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The ultimate student guide to buying a computer

Here is everything you need to know.

woman programming on a laptop
Image: Pexels

Every college student must have a quality laptop. The portability and easy access to classroom materials, especially for online classes, is essential. Not to mention publishing, writing, research, and graphic design tools at your fingertips. Read this guide before you hit up the hottest laptop deals this summer.

Ready to buy a laptop? Great! But before you shop check out your college for their top recommendations. Certain academic and fine arts programs will require you to buy very specific laptops to complete their program. Why? 

Consider that visual art or graphic design student may need a computer that has all of the following:

  • Lightning-fast processing power
  • A Terabyte of storage
  • Good graphics card
  • SSD (solid-state drives)
  • Large screen size
  • Runs animation software
  • Renders efficiently
  • Has high-end video and audio software
  • Reliable WIFI for uploading large image files

Engineering, computer science, and business may have their own requirements. Call up your college department and ask for laptop recommendations. Apple is overwhelmingly the computer of choice for most academic institutions and is considered to have the best laptops for college students in 2019. However, your college may recommend Dell and Lenovo, as well. 

samsung galaxy book s on table
Image: Phone Arena

Many students are confused by the technical lingo. Let’s demystify a few of the key terms you will run into when purchasing your laptop:

  • RAM –  (Random Access Memory) Allows your computer to find information quickly
  • CPU – (Central Processing Unit) Completes the data processing of your computer
  • SSD – (Solid State Drives) Store and retrieve data
  • GPU – (Graphics Processing Unit) Renders 3D graphics
  • USB Ports – (Universal Serial Bus) Ports for external storage devices
  • Bluetooth – Wireless technology

Below are the recommended specs for student laptops for 2019. Remember that technology moves fast and next year’s models will most likely have much better processing speed, storage, and features. 

  • Intel® Core™ i7 Seventh-Generation Processor
  • Intel® Core™ i5 Sixth-Generation Processor
  • 12GB or 16 GB RAM
  • Powerful GPU 
  • Webcam
  • 256 GB or 512 GB SSD Drive
  • Bluetooth
  • HDMI or DisplayPort Screen Ports
  • 802.11ac and dual band Wi-Fi
  • USB-C, Thunderbolt, or USB-A ports
  • Multiple USB ports for different types of devices

Think about functionality when you buy your laptop. Will you need two monitors? Will you need audio equipment, a high-end camera, or touchscreen? Figure out how you plan on using your computer. Also, this eliminates the majority of dirt-cheap tablets and laptops like the Chromebook, Linux, and iOS. Outside Apple products, other options can be the Microsoft Surface Book and the ASUS Zenbook UX330UA. The Microsoft Surface Book also has a recent higher-end option in the Surface Book 2

For super high-end graphics needed for digital game design, something with NVidia GeForce GTX 1070 graphic chipset might be needed. Look into options from ASUS ROG, Gigabyte AORUS, HP Omen, Alienware, MSI, and Razer.

TIP: Don’t Go Secondhand with Your Laptop. Your Laptop is an INVESTMENT in your Education.

Sure, your grandmum might not be using her old tablet anymore and offers it to you for university, but you do need a new laptop for school. Older computers, especially secondhand ones, will have a myriad of viruses and bugs, hardware problems, and may have really slow processing speeds. Older computers often don’t have enough space and might lack quality Wi-Fi. If the computer is less than a year old, then you are probably fine. When you go to college you want to be on the cutting edge of technology to keep up with your coursework. This means a newer computer with good processing power. 

Your computer is an investment in your education. Buy the right computer this year and you should have a trusted tool for the remainder of your college career. However, between the laptop, storage, RAM, style, screen size, and software, you can expect to spend upwards of a thousand dollars for your first laptop. 

The upswing? A well-maintained laptop should last about three or four years. Be sure to buy a protective waterproof drop-proof case for your laptop to ensure that it enjoys an accident-free life. Once you by your laptop treat it with care.

Don’t be careless and leave it around. Always shut down programs properly and store the laptop safely when you are done. Apple, Dell, and Lenovo also offer extended warranties if you want extra protection. Get the right computer and the rest of college will be a breeze. Okay, maybe not, but at least it will make your life easier. 

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Chris has been blogging since the early days of the internet. He primarily focuses on topics related to tech, business, marketing, and pretty much anything else that revolves around tech. When he's not writing, you can find him noodling around on a guitar or cooking up a mean storm for friends and family.

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