I used to be one of those people that took A LOT of time to find a good laptop. I researched every option, quantified every aspect I could and compared every option in a spreadsheet. I am making it sound as if I don’t do it anymore – actually, I still follow this process for my major purchases since it is the best way. But now, I know what I need to focus and what is non-essential. The same process can be applied when searching for the best laptop for engineering.
In this post, I’ll outline the key qualities and metrics you need to know to get the best deal possible. At the end, I’ll list out the top 5 options that I’ve found out by comparing every laptop on my extensive list of hottest and best selling models.
What is needed to get the best engineering student laptop?
For the most part, you can’t expect your university to give precise guidelines to an engineering laptop. Even if your college website gives a description of what laptop you need – they make it sound as if any laptop that has a screen and a processor made in the 2000s should be just fine. At the same time, some websites recommend workstation notebooks which are way over most students budget. These machines are needed only if you’re already a professional. But if you get a professional workstation now and you do not intend to fully utilize it right now – it’s a waste of money that could be put better elsewhere.
Performance and speed
Here are the processors you should expect at every price range:
So you are searching for the best laptop for law school? The good news is that you do not need to spend a lot for an OK computer. But if you want the best one for your needs and wallet – there is only a handful of options I can recommend.
In this page, I will cover everything you need to know about getting a laptop for law school: essential parts of a laptop you should focus on, what is not so important and what are my top 5 picks ($170 to $2100) for any law school student.
What are the requirements for law school laptop?
I have isolated 3 major requirements that would make any laptop a solid choice. Then I have 5 minor requirements that would make sure the notebook we are getting is well-suited for law school and student life in general.
What is essential for the best laptop for law school?
Major requirement Storage
I think, SSD is my most used abbreviation. And for a good reason. Even now I get a bit excited when seeing how quickly every app starts up and how little time I need to find a missing document. SSD is the cure from my trauma of slow computers and hard drives breaking down since Windows 98 era.
If you have been living under HDD rock and you do not know what an SSD is – I can break it down to a few very basic rules of thumb. SSD is a different type of a storage drive that offers a tremendous improvement in overall speed and general experience when using a computer. In the past ~5 years, these drives have become a lot cheaper and viable option compared to their older HDD counterparts. And now, these SSD drives are becoming the standard. Yet, there still are many notebooks in every price range that do not have an SSD. In short, getting an SSD over HDD is be the investment to a computer’s performance you could make.
To understand what you should expect from a laptop, here’s my guideline after comparing ~130 laptops on the market:
Under $700: regular hard drive
$700 to $1000: small SSD storage (250 GB)
$1000 and up: medium SSD storage (500 GB) with possible additional 1 TB HDD
Depending on a laptop’s size, there are various options to upgrade a laptop in the future, so do not worry too much to get this requirement one a bit wrong. Unlike processors or graphics chips, storage drives are easy to replace or upgrade, especially in large 15-to-17-inch computers. With smaller ones, I would be more cautious and I would try to get my preferred setup already built-in.
Choosing a laptop for online college is a bit easier than searching for one for a regular college. That’s because you don’t need to stress its weight and battery life as much. And anyways, a good laptop for online college is just a good laptop overall. Obviously, there are some variations between various courses, but overall, there are a few clear guides on choosing the right one no matter what you’ll be studying. In the next 5 minutes, I’ll lay out the most important bits of the best laptop for online college and which options might fit you best.
What am I looking for in the best laptop for online college?
The key to finding any great laptop is outlining what exactly should be on that laptop. These requirements will be a guiding light and our measuring stick when searching for the best laptop for online college.
For online college, there are 3 main requirements – the essentials – and 2 additional nice-to-have sets of specs that we’re looking for in a quality notebook for our online studies.
Major requirements for a Online College laptop
Major requirement Good processor
In most cases, I’d simply recommend getting an Intel Core i7 processor. Of course, that’s just a general starting point. There’s more to it than just a CPU series.
But since I don’t know how much you’re willing to spend on a laptop, I’m not going to make Core i7 as a requirement. These processors start to come into play as we pass $720 mark. It’s quite interesting how close to no laptops at all below that price point come with an i7 and how many notebooks just over $720 have it.
