After 16 hours of research, reading hundreds of user feedback and carefully considering the hardware and software components, I have chosen the Dell Inspiron i3552-8043BLK as the best laptop for seniors. It is the overall contender. I have also chosen two other laptops, one is the most cheapest of the bunch, the other packs the most power and is also the most portable (lightweight) one.
All these laptops are actually affordable, and I mentioned this because I have seen some people recommending laptops with price tags over a thousand dollars for the elderly!. These people are simply interested in getting a fat affiliate paycheck, and have no interest in providing something useful to their readers.
So trust me, you don’t have to pay over a 1,000 bucks to get a good laptop. If you can spend anywhere between $ 300 to $ 600, then you can get a laptop that is still fast, durable, lightweight & the easiest to use, which is all one (the old & the young) needs from a laptop anyway.
Now before I move onto the review, I will describe to you in detail the two most important factors you as a senior citizen who’s trying to buy a laptop, should keep in mind (this should still be helpful even if you’re a youngster who knows your way around computers and you’re simply looking to buy a laptop for your grandma or grandpa, because their needs are quite different from yours). Those two factors are the Readability & the Survivability.
Readability – The Display Screen
Let’s face it, you might or might not use spectacles, but surely your eyes don’t see as good as they used to.
I am for instance a 33 year old male, and as soon as I reached the age 30, one day I just realized I don’t see into the distance as good as I used to. And so, when it comes to a computer, which hardware component is crucially associated with your eyesight? It’s the display screen.
So when choosing a laptop you have to be very careful because nowadays they come in all sorts of different sizes & various other characteristics, and if you’re not careful, you can end-up with something that is difficult to read. Yes some of these new display screens actually are of high quality. But the truth is, not all the (old) software are compatible with them, therefore, you can easily end-up with a high quality display that displays text and other elements too small, making them hard to read.
The point is, this technology is still new and at its transitioning period. And yes, although difficult, sometimes you can fix some of the readability related issues, it requires some technical understanding. My advice is, if you’re a non tech savvy person, then it’s still best to avoid purchasing one.
Here I have used my experience as a computer user, and all the laptops that I have chosen here include display screens that are easy to read. That’s not to say they are ugly displays that output huge texts etc. They’re in fact, sharp and clear modern display screens, that are the most commonly used in laptops (I too use one of these screens and I love it).
How I figure it (readability) out is actually a little technical. I use what is called the ‘pixel density’, for finding how readable a screen is. If you’re interested in knowing more about it, then you should read my laptop buying guide. Otherwise, here, all is taken care for you by me.
What I mean by ‘survivability’ is how many years into the future you will be able to use the laptop comfortably. Because technology nowadays changes quite fast and with it changes the system (hardware) requirements of software applications. Developers add more features and components to applications, and sometimes, whether the users actually want those features or not, they have to update the applications to keep them secure.
So when buying a laptop, you should have a good grasp of the bigger picture, and purchase something that enables you to comfortably use it for about 4 years into the future, at least. I took the survivability into consideration when choosing these products, and I did this by assuming that you will mostly be using the laptop to browse the Internet, use Skype, send an e-mail, create a presentation, compose a word or text document, copy images from your digital camera, watch a movie or listen to an audio track etc. For such requirements, there are three hardware devices in a laptop that can dramatically impact your level of satisfaction. To put them in the order of their importance, it’s the RAM, Hard Disk Drive (‘HDD’ for short) and the CPU, that matter.
RAM (Random Access Memory): RAM is an extremely fast data storage device (also expensive), but it can only save data temporarily. As soon as the computer loses the power, all the data on it gets erased. Therefore, the Operating System uses it to temporarily store your most frequently used data so that you can access them fast. Nowadays, it is advisable to make sure the laptop has 4 GB* of RAM at least.
* (GB means ‘Gigabytes’ the size of which roughly equals to 1.4 CDs).
Hard Disk Drive – This is where all your data is permanently stored. And as far as your requirements are concerned, how fast your programs will open or how quickly you will be able to use multiple programs at once, is first determined by the speed of the hard disk drive, because before your files can make their way into RAM, the computer has to first copy them from the hard disk drive since that’s where they’re saved.
Most disk drives have a rotating disk(s) inside them (just like a CD in a CD Player) and the more fast they rotate the more fast data can be read or written to the disk drive. Hard disk drives with 5400 rpm are the most common, and, although not so common, there are more faster drives that spin at 7200 rpm. As far as the size is concerned, I recommend that you buy one with a capacity of 320 GB at least. To give you a rough idea, a hard disk with 320 GB data capacity can hold the data of 70-75 DVD movies inside it.
