Last Updated on June 21, 2023 by Markeyus Franks
College is one of those places where you go for knowledge but get a lot more than that. Colleges are a place where you meet new people and expand the horizons of your brain. A laptop is one of the most important tools for college. Laptops can make your life easier by connecting with family, taking notes, staying organized, and researching. With the vast information reserves online, researching for papers and understanding your courses becomes exceptionally easier.
It can be a great help in completing assignments too. If there is a problem you are stuck with, you can find solutions online instantly. So, if you are planning to go to college or are already there, you should consider getting an efficient laptop. But saying this is easier than finding the right laptop to buy. The market is loaded with countless brands and models, and choosing the right laptop can be a hassle if you don’t know your computers. Keep reading on to learn all you need to make the right choice in getting a laptop.
How To Choose a Laptop for College
There are countless factors to consider in a laptop, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the right laptop. Everyone has their own needs, and the right laptop for you is based on your requirements. You can break down your ideal laptop into three main factors; specifications, portability, and your budget.
1. What Specification Should I Look for When Buying a New Laptop
How your laptop will perform and what tasks it will excel at are all based on your laptop’s specifications. While the basic usage for college would be majorly the same for all programs, research, and study aid, you are not just restrained to educational use. Laptops can be used for gaming, animations, and graphic rendering, amongst other tasks. If you plan on using graphics-heavy applications, you would need high-end specifications. If you mainly plan to browse the internet and watch entertaining content, you will be fine with an average-spec computer. You need to understand your usage and choose the right specifications accordingly.
2. Which Laptop Size is Best for Students
This also depends greatly on your preference. A lighter, more portable device will be better if you plan to carry your laptop all day on campus. But you will have to compromise on performance and screen size. If you mainly plan to keep it at home or work desk, you can buy a bigger laptop with high-end specifications and a larger screen. Smaller laptops are usually more budget-friendly compared to high-end workstations or gaming machines. Looking at it only through the perspective of a student, your main goal is academia, and you should always have access to information. A portable laptop makes more sense academically, as you can easily carry it.
3. How Much Should a College Student Spend on A Laptop
While the budget everyone has for a laptop varies, a good laptop for a college student should be in the bracket of $500 to $1000. Most laptops in this range have powerful specifications that can handle a little bit of everything from programming to video rendering and would not empty your wallet if you have an average budget. But if your budget is even tighter, a laptop below $500 can fulfill your basic needs. You may have to compromise on specifications or features, but you will get by just fine.
Your major also has a role in defining the budget for your laptop. If you are a computer science or engineering major, you would need a strong processor, pushing up your budget for a laptop. Based on the discussion above, a laptop around the $500 mark should be good enough for an average college student.
Laptop Specification List to Use for College
Above, we have covered the first step to choosing the right laptop for your college tenure. But knowing your needs is useless if you do not know what specifications correspond to your usage. Below is a list of the main components of a laptop and how they contribute to the overall performance.
The processor is the brain of your whole computer. Everything and anything you do on your computer has to be processed before it is accessible to you. Processors have undergone exponential development in the past few years. Each year a new generation of processors is released, and the main competitors in the processor market are Apple, Intel, and AMD. Most laptops in the market have Intel Core processors. By a rule of thumb, the newer the processor generation, the better it performs. But there is a lot more you can know about processors; it’s best to research before finalizing your purchase. A powerful processor is necessary for power-hungry tasks like programming and gaming.
The abbreviation GPU stands for graphics powering unit. GPUs play an important role in video rendering, 3D modeling, and other tasks that place a load on graphics. Most processors come paired with an integrated GPU, especially in mid-tier laptops. An integrated GPU usually has little dedicated graphics memory, and a chunk of graphics memory is borrowed from the computer’s RAM. High-end laptops come with a dedicated GPU. Dedicated GPUs are much more powerful than integrated graphics, making them the go-to for gaming or graphic work. If graphic power is essential to your laptop needs, research thoroughly and ensure you get a powerful GPU device.
