especially great for writing.

It will be mostly be down to ergonomics because all of these laptops have great hardware for writing related software.


1. MacBook Air M1 Chip

Best Mac Laptop For Writing

  Apple M1 Chip

  8GB RAM DDR4

  Apple 8-core GPU

  256-512GB Flash Storage SSD

  13.3” Retina Display (2560 x 1600)

  2.8 lbs

  15 hours

    WiFi 6

The main ordeal of finding the best laptop for writers it to find the holy trinity all packed into one: ultra portability, insane battery life and of course a top of the line keyboard…

…at a fair price.

Usually, you’ll only find the holy trinity in thin ultrabooks such as the  ASUS ZenBook, the Dell XPS 13, the Surface Pro, Lenovo X-Carbon and maybe the HP x360. We’ll talk about some of these laptops soon.

However, all things being equal, the MacBook Air is STILL, after ALL these years, better in almost every department except one: price. 

Expensive can be subjective though.

If we compare the price of the latest MacBook Air featured here to the price of other MacBooks, it’s still quite affordable (949$ vs 1500$-2400$).

Luckly for us writers, we don’t need the other MacBooks. The MacBook Air works best for all of us.

Now, if we compare the price of the MacBook Air to the UltraBooks I mentioned before, it’s only 150-200$ more expensive.

I know I know it’s not like everyone here is making big bucks out of writing.

If the price of the current MacBook Air is too expensive for you, there are workarounds this issue so you can still get its top of the line keyboard. 

Q: Why try so hard for a MacBook Air? Is the keyboard that great? Does it really have a 15 hour battery?

Yes, after all these years I’ve spent researching this topic I came to the conclusion that when making a laptop most companies focus on processors, RAM, GPUs, basically hardware first.

Then, they MAY start taking  keyboard, display  and battery design into account.

That’s always going to be true because most consumers are either gamers or into the 3D creative business so they leave battery and keyboard design to draw and luck.

UltraBooks: A Writer’s first Choice

Windows ultrabooks are the solution to this issue but again although they may have great keyboards, they will never resemble the overall design of the MacBook Air and they aren’t likely to outdo the battery life for one simple reason:  Apple designs both the hardware and the operating system of their little toys so they have way more control over the overall design this includes the battery.

Anyways, the more you research about laptops for writers, the quicker you’ll realize that the MacBook Air has no rival even in 2022.

If my word is not good enough. 

Check out what famous authors have to say about the MacBook Air. King uses a MacBook, that should be enough credence.

It’s not just him though, most authors use a MacBook and it’s all because of the keyboard.

Some go as far as calling it  the best keyboard ever designed on a laptop.

In fact, the author of the best selling book on Amazon(unfortunately…that’s ‘nother story)  ALSO uses a MacBook Air too.

We could spend days listing all the authors that use it but instead why don’t we talk about why the MacBook Air has this god-like status among writers and why it’s still the best selling laptop on Amazon.

 Keyboard

Most MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros have what you call a low-travel island type keyboard.

Low travel keys that are both responsive and clicky are very difficult to design. Most laptops with low travel keys will not have that satisfying bounce or that nice tactile feedback.

All the MacBooks have always managed to do this.

You will probably be able to hit your fastest typing speed with either of their models.

I myself love typing on this thing as you can see by the length of this post. In fact, I’m using this very keyboard to type this.

 Portability

Since the release of the first MacBook Air in 2009, it’s most attractive quality has always been its form factor.

It’s basically as thin as paper which makes it fit into the those very thin evenlopes you use to store important documents.

Though you may find lighter laptops these days (like the ASUS ZenBook which is ~0.2lb lighter) , they don’t really have the exact same weight distribution  which makes a MacBook Air ideal to carry around with just one hand as if it were just a thin piece of metal. 

 Battery

As of 2022, the latest version of the MacBook Air (with the one M1 Chip), has the longest battery life on a laptop.

Obviously,

I haven’t gotten my hands on every single laptop in the world but I have yet to READ about a laptop with as much battery as the MacBook Air. This is no exageration by apple, it’s really ~15 hours. You can corrobate this by reading third party reviews from well respected sources like LaptopMag. 

That holds true for most of their models though, their batteries start as low as 10 hours long.

