A Complete Guide to Buying Laptops for College Students
The fourth quarter of 2020 alone saw 91.6 million laptop computers shipped to consumers. While there’s no shortage of laptops for students, finding the right one is important.
Choosing the wrong computer can leave you with one that underperforms or breaks down quickly. This can be a waste of your time and money. It may even cost you quality in your schoolwork.
In this article, we discuss how to find the best laptops for college students as well as how to find affordable laptops for students. Continue reading to find the best deal that also meets your needs.
Why Are Laptops Important for Students?
There’s an age-old debate over which type of personal computer is better: a desktop or a laptop. When it comes to being a student, a laptop offers several benefits over a desktop.
For this reason, laptops have been outselling desktop computers for over a decade. These benefits are enjoyed by most consumers, but especially students.
One of the benefits of laptops for students is the ability to meet a school’s requirements. Some colleges and universities require their students have access to a laptop computer.
This is because schools understand how laptop computers benefit the learning process. Even if schools don’t list laptops for students as a hard requirement, students are at a disadvantage without them.
Better Note Taking
You don’t need the best laptops for college students when it comes to the benefit of better note-taking. Handwriting notes is time-consuming, tiring for your hand, and sometimes difficult to read.
Typing notes is not only easier and faster, but it also offers more flexibility as far as formatting goes. It’s also an easy way to collaborate and share notes with other students without the fear of them getting lost or damaged.
Freedom of Mobility
Even cheap laptops for students offer the benefit of mobility. If you live with noisy roommates or family members, working at home can be difficult and distracting. Many students prefer a quiet space to work, such as a library or study room.
A laptop offers the freedom to find the perfect study spot, whether that be indoors or outdoors (weather permitting). It’s also better for group work if you want to head to a study group and bring your notes with you.
Accessibility to Information
Supplementing classroom education with websites, videos, and other digital content creates more engagement for students. With the mobility offered by laptops comes better access to online information while in the classroom.
This is why popular student hangouts such as coffee shops and cafes offer free WiFi. They know students want and need to stay connected while completing their work.
Laptops for Students: What to Consider
Finding the best laptops for college students starts by taking the time to consider what you need from a laptop. While all students have a few overlapping needs, each student is different in terms of how they’ll use their computer.
This is especially true for college students. Their computer needs depend on their major and the courses they’re enrolled in. Taking the time to consider the below factors before doing any shopping can help you know what to look for.
What’s Its Purpose
Besides the common benefits of laptops for students, what is the reason you want or need one? Even if your school requires you to have a laptop, you need to consider why they require students to have one.
If it’s just a means to take notes and study where you please, then you want to focus on finding a laptop that’s lightweight and easily portable. Some of the options with larger screens may not be the best fit for you.
The Kind of Work You Do
The kind of work you’ll be asking your laptop to perform should be factored into your final decision. Some processes require a computer to have better-performing components such as a better graphics card or CPU.
For example, students studying photography, graphic design, or computer science often need higher-quality laptops. These majors often involve using programs that require more processing power.
Preferred Operating System
The Mac vs PC debate is an intense one, but understanding both is important if you want to make an informed decision about your laptop. You should also check your curriculum. Some courses may use programs designed for one operating system.
Trying to use these programs on a different operating system might be possible but can be difficult and you may experience some technical difficulties and glitches.
What’s Your Budget?
Finding affordable laptops for students tends to be one of the most pressing concerns when it comes to making a final decision. When deciding on what you can afford, don’t forget to factor in other school necessities.
While there’s a free student version of Microsoft 360, you should consider whether you need additional programs. Investing in quality security software is one example of a necessary additional expense.
After considering your specific needs for your computer, you want to pay attention to features. The features we list below are some of the most important features for your computer since they affect its performance and how you can use it.
There are many important features you can choose from depending on how detailed you want to be about it. For most students, we recommend focusing on size, storage, and RAM. You can also see here for some of the newest technology on the market.
When we discuss computer size, we’re mainly referring to the size of the screen. This measurement is taken diagonally across the screen from one corner to the other. The standard screen size for a laptop ranges from 14 to 16 inches.
You may be thinking that you’ll be able to see better with a larger screen, and you’re right. However, you should also remember that a larger screen means a bigger computer overall.
A big computer is heavier and harder to fit into a standard-size backpack. This can affect your mobility, which is one of the most important features of a laptop.
Amount of Storage
While having enough storage is important, the amount of storage your computer has isn’t as important as it used to be. This is because we live in an era of cloud-based storage.
Music, documents, and photos are more likely to live in the cloud as opposed to your hard drive. It’s much easier to add space to the cloud than it is to a computer. Many tech professionals say the best laptops for students are the faster ones.
Amount of RAM
RAM stands for random access memory and is one of the most important features when selecting a computer. The best laptops for students can quickly store and access data in the short term.
RAM also helps your computer multitask, such as by switching between programs and browser tabs. The more RAM you have, the more tasks you can run at the same time, and the better they perform overall.
Finding Affordable Laptops for Students
It’s common for students to be concerned about costs, which is why many are searching for affordable laptops for students. While the best laptops for students come with a hefty price tag, there are ways to find discounts or cheaper models.
College Discount Programs
Being a college student comes with perks such as student discounts. Some college bookstores have discounted equipment for their students or even free laptops for students. The cost is part of the amount paid for tuition at some universities.
You may also be able to show your student ID at major computer retailers for a discount. Companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Dell, Lenovo, and Best Buy offer deals for college students.
You should check with your admissions office to learn more about discount programs through your college or university.
Another option when searching for affordable laptops for students is refurbished laptops. You can find refurbished laptops at nearly any computer retailer as well as your college’s bookstore.
These are often cheap laptops for students but often perform better than a new laptop. This is because they’re thoroughly tested and repaired by professional computer techs before they’re sold. It’s a reliable alternative if you’re working with a small budget.
Leasing Over Buying
Leasing a computer is like taking a loan out on a car. You get to make payments on the computer until you’ve paid the full amount. After you’ve completed payments, the computer is all yours.
Some businesses allow students to pay only the value of the computer if they pay it off within a certain timeframe. This helps them avoid paying interest on it. However, if you can’t pay it off, interest rates may skyrocket.
Buying From a Private Seller
Buying a laptop from a site like eBay or Craigslist may be tempting, especially if you find cheap laptops for students. These can be riskier purchases since you don’t know the computer’s full history, so buyer beware.
Find the Best Laptops for Students
Use the above guide to find the best laptops for students. Start by factoring in your personal needs and your course needs. Then, consider your budget and the features you can afford.
For more helpful guides on everything tech-related, visit our blog.