For millions of college students across the country, the new school year is quickly approaching. That means it’s time to have all of those school essentials ready to go so you can hit your campus running. Although many colleges have computer labs for those without a personal computer, many will opt to get one. One question I hear all the time is, “what kind of laptop should I get?” Since I happen to know a bit about this subject (self-proclaimed), I wanted to share some advice by breaking down the core components in a laptop, suggesting some stores to purchase them from, and providing the minimum specs your next PC must have.
At Waspit, we want to empower you to make smart purchasing decisions. That is why we’ve developed a service that puts you, the consumer, first. Laptops are big purchases because you will be spending hundreds of dollars on something you’ll most likely have for 2-6 years! Make sure you know what you are looking for. Below is some information that should help you out.
What’s in a laptop?
There are constantly improvements and performance enhancers being applied to laptops, so it is hard to have the “best model” on the market. Regardless of the computer, there are some standard hardware components all computers have.
The Processor or CPU
To oversimplify things, the CPU is the brain of the computer and what gives your computer power. In essence, it’s a big factor in the speed of the computer. Nowadays, most processors have between two and eight cores. The two big companies that make processors are Intel and AMD. The speed of a processor is measured in Gigahertz or Ghz. The faster and more cores a processor has, the more expensive it will be, but (generally speaking) the quicker the performance will be. From personal experiences I find Intel processors perform better, but they cost more…
Random Access Memory affects how much you can have open at once. A computer has a finite amount of memory and once most of it is being used a computer becomes sluggish. For example, if you’re running a large program, like Photoshop, rendering a video and have three internet browsers open, with 10 tabs each, your average computer is probably going to be running very slow because all of the RAM and processing power are being assigned to support processes that are open. With that being said, unless you are doing video editing, graphic design, or serious coding, 4 GB of RAM should be good and 6 GB will only make things better.
The hard drive is where everything is stored such as music, papers, photos etc. There are two types of hard drives: Solid State Drive (SSD) and Hard Disk Drive (HDD). SSD hard drives are better, but cost a lot more and you get less storage for the price. These are fast drives that increase computer boot time and have more longevity. Hard Disk Drives are still the standard in many computers and are cost effective. Unless you are obsessed with performance or get a really good deal, an HDD will do the trick. Just don’t do stupid things like shake your computer when it is on, as this hurts the HDD and could eventually lead to it breaking.
Unless you are doing some serious editing or gaming, don’t worry about this. Whatever comes with the computer will be just fine.
How Much Should You Spend?
That all depends on your budget. I will say unless you are looking for a performance machine or an ultrabook there is no need to spend over $1000. In many cases, you can get a good computer for around $500 (sometimes even less). Below are some sites you can purchase laptops from. Remember do your research and look around online before purchasing. Be sure to look for student discounts because often times places like BestBuy will have them.
- Tiger Direct
- Manufacturers’ websites: Samsung, Toshiba, Dell, etc.
- Best Buy — if there is a deal and you know what you want
- Google Shopping
What are the minimum specs you should have in a computer?
This is a great question and will vary a bit for everyone depending on how you intend to use it. For the purpose of reaching the majority of consumers, I’m going to assume you want a basic computer for college on a student budget. Meaning you will be surfing the web, writing papers, streaming videos and not gaming or video/photo editing.
- Processor: Core i3 or AMD Athlon II 620
- RAM: 4 Gb
- Hard drive: 320 Gb
There are a bunch of other features out there that could enhance a laptop, such as a backlit keyboard, extended battery, and HD display, but most will add to the price.
You might have noticed that I have not mentioned any Apple computers. There are two main reasons for this. One, they cost a lot more than Windows PCs. Their cheapest laptop is $1000. Second, I think that Microsoft Office sucks on Macs and because you will be writing a lot of papers in college this can become frustrating. I’m not saying don’t get one, but if you’re on the fence and price is a factor for you, you will be able to get more for your money in a Windows laptop.
From personal experience I’d recommend getting a computer that has a screen size between 13-16 inches. When I was an undergrad I had a 15.6″ screen and in grad school I had a 14″ screen. Both, which were ran Windows OS, worked out great for me.
Most colleges give away free software such as Microsoft Office to its students. Before you spend money on purchasing a license, check with your school. You are paying a lot of money for school, you might as well take advantage of the free perks!
Finally, when you buy a computer, someone will most likely try to sell you antivirus protection. This is a rip off. You can get free antivirus software online from sites like Avast and AVG if your school doesn’t supply it already. Just make sure you download the free versions right away and when installing be sure to select the free options.
Where did you get your computer from? Do you agree with the suggested minimum specs?
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