I remember using a 2015 MacBook Air on 14-hour flight (just for watching movies) and I still had some juice left after the trip. I imagine it being longer if I had spent the entire time writing. 

Then there’s also the 2008 MacBook Air I got when I was in college which I remember lasting about two consecutive days without recharge (I had forgotten the adapter and it was finals time so I had no time to go back home).

Okay…so WHICH MacBook Air do YOU recommend? How do I get a cheaper MacBook Air?

You’ve probably already figured out how to get a cheaper MacBook Air: by going for older models.

2008-2017 Models:

I’ve personally have gotten my hands on the 2008, 2015 and 2017 models. I’ve skipped the 2018-2019 models for reasons I will explain later.

The advantage of these earlier models (2008-2017) is that they kept the exact same design Steeve Jobs had in mind. Although they may not have the best displays, they have by far the best keyboards and the best form factors. If you get the chances to use the Newest 2020 Mode, you’ll find just as equally good at least for writing purposes. 

2018-2019 Model:

Somewhere around this time Apple reintroduced the MacBook Air with a new design and that design focused took a long steer from the original design. The new design took a toll on the keyboard. It was great but not as great as the earlier models. I suggest you ALSO stay away from these versions that is if you REALLY want the best keyboard out of the MacBook line of laptops. 

These are the earlier models with a touch-ID and a retina display usually by the name of the “New MacBook Air”. So if you find a model that’s old and has a retina display beware you’re getting a great keyboard but not the best keyboards out of the MacBook Air. You will get an awesome display at a fair price though with should give you far more space to multitask than the earlier models.

2020 Model: 

This is the latest MacBook and was introduced in late 2020 . It’s most popularly known as “The MacBook Air with the M1 Chip”.

This new design improved performance making several times faster than previous MacBook, kept the retina display but reverted back to the good old fashioned awesome keyboard of the good old days.

These models are then the ones that will give you the best of both worlds: the superb keyboards of the earlier models and the retina display introduced in 2018-2019.

Battery:

All MacBooks have AMAZING batteries even the earlier models can boast at least 11 hours.

Pre-2017 models: should all have at least 10 hours. Some may have even 13 hours (depending on how much they’ve been used).
2018-2019:  battery life is not as great due to the introduction of the retina displays and touch IDs ~9 hours at the most.
2020: This model has the longest battery life ever recorded on a MacBook. Mainly because the new CPU (M1 Chip) was designed by Apple: ~15 hours.
2022: The 2022 MacBook Air is rumored to have a M1 Pro Chip which is  a bit more powerful (therefore more energy hungry) than the M1 Chip, so you can expect less battery life.

Refurbished MacBook Airs:

It isn’t very likely you’ll find new MacBooks if you go for pre-2017 models. Virtually all of them will be refurbished. 

I normally wouldn’t advice anyone to buy a refurbished laptop but we are talking about Apple here and their line of laptops aren’t likely to give you any issues for several several years after purchase (if it ever happens). In fact, All MacBook Airs I have bought, they’re all still working fine. They even support updates to the system software (up to the latest OSX Monterey).

Besides, you also get a 90 day warranty which is plenty of time to find out if there’s anything wrong with the unit you’ve got. 

Old MacBook Air:

Here are some of the older models, sold as refurbished by Amazon:

Core i7 Old MacBook Air 8GB RAM

Core i5 Old MacBook Air 8GB RAM

Core i5 Old MacBOok Air 4GB RAM

There are several more on this link.

The prices range from 500-900$ depending on how much power/storage you want. But again, any configuration will be fine.

New MacBook Air & New MacBook Pro:

If you want a much higher resolution display on top of the battery life + top of the line keyboard, then you will have to buy the New MacBook Air but take a look at the next laptops if you don’t want refurbished and can’t afford the New MacBook Air. 

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2. ASUS ZenBook 13

Best PC Laptop for Writers

  Intel Core i5-1135G7

  8GB RAM DDR3

  Intel Iris Plus Graphics 

  256GB-512GB PCIe NVMe SSD

  13” full HD IPS

  2.45lb

  11 hours

    WiFi 6

If you’re 200$ short to buy the MacBook Air and you are reluctante to try older models then take a look at the ultrabooks I mentioned. These are the only laptops that MIGHT have a great keyboard, a long battery life and weight less than 3lbs.

