For students today, a large amount of schoolwork is done online. While traditionally online work was reserved for college students, more elementary, middle, and high school students now use their computers for everything from writing papers to nightly math homework. For many students, laptop computers can be the most efficient way to get schoolwork done wherever they are, whether in the class, in the dorm or at the school library.
When looking for a laptop for you or your student, you don’t necessarily have to get a high-end laptop or high-powered gaming laptop to still have an optimal experience with your computer. Instead, focus on capabilities that will help most throughout the school year. We’ll walk you through things to consider when looking for a laptop for school.
Why Laptops Are Great for Students
One of the biggest benefits that laptops offer students lies in their portability. Laptops can be placed and carried in a secure backpack or laptop bag and transported to different classes and study locations. This flexibility means that students:
Can keep their class notes, paper drafts and research in one place
Can access digital books during class and study periods
Don’t have to carry heavy books and notebooks when digital books are available
Can work as easily in the school library as in their room
Can quickly type out notes during classes and study sessions
Given these advantages, let’s review some of the main characteristics to look for when buying a laptop.
What to Look for in a Laptop for a Student
When you begin your search for a great student laptop, you’ll quickly find a myriad of options. From Chromebooks to budget laptops, your new laptop can have all sorts of different capabilities and operating systems.
Here are parts of the computer to pay close attention to as you browse through your options.
The Operating System
The first thing you’ll want to pay attention to when buying a new laptop is the operating system. Two of the most well-known are Windows and Mac. Both choices allow you to complete many of the same tasks, such as creating text documents, spreadsheets and presentations, as well as video conferencing with a webcam and conducting research. However, their interfaces and applications accomplish these goals differently.
Apple computers operate using macOS, while new PCs come with Windows 10. Additionally, Windows operating systems tend to offer greater diversity in capabilities and price points, as these computers are produced by many different companies.
For example, those who want a quality laptop using Windows can choose from but aren’t limited to:
The third operating system is used in Chromebooks. Understanding what a Chromebook laptop is can help you decide whether this laptop option will fit your needs.
These computers have been around for about 10 years and don’t use Windows or Mac operating systems. Instead, they use a Linux-based operating system, known as Chrome OS. Chromebooks rely on the Google Chrome web browser and offer some capabilities for apps, particularly Android apps. They also rely on more web-based capabilities, like Google Docs.
Like Windows-based computers, you’ll find a number of companies that produce quality Chromebooks for students, including but not limited to:
Students — as they transport their laptops to classes, the library or study sessions — aren’t always going to be the most gentle with their devices. Therefore, as you choose your laptop, you’ll want to make a durable selection. These laptops can stand up to rougher treatment, which should help your laptop to continue to work well throughout your schooling.
For example, many people find that a solid-state drive (SSD) offers a higher degree of durability than a hard drive. The SSD has fewer parts moving around, which means that fewer things can go wrong and result in you losing the information on your computer.
Some students, particularly those who know that their computers will be in for harsh treatment, might elect to get a rugged laptop. These laptops are built to offer higher durability. If you have had negative experiences in the past with laptops breaking, or if you know that your school year will call for your laptop to excel in durability, these computers might be a good fit for you.
To further help protect your laptop, consider a laptop case. A case can give your laptop additional protection, even if it gets banged around in your bag or ends up in the bottom of a pile of heavy books.
As a student, you’ll also want to look closely at the battery life offered by your laptop. Many students might not return home or to their dorm room for hours. No one wants to discover that their laptop has lost its charge before lunch, leaving them digging for a pencil in their bag or rushing back to their room to grab a charger.
A laptop with a stable, long battery life serves you well throughout the day. You can be on the go without having to worry about how much battery time is left on your computer.
Processor and Graphics Card
When it comes to your laptop’s processor and graphics card (which determines GPUs), think carefully about the capabilities that matter the most to you. If you want your laptop to be able to handle gaming, video editing or photo editing, you’ll need a laptop with stronger capabilities to provide a quality experience. Look for a gaming computer and more high-end processors.
You’ll also want to consider the core of the computer. Three of the more common processors include the Intel Core i3, the Intel Core i5 and the Intel Core i7. These designations help provide consumers with some information regarding the power of the processor. Generally speaking, the i7 will be stronger than the i5, which in turn is stronger than the i3. However, sometimes, this can get a little mixed up if you compare newer i5s to older i7s, for example. If you are in the market for a strong processor, though, you’ll most likely want to go with an i7.
