Back To School – Choosing the Right Laptop
If you’re heading to college for the first time, the most important thing you will need is a laptop. You’ll use your laptops for more than just class work: for streaming movies, shows or music, staying in touch with friends and family, gaming, storing photos and much more. You’ll want to find one that’s right for you and your needs, as well as last through your college life.
Before you begin your search for the perfect laptop, the first thing you should do is check with your school or major for specific system requirements. Some colleges and universities want their students equipped with a Windows-based laptop to cut down on software incompatibility issues. Others will let you use almost any operating system, but to be on the safe side you should always check first.
Once you have checked with your school here are some tips on what to keep in mind when shopping for your laptop:
What Screen Size Should I get?
Keep it light. A big screen may seem awesome, but hauling it back and forth to and from class can
be a real pain in the booty. The most portable screen size for laptops are 11-14 inches and those models usually don’t weigh more than 5 pounds, making them much easier to transport. However, keep in mind the viewing and typing experience on smaller screens will be different to what you might be used to. The best way to find out which screen size you will be more comfortable viewing and typing on is to stop into a store and try out a few choices.
How Much Storage Do I Need?
Depending on what classes you will be taking will depend on how much storage you will want or need. 4GB is ample for the average college student, but if you can find a notebook for the same price with 6 or 8GB of RAM, get it. The more RAM you have, the more your computer will be able to handle all at once (running multiple programs, rendering games, etc.). If not most laptops have ample USB ports, so you can expand storage capacity as you need it. Upgrading to a 500GB or 1TB hard drive won't cost a lot either if you wanted to go that route, but if you're not a video junkie or an aspiring filmmaker you shouldn’t need that much storage.
What are the Benefits of Chromebooks?
The key advantage of having a Chromebook is that nothing is saved locally. Instead, all your apps, preferences, documents, and data are saved on Google’s servers in the cloud. This means if you lose your machine, have it stolen, or spill a cup of coffee over it, there is absolutely no risk of your information being lost. The Chromebook also offers superior security. Say you visit a suspicious website by clicking on a bad link, open a spammy email attachment accidentally, or download a program that has a fishy origin… a Chromebook has you covered. Due to the device’s stateless operating system which has built-in multi-layered protection, viruses will be one less thing to worry about. One of the best benefits is the price: the HP 14" Chromebook NVidia Tegra is rated one of the best notebooks for college students and is just under $300!
What about Hybrids?
There are plenty of reasons to scoop up a 2-in-1 hybrid, starting with the fact that you’ll have one device that can double as a laptop and tablet. When you need to get work done, you can use a keyboard and run desktop programs. When you want to kick back on the couch and check Facebook or watch videos you can go with the touchpad instead! It’s a great option for college students and hybrids come in either a detachable design or a convertible approach in which the notebook's hinge rotates 360 degrees for a similar effect. Thinking about a hybrid? Check out the list CNET put together of the best touch screen and hybrid laptops of 2015.
How Much Power Do I Need?
Laptops offer a wide selection of processors, but it's rarely worth paying extra for a faster CPU. Most laptops sold these days are more than fast enough for the average college student's tasks. Web browsing, spreadsheets, simple programming, web development, word processing, and the all-important social media browsing don't require a supreme processor. A powerful processor will just drain your battery faster anyway.Anything labeled Intel Core i3 or i5 should meet the average student's needs.
What about Battery Life?
With a day filled with classes and extracurricular activities, battery life is important. Many laptops today have multiple battery options. Figure out where battery life ranks in your list of importance when purchasing a laptop for school. You may decide purchasing an additional battery is a good idea, if an extended one isn't available. Unfortunately, a big battery adds more weight, but the extra weight might be well worth it if it means not having to plug in the entire day. If you want to squeeze the most juice of your laptop’s battery try following these 9 tips for longer laptop battery life.
Looking for some more helpful tips as you head back to school this year, check out our Get U Ready page for tips to help you survive the school year including, study tips & tricks, college organization, college life hacks and more!