Out of all the ultrabooks released during the past few years, the ASUS ZenBook is the only one that’s very very similar to the MacBook Air in both design and performance.  Conveniently it’s the cheapest out of these.

 Hardware

I won’t go into details about the hardware but I’ll just say this:

 “Every single release of the ASUS ZenBook since 2016 has tried to replicate the hardware performance and the form factor of the MacBook Air.  Sometimes succesfully and sometimes unsucessfuly,. However, the recent generations (2017-2022) have slightly more performance than the MacBook Air released during the same year”

 Performance

As of 2022, the ASUS ZenBook has accomodated a full blown Intel Core i5 11th gen CPU (had no choice really since they have no control over the design of Intel CPUs)  and the truth is these are much much faster than the M1 chips of the MacBook Air. 

Even previous models of the ZenBook Air were faster than the MacBook Air released in the same year because unlike Apple, ASUS did not “nerfed” the CPU which Apple has always done in order to consume less power.

Either way, whether the ZenBook has really nerfed the CPU for that same reason, the ZenBook still shows better benchmark scores when compared to the MacBook Air so it has more computing power.

The RAM is also set at 8GB RAM which is the bare minimum for multitasking with Windows 10 and Windows 11 and as usual it also has a Solid State Drive (though a bit slower than the MacBook Air’s , again due to ASUS’s limited control on the whole design)

 Keyboard

The trackpads of the ASUS ZenBook have been hit or miss.

This year’s model’s trackpad is not so great but that’s really nothing to be concerned about since most of us still use a mouse for a faster workflow and to avoid carpel tunnel syndrome.

The keyboard of this year, luckily, it’s pretty good. Despite being the thin design,  the keys are clicky and responsive, it also lights up and automatically turns off after minutes of no usage.

Unlike last year’s model, you can hit your fastest typing speeds on this thing because the keys are no longer positioned unconventionally.

There’s also a numerical keypad implemented into the trackpad, ironically, that works much better and is much more comfortable to use than the trackpad.

Battery:

You can get as much as 11 hours of battery which is pretty good considering the fact that it has a very hungry for power processor.

Now we are talking about word-processing, web browsing tasks and movie playback. Obviously, if you decide to throw in some photo/video editing, it’s going to last you less than 6 hours and that’s true for every laptop.

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3. Surface Pro 8

Best 2 in 1 Laptop For Writers

  Intel® Evo Platform Core™ i5/i7

  8GB-32GB RAM

  Intel Xe Graphics

  128GB-1TB PCIe NVMe SSD

  13” IPS ‎2880 x 1920

  1.96lbs 

  +10 hours

    WiFi 6

Microsoft has released several laptop devices that are ALL ultra portable: the Surface Pro, the Surface Studio and the Surface Go.

All of these are 2-1 convertible laptops. This means they can be used as a tablet or as a laptop.

Out of all these models only the Surface Pro and the Surface Go are as portable as the MacBook Air and the ZenBook.

In fact, the Surface Go, since it’s only  ~10.5 inch measured diagonally, only weights 1.2lbs as opposed to the Surface Pro which is about ~2lbs (still lighter than the MacBook Air/ASUS ZenBook).

Obviously, since the Surface Pro is bigger you’ll get a bigger workspace area.

On the other hand, the Surface Go is so small you can pretty much fit it into your pocket if you are wearing a winter coat.

 Performance

No, they don’t have the performance of tablets.

All Surface Devices (at least the recent models) have a full blown laptop CPU and not a “tablet” CPU.

Pair that with 8GB RAM and you got yourself pretty much the performance of the most powerful ultrabooks in 2022.

In fact, if you want to the Surface Pro 8  to be affordable, you should choose the lowest of the lowest configuration  wihch is basically a Surface Pro w/ 8GB RAM +128GB + a Core i5 CPU.

As for the Surface Go, even the lowest configuration will let you run those 50 web browsing tabs + a word editor + video playback all ran simultaneously. Even that will only consume about 50% of its resources.

  Display & Design

The Surface Go:

It’s 10” device but if you’re just using two programs at a time, it’s not going to be slow.

Multitasking with two windows put next to each other it’s very possible despite the small display because it’s got a very very high resolution which is much higher than most bigger windows ultrabooks.