Those rotating drives however, are now being slowly replaced by a much faster device called the SSD. They’re usually 4-5 times faster than the traditional rotational disks, and they can massively speed up things for you. Their down side however, is that they’re a bit expensive. But you still can get a fast SSD on an affordable laptop if you’re willing to sacrifice the capacity a bit.
I would say 128 GB SSD is a realistic goal for an affordable laptop.
CPU (Central Processing Unit) – CPU is the brain of your computer that processes all the data, but Hard Disk Drive is the heart that pumps the blood, and RAM is the main artery that carries the blood to the brain. So consequently, even if you have the world’s most powerful brain, if the heart is weak (slow) & the main artery that connects the heart to the brain is clogged (small), then the brain won’t be able to operate at its full potential. Just like that, even if your laptop has a fast CPU, if you’ve chosen a slow Hard Disk Drive and a RAM which is small capacity-wise, that will dramatically reduce the performance of the CPU, or the computer in general. And since always, compared to the CPU, both RAM and the disk drive are incredibly slow anyway, this is the reason why you cannot see huge improvements in the performance of your computer, by merely switching to a faster CPU, because the bottleneck lies elsewhere. This is a very common fundamental mistake most people make, when trying to enhance the performance of their computer.
Therefore, the practical solution for you will be to settle into a mid-powerful CPU (which alone is going to save you a lot) and increase the performance of the RAM and your disk drive instead. It’s not always a necessity to purchase an expensive SSD drive, but if can, again, it can make a big difference.
And that is why I have chosen the Dell Inspiron i3552-8043BLK as the best all rounder. Among many other features, it has a capable CPU, enough RAM and importantly, it has a fast SSD. And it’s still quite affordable.
Other Features that are important
A modern laptop should also come with a Wi-Fi network adapter which allows you to connect to the Internet without having a cable. Bluetooth adapter (it’s also a wireless connectivity provider, but slower compared to Wi-Fi. Mostly used to connect wireless headphones and mobile phones to the laptop) is also found on most laptops. It should also include a decent web-camera (they have an in-built microphone) so when you’re using applications such as Skype, others can see your face. And it should also include at least 2 USB ports. These are the ports that you’ll be using to plug-in external devices to the laptop (Pendrives, external hard drives, mouse etc).
Memory card or a media card reader, is also quite handy, although having one is not always a necessity. It allows you to copy the data from, say your digital camera to the laptop, without having to connect the camera through a USB cable, as you can remove the memory card of the camera and attach it to the laptop’s card reader instead.
If you will be required to read a lot of CDs and DVDs, then you should buy a laptop with a DVD drive. Most laptops now come with a DVD writer which allows you to both read to optical discs (CDs, DVDs…) and write data back to them. Nowadays however, little by little, optical disc readers/writers/burners are becoming obsolete. People nowadays use USB thumb drives (very small devices that can store few times the data of a DVD or CDs) instead. While multimedia content such as movies still come in DVDs, nowadays most people watch them through the Internet. Also keep in mind that the more smaller (say 13.3” screen size and below) and thinner the laptop is, chances are, you won’t get an optical disc drive with them. This is because they add more weight & increase the thickness, the two main characteristics that are undesired for a portable computer.
The battery life and the weight of a laptop is very important. They’re the two most prominent aspects of a laptop that define its portability. If you travel a lot, then the laptop should be lightweight (2.2 kg or lower) and have a battery life of at least 5 hours. All the four laptops that I’ve chosen for you vary a bit in both weight and battery life because they are suited for different purposes, which I shall describe to you when reviewing each one.
You don’t have to worry about other features such as speakers, all laptops include a pair (in built), although if you’re serious about the quality of the sound output, you should buy a good headphone or connect the laptop to an external audio output device.
What About the Operating System?
All these laptops I’ve chosen use Microsoft Windows (either the version 8.1 or 10). It’s the most popular operating system and over 90% all the computers in the world use it. That said, the best intuitive operating system there is, is the one that Apple makes (its called ‘Mac OS’). But their computers are expensive and Mac OS is primarily designed to run on them. Once you know the basics, Windows too is very easy to use (teaching you how to use Windows is outside of the scope of this article, unfortunately), and that’s what I recommend to you as well.
Recap & the Actual Products Review
The introduction got a little longer, but now I think you have a good understanding of what you’re buying which should be beneficial to you. Again, if you’re interested in understanding these in more details, you should read my laptop buying guide. Otherwise, let me show the laptops I’ve chosen for you so that you can decide which one you should purchase.
Dell Inspiron i3552-8043BLK – Overall Versatility
This Dell (rated 4 out of 5 stars) laptop has a big 15.6 inch LED (LEDs provide better colors with low power consumption compared to the now slightly older, LCDs) screen with screen resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. I’m sure you can get a sense of how big a 15.6 inch screen is, so I’ll try to explain to you what that 1366 x 768 ‘pixels’, mean instead. You see, a computer screen has thousands or millions of small dots called ‘Pixels’. The screen use these dots (pixels) and lights them up in various different colors to draw things on your screen. What that number simply means is that there are 1366 of these dots horizontally, and there are 768 of those lines, vertically. That’s it!.
