If you’re headed to college, a laptop is probably one of the items at the top of your shopping list. Because the market is densely populated with viable options to choose from, picking up a good electronic companion for school can be a challenge.
Lucky for you, however, we have compiled a few useful tips to help you acquire the laptop that will perfectly suit your needs and your budget.
Buying a laptop for casual or productivity purposes might not warrant too much design consideration, but if you envision to use it in a learning environment, it is important to put how the device looks and feels into consideration.
For starters, it makes sense to go for a light and compact laptop. Your daily life in college will mostly involve ferrying around books and supplies from one end of campus to the other, which means you wouldn’t want a computer that adds too much bulk to an already heavy load.
The laptop you buy should, therefore, be slim enough for you to slip it into your crowded backpack easily, and light enough to carry around all day with little fatigue. We recommend one with an 11 to 14-inch screen size and less than 4-pound weight.
For even more portability, the market is ripe with good college laptops that are tablet hybrids which are small and compact, but more than adequately equipped for college.
Further still, you will want a device that is durable enough to persevere through the inevitable knocks and drops of a student’s daily life. Some manufacturers go the extra mile to equip their products with durability measures like spill-resistant keyboards, military-grade casing, etc. Your laptop of choice should tick at least some of these boxes.
Anyone would want to have a laptop with the best hardware in the world, but for a student, these are, more likely than not, unaffordable luxuries.
An ideal college laptop should, therefore, strike a near-perfect balance between power and price. You can get away with a dual-core Intel Celeron or Pentium processor, and 2GB of RAM if all you will be doing is writing papers, watching movies and surfing the web. However, a spec-sheet like that is never enough for even light multitasking.
If your budget can allow it, therefore, strive for at least a 5th Generation Intel Core i3 CPU and 4GB RAM. The more recent Core M processors are also a good fit, as they offer decent performance and power efficiency in slim and light designs.
Moreover, a good college laptop should have enough storage space for all your studying material and course work. Solid-state drives are faster and quieter than regular mechanical drives, but even the small-capacity ones will leave your wallet a little light.
If you can sufficiently invest in online storage, a 128GB SSD will suit you just fine. But for more storage at a reasonable cost, just get a laptop with at least a 500GB mechanical drive.
Having a well-sized, durable laptop with impressive specs is nothing without the right software. In fact, do not be surprised if your campus IT department lays down more emphasis on software than hardware requirements.
To start with, decide which operating system you want, based on the recommendation from your school, (if any) and your personal preference.
Additionally, account for the programs you will be using. For example; some CAD or engineering software will require Windows, while most design apps are better on OS X. Furthermore, if you are a gamer, you may very much prefer a Windows-based laptop for a wider selection of titles.
Once you have figured out the OS, move on to the laptop’s pre-installed applications. Microsoft Office, for instance, is a priority, and a third-party web browser like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox will be a warmly-welcomed bonus.
You wouldn’t want your first browsing experience with your new laptop to be with Internet Explorer now, would you?
Last but not least is a security package. The laptop you choose will probably come with an AntiVirus program, but if not, it is good to ask the seller to get one installed before you buy the device. Some of the best options – such as Avast Free Antivirus and Microsoft Security Essentials – are free. A friendly retailer will be more than willing to install them for you.
4. Battery Life
Regardless of your class schedule, some longer-than-normal days await you, where you will be on campus from first to last light using your laptop non-stop.
To avoid the frantic search for a power outlet when the low battery notification rudely interrupts your studies, insist on a laptop that can comfortably last at least 10 hours of normal use on a single charge.
Models with recent generations of Intel Processors cost a little more but are very insistent on power efficiency. You can identify these processors by their part numbers, i.e. 5000-series for 5th generation and 6000-series for 6th generation CPUs. The Core i5-6200U, for example, is a 6th generation processor.
The above are the main things to take into account, but when you have filtered out the bad and are still left with more than one great college laptop to choose from, it eventually bottles down to the little things.
For example, figure out which among your choices has the most comfortable keyboard by researching online, or if you are in a physical store–, testing them out yourself.
It is also advisable to consider the peripherals you will need, and whether your preferred laptop has the compatibility and connectivity abilities to support them. These peripherals may include external keyboards and mice, displays, speakers, gaming controllers, etc.
Those are the basic tips to get you up and running, but if you have specific preferences, your list of demands might be longer. In any case, however, try to land a laptop that offers the best in both power and portability, at the most reasonable price.
And even if you have the money, don’t just go blowing it all on high-end processors and expensive graphics cards that you will really never get to fully utilize in college. Instead, identify the critical areas – such as more RAM, a stylish design and long battery life – and max out on them.