Buying someone a laptop is, in theory, an incredibly thoughtful gift. However, laptops are a very personal choice and there are plenty of ways to get it wrong - even if they've dropped countless hints.
What the recipient needs it for will determine what sort of laptop you'll want to focus your search on. Getting it wrong could mean it's unsuitable for their needs and result in you having to go through a world of pain getting a refund. Or, worse, navigate that awkward moment when your loved one pretends your gift is absolutely fine but you know it's not.
So to avoid the disappointed look on someone's face when you've been ready to step up and receive the 'best Christmas present' award, here's three reasons why you should think again.
Get this wrong and the (un)lucky recipient will end up struggling around with a heavy model, which isn't great if they need to commute with their laptop.
If this is the case, you'll want one that weighs less than 1.5kg and an 11-, 12- or 13-inch display.
Conversely, if it's for someone who only works from home, they won't thank you if they've got to put up with a tiny screen and a cramped keyboard. If it will mostly be staying put in one place, a larger screen size of 15.6 inches up to 17.3 inches will be best, with weight likely increasing to around 2kg to 3kg.
Alternatively, they might be better off reading up on a desktop PC. These get you more performance for your money and often work out better as a longer-term investment, as you can upgrade a desktop to improve the specs.
For kids, you don't want a laptop that's heavier than they can comfortably handle, particularly if there's a chance they will ever need to take it to school with them.
That said, if your child will mostly be using their laptop in a single spot, you can safely opt for a laptop up to 17 inches in size.
Otherwise, for a younger child, go for a laptop with a 10 to 12-inch screen. This will make it small enough to slide into most bags, and it should also weigh less than 1.2kg.
Laptops this light and compact aren't the fastest, but they're typically cheaper, and should be fine for schoolwork and watching the odd video. Larger laptops are typically heavier (there are some exceptions), so aren't ideal for lugging about.
The more powerful a laptop, the faster it is. And the more expensive. But there's no point wasting your money if the recipient only needs it for surfing the net and writing up the occasional document.
Equally, you don't want to buy someone a laptop that can't do what they want if you're on a tight budget. As your money could either go towards a laptop, or they could get more for their money by buying a refurbished or second-hand model - see
If your recipient is a gamer or they're planning to use the laptop for photo or video editing, you may need to resort to an IOU in a Christmas card. These high-performance laptops are much more expensive than standard laptops.
Also, for gamers, what you buy affects the type of games that can be played, and how well they will run. A gaming enthusiast is likely to want a big say in the laptop they use.
In a nutshell:
A bugbear for many - but laptops often have fewer ports nowadays and not all have the ones users have come to depend on.
Every laptop we tested back in 2014 had at least two full-size USB-A ports. Now almost a third of laptops have either just one or none. A similar proportion have ditched HDMI ports, too.
Yes, a USB-C adaptor will provide both, but your lucky giftee may have a particular set-up and have a reason to want them there in the first place.
Don't leave them pulling their hair out and having to shop for docks or adaptors to transform your well-meaning gift into what they actually need.
If you do go ahead and buy someone a laptop, don't feel pressured to buy during the sales and end up rushing your decision. Choosing a laptop should take time, so do your research and make sure you shop around. Take a look at our to help point you in the right direction.
The big manufacturers launch their new range of laptops on an annual basis, even before last year's stock has fully sold out. This, plus heavy competition between brands and retailers, means there are always deals to be had.