As far as the readability is concerned, with this Dell laptop you will not have any issues while recognizing anything on this screen (may those be in the form of texts, buttons, images etc). They’re big enough for you to read them without losing their sharpness. And from all the user feedback, unsurprisingly only one has said the screen is small, and from the style of his comment, he’s most probably a youngster.
The other important thing about this laptop is that it comes with a faster SSD drive. And the user feedback confirms what I predicted earlier too. This laptop turns ON fast and opens programs quite fast!. The slight downside of the SSD is its capacity – which is about 128 GB. About 20 GB is used by the existing software so you have about 108 GB free space left. This might not sound like much, but I have an aunt and she has been using her laptop for about 2 years now and all she does using it is browsing the Internet, use Skype or watch videos, and she has barely used 30 GB of her free space!.
So if you’ll be doing pretty much the same type of tasks, I predict 128 GB disk is more than enough for your needs (unless you’ll be doing things like saving a lot of high quality movies permanently, for example. Remember, watching a movie on-line or through a DVD won’t save it to your disk). If you ever go out of free space to save your data, then you can always use an external hard drive (they’re cheap, have big capacities and small enough to carry in your pocket) anyway. I’m trying to stick you to this laptop because this is the only one that has a fast SSD drive (at this price range) and you can hugely benefit from it years to come.
The RAM capacity is 4 GB and you cannot increase its capacity manually in the future or when purchasing. Yes it’s a drawback, but again, I’m confident that the faster SSD will fill in the gap.
The CPU is a mid-powerful Intel Pentium N3700. In plain simple words, it should have no problems whatsoever being able to keep up with your daily needs. You should be able to comfortably use your web-browser (most people use Google Chrome these days), use Skype or listen to some music, all the while having opened a Word document, and this processor is capable of handling such situations without any issues.
The keyboard is nice and comfortable to use. Few have complained about the touch-pad being a little difficult to use sometimes (it’s not a deal-breaker).
The laptop by default comes with a DVD writer so you can use it to read & write content to CDs and DVDs as well. If you don’t need one (it’ll save you a few bucks and take away some of the weight), then you can purchase it without an optical drive (I’ll show how you can do that at the end). Bluetooth & Wi-Fi adapters, a memory card reader, 3 USB ports and a web-camera (microphone in-built) is also included.
The Dell Inspiron i3552-8043BLK weighs in about 2.2 kg (4.9 pounds). Dell says the battery lasts about 8 hours, I would say 5.5 – 6 hours is more realistic. The operating system is Windows 10 (latest version) and is about 0.8 inches thick at its most thickest point.
When purchasing, this laptop allows you to customize the CPU, main storage devices (either a rotating disk or a SSD) and the optical disc reader (add or remove a DVD writer). I’ll leave it for you to decide whether you want a DVD writer or not (if unsure, add it), otherwise make sure you’ve selected the CPU as ‘Intel Pentium’ and ‘128 GB SSD’ as the main storage (as illustrated by the image below).
If you’re looking an affordable, lightweight (I’ve another listed that’s even more lightweight) and a fast computer, then I would say that the Dell Inspiron i3552-8043BLK is actually is one of the best laptop computers for older adults or senior citizens.
Asus X553SA-BHCLN10 – The Cheapest
If you’re in a tight budget, and looking for something to get your daily computing tasks done which I mentioned earlier (web browsing, using Skype etc) and willing to accept the fact that it won’t deliver the best performance, then purchase the Asus X553SA-BHCLN10. It’s the cheapest.
It too comes with a 15.6 inch screen with a resolution of 1366 x 768, just like the previous Dell i3552-8043BLK laptop. The screen however is a LCD panel which compared to the new LED panels (which is what most newer laptops include) is slightly low in quality, but interestingly if you read the user feedback (which you should), most seem to quite like it actually.
The Asus laptop comes with 4 GB of RAM and this model lets you upgrade it up to 8 GB (not when purchasing though, you’ll have to get it done afterwards, manually). The hard disk drive is a rotating disk (5400 rpm) which won’t be as fast as a SSD, but it has a capacity of 500 GB which is actually more than enough as far as your space requirements are concerned.
The CPU is also an Intel processor (N3050), but it’s roughly as half as much faster compared to the CPU of the previous Dell laptop. But you should still be able to get on with your daily tasks (use Skype, create a Word document, use the Internet, watch HD or Blu-ray videos etc) using it, as long as you won’t be using a lot of programs, all at once (which is called ‘multitasking’ in computing).
