Our 2021 Laptop Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best for You
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Our 2021 Laptop Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best for You

From Chromebooks to Windows PCs to MacBooks, buying a laptop is still a confusing mess.

By Joanna Stern
Tue, Aug 10, 2021 11:52amGrey Clock 5 min

So there you are, in the Best Buy laptop section, staring down the biggest decision of your life: Which one should I make mine?

Do you head for the low-cost Chromebooks? Pull out Google Translate to decipher the placards next to the Windows machines? Or go to the “Honey, I Shrunk the Apple Store” area to check out the MacBooks?

No pressure, but one wrong move and BAM! You’re typing away on a mistake for the next three to five years.

Don’t worry, we’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen. Plus, I’ve got good news: It’s a great time to buy a laptop! The surge in sales and increased usage fueled by our everything-from-home lives got laptop makers finally improving what has been a fairly stagnant selection.

Look at the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 introduced in April. It has a beautiful OLED display and a quiet keyboard, so you don’t disrupt your dog’s nap. It also has a very timely video-calling upgrade: “We responded in real-time with changes to the product,” said Hassan Anjum, Samsung Electronics America’s head of product for computing, explaining that engineers worked to improve the laptop’s microphones, camera and speakers.

But there are at least four different configurations of it—and then there are, you know, hundreds of other laptops that might tempt you.

That’s where my fresh list of laptop buying rules comes in. They are devised to help you get to the right laptop, buy it right and then use it right, whether it’s for a return to the classroom or the conference room. You can do this.

Make sure you really need a new laptop.

Too many perfectly good laptops end up in the landfill. So before you start the buying process, have you tried to fix up your current laptop? Is this something a tuneup, part replacement or software update could fix? If not, just make sure you properly wipe your data and recycle the machine. Here’s a search tool to find a recycling location.

Pick your operating system.

Chances are you probably know which OS you want based on past experience, your other gadgets or what your school or company requires. Here’s an overview of your three main choices:

Microsoft Windows: Still the most widely used laptop OS, it’s your best bet if you need Microsoft apps like Word, Excel, Outlook, etc., plus other job-specific types of software. It also syncs well with Android phones.

All systems now on shelves come with Windows 10, but Windows 11 is due out before the end of the year as a free update. Before you buy, make sure the laptop is eligible for a Windows 11 upgrade by checking the manufacturer’s website. Windows laptops generally range from $400 to $4000.

Google Chrome OS: Hugely popular with students, a Chrome laptop (aka a Chromebook) is a good choice if you primarily need the web. They can run Android apps, too. These systems tend to be the most affordable of the bunch, usually under $880

Apple MacOS: If you’re already in Apple’s walled garden—and own an iPhone and/or iPad—Apple’s $1499-and-up MacBook Air and Pro are worth considering for their integration with iMessage, Safari, AirPods and more. All MacBooks currently ship with MacOS Big Sur, but the next version, Monterey, will be a free upgrade this fall to all currently on-sale systems.

Pick your hardware.

Ultrabooks, 2-in-1s (aka tablet laptops), gaming laptops, business laptops—there are more arbitrary laptop categories than seasonal Starbucks coffee flavours.

Instead, when considering a laptop, remember my three Ps: power, portability and price. More power and more portability typically means higher price. (If you have a lot of peripherals or work with digital media, you should also consider a fourth P: ports.) I have long evaluated laptops with these in mind. And while I haven’t tested every laptop in existence—one day, one day!—here are a few that I quite enjoy:

Windows: Check out Microsoft’s own Surface Laptop 4. Starting at $1599, it’s thin and light, and has a comfortable keyboard and responsive trackpad. I also like Samsung’s $1300-and-up Galaxy Book Pro 360. Unlike the Surface Laptop, its screen flips 360 degrees and comes with an S Pen, so you can use it as a full-on tablet. Both of these laptops come with 13- and 15-inch screen options. I’ve long preferred 13-inch laptops for their portability, but others prefer more screen real estate.

Chromebook: I’ve been a fan of Google’s own 13.3-inch Pixelbook Go. The keyboard is quieter than anything else I’ve tried. It has a 1080p webcam and a touch screen, and it’s very compact. At approx. $850 it’s on the pricey end; if you want to spend less, check out these recommendations.

MacBook: The new MacBook Pro with the M1 chip has been my main computer for the past few months, and I’m still blown away by how quiet and cool it runs, even with dozens and dozens of browser tabs open. If you’re in the market for a Pro, maybe hold off, since there are reports of a redesigned version due this fall. But even the M1-powered MacBook Air, which starts at $1400, has great battery life and everyday performance—and no fan.

