Getting a cheap 1080p Intel laptop is not difficult today thanks to the fierce competition between manufacturers and the steep rate at which the price drops when new technologies emerge. Understanding a few ideas helps make it easier to decide the right balance between your budget and your needs.

Netbook, Chromebook or Notebook: All of these blur the line between a tablet and a laptop. They can run any program for a laptop with fairly large keyboards and they also often come with features usually only seen on a tablet such as touch screens, long battery life and great portability. On the other hand, they also have two main weaknesses of both. Like tablets, they are usually very difficult to expand and do not come with optical or hard drives. Like laptops, they are heavier and bulkier.

HD and HDMI: Usually, for any laptop it is difficult to tell the difference between 1080p and 720p because of the small size of the screen. It is not so important that the laptop’s screen is 1080p, it is more important that there is an HDMI port and the graphics chip inside the laptop can support a larger TV. Nowadays, this is not a major concern. As long as you have the port, any laptop labeled “HD” will be fine.

Atom, Celeron and i5-i7: There are a bewildering array of chip types available today. This is one place where you get exactly what you pay for. More expensive laptops will have more advanced chips and vice-versa. When looking at different features, a good rule of thumb is to note the numbers before “GHz” and “RAM.” For computers mainly used for gaming or video, GHz above 2.50 and RAM over 4 GB are better. For a desktop replacement or for school, 2.0+ GHz and 2-4 GB of RAM are fine. For both, you want a processor with at least two cores.

Refurbished: A refurbished computer is a used computer that has been professionally cleaned and reset to factory settings. For all intents and purposes, it is in the same condition as the day it was first sold. The main advantage of this is that you can get a slight discount over buying it new. The main disadvantage is that the discount might not reflect the natural decline of electronics costs when new technology emerges.

In theory, you can get a laptop that does exactly what you need at the price you can afford. Just be aware that a “cheap” Intel 1080p laptop means different things depending on what you want to do.