It’s basically going to work as good as an iPad Pro.

I wouldn’t use this thing as a main device for writing though. It’s really more useful as a secondary device you can take out anywhere and anytime inspiration strikes.

The Surface Pro 8:

The Surface Pro acts more like a primary laptop replacement. 

This year’s model screen is 13” (slightly bigger than last year’s 12.5”) and  also comes with the same super high resolution display of past models (far higher than most traditional windows ultrabooks) which makes it even more suitable for multitasking than the ASUS ZenBook 13. Besides.

Also, this 13” display has no bezels so the screen feels slightly bigger than what you find on a regular traditional 13” laptop. 

Keyboard is detachable just like the Surface Go and the iPad Pro.

The bad news is that the keyboard and pen is sold separately. So unless you have 100$ to spare, you’re not going to find it useful very useful as it is. We all know on-screen touch keyboards aren’t nearly as good as a physical ones.

 Keyboard

If you DO buy the keyboard. It works even better than the iPad Pro because it’s a full sized 13” keyboard. The Surface Go on the other hand, has a much smaller keyboard and you’ll feel a bit more cramped when typing on it hence why I don’t recommend it  as a primary laptop replacement.

There’s one issue it may or may not matter to you (possibly will if you do some writing when taking the train/subway/bus):

The keyboards are not directly attached to the base of these machines so they use 3 points of contact to attach it (type cover edge, base, and flip-out hinge) which make them a lot more supcestible to tottering and therefore  unstable if you use it on your laptop and you move around a lot.  

On the other hand, if you use them on hard surfaces, they will work just as good as any other 13” laptop’s keyboard. 

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4. ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02

Best Laptop For Writers Under 300

  1.6 GHz Intel Celeron

  4GB RAM DDR3L

   Intel HD

  16-32 GB eMMC

  11” HD Anti Glare

  2.2lbs

  10 hours

 

It’s time to step back a little and go over much much cheaper options.

Since writers don’t put any strenous work on computers  a low budget can still open up a lot good options.

However, like I said, not all of these options have great batteries and most of these “budget” machines are not portable at all. 

ChromeBooks:

ChromeBooks are the only budget machines that are ULTRA portable. You can even buy three of these for the price of one ultrabook. Prices range anywhere from 250$ to 450$.

What may be surprising to you is their battery life, which is insanely long (11 hours on average).

 Hardware

If you know a thing or two about computers you will notice that the hardware on ChromeBooks appears to be old and slow and you are not wrong, that’s actually true.

However, ChromeBooks do not use Windows 10 Home . They have Chrome OS instead and this is much much less hardware demanding. It’s basically the same OS you use on your phone.

 Performance

Which is really all it needs since ChromeBooks have been designed for web browsing, typing, programming , watching videos, word editing and any other non-hardware demanding task.

And no, they do not need more CPU power nor much RAM memory even for a snappy multitasking experience.

Also, Chrome OS won’t let you install third-party software you find online (which are mostly viruses and games for writers really) so they’re basically designed for actual work.

Q: So I can’t install the software I have on my current computer? 

If we are talking about third-party software that needs to be installed by clicking a .exe file, then no.

But the usual stuff is available on the Chrome App Store (most of which is free). That means Excel, Office, Zoom, several word-editors is available to install. Basically any software that’s on your phone has a version of Chrome OS.

Chrome Web Browsing:

What’s even more improssive is how fast you can browse the web with ChromeBooks. They can outperform several budget laptops under 500$ in this regard for the simple reason that they are designed to run Chrome(the web browser) more efficiently.

 Design

Since manufacturers have a very low budget to work with, they may or may not have great designs.

So if you want to find out how good the keyboard is, you will just have to read reviews or buy laptops that people have thoroughly tested.

This is one of the reasons why I recommend this specific model: I have it myself. 

The keyboard is not the best, it actually feels cheap but it’s clicky and responsive so I can hit my fastest typing speeds on it.

Battery:

Low end components don’t consume much power. Pair them up with Chrome OS, one of the lightest Operating Systems(sine they’re basically designed for tablets and phones) and you’ve got yourself an impressive amount of battery juice (at least 10 hours).

This is true for virtually every ChromeBook. So you can pick whatever ChromeBook you want if battery is all you’re after. 