Pick your specs.

Oh, you thought I was done? LOL. If you’re buying directly from a manufacturer’s website, you’ll likely have a choice of the following:

Processor: On the Windows side, you’re going to see Intel and AMD options. The Surface Laptop 4, for instance, offers both. (I’ve long gone with Intel for its longer battery life but here’s more info if you’re debating the two.) The Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 has Intel’s brand new 11th-generation processors, which promise better performance and battery life, and faster wake times. How can you tell? It says Intel Core i7-1165G7 on its website. The first numbers—11—refer to the generation. (For more deciphering, check out Intel’s explainer.)

Chromebooks are available with a selection of processors, too. For better performance, go with an Intel Core chip. With MacBooks, avoid getting one with an Intel processor. Apple has said it would move to fully using its own chips in the next year or two.

RAM: For everyday tasks, 8 gigabytes of RAM should be plenty for a Windows PC or MacBook. But if you run lots of applications and you’re a website tab hoarder, it won’t hurt to go up to 16GB—or even higher where possible.

Storage: On lower-end systems such as Chromebooks, storage often starts at 32GB. If you’re planning to download photos, videos and documents, 64GB or 128GB will be safer. On higher-end Windows or Mac models, 256GB is standard. If you need more storage, before ponying up hundreds for an upgraded laptop, consider a cheaper and portable SanDisk or Samsung external solid state drive (aka SSD).

Embrace accessories; resist warranties.

Typically I’d recommend buying directly through the laptop maker’s website, but there are too many good deals through retailers such as Best Buy and Newegg right now. Shop around for the best deal, but make sure you’re matching up specs to ensure all is equal. Also, beware: The global chip shortage is already causing prices from some manufacturers to rise.

Many sellers will push an extended warranty, often around $250. It will cover things like accidental damage, etc. My colleagues and I have never found these to be worthwhile, but only you can be the judge of how likely you are to spill coffee all over your new keyboard.

One thing you should buy? A USB-C dongle. Most new laptops have USB-C ports (bye-bye, big old USB port!). That means you’ll need an adapter for plugging in any older cords or peripherals. Apple will try to sell you a $19 one at checkout. Don’t do it. This one from Anker costs the same but has three USB ports. (Update: The recommended adapter sold out after the column was published; we also recommend this $30 5-in-1 hub from Anker, which is in stock.)

If you follow all of these rules and still come up with a bad laptop, don’t blame me. Blame the insane number of choices.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: Updated Aug 08, 2021



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Booming demand for wellness tourism shows no slowing, with travel related to health and well-being projected to have reached $1 trillion last year and to hit $1.3 trillion by 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit based in Miami.

Curated wellness travel programs are especially sought-after, specifically holistic treatments focused on longevity. Affluent travellers not only are making time to hit the gym while gallivanting across the globe, they’re also seeking destinations that specifically cater to their wellness goals, including treatments aimed at living longer.

“I believe Covid did put a spotlight on self-care and well-being,” says Penny Kriel, corporate director of spa and wellness at Salamander Collection, a group of luxury properties in places like Washington, D.C., and Charleston, South Carolina. But Kriel says today’s spas are more holistic, encouraging folks to understand the wellness concept and incorporate it into their lifestyle more frequently.

“With the evolution of treatment products and technology, spas have been able to enhance their offerings and appeal to more travellers,” Kriel says.

While some growth is connected to the variety of treatments available, results and the digital world are also contributing to the wellness boom.

“The efficacy and benefits of these treatments continue to drive bookings and interest, especially with the support of social media, influencers, and celebrity endorsements,” Kriel says.

While genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, a diet free of processed foods, sufficient sleep, and human connection play essential roles in living well and longer, experts believe in holistic therapies to help manage stress, boost immunity, and ultimately influence length and quality of life.

Anti Ageing and Beyond

“For years, people have been coming to spas, booking treatments, and gaining advice on how to turn the clock back with anti ageing and corrective skin treatments,” Kriel says. However, today’s treatments are far more innovative.

On Marinella Beach in Porto Rotondo, on the Italian island of Sardinia, guests at the five-star Abi d’Oru Hotel & Spa can experience the resort’s one-of-a-kind “longevity treatment,” a unique antiaging facial using one of the island’s native grapes: Cannonau. The world’s first declared “Blue Zone”—one of five designated areas where people live longer than average, some into their 100s—Sardinia produces this robust red wine varietal, the most widely planted on the island.

Known as Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in France, Cannonau supposedly contains two to three times more antioxidants than other red-wine grapes. By incorporating Cannonau, Abi Spa says its unique 50-minute longevity session increases collagen production for firmer, younger-looking skin.