To make it a more general rule of thumb for 2016, I’ll round it up to $750 mark:
laptops over $750 should have Intel Core i7
laptops under $750 should have at least 5-th generation i3/i5
I have been a computer science student for about as long as I’ve been blogging about laptops – I’m close to finishing my 2nd year. In that time, I’ve seen what laptops suit this course the best. Sadly, I bought my laptop before the course started and in a way, I’ve made some mistakes in my judgment – but I’m here to make sure you don’t make them.
August 2017 update. I’ll go in-depth on what type of laptop you should be looking for and at the end, I’ll give a few of top-notch suggestions that I’d pick if I’d be buying a laptop today.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
So what are we looking for?
Major requirement Powerful processor
As a computer science student, you’ll probably have to code in several languages:
Some scripting language (PHP/Python/Ruby)
Some functional/logic language (Prolog/Haskell)
Likely some C/C++/Objective-C
In all of these cases, your laptop performance will not limit the execution of your code. Yes, it might take a second longer to compile or 5 seconds longer to start a Java server but that’s not a good enough reason to stretch your budget for a better processor.
Even though a basic mid-range 2 core processor should suffice when compiling your code. So why am I edging you towards a fast processor? There’s one important reason on why you should aim for a higher-end CPU if possible. Responsive and snappy workflow actually makes you a better and a happier programmer.
Every student has different needs and requirements for a laptop. Some may need a quickly booting notebook for their basic school tasks while others will sacrifice the all-day battery for more muscle under laptop’s lid. But even with this wide range of demands some laptops shine through as being more suited for fellow students than the rest. I split laptops in 3 groups: budget, portable laptops and gaming machines. No matter if you’re a high school freshman or a senior – you’ll find a great option here.
2 years ago I bought myself a laptop for my Computer Science college degree and I am still amazed by how useful I find it today. I won’t even tell you the model. That’s because I believe there is something more important than just looking at the most popular “best 5 laptops for college students” article. In my humble opinion, getting the best device is almost all about figuring how –you- are going to use it and what –you- prefer the most. Unfortunately, a surprising amount of people seem to forget this and hope that if a laptop is good for someone else it will suit them just as well. I thus decided to write a series of posts that would focus on helping people figure out the different laptop characteristics that will matter the most to them. Read this and using PickNotebook will be even more useful.
Performance (processor, RAM)
Degrees only requiring basic work with computer – low/medium (Intel i3 processor, 4GB RAM)
Degrees requiring complicated work with computer – medium (Intel i5 processor, 8GB RAM)
Exceptions: playing video games on high settings – medium/high (Intel i7 processor, 16GB RAM)
You need to consider whether your degree will require complicated work with your laptop. Video or music editing are good examples of such tasks. Media studies, architecture and similar degrees would thus require no less than a medium performance machine. On the other hand, writing essays, making presentations and even programming won’t need any more than laptops balancing on low and medium performance. These days, getting a computer with any kind of Intel i3 processor will almost always result in smooth performance when no large programs are running. i5 and i7 should be bought only if you have an idea how you’ll use it. 4GB RAM will be enough, although 8GB will usually result in faster overall performance without a significant price increase.
If you’re not sure what your specific subject will require you to do with your laptop, I would highly recommend trying to find it out before buying a laptop. Ask people already studying the subject in your university, send a quick email to one of the lecturers – people will be glad to help you. This is definitely worth the time – having to deal with a half-responding laptop when you’re trying to be efficient during that last night before the deadline is something no one should experience.
Gaming and visual work (graphics card)
Not interested in gaming, no video editing and modelling – low/medium (integrated video card)
Video editing or gaming – high (dedicated video card)
Some people will find this fun, some will find this annoying, but if you go to college you will probably get invited to play video games with friends quite a few times. They are very popular these days and it can be just another way to spend time with people you enjoy being with. My suggestion would therefore be to consider a medium video performance laptop even if you don’t really play games yourself. You never know – with the diverse range of games produced each day, you might as well find something you like during the time you have your next laptop.
