In the fall of 2019, over 19 million students were attending college in the US.
Each of these students likely needed similar things to what you would need to buy as a college student today. Beginning your college career is one of the most exciting times of your life, but it also comes with challenges. For most people, one of the top things that you might need to do before you leave for school is laptop shopping.
When you’re choosing a laptop that you plan to use for school, you have different needs (and wants) than someone that is buying a laptop for gaming, for instance. You need a laptop that is built for the modern college student and everything that comes with being in academics.
No matter if you’re studying graphic design or you’re studying pre-law, you need a laptop that you can depend on to get the job done. Keep reading to learn about some key characteristics that you need to look for as you start your search.
Table of Contents
1. Decide Between Tablet vs. Laptop
While there are a lot of students that prefer to have a traditional laptop for school, there are also plenty of students that would opt for a tablet with an attached mouse and keyboard as well. You could even get a touchscreen tablet if you want to avoid having to use the extra equipment.
Both of these are options that will work for the average student, but they are not equal.
Tablets aren’t always great for opening non-traditional files, and they don’t do a great job of running software or programs that may be required by your college. Although they offer a lot of the same functionality that a traditional laptop would have, they are still mobile operating systems.
Laptops are basically just like desktop computers except that they are portable, have different processing capabilities, and are generally smaller in power and storage.
Depending on what type of program you’re in for your college, a laptop may still be the better choice for you over a tablet.
2. Look at the Battery Power
In most schools, it might be difficult to easily charge up your battery while you’re in class or on campus. You might not have a lot of access to outlets, or if you do, other students may be using them. As a result, you need to find a laptop that has a battery life that works with your schedule.
For some laptops, 5 hours of battery life is really good, but for other laptops, that’s not very much at all. This is one of those specifications that will really vary based on the brand and model of the laptops that you’re viewing.
Remember that battery life will get a little worse and worse gradually over time, so you want to find a laptop that will offer more battery life than you really need so that you don’t need to replace it in just a year or two.
Newer laptops are going to have better battery life than older models, so if this is an important spec for you, it may be better to buy a new laptop instead of a used one.
3. Consider How Portable It Really Is
Although you may love the idea of an extra-large screen with all of the bells and whistles, it might be harder for you to transport a larger laptop. One of the best things about a laptop is that it is portable, but the larger you go, the harder it is to stuff into a bag or backpack.
Laptops typically come in screen sizes between 11 and 17 inches, and some sizes work better for certain tasks. For instance, the larger sizes are great for people that like to game because they also have more space for hardware installations and higher performing graphic processors. Smaller 11-inch laptops, alternatively, are great for people that travel a lot and need a laptop that is easy to pack away.
Think about everything you plan to use your laptop for, how it works overall, and whether or not a larger screen is really necessary for you.
4. Look at the Design
There are so many different laptop styles out there today, but in general, most of them have a sleek, slim design that many students are looking for. While you need to think about the color you want and what types of cases fit best with your preferred model, you also want to consider durability.
The design of the laptop you choose has to be durable and reliable so that you won’t easily break or bend your laptop. It can be incredibly frustrating for laptop users to find that after they hastily stuffed their laptop into their bag, one of the corners of it lifted just enough to actually damage the casing.
Try to find a laptop that has an aluminum or carbon cover. If you have the chance to touch the laptop before buying, press on the cover a little bit to see how easy it is to press in (hint: if it presses down with ease, you may want to look elsewhere).
5. Don’t Forget the Ports
This may not seem that important when you’re shopping for a laptop, but as a student, you need to be able to plug items into your laptop for maximum usability. Major ports that you’ll need include:
- USB ports
- Ethernet ports
- HDMI or VGA ports
- SD card reader
- Thunderbolt 3 ports
Although you may not even end up using all of these, you never know when you might need them in college. As a result, being prepared with a laptop that has all of these options is your best bet.
If you’re unable to find a laptop that you like with all of these port options, don’t fret! You can still have the option to connect many things to your laptop wirelessly, so you’ll still be able to do what you need to do for school.
Ask About Storage
One of the worst things that you can do as a laptop user is forget to pay attention to how much storage your laptop will actually have. You need storage to be able to keep necessary files on your laptop, including storing papers, classwork, homework, important documents, and more.
More generally, this type of storage is important for data that you might not want to look at all of the time, but you know you’ll need eventually.
Your storage data will be located on a hard disk drive or a solid-state drive Sometimes, there are hybrid options that incorporate both of these on your laptop. SSDs are usually a little bit faster with getting access to the data and loading it on your laptop.
You don’t necessarily need to get the largest storage option out there, but you should definitely aim to have at least 256GB of storage on your laptop. You can always use USB drives and other storage options as well if more is needed later on.
7. Pay Attention to Cost
This is likely the area that most college students are most concerned about because laptops can become extremely expensive when they have a lot of the features that you’re looking for.
Laptops between $100 and $300 aren’t going to be great for a college student because they don’t really have a lot of the programs you’ll need. They also have very limited storage. If this is all you can afford, however, it can get you by for a year or so and allow you more time to save up for a better laptop.
A laptop that falls in the $300 to $500 price range is slightly better, but again, you’ll get what you pay for. It may not be very fast, and it also might not last longer than just a few years, which means you may need to upgrade before you’re even done with school.
If you’re looking at a laptop that is right around $500 or $600, that’s where most college students also look. Laptops that cost more than $800 will probably last you longer than just your school years, so they are an investment in the future as well as your current studies.
For the most part, a good laptop for college is going to be between $500 and $1,000. However, that doesn’t mean that you necessarily will have to spend that much! You can get a good used laptop that isn’t that old for a reasonable price but make sure that you know all of the necessary history before you make the purchase.
Remember Our Tips for Choosing a Laptop
Any student that wants to be more prepared and less disorganized with their schoolwork will need a laptop. Whether you decide to purchase one used or new, having a laptop that you can rely on is crucial to academic success in today’s modern world.
Pay attention to the pricing, the general reviews, and the overall functionality of the laptop to find the perfect one for you. When you’re choosing a laptop, always try to look for one that fits all of your needs!
Did you find this article helpful? If so, be sure to take a look at some of our other articles next to get even more tips for a successful school year.