Choosing a decent laptop for college is like defusing a bomb – well, not really, but the importance of the outcome is just as high.

There is no such definition as a ‘college laptop’, because students constantly push the requirements of an affordable laptop to the limits.

It’s fair to say that a laptop that was considered to be a great option for students just a decade ago, won’t be able to put up with all the Skyping, MOOCing, Photoshopping and YouTubing, which are all common tasks for today’s students.

The best – and the only – way to find a laptop that would fully satisfy your education needs is to choose the right laptop for your specific needs.

There are a number of things to consider when shopping for a laptop for college. Forget the myth that any laptop – even the cheapest one – is a good option for a college laptop.

Not at all. Being a student almost always means being on a short budget. But being a student also means performing pretty advanced tasks on your laptop.

For example, no cheap laptop is able to multitask without freezing and lagging for a few minutes. And boy oh boy, sometimes you – as a student – just need to open like dozens of tabs in your browser. You surely don’t want to open all those tabs and just sit there for 5 minutes waiting for your laptop to unfreeze.

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To get you started, here are a few tips that will give you a quick understanding of what is a good laptop for college:

  • Opt for laptops with the screen size of 11- to 14-inches.
  • Go for a laptop that weighs less than 4 pounds.
  • Recommended college laptop specs: Intel Core i5 or Core i7, 8GB of RAM,802.11ac Wi-Fi and 256GB SSD.
  • Windows is your only best choice if you’re a student. However, if you study art/design, consider getting OS X.
  • Battery life should be at least 6+ hours, but opt for 8+ hours laptops to get you through the day in college.
  • Consider getting a 2-in-1 laptop, which is great for taking notes while standing up and also supports pen-based note taking.

Go portable!

The first thing to look for in a college laptop is its portability and dimensions. It’s highly recommended to get a laptop that weighs less than 4 pounds, because you’ll be carrying this thing all day long with you!

Think about it: you have absolutely no time to eat when you spend 24/7 at your college for weeks straight. You’re considered to be lucky if you devour a sandwich in between lessons. So a heavy laptop is the last thing you want to be carrying in your backpack – trust me!

The best screen size for a student laptop range between 11 and 14 inches. You’ll have to figure out what works best for you. Some may find it difficult to work at a 11-inch screen due to the lack of typing space and poor screen visibility.

Meanwhile, 13 inches is usually the best size for your device (no pun intended, you know what I’m talking about), as it offers a perfect balance of portability and usability.

However, if you’re studying arts, design or engineering, you should consider getting a laptop with a bigger screen.

Optimal specs for a college laptop

Specs matter, too. As I’ve mentioned above, there is no way you’ll have a smooth and seamless performance from the cheapest laptop that comes with the poorest specs out there.

In fact, the best advice to pick a good student laptop is for it to have the specs that won’t go obsolete before your graduation.

Display: while most affordable and budget laptops come with low resolution display, keep in mind that such displays (1366 x 768) won’t fit much text on the display.

Working on a laptop – whether you’re writing paper or doing research – you want to be able to see more. So I highly advise you to get a college laptop with the resolution of at least 1920 x 1080 (1080p) pixels. It may cost a few more bucks than a laptop with the 1366 x 768 resolution, but it’s totally worth it.

CPU: getting an Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPU almost certainly guarantees that your CPU won’t get obsolete before graduation. The most optimal processor model is the one that has a number 6000 in it.

If you’re on a short budget, opt for a laptop with Core i3, Pentium or Celeron CPU.

RAM: while many recommend getting at least 8GB of RAM for a student laptop, 4GB would actually suffice as well. But only if you’re not planning to do lots of multitasking and work with design tools (Photoshop).

But yep, ideally you should get 8GB of RAM.

Make your laptop last longer!

As for a student, the battery life of your laptop plays a crucial role. You don’t want to end up with a dead laptop after just 3 hours of carrying it around with you at college.

While it’s perfectly normal to get a laptop with 6+ hours of battery life (that, of course, if the manufacturer is not making this up), I’d consider getting a laptop with at least 8 hours of juice.


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