For many of us, purchasing a laptop computer can be overwhelming simply because there are so many options to choose from. This process can be even more arduous for college students who may have a multitude of other requirements to address.
If you are one of those students, here are some criteria you might want to consider when making a laptop choice:
- School Requirements – First thing’s first. Check with the school you will be attending to see if they have any computer requirements. Most schools don’t, but some degree programs may have some guidelines or suggestions.
- Software – As with any user, college students should make a list of the software they plan to load on the computer and ensure that both the processor and storage drive are sized accordingly. Will you be using the laptop just for word documents and spreadsheets or will your curriculum require you to load a sophisticated design package?
- Mac or PC? – Probably the biggest question for most students is whether to opt for a Mac or a PC laptop. Students enrolling in visual arts or similar programs may find that their faculty recommends Apple. Beyond that, either one should work just fine. Choose the laptop that you are most comfortable with. Students on a strict budget may want to lean toward a PC.
- Weight and Size – As a college student, you will be lugging around your laptop much more than an average user. You will also be pulling it out and packing it up much more often. This could get really old if you decide to pick up a big gaming machine for some entertainment when you aren’t studying! This is a tough compromise for some, but there is an alternative. Purchase a lighter laptop for class and use a docking station with a larger screen and keyboard at home. Of course, most schools have computer labs if you occasionally need a more substantial computer.
- Battery Life – This is a big issue for most laptop users, but even more so for busy students who are always on the go. When you visit the campus of your choice, take note of the facilities. Will you be able to plug in your laptop during class? Are there ample plugs in the library or other study areas? Whichever laptop you choose, be sure you know what the battery life is and that you are comfortable that it will meet your needs.
- Booting Up – As you go from class to class, you will find that you are continually booting up and shutting down your laptop. Some students may want to splurge on a laptop with a solid state drive. These will boot up much more quickly and could save you some valuable time, particularly if you are late for class! They are also less likely to crash when you knock your laptop off one of those tiny desks. Solid state drives are typically smaller than hard drives, so make sure you have additional storage if you need it.
- Durability – Students are tougher on their laptops than most users. Be sure that the one you purchase feels durable enough for heavy use. Students in outdoor programs such as Forestry may need to take extra precautions. Purchasing a complementary tablet for outdoor use might be a good solution.
- Loss or Theft – Let’s face it, students have lots of distractions and are more likely to lose their laptops. In this case, loss of the data on the computer can be devastating. While you can always purchase backup drives, the best solution is to make use of cloud based storage services. Not only do these services reduce your storage and backup requirements, but you can also access your data from any computer on campus with internet connectivity. Additionally, installing theft protection software such as Prey Anti-Theft or LoJack for Laptops can help protect your sensitive information in case a thief or hacker attempts to access your computer.
- Accessories – While laptop skins and sleeves may seem like nothing more than a decorative expense, these covers can actually help protect your laptop when it inevitably slips from a table or hands, and can keep the finish looking like new, which will help with resale value. If purchasing a tablet, it might also be a good idea to look into purchasing a wireless or snap-on keyboard, mouse and stand for additional ease of use.
- Price – Students have access to many great deals that other users don’t. Once you’ve made a choice, be sure to check out student deals for both laptops and software. You might want to check with your school bookstore, as well.
Starting college is hard enough without having to worry about your computer equipment. With some careful planning, you can select an affordable laptop that will meet your requirements and provide you with many years of reliable, stress-free service. This should enable you to concentrate on other things…like final exams!
Norman Fong is The Chief and Co-Founder of BuyVia, an online and iOS App smart shopping service that uncovers great deals on popular products. BuyVia makes it easy for consumers to get price alerts from both online and local retailers for best cheap laptops and other electronics products.