Best College Laptops

College Student with Laptop

I’m going to be starting college soon, and I’m just not sure which laptop to choose. I know I want something that’s good for classes but I also do some gaming. What kind of speed and memory do I need? I also wonder about the best screen size and how much I should expect to pay.

Everyone’s idea of a perfect laptop is different, depending on their needs and interests. Before you start looking at all the options, consider exactly what you will use your laptop for. From there, you can make choices regarding your screen size, school demands, and available space.

Screen Size

Screen size is the main factor in weight and size. Anything over 15 inches gets hard to fit into standard backpacks, and most people find anything over 4.5 lbs to be too much to carry around all day.

At the other end, any screen size smaller than 13.3 inches may be too small to work with comfortably, especially if you hope to use your laptop for gaming as well as study. Most people find something around 3 lbs to be the sweet spot for carrying all over campus.

Course Demands

Your chosen course of study may affect your laptop choice. If your college courses will only demand web browsing, email, and word processing programs, you can get away with a very simple, inexpensive model. 

If you’re going to do digital modeling or video editing, look at laptops with a high-speed processor and plenty of RAM. Anything less than 16GB of RAM and in Intel Core i7 H series processor (or equivalent) will likely be too slow.

Hard Drive

Today, most everything is stored in the cloud, and your movies and music are available through streaming services, so storage isn’t nearly as important as speed. Unless you have classes you know will require a hard drive of a specific size, you can certainly get away with a 256GB or even a 128GB drive.

More important than the size is getting an SSD or solid-state drive. An SSD will be about three times faster than mechanical drives, and if you want to do anything more with your computer than just check email and use Microsoft Word, an SSD will give you speed and flexibility. If you want to do some gaming, consider an inexpensive 1TB external USB to get the speed you need at a budget price.

Here are some suggestions for laptops based on the qualifications and features you may care about the most:

Good For Low Budget

If the price is your primary consideration, consider the HP 14 Intel Core i3. It has a 14-inch screen, 128GB SSD hard drive, and comes with 4GB of RAM. You should be able to get between 8 and 12 hours out of the battery, and it weighs just over 3 lbs. 

At well under $300, this is a perfect choice for students on a budget. There aren’t many bells and whistles, but it starts up quickly and can take care of all your basic needs at minimal expense.

Good For High Power

The Dell XPS 13 is perfect for students who need to run video editing programs. It offers the Intel 10th Gen CPU and has a gorgeous 4K display and convertible design. Its SSD delivers incredible speed for just 2.7 pounds with a 13.3-inch screen. You’ll pay between $950 and $1,750, depending on the configurations you choose.

This is also a great choice if you want to do some gaming during all your free time. If you plan to use it for gaming, though, remember to get at least 16GB of RAM.

Good For Trends

If you love Apple (or if your school requires an Apple operating system) the 13-inch MacBook Pro offers speed, power, and long battery life while the Macbook Air is ultra-portable. Both have a 13-inch screen. The Air weighs just 2.75 lbs, while the Pro comes in at 3 lbs. 

The Air runs just over $1,000 and is perfect for all the basics. The Pro costs around $1,200 (and more with add-ons) and has a lot more speed and power. The Pro will work for video editing, too, so long as you get the larger RAM configuration.

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