Hard Drive Capacity
The hard drive (aka. ROM) is the main storage unit of your laptop. Your hard drive stores all your data, such as pictures, videos, and documents. Naturally, having more storage is the most desirable option. There are normally two types of hard drive options. The first and most common is an HDD. The HDD is the cheapest computer storage technology, usually large in capacity. But it is very slow, especially compared to a solid-state drive (SSD), another faster hard drive technology.
The SSD offers superior boot-up times but costs considerably more than the HDD. While ideally, having a large capacity SSD would be an excellent option, keeping feasibility in mind, most people consider a hybrid option. HDD and an SSD are combined to give superior boot-up and processing speeds while allowing you more than enough storage space. A 128-256Gb SSD paired with a 500Gb HDD is an optimal storage setup for a laptop for college use.
The RAM is another type of storage in your computer, but unlike the hard drive, this is a temporary storage. The RAM comes in use when you run an application from your hard drive to be processed. It acts as a super-fast intermediary between the hard disk and the processor. The files are temporarily shifted from the hard drive to the RAM to be processed. It is impossible for a computer to function without RAM, and having less RAM would result in sluggish performance or lagging applications. If the RAM in your PC is critically low, it can also lead to unexpected applications and Windows crashes.
Ram technologies have also developed greatly, and based on the needs of a college student, a laptop with DDR4 technology with 8-16 Gigabytes of Ram should be ideal.
Like all other features listed above, you get numerous display options in laptops with varying costs and performance. Your laptop’s display will dictate its overall size, ultimately determining how portable the device is and how rich the visual quality is. Laptops come with LCD and LED technologies, offering up to 4k displays in High-end laptops. You need a vibrant display if your major is graphic design or architecture. Otherwise, you can make do with the bare minimum with ease.
Devices with higher resolutions are usually larger and are costlier too. The device’s display does not directly affect the computing power, but displays with higher refresh rates can make the overall experience much smoother. If the top-notch display is not a priority, a 1080p HD resolution is affordable and efficient for an average college student.
When buying a laptop, ports are often neglected, and it soon becomes a hurdle later on. If you go for a portable and sleek device, there is a chance that you will compromise on the number of USB ports available and the availability of several other ports completely. For architecture majors, the HDMI port can be a blessing when presenting their designs to their instructors and clients. Thinner laptops sometimes completely eradicate USB-A ports, replacing them with USB-C ports. USB-C powered devices are difficult to find and more expensive too. Thoroughly consider the setup of your work desk, and decide all the ports you would need before buying your laptop.
Best Laptops for College Students
While the guide above contains most of the information you need to choose the right laptop for your college, it is still far from easy. While the specifications of a device will give you a realistic estimate of its performance of the device, you cannot gauge the build quality of a laptop until you use it or go through countless reviews online. Choosing the right laptop may still seem like a behemoth of a task, so we took the liberty to list three laptops that are tried and tested, both in terms of specs and quality;
- Apple MacBook Air M1
The MacBook Air M1 made its name in the market with the outstanding video rendering ability of the Apple M1 chip. This lightweight and powerful machine dwarfs its competitors in handling graphical tasks, and the retina display gives you the best experience. With its long battery and premium build quality, this laptop can handle basic and demanding tasks effectively.
- HP Pavilion Plus 14
The HP Pavilion Plus 14 is a versatile machine for work and entertainment, making it the perfect laptop for college use. The bright and colorful display backed with a phenomenal AMD Ryzen 7 processor gives you the best user experience from a laptop in this price range. The Ryzen 7 does not compromise the number of ports, so you don’t have to worry about your auxiliary devices.
- Microsoft Surface Pro 9
The Surface Pro 9 is the perfect balance between portability and high-end performance. It is a 2-in-1 device that doubles as a tablet and a laptop. The long battery life lets you make the most of the powerful Intel Core i5 powerhouse and the PixelSense display. The device comes with an ergonomic and comfortable detachable keyboard.