This is a great time to buy a new computer and if you have someone on your list asking for one, you may be wondering "which one?"

Macbook? PC laptop? Microsoft Surface? Chromebook? Unless you've been researching the options, it's a difficult question to answer, especially if you don't know what the person you're buying for is going to do with it. Here's a look at each type of laptop and what you need to know before buying one:

Apple Macbooks.

If the person on your list is a high school or college student there is no debate; an Mac is what they want. Not only are these the grand-daddy of all laptops there's an enormous 'cool factor'. It's the computer their friends use, the ones they see on campus and in coffee shops.

Even if the answer is a Mac there are still choices. A Macbook Pro and Macbook Air. The Macbook Pro is the better of the two but they're expensive. A 13" Macbook Pros are easily over $1,000 in most stores. The Pro is the more powerful laptop and good for anyone working with video, graphics or using engineering or coding software. They're slim and lightweight and fit nicely in a backpack or briefcase.

The Macbook Air is plenty powerful too and costs slightly less. The Air laptops are thinner than the Pro models and slim enough to look almost like an iPad. If the person you're buying for is using the computer for homework, browsing the internet and doing other light computer work the Air is capable of those things. They're also quite capable of running the lighter video editing software iMovie. Macbook Air devices can be found in stores and online for as low as $700.

And don't forget, before you purchase a Mac check out Apple's re-furbished store.

PC Laptops.

While they don't have the same 'cool factor' as Mac laptops, PC's are capable of doing everything a Mac can do. New PC laptops run Windows 10 and for anyone familiar with using Microsoft products on desktop computers the move to a PC laptop is seamless. Popular brands are HP, Dell and Asus. Most are not as thin and light as a Macbook Air but these brands make solid computers with fast processors and graphics cards. PC laptops also run Microsoft software such as Word.

PC laptops come in different screen sizes up to 17" but many of the lower priced 'budget' laptops are not easily upgradeable and may become outdated in 5-6 years. Expect to pay $300-$400 for budget PCs and $700-$1,000 for capable longlasting laptops. Gamers will need faster processors and higher grade video cards. Gaming PC laptops can top $2,000.

Microsoft Surface.

These are relative newcomers to the laptop space. Very thin these laptops are convertible, meaning the screen can be folded behind the keyboard, virtually turning the laptop into a tablet. Surface laptop/tablets can be upgraded to use a stylus or pen for greater accuracy working with graphics and photos. Surface computers also come in different sizes and the faster laptops are in the $1,200-$1,500 range.


These laptops are the least expensive of all laptops with some retailing for under $200. Chromebooks are unlike other laptops in that they only connect to the internet and the Google Chrome browser. They do not run 3rd party software such as Microsoft Word or video/photo editing software. Chromebooks are lighter than other laptops and faster since they only connect to the internet, there are few moving parts. Don't let the inability to run software keep you from considering a Chromebook as most things people do on computers today are web-based. Brands include Samsung, Asus, Acer, HP and Dell. Google also carries its own brand of Chromebook, the latest is a $1,000 model with more bells and whistles.