Portability:

Another great advantage of low end hardware is that they make laptop devices ultra portable since they don’t need much space nor ventilation to control high tempereatures.

This makes most ChromeBooks weight on average no more than 2.5lbs even if they’re 13 inches.

Why recommend this ChromeBook specifically?

The first reason is because I own this model myself and it is my go-to-laptop when I have to go on long trips. 

Another reason is the “ruggerized military grade” design advertised. It doesn’t mean they have tested bombs next to it but that may not be so much of an exaggeration if you consider the fact that the rubber around makes it super resistant to drops. 

Why do you even use a ChromeBook anyway? Don’t you have a MacBook Air?

Just like you I am a writer by passion and I try to write short stories whenever I think I won’t have enough time to add good material to my main novel. 

That’s all I do on laptops, write write and write even the size of these reviews are reflective of what I mean when I say I write a lot. I also have colleagues hating me for my long texts & emails too.

That’s why I own a ChromeBook as a back-up machine, there are a few instances where I know I can’t bring my MacBook Air with me.

I also bring it to places where I know there’s a good chance I won’t find an outlet to recharge.

Sometimes I even bring both the MacBook Air and this ChromeBook to make sure I never run out of juice on a trip.

 Keyboards

Most ChromeBooks’ keyboards, especially those under 350$, have keyboards made out of plastic. They will feel cheap because they are cheap.

If you want an aluminum case around your ChromeBook with a better keyboard and the backlit feature you’re going to have to pay a little more than 250$. At least 400$ but that’s already stepping into budget laptop territory.

I don’t think you need to go for those more expensive ChromeBooks though.

If you do your research, you can end up with a ChromeBook like this one, which has a very nice tactile feedback w/ a lot of travel distance despite the plastic material around it. It almost feel like a mechanical type writer because you can hear the keys bang loudly when you type.

Regardless it’s still better than most budget windows laptops and even better than what most thick gaming laptops have which by the way I’ve also had the chance to use for writing.

It was one of those Acer Aspire models with a dedicated graphics card (it stopped working after a year ). The keyboard was awful (very low travel distance keys with little response).

It didn’t make it impossible to write but it sure made it pretty uncomfortable. It got to the point that I actually had to attach an external keyboard to make it usable. 

Q: What other software is available on Chrome OS?

Anything you find on the Google App Store will have a version for Chromebooks too.

That means Lightroom, PhotoShop, Word,Excel, PowerPoint, are all available free of charge, along thousands of other games and software.

Installing Linux

If you like using third party software, then you can install a Linux distro on a ChromeBook. If you do this, a ChromeBook will be basically turned into a full blown windows-like machine for you to download and install thousands of other third party software from the web.

You don’t have to delete Chrome OS, you can actually have both Operating Systems on  the same machine and switch to one over the other by restarting the machine.

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5. Acer Aspire 5

Best Cheap Laptop For Seniors

  Intel Core i3-1115G4

  4GB DDR4

  ‎Intel UHD Graphics

  128GB SSD

  15” full HD IPS

  4.19lbs

  7 hours

    Wifi 6

This also has been one of the best selling laptops on Amazon for several years now.

Why? It’s one of the only few models that pack a lot good hardware at a very low price. 

So, if you are on a very low budget and need something with a Windows Operating System because you want to use some unknown third-party software for writing, then this should be your top choice.

Although hardware is not an issue for most writers, you still need to meet a few minimum requirements if you want to multitask freely with the full version of Windows. 

For that you need a modern “non-mobile” CPU as outlined before and which I go into detail in the last section and at least 8GB RAM. The solid state drive storage is optional but it’s a huge performance boost to what’s an already fast device.

 Hardware

Well you get all of that with the Acer Aspire 5. The CPU is of the most recent generation released by Intel and the Solid State Drive is also there albeit with relatively low storage but sufficient for most writers.

The only thing this model is lacking is 8GB RAM.

Which brings me to a very important topic.

 Performance
Windows 10 S mode vs Windows 10 Home:

Most budget machines in 2022 do not come with the full version of Windows 10 home installed, they will have Windows 10 in S Mode which is basically an operating system that resembles Chrome OS both in how much hardware it needs to run and what software you are limited to (basically anything that’s on the Windows App Store).

