I’ve been known to spend hours or even days before deciding whether or not to purchase one electronic product over another. Indeed, last summer, I probably spent more time reading reviews about laptops than using the one I eventually bought! While this type of behavior is probably perplexing to most people, it prepares me for writing an article like this one, since I’ve pretty much looked at every laptop in existence at one point or another. Below, you’ll find a list of laptops perfect for people going back to college. I’ve put together an assortment of options that should please the minimalists, average users, gamers, and Apple lovers. The following laptops aren’t arbitrarily ranked from best to worst (or vice versa); each serves a different need. Enjoy!
1. The Acer C720 Chromebook
Chromebooks are fascinating little devices. You won’t be able to use any programs like Microsoft Word or Photoshop on them, but you will be able to use the Google apps that correspond to those, like Google Docs. If you aren’t a heavy gamer and aren’t married to Microsoft Word, these are a viable option for you. The C720 is extremely lightweight, which means it’ll be a breeze to carry to classes. Additionally, because it’s such a minimalist device, the processor barely consumes any power. This means that it can stay on without being charged for nearly 9 hours – a huge benefit if you’re stuck in the library without your adapter (which happens a lot, trust me).
If you just want something that’ll get the essentials done, this is the device for you.
- Built-in dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
- Intel Celeron 2955U 1.4 GHz (Haswell micro-architecture)
- 16 GB Solid-State Drive
- 11.6-Inch Anti-Glare Screen, Intel HD Graphics
- HDMI port, 8.5-hour battery life
2. ASUS Chromebook C300MA-DB01
This is another highly rated Chromebook. What separates it from the Acer C720 is the fact that it has a slightly larger screen at 13.3”. Additionally, it has better battery life at 10 hours and more of a substantial built quality. The flip side of course is that it costs about fifty dollars more.
Additionally, its processor is a bit slower than the C720’s, though you shouldn’t run into too many issues if all you do is browse the web (just don’t open too many tabs). The ASUS’ keyboard is roomy and perfect for any humanities majors who need to crank out essays every other week.
- 10-Hours battery life
- 802.11ac wireless
- Intel BayTrail-M N2830 Dual Core 2.16 GHz processor (turbo up to 2.41 GHz)
- 16 GB solid state storage. 13.3″ HD LED display
- 1.2MP camera. 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, HDMI, SD card slot (SDXC), Bluetooth 4.0
3. HP ProBook 450 G1
We’ve moved beyond the Chromebooks now and entered the world of Windows powered devices. The ProBook is a minimalist laptop that runs Windows 7 (which is a plus in my book since Windows 8’s “upgrades” are negligible at best and annoying at worst). If you didn’t like the idea of having to do all of your work through the Internet via Google Chrome, this is a good jack-of-all-trades laptop that will run Microsoft Word and do pretty