Laptop Buying Guide

Welcome to our laptop buying guide and accessory recommendation guide. Please note that this is not a guide for purchasing desktop computers, as they suffer much fewer endemic hardware limitations than laptops. If you have questions about purchasing a desktop to run iMotions, please consult this page.

Can I run iMotions on a laptop?

The short answer is, yes. However, there are several things to keep in mind and ensure the desired laptops include overall specifications, ports, and the right kind of monitor. That way you can ensure that iMotions runs as smoothly as we intend it to.

In order to run iMotions and accompanying biosensors smoothly, purchasing the right equipment is essential. In this computer buying guide, we will go through a number of things to take into consideration when purchasing laptops, monitors, and hardware accessories.

Buying the right laptop for iMotions

Running iMotions requires a fair amount of computing power, and it is important to be aware of how much power a projected sensor hardware setup needs. 

That is especially true when looking to purchase a laptop as a dedicated iMotions research laptop. That is why we generally recommend desktops computers for several reasons unless there is a specific need for portability:

  1. You will pay extra for a laptop with the same specs as a desktop.
  2. Laptops do not cool as effectively and that can limit performance
  3. Desktops can be upgraded as they age prolonging their useful lifespans
  4. Desktops generally have more ports for sensors and peripherals.

Recommended Specifications and Laptop Buying Guide

CPU: Intel i7 10000 or better or AMD Ryzen 7 5000 or better

RAM: 16-32Gb is recommended

Storage: 1Tb SSD in total

Graphics: NVIDIA 1660 or better. We strongly recommend steering clear of any kind of integrated graphics, UHD, IRIS, or APUs. Always go for dedicated graphics cards.

Keywords: When shopping for a usable laptop, look for terms such as; workstation, gaming, or video editing. Devices in those categories will most often be the most powerful laptops available. On the other hand, terms such as “Thin and light”, 2 in 1, “Good all-around computer” and similar phrasing should be avoided.

Price Range: Prices can vary hugely depending on several factors, but a good rule of thumb is that a good viable laptop can be purchased for $1000 – $3000 (€1000 – €3000 as of Oct. 2022)

To put these recommendations into context, the image below provides 2 specific laptop recommendations.

Computer buying guide for laptops - for average and high-performance laptops.
Computer buying guide for laptops – for average and high-performance laptops.

USB/Port recommendations

USB Ports: Depending on the sensor setup you want to use, a certain number of USB ports will be needed to connect the devices as well as any peripherals you want to include. Many research designs use external monitors and input devices for subjects to respond on and these will require USB as well.

USB Speed and Power: In addition to the number of ports the speed of the port is also important. Some devices such as eye trackers have minimal requirements for USB speed and power.  

Not all USB ports are equal even if the physical connector is the same computer can have multiple different USB types(USB 2.0,3.1…) Make sure your laptop has the minimum number of correct USB types you need for your setup.

Note on USB Hubs: Beware of USB hubs.

If your laptop has only a few USB ports one way to expand is to get a hub but there are a few pitfalls with this.

USB is a shared resource, even if there are different physical ports on the computer. It is likely they all share the same data lane inside the computer. As you share devices with hubs you may cause congestion in that data lane causing errors in your data. Recent laptop models have been reducing the number of ports, so If you have to use a hub here are some recommendations:

  1. Connect sensors like eye trackers separately on their own USB port and only use the hub for peripherals like keyboard and mouse (especially if they are on different USB types).
  2. Use active powered hubs with their own power adapter rather than ones powered via the port they plug into(Also applies to USB extension cables).
  3. Do not overload the hub.   
  4. USB monitors should get their own ports.
  5. Cheap is not better.

Wireless and Bluetooth recommendations

Almost every modern laptop will have Wifi and Bluetooth built internally.  But if you are using multiple devices that require high bandwidth such as Shimmers, or EEG you may consider investing in a computer with better hardware or adding a high-quality external USB device.

Built-in and external monitor recommendations

Eye tracker clearance: If you are using a screen-based eye tracker you will need to attach it to the bottom of the test monitor. Depending on which eye tracker you need to have somewhere to mount the tracker. Some newer laptops have a very thin bezel that won’t accommodate certain eye trackers.  Be sure to select one that has space on the bottom for the eye tracker.

Size and Resolution: If you are using a screen-based eye tracker, monitors between 15-24 inches work best. This varies from eye tracker to eye tracker so be sure to check your eye tracker for specific details.

Curved Monitors: As a rule, we do not recommend them.

Monitor Setup: We recommend that all monitors in a specific research setup are identical, or as a minimum has identical resolution aspect ratios (height to width). That way you ensure that things look consistent between the researcher and the subject.

Also, be sure to run both screens at the same resolution – usually 1080p.

We hope this computer buying guide was helpful. If you have a question we did not answer satisfactorily, please reach out to our solutions experts here:

NB: Please note that iMotions is not a computer reseller and, aside from purchasing requirements in specific grants, laptops and desktops must be purchased by the customer/user.    

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