How to Choose the Best Laptop for College

How to Choose the Best Laptop for College

Did you know that the average US adult will spend over 40 years of their life looking at a screen?

If you’re a college student, you might feel as though you’ve already experienced half of those! Students often rely on laptops to conduct research, send essays, and complete assignments.

With so much of your course relying on a computer, it’s vital you choose the right one. But, where do you even start and what do you need from your laptop?

Find out what you need to know in this laptop buying guide.

Consider the Size and Weight

If you’re on the hunt for a new laptop for college, one of the main things to consider is portability. You’re probably going to be taking your laptop here, there, and everywhere! From lectures to the library and back to your room, you need a laptop that’s easy to put in your bag and carry around all day.

Unless you need an ultra-powerful and specific laptop for your course, a laptop of between 11 and 13 inches is a great choice. Try and keep it under 5 pounds, too, so it’s easy to carry. Keep in mind, though, that if you need a larger screen or faster processing power, you might need to prioritize these over portability.

Great Battery Life

Being portable isn’t just about size and weight. College students need a laptop that’s going to last all day so you don’t have to plug it in everywhere. A good battery should last between 10 to 14 hours, with smaller laptops boasting batteries with longer life.

Some laptops even go up to around 17 hours of battery life! But if you choose a model that’s higher-performing, you might only see around 8 hours of battery with less efficiency.

Batteries can also quickly deteriorate. If how long your laptop lasts between charges is important to you, read reviews to find out more about performance over time.

Resolution and Display

Are you going to need a large display on your college laptop? If you’re just using it for research and writing essays, you’ll probably be fine with a regular size and resolution. But, if your course requires a laptop that has good graphics, such as film students or graphic design courses, you should focus more on resolution.

You can now find reasonably priced laptops with incredible resolution. A 1080p resolution is great for most students, just as long as the screen is large enough for your needs.

What About RAM?

RAM, or random access memory, looks at how many programs your computer can run simultaneously. A typical laptop will have around 4 GB of RAM, which allows you to search the web and type documents at the same time. But for anything that takes more power to run, like games or design software, you should look to 8 GB of RAM and upwards.

In fact, a lot of people now look at 8 GB of RAM anyway. It makes a better long-term investment and a more reliable laptop.

Look at the Processor

When you purchase a laptop, you might be tempted to focus on the color of the model or how the keys feel when you type, but you can’t forget the less interesting aspects like the processor.

The processor of a laptop dictates how well it handles any major processes and is a vital component. Most students will be fine with a basic processor, like Intel Core i3. If you’re going to be using demanding applications, look into high-functioning processors like Intel Core i7.

If you want a processor you can’t go wrong with, take a look at the Intel Evo processor, common in Lenovo laptops.

Learn More About Storage and Hard Drive

When you create digital information on your laptop, it’s kept in the hard drive. Hard drives can vary in quality as well as size, and finding one that suits your needs – and budget – is essential!

If you have the budget for it, opt for an SSD. These run faster than a regular hard drive and are super stable, helping your laptop to run smoothly and efficiently. However, regular hard drives are cheaper.

If you choose a regular hard drive as a student, around 128 GB of storage should be enough. However, if you’re going to download a lot of programs and create a lot of data, 250 GB plus will give you plenty of wriggle room.

Which Operating System Is Best?

The majority of laptops run on Mac OS or Windows. There are over 1.3 billion devices currently running on Windows 10, and in 2020 Apple shipped out a whopping 15.5 million Macbooks globally, which should give you an idea of how popular these operating systems are!

If you’re struggling between the two, they’re both good options. With great compatibility and top-notch functionality, Mac and Windows should both keep you happy. But, there are definite pros and cons.

Windows, in general, come with a smaller price tag than Macbooks. They’re also more customizable if that interests you, whereas Mac owns more technology that’s only available on their laptops.

For specialized courses that need specific programs, it might be best to ask your teachers which they think is best. As they’ll have experience with the programs, they should be able to tell you which operating systems they’re most compatible with.

You Can’t Forget the Price Tag

If you’re looking at a laptop for students, it’s impossible to ignore the price tag. Some laptops can cost half a year’s rent, so they’re probably best to avoid!

As with most things, different models can vary a lot when it comes to price. Typically, cheaper laptops will have less power behind them and lower performance. Expensive laptops will have larger hard drives, more RAM, and better graphics cards.

Of course, this isn’t always the case! Always be sure to check reviews before you buy a laptop to ensure the money you’re spending is going on a reliable model.

For a lot of students, anywhere around $300-$600 should get you a great laptop perfect for your studies.

What About a 2-in-1 Laptop?

2-in-1 laptops are the latest fad in the world of computing, and their popularity is definitely on the rise.

A 2-in-1 laptop either has a detachable keyboard or hinge that rotates so that the keyboard can be folded behind the screen. The result? A laptop that also functions as a tablet.

The versatility is fantastic for college students. You can use the laptop in its normal state when writing essays or taking notes, and then switch it when watching tutorial videos or reading digital textbooks. A lot of 2-in-1 laptops also come with touchscreen capabilities, making them perfect if you’re in digital design and need to draw on your laptop.

However, be warned that these models can offer come at a higher price if you’re looking for the same specifications. So, make sure you’ll actually get used out of the tablet model to make the money worth it.

Is Second-Hand a Good Idea?

If you’re on a tight budget but still want a decent laptop, don’t worry! There are ways you can get the high-functioning processor and large screen size you’re looking for without paying full price.

One option is to look for second-hand laptops. You can find individuals selling their old computers very cheaply online on marketplaces. Facebook Marketplace, for example, is great for helping you find second-hand laptops in your area so that you can go and give them a try before you hand over your cash.

Just be aware of handing over hundreds of pounds to someone before you’ve seen the laptop. Read up on how to spot a scam to keep your money safe.

Why Not Try a Refurbished Laptop?

For those of you concerned about buying a second-hand laptop because of faults, depleted batteries, and the many other things that go wrong with older models, try refurbishment companies. These take second-hand laptops and fix them. A refurbished laptop should be running almost as – if not just as – well as the same model brand new, but for a reduced price.

There may be a few tarnishes to the outer hardware, but these will all be listed in the description. Just be sure when buying that you do a quick search of the refurbishment company online before making a purchase to ensure there aren’t any red flags.

Keep Checking Our Laptop Buying Guide

If you’re in the market for a college computer, keep checking our laptop buying guide as you browse to refresh yourself on these top tips. It’s vital you remember what you need as a student to make sure you don’t overspend or buy a laptop that won’t be useful at all!

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