College Laptop Recommendations

So I’m not in college…yet. But that doesn’t mean I can’t recommend college laptops! Granted, this is a loose recommendation, so I’ll start off with the basics and go from there.

If money is no object… I’d seriously consider going with a MacBook Pro or similar high-end aluminum PC alternative. I’m not at all an Apple fanboy. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the quality of their products. MacBook Pros are physically amazing…they’re sleek, sturdy, and durable. They have great screens, powerful internals, a great keyboard and touchpad, and great battery life. What more could you want?

“But I’m going into business and need Windows.” Have someone intelligent (I’d bet the Apple store might even do this for you…) use something called BootCamp to put Windows on your mac. (SIDENOTE: in order to do this you need a copy of Windows…which is currently $200 at Best Buy. Hey, you said money was no object). There are also less…legal ways to do this, but I’m not one for pirating operating systems.

If money is a huge factor and you want the cheapest computer possible that turns on… Go with a netbook! I would really not recommend this, especially for college. But they do get great battery life, can do most everything a “full” laptop / PC can do, and are very cheap ($300-$400). However, even though they do most things a full laptop does, they will certainly not do them as fast. Another thing to be aware of with netbooks is their lack of a CD/DVD drive, meaning you can’t watch DVDs, but also that some programs will be much harder to install because instead of using a CD you’ll need to find the installation file online.

I’m average. I need a good Windows PC for $500-$1000. Lucky you! The prices of quality laptops has come down significantly in the past few years. Let’s look at our options.


The specs will depend on how much you’re willing to spend, obviously.  But here are some guidelines / suggestions for the “basic” student…emailing, web browsing, music, pictures, YouTube, DVDs, etc:

Processor: Almost anything Intel Core is great…i7, i5, i3, Core 2 Quad, Core 2 Duo (order best to worst).  Cheapest of these is the Core 2 Duo which is fine.
RAM: At least 2gb, preferably 4gb.  Higher than 4 is great but probably isn’t necessary. (Most of the computers I’m looking at have 6 or 8…I guess this is the new standard…)
Hard Drive: Probably not an issue because 400gb or so seems to be the new minimum… This depends what you’re going into and what you’ll be storing on your computer.  Most people will never use more than 400gb, however, if you plan on having lots of games, lots of movies, lots of TV shows, and TONS of music and pictures, you may want to go higher than 400gb or so.  (Most of the computers I’m looking at have 1000gb…wow).
Get at least Windows 7 Home Premium (DEFINITELY not Basic).

Video Card: I really wouldn’t worry about it unless you’re going to be using your computer to play graphics-intensive video games…look elsewhere for specs.

For more information please check out this article from Engadget.

About the Author: Chris Bellman

Sophomore ECE major at The Ohio State University. Technology enthusiast. Runs own IT business in Cincinnati.