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Why you should wait to buy a new laptop

Intel's new fifth-generation chip just came out—but an even better update is coming this summer

Published: March 27, 2015 04:00 PM
Toshiba Portege Z30-BSMBN22

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If there’s one thing Intel is known for, it’s regular—and frequent—updates of its processors. The company follows what it calls a tick-tock model of upgrades. Processors from a tick update represent a change in manufacturing, usually making the processor smaller and more efficient. Tock updates, on the other hand, bring faster performance.

But things were a little different with the latest update. Intel missed a few release dates with its latest tick, the fifth-generation Core processors known as Broadwell. Now, systems equipped with fifth-generation processors are finally making their way into stores. Broadwell processors measure 14 nanometers compared to the last tick’s 22nm processors. They are more efficient than previous chips, and are helping manufacturers make computers thinner, with improved battery life.

The new processors are good—one laptop with a fifth-gen chip got the longest battery life we’ve ever seen. But we’ve got some contrarian advice for you. Unless you absolutely need a new computer right away, wait it out until summer.

Need more info on buying a computer? Our Buying Guide is packed with advice to help you make the right choice.

The delays Intel experienced with Broadwell caused the chip's introduction to bump right up against the next update of its processors, due some time around August. That’ll be a tock, the sixth-generation Core processor Intel has nicknamed Skylake. If you hold off on a new computer purchase until then, you’ll benefit from the better battery life of the current batch of processors and the speedier performance of the sixth-gen crew. And if you don’t want a top-of-the-line computer at that point, you might be able to save a few bucks on the “older” fifth-generation machines when they go on sale.

In addition, we should have a release date for Windows 10 by April, when Microsoft holds its developers conference. Rumor has it the release could be as soon as summer. That's another good reason to hold off on a new computer purchase, since it's easier to buy a system with the latest operating system already installed.

If you really need a new computer right away, we turned up a few models in our Ratings that take advantage of the fifth-generation Core processors’ efficiency. The Toshiba Portege Z30-BSMBN22, for example, is a 13-inch laptop that achieved a jaw-dropping 19 hours of battery life in our tests. Performance was excellent, and it weighs just 2.6 pounds. Best of all, it’s moderately priced for a small laptop, at $900.

Take a look at our new Ratings for more desktops, Chromebooks, and laptops, including several with Core M processors, the super-low-power mobile version of the fifth-generation Core line-up.

—Donna Tapellini


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