4GB vs 8GB:

All laptops with Windows 10 in S mode can be switched out of it and have Windows 10 Home instead. Before you decide to do the upgrade keep in mind the following:

  • If you don’t need the full version of Windows 10 Home and you’re just fine using the most popular writing softare available such as EverNote,OneNote,Word,WordPad,Google Docs,etc, then you can just leave it at 4GB and run Windows 10 in S Mode. All those programs are avaiable on the Windows store and more. 
  • However, if you DO need to run the full version of Windows: Windows 10 Home or Windows 11, then you will need to do the upgrade to 8GB. You will have to buy an additional 4GB RAM stick for 15 bucks and have someone do the upgrade (this is a thin laptop so it’s tricky do it on your own). If you don’t do this upgrade, you will LAG the moment you multitask with more than two programs.

 Keyboard

The keyboard is a big problem with laptops under 500$. This one doesn’t have a great keyboard. It’s average, keys are well spaced, they have low travel distance but they are responsive enough so as to not to interfere with your workflow. 

The keys are backlit though and because it’s a 15” laptop, it’s got a full size keyboard.

What’s surprising is the display: it’s got a FHD resolution display (not a TN HD display most 350$ laptops have) and it’s also relatively thin and lightweight (at least for a 15” laptop).

Battery is  decent too ~8 hours. 

Like I said, it’s a very very nice deal for the price. Something that’s very difficult to find on budget machines..

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Honorable mentions Award: 15” Lenovo Ideapad & 11” Ultra thin ASUS L210

The way I narrowed it down to 5 laptops was by:

  • Reading dozens of reviews and comments from several different websites (LaptopMag,NoteBookCheck, Amazon,eBay) of what I thought could possible have good keyboards (using the guidelines I described).
  • Asking Amazon to send me these models (of course I had to pay).
  • Tested the keyboard and display by using Scrivener
  • After that I either sold them or gave them away . 

Obviously there are still several models that also have a great keyboard, are snappy, have a decent display and of course ultra long battery life (I would say there are about 10 more models).
Out of these, only 2 deserve the “honorable mention” award:

The Lenovo Ideapad may have a great keyboard, good display and even a decent battery life however it’s relatively big : 15” and a little heavy: 4lbs. It’s good if you’re still bound to your house due to the pandemic or if you just do your writing at one place. 

The ASUS L202MA which is the laptop on the image above doesn’t have a top of the line keyboard but it does have a great battery and it’s quite snappy (provided you only use Windows 10 in S mode). The best part is that it’s just as thin and light as an 11inch MacBook Air. It’s a great alternative if you do not like Apple and would rather stay with Windows machines that are NEW and not refurbished.

We all know even the weakest and most oudated laptop can handle a word editing software and an internet browser. So for writers, it’s all down to ergonomics and most of it it’s about the keyboard.

Keyboard

Although most laptops have decent keyboard to type on and do any kind of work. Not all of them are great and only a few will let you hit your fastest typing speeds.

There’s a huge difference between a MacBook Air and the Acer Aspire 5 we just went over. You can write a novel on both of these laptops no problem but it’s much more of a joy to do so in a very clicky and responsive keyboard such as the MacBook Air’s.

If you want to know how to get that clicky and responsive keyboard you have to learn a few terms:

Travel Distance

It refers to how far the keys can travel down when pressed to register a character. Usually, the higher the travel distance , the better the keyboard (though not always).

High Travel Distance:  Thicker laptops such as those gaming laptops will have enough space to allow more vertical travel (since they need to be thick enough to allow for more ventilation and powerful hardware).

So basically any 15-17” laptop that’s thick enough will make sure the keyboard is responsive and clicky to type on.

So if you’re buying budget laptops like the Acer Aspire 5 then make sure it has a high travel distance.

Low Travel Distance:    It’s very difficult to thin laptops with keyboards (that will inherently have low traveling distance) that are both clicky and bouncy. If you hear about a budget laptop (a heavy +4lbs that’s 15 inch diagonally) with low travel distance keys, chances are that they will be not as responsive as you’d like them to be. This might make long hours of typing a challenge and in some cases even too distracting to keep going. 