The Asus X553SA-BHCLN10 also includes a DVD drive (supports both reading and writing to discs), a memory card reader, Wi-Fi & Bluetooth adapters, 3 USB ports, and a web-camera (microphone in-built). I haven’t seen anyone complaining about the keyboard, but someone has complained about the touch-pad being a bit difficult to use (I think by now you can see that most laptops, although there are exceptions, don’t usually include great touch-pads).
Asus X553SA-BHCLN10 weighs in about 2.1 kg (4.8 lb), a fraction less than the Dell laptop. Asus says the battery lasts about 5.5 hours, but a user said about 4 hours is more like it (I would also say that’s more realistic in my experience as well). At its thickest point it measures about 1.2 inches.
If you have a tight budget and looking for an affordable laptop and willing to accept that it won’t deliver the best performance, then you should consider the Asus X553SA-BHCLN10. It’s THE simple laptop recommendation for seniors, in my opinion.
HP Pavillion x360 – Powerful, Lightweight & Premium
The HP Pavillion x360 is a premium laptop. It’s the most portable one of the three because it has a weight factor of 1.7 kg and has a maximum thickness of .89 inches. It’s also the most powerful one because it has an Intel Core i5 processor that’s at least twice as powerful as the one that’s included in the Dell Inspiron, which is the second most powerful one of the three laptops. To tell you the truth, it packs more processing power than you actually be needing.
The x360 has 8 GB of RAM as opposed to 4 GB of the two other laptops. It comes with a rotational hard disk drive that has a mammoth capacity of 1000 GB (= 1 TB – Terabyte), which, although won’t be as fast as the one included in the Dell Inspiron model, the catch however is the capacity of the RAM. Because, even though it has a slower hard disk, since the RAM capacity is doubled, and RAM, if you recall what I said earlier is where all your mostly frequently used data is stored (temporarily), and since now the laptop can store twice as much of your frequently used data, that will fill in the gap of having a slower hard disk drive and will improve the overall performance.
The HP x360 is also a hybrid laptop. Meaning that you can flip the screen (it’s a touch screen) and convert it into a tablet!.
Other features include 3 USB ports, a memory card reader, Wi-Fi & Bluetooth adapters, a high quality web-camera (so the people in the other end will see clear and sharp images/videos of you) with an in-built microphone, a comfortable keyboard and a high quality audio processing unit made by a prestige manufacturer from Germany (this won’t guarantee quality audio outputs because it’s up to the speaker to output what the audio processing engine produces. Speaking of which, according to two users, the speakers are ‘fine’. But if you plug-in a good headphone for instance, then you should receive a quality audio output). It comes with Windows 10 pre-installed and according to one user, he’s able to get 6 hours + battery life out it, although he doesn’t say under which conditions (especially the brightness level) he was able to achieve that. I would say it should easily last more than 5 hours under most conditions.
As for the negatives, the touch-pad (mouse pad) is not the best of its kind (again, not a deal-breaker). And importantly, this laptop doesn’t include an optical disc (CD/DVD) drive. But as I mentioned earlier, optical disc drives are quite rare in thin and lightweight laptops. If this is a deal-breaker for you, then you have two choices. You can buy this laptop and then manually purchase an external optical disc drive (they’re very small & lightweight. Usually look like a small diary) so that you can plug it into the laptop through the USB port whenever you want to read or write to a disc.
But if you travel a lot and use CD/DVDs a lot, then don’t buy this laptop. Go for the Dell Inspiron model instead, after all, it’s the best all-rounder.
The HP x360 is premium laptop with a premium price tag. Why am I recommending it then? Because I found a great deal on it. The usual price for the x360 is $ 999, but Amazon is giving it (brand new) to you for $ 575!.
When buying however, make sure to click on the ‘new’ link on the product page. And on the next page, some sellers display it as ‘new’ even though they may have removed the packing and used it for once or twice. Some are nice enough to say that they have used it, but others just say ‘new’ and one cannot say for certain if it’s in the factory sealed box or not. Luckily however, there are few sellers that clearly display that it’s brand new and in the factory sealed box. If you can find such a seller, then buy it from them. Otherwise, you should contact the seller before purchasing.
So, I’m at the end of the article and I actually don’t have anything else to say.
My only hope is that you have found this article insightful and easy to understand. And if you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact me through the comments. If you think you will also be needing to buy a laptop bag (or any other carrying medium), then I have written a detailed ‘how to guide’ which you should be able to access from here.
And one more last thing, deals such as the HP x360 might not last long, so I’ll update the post with a new one when it expires (when you go to its product page if it has expired, please be kind enough to let me know). Thank you for reading, and good luck with your purchase.