Maintaining a youthful appearance is just one facet of longevity treatments, which range from stress-reduction sessions like massage to nutritional support and sleep programs, Kriel says. Some retreats also offer medical services such as IV infusions and joint injections.

Keeping with the trend, Kriel is expanding Salamander Collection’s existing spa services, such as detox wraps and lymphatic drainage, to include dedicated “Wellness Rooms,” new vegan and vegetarian menu items, and well-being workshops. “Sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness will be a big focus for integration in 2024,” she says.

Data-Driven Wellness

Skyler Stillings, an exercise physiologist at Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort—an adults-only wellness centre in Lanai, Hawaii—says guests were drawn to the social aspect when the spa opened in November 2021.

“We saw a huge need for human connection,” she recalls. But over the past few years, what’s paramount has shifted. “Longevity is trending much more right now.”

Human connection is a central draw for guests at Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Billionaire co-founder of tech company Oracle Larry Ellison and physician and scientist Dr. David Angus co-founded Sensei. After the death of a mutual close friend, the duo teamed up to create longevity-based wellness retreats to nurture preventative care and a healthy lifestyle. In addition to the Lanai location, the brand established Sensei Porcupine Creek in Greater Palm Springs, California, in November 2022.

Sensei has a data-driven approach. The team performs a series of assessments to obtain a clearer picture of a guest’s health, making wellness recommendations based on the findings. While Sensei analyses that data to curate a personalised plan, Stillings says it’s up to the guests which path they choose.

Sensei’s core three-day retreat is a “Guided Wellness Experience.” For spa treatments, each guest checks into their own “Spa Hale,” a private 1,000-square-foot bungalow furnished with an infrared sauna, a steam shower, a soaking tub, and plunge pools. The latest therapies include Sarga Bodywalking—a barefoot myofascial release massage, and “Four Hands in Harmony,” a massage with two therapists working in tandem. Sensei Guides provide take-home plans so guests can continue their wellness journeys after the spa.

Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Sanctuaries for Longevity

Headquartered in Switzerland with hotels and on-site spas across the globe, Aman Resorts features an integrative approach, combining traditional remedies with modern medicine’s advanced technologies. Tucked behind the doors of the storied Crown Building in Midtown Manhattan, Banya Spa House at Aman New York—the brand’s flagship spa in the Western Hemisphere—is a 25,000-square-foot, three-floor urban oasis.

Yuki Kiyono, global head of health and wellness development at Aman, says the centre provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Aman’s customisable “Immersion Programs” consist of a three- or five-day immersion. “The programs encompass treatments and experiences that touch every significant aspect to create a path for longevity, from meditation and mindfulness to nutrition and movement,” Kiyono explains.

Banya Spa House at Aman New York.
Robert Rieger

The spa’s “Tei-An Wellness Solution” features 90- to 150-minute sessions using massage, cryotherapy, and Vitamin IV infusions. Acupuncture is also on offer.

“With its rich history of Chinese Medicine, modern research, and the introduction of sophisticated electro-acupuncture medicine, acupuncture has been proven to assist with problems and increase performance,” Kiyono says.

Resetting the Mind and Body

Beyond longevity, “healthspan”—the number of years a person can live in good health free of chronic disease—is the cornerstone of Mountain Trek Health Reset Retreat’s program in British Columbia, Canada.

Kirk Shave, president and program director, and his team employ a holistic approach, using lifestyles in long-living Blue Zones as a point of reference.

“We improve our daily lifestyle habits, so we live vitally as long as we’re meant to live,” Shave says of the retreat. He built the program from an anthropological stance, referencing humans as farmers, hunters, and gatherers based on their eating and sleeping patterns. Food includes vegetable-centric meals sans alcohol, sugar, bread, or dairy.

Guests wake at dawn each day and have access to sunrise yoga, several hours of “flow” or slow hiking, spa treatments, forest bathing, calming crystal singing-bowl and sound therapy sessions, and classes on stress reduction—one of Mountain Trek’s primary goals. The program motivates people to spend much of their time in nature because it’s been proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to inflammation and disease when elevated for extended periods.

While most guests aren’t aware of how immersive Mountain Trek’s program is when they arrive, they leave the resort revitalized after the structured, one-week program. Set in the Kootenays overlooking its eponymous river, the resort and adventure promise what Shave calls a “visceral experience of transformation.”

“They’re interested in coming to be in nature,” Shave says of the guests. “They hit a wall in their life and slipped backwards, so they know they need a reset.”

Banya Spa House at Aman New York provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being.
Robert Rieger

This article first appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Mansion Global Experience Luxury.

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