Usually, low travel distance keys that are clickly and responsive will be found on ultrabooks such as the ones we went over before. These are basically premium laptops where the manufacturer has taken great care into the overall design. 

Noise

I remember sitting at starbucks one time and there was this guy pounding hard on his keyboard. Apparently, he wanted to show everyone that he was doing actual work or maybe that guy had just stopped using a typerwriter. 

Or maybe that was just his style. He wanted to sound like Ernest Hemingway on a typerwriter (believe me some writers do). For those of you who want to make as much noise without having to pound hard on a keyboard, then high travel distance keyboards will be of your style. 

On the other hand, the vast majority of us want to make as little noise as possible. Low travel keyboards will tend to much less noisy. In fact, some ultrabooks like the MacBook Air / ASUS ZenBook are nearly silent when typing with moderate strength.

Layout

The layout is just a matter of preference, it’s not really going to affect your writing speeds since the characters are all placed in the same position on either type.

Island vs Convential Type

What they do differ on however is how much space there is around each key.

Island types will have more space(hence the name). 

Conventional keys will have characters all mashed together.


The picture you see is of the MacBook Air’s keyboard which has always been of the island type. 


Like I said, it’s just a matter of preference and aesthetics, I have laptops with either type and I can hit my fastest typing speeds on either. 
Most laptops now however have keyboards of the island type.

BackLit Feature

This is superuseful if you’re one of those who think that “inspiration can strike anywhere and any time and mostly at night”. Some writers even go as far as carrying a bluetooth keyboard to connect to a laptop. You don’t have to go that for though because most laptops (save for budget laptops) have this feature.

It’s nearly universal on ultrabooks (thin laptops above 600$). 

It’s always a good idea to double check on the laptop’s description because some laptops may not have them at all despite costing you a fortune.

Brightness


Some laptops have a very cool feature on top of their baclit keyboards: you can control how much bright the keys can be lit. This is helpful if you’re a super dark dark place OR if you just want to save battery as much as possible. This is mostly found on premium ultrabooks though, not something you can find on any laptop with a backlit keybaord. 

Size

Obviously, bigger keyboards are always better but this isn’t ideal if you want a portable device.

All I have to say here is that your primary machines should not go below 11”. These small laptops have keyboards that are very cramped and difficult to type accurately because they tried to fit a full sized keyboard on a very small amount of space.

Any laptop equal or above 13” measured diagonallyactually will have a full sized keyboard. Although 13” laptops will discard the numerical keypad, all the other keys have the same size of 15” and 17” laptops.

How about 11” laptops?

It’s a matter of preference but how good you can type on these depends on the overall quality of your laptop. If you need a laptop this small, I would advice you to invest on a premium 11” laptop like a MacBook, Surface Go, etc. You’ll need a high quality design to make these keyboards work in this small spaces otherwise they will feel cramped and difficult to type on.


Display

There are tons of features to consider when looking at a laptop’s display: IPS/TN panel, color accuracy, resolution,etc.

For writing purposes, you can forget about all of these things except for display size (and maybe resolution). It will dictate how much visually cramped you may be depending on your workflow.

11”: If you like to have two windows next to eah other. It’s going to be impossible with 11” that have HD or HD+ resolutions. On the other hand if you have FHD or higher resolution 11” displays, then you’ll be able to fit in at most two windows side by side vertically or horizontally. If you do end up with HD or HD+ 11” displays as found on a 2015 MacBook Air, then you can still speed your workflow when multitasking by continously using the “switch screen” features of MacBooks. 

13”: This is the perfect size for multitasking and also can fit in a full sized keyboard. If you have a FHD resolution display with it, then you can have at least three windows (strategically positioned) next to each other.

15-17”: These give very very geneous amounts of workspace area if you combine them with a FHD display. Unfortunately, they make a laptop very heavy so it’s not something you want unless you’re only using a laptop at home.

Battery Life

Here’s a few things you may want to know if you want to land a laptop with a long battery life.

ChromeBooks: 99.9% of ChromeBooks have at least 10 hours of battery.  The other 0.01% that have a short battery life (well actually even those have okay batteries ~6-8 hours) are those equipped with non-mobile chips like Intel Core CPUs/Ryzen CPUs. These consume more energy and for most people using a ChromeBook they are unncessarily powerful  and more expensive(they’re usually above 450$).