Other processors you might encounter are the Intel Celeron and the AMD Ryzen family, such as the Ryzen 5.
You will also encounter a range of options when it comes to laptop screen size. Larger screens can help you see your work more clearly, which many students will appreciate. If you want to use your computer regularly to watch videos, a larger screen can also help you see the action much better.
However, the trade-off lies in the larger size of the laptop. A bigger screen also comes with a larger, and generally more bulky, body. Consider how much you need a larger screen versus the weight it will add to your bag and balance your needs.
You should also consider if any special features will help you throughout your studies. Some laptops offer special features like a touch screen. Touch-screen laptops, like the Microsoft Surface Pro or the Lenovo IdeaPad, can help students in particular courses, such as graphic design. Others will find they simply appreciate the added functionality. You can get a stylus to go with your touch screen to enhance your ability to navigate the screen, as well.
Those interested in having superior graphics will also want to evaluate the merits of in-plane switching (IPS) for their monitor. This type of screen can deliver high-quality images but may have a slightly longer delivery time than other options.
If you plan on taking online classes, you’ll also want to pay attention to the webcam and microphone available. These two features can make a tremendous difference in the quality of your video conferencing experience.
Some students also find it helpful to get an external headset for this type of digital conferencing. If you plan to go this route, check to see if the laptop has USB ports or HDMI ports which are compatible. For alternative connectivity, most laptops come with Bluetooth capabilities.
Students who are studying specific subjects that require certain programs, such as AutoCAD for architecture, will also want to verify that the laptop they select has the hard drive and program compatibilities necessary. If you’re unsure about the specifications to look for in a laptop using specific applications like this, speak to your teachers.
Finally, you should pay attention to the warranty that comes with the laptop. If something happens to your laptop, a warranty can give you peace of mind.
What Is the Best Laptop for Students?
While student gamers might have the most optimal experience with a larger-screened gaming laptop that weighs several pounds but comes with a powerful CPU and graphics card, another might prefer a lighter but less powerful Chromebook that they can slip easily into their messenger bag.
Therefore, choosing the best laptop for students comes down to individual needs. Make a list of what matters most to you in terms of:
Chromebooks: Popular Among Students
Chromebooks have become popular additions to the student laptop decision process. These computers tend to offer sleek, light designs, as they aren’t weighed down by as many internal capabilities. Instead, the computers rely heavily on cloud-based applications, including Google Docs. This means they generally don’t have as much storage space, electing to have users save their material on the cloud.
Since they rely heavily on the cloud, they generally work best whenever you have access to Wi-Fi. However, you can create and edit documents when disconnected from the internet by enabling “offline editing.” The Chromebook will then save your edits locally, syncing them with the cloud when you reconnect to the internet.
Chromebooks can provide an excellent choice for those who are more price-conscious and don’t mind a simpler machine. The best Chromebooks offer a variety of apps to help capture many of the same capabilities of a traditional laptop, while their transportability can be appreciated by many students.
Are Refurbished Laptops Good for Students?
Refurbished laptops can be excellent choices for students. These computers have been thoroughly cleaned and repaired so that they function essentially like new, but without the new computer price tag. For those looking for budget laptops without sacrificing build quality, this can work exceptionally well.
Refurbished laptopshave also been inspected for quality. From the touchpad to the screen, your refurbished laptop will work like new. This means you can trust the laptop you buy to serve you or your student.
Will Ultrabooks Serve Students Well?
Those interested in a computer with the highest-quality features may also find the ultrabook to be an intriguing option. Retailers sell different versions of this computer, which is designed to offer an ultra-lightweight design, an incredibly long battery life and very fast speeds. Ultrabooks also often offer features like full HD to create an outstanding experience.
Find the Best Laptop for You
The ideal laptop for you, or your student, will depend on how you intend to use it and the capabilities you need for schoolwork. So, take your time and browse through the wide selection of laptops available. Your schooling is important, and so is the laptop you choose.
About the Author
Jessica Burshtynskyy has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. When not at her computer writing, you can usually find her outside by water.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is,” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrants the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein
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