If you go high graphics performance, you will want to try to get a laptop with a dedicated instead of an integrated graphics card. I won’t go into detail about the difference between the two in this post but will simply say that in 95% of cases, the second one is considerably better. It will result in a higher price though.
Most cases –shouldn’t matter much as external hard drives are possible
Expect to do a lot of work with a computer – consider SSD storage (smaller but faster)
I would suggest choosing a laptop based on other parameters than storage size. If you go for a more expensive machine due to better performance, the laptop will usually have more storage. There is one exception, however – you will notice some laptops have much lower storage for the price of other laptops. A MacBook Pro for 1500$ only has 256GB of storage. Laptops in this price range of other manufacturers will usually have around 1000GB. This difference is because of a different, faster kind of storage – SSD drives. With these laptops, you will almost definitely want to buy an external hard drive to store photos, music and other large files. However, opening files, searching them will be much faster. Aim for this if you have extra budget remaining and if you expect to do a lot of working with the computer where many files are involved. Also it’s worth noting that these days a 1000GB external hard drive would cost you about 100$ extra.
Don’t like taking laptop to lectures – low (~3 hours)
Like taking laptop to lectures – high (6+ hours)
Since most students want to take their laptops to classes, you’ll probably want a high battery life. Power outlets will not be available everywhere and you will encounter situations where your laptop will run out of power. You do want to make sure you can use it for as long as you can before that happens though.
Size and weight
Don’t like taking laptop to lectures – consider larger (15.6+ inches, weight shouldn’t matter much)
Like taking laptop to lectures – light (less than 15.6 inches, 4.6lbs and less)
At first, taking you laptop to lectures seems like an amazing idea. However, only about a quarter of people in our course still do that. Typing during a lecture can be annoying to others if it’s loud and useless if you don’t type fast. Furthermore, many people end up browsing cat pictures and Facebook when they should be listening to the lecturer. Keep in mind that for easy access to the internet, IM programs and such, you can use your smartphone.
Now if your laptop is going to stay in your dorm most of the time, there’s no reason not to get a bigger laptop with a wider screen which will be nicer to look at, faster and cheaper.
Check if college has a preference.
No college preference – personal preference
No college or personal preference – what most friends have
First of all, be sure to check your college website to make sure that there’s no officially preferred operating system. For example, if your course will require you to use some course specific applications (AutoCAD for example) it will be unbelievably easier if you get instructions from people working on the same operating system. If you have no preference yourself, you might even ask what your friends are using – this way you will be able to get help from them in case you need it. And then, of course, there’s also this easy way to instantly feel a deep spiritual connection with someone with the same OS on their computer. Or maybe that’s just computer science students…
Budget laptop – 300$-500$
Reliable mid-range laptop 500$-800$
Laptop for advanced work or gaming 800$+
These are the prices to help you imagine what your budget should be able to buy. If you find a laptop that is cheap and yet has high performance statistics, look at all the details closely – it is very likely that some other part will be poor quality. Amazon also has reviews for most laptops – read those before making a final decision.
If you are looking for a very basic and cheap laptop, consider a chromebook. These are good if you only want to browse the internet, work with simple documents. The Chrome OS is best for easy use of internet applications but will be limited when it comes to more specialised programs. Make sure that access to the internet will be available most of the time if you wish to buy a chromebook though, as most of its functionality depends on online services.
Might want to avoid HP laptops
Most students will hope that they won’t have to worry about replacing a laptop for around 3 years. The statistics collected by Square Trade (http://www.statisticbrain.com/laptop-malfunction-rates/) are similar to both other researches and just stories told by other people – HP laptops tend to break quite often.
If you have budget remaining:
-SSD storage for simple but frequent work
-Better processor and RAM for general speed, especially with large and multiple programs
-Better graphics card if you enjoy gaming and expect to work with video programs
If you have extra budget remaining after choosing the options that you need, consider increasing storage space first while the price increase is low. After that, extra money may be spent to make the programs you will use run faster. For games and video media creation, better graphics card will mean higher video settings in games. Better processor and RAM will mean a better overall speed. Yet this will only be noticed if you either run many programs at once or some very large programs.
Feel free to ask for more specific advice if you have more questions, I will be happy to answer them!