Ironically, the higher the price of a ChromeBook, the more likely it’s to have a lousy battery life.

Apple Laptops: All apple laptops have at least ~10 hours of battery. Even the most powerful MacBooks have been designed to have at least that much.
The problem is of course these are very expensive when new but because of their new, they will keep a battery with no cycles (they will last as advertised).

Most refurbished ones will give you around 8 hours because the batteries have been recharged possibly hundreds of times.

Windows Laptops: Nearly all windows laptops across all price ranges have worse batteries than ChromeBooks or Apple machines.

The reason is simple, unlike ChromeOS and OSX (the operating system of both apple and chromebooks), Windows consumes more energy and they haven’t been particularly designed to run on every laptop you see on the market.

You will rarely a windows laptop with +10 hours of battery unless they’re premium ultra books which means they have been specifically designed to accomodate long battery lives.

If you want to get the most battery out of a windows laptop that’s not an ultrabook, get a machine with a Ryzen 3 or a Core i3 CPU. These consume far less energy than Core i5/Ryzen 5 laptops.

Performance

The truth is you don’t really need to worry about storage/graphics cards or CPUs because let’s face it, nearly every laptop will be good for everyday tasks. However, there are still a few things you need to know if you don’t want to feel slowed down when multitasking:

CPU

As you know virtually all CPUs made today have way too much power for the average user. So it’s more about not buying the right CPU for the operating system you’re going to use. Get the wrong CPU for say Windows 10 and everything’s going to feel slow the moment you start running more than one program at a time.

ChromeBooks and Apple Laptops You don’t have to worry about CPU speed when buying either of these .These CPUs all fit perfectly to the operating systems found on these laptops.

Windows Laptops Windows laptops above 500$ will for the most part (as long as they’re new) carry a CPU fast enough for WIndows 10 and Windows 11 Pro.

The problem starts when you look for budget machines below 500$:

  • . As a good rule of thumb, avoid any mobile CPU. These are basically Intel Celeron, Pentium, Atom, ARM Chips. And also avoid laptops with the Intel Y3,Y5, m3, m5 labels. These are also mobile CPUs.
  • As for AMD CPUs. Basically avoid any AMD processor that doesn’t have the word “Ryzen”. 

Follow these two rules and you should be able to land a CPU that’s capable FOR ALL THE MULTITASKING you have in mind with virtually ZERO LAG.

RAM

Obviously, my advice on CPU is not going to work if you don’t have the proper amount of RAM. Likewise, each operating system (Windows 10 S, Windows 10 H) will consume different amounts of RAM. 

2GB:  This is fine if we are talking about ChromeBooks/ MacBooks. These do not consume much resources. This is also true for Windows 10S. However, for Windows 10 Home and Windows 11 Pro, you need at least 4GB.

4GB: While it is true 4GB will run Windows 10 Home and Windows 11 Pro. The moment you open more than one program (something other than Office), you’ll start to lag.  4GB is fine for ChromeBooks and MacBooks, not fine for Windows 10/11, at least if you want to multitask.

8GB: This is the bare-bone minimum amount for Windows 10 Home/ Windows 11 Pro. Anything more is unnecesary. 

Storage

Capacity isn’t something to worry about. We all know we can store hundreds of docs on a floppy disk from the 90s and even the storage drive with the lowest capacity can store 128*19200 pages of documents.

What’s more important today is the TYPE of storage drive you use.

Solid State Drives and Hard Disk Drives

These are the two types available. Solid State Drives and Hard Disk Drives. You want the former because they’re much much faster and will do anything that’s related to reading/writing data in split seconds, including:

  • Looking up for a particular sentence/word/document through the search bar in one second.
  • Booting up your computer and making it ready for work in less than 10 seconds.

Either  type of storage is prone to failure though.

Back Up

Which means every single well crafted scene, sentence and idea will be long gone with it.

This is why it’s important you learn how to use a Back-up.

If you opt for a ChromeBook, you don’t have to worry about Back-Ups since everything will be stored in the cloud and is accessible with your gmail account. 

If you have a MacBook/Windows laptop, then start using free cloud services for the storage of your most important documents: DropBox, TheCloud

Comments?

If you have any suggestions or questions . Please let us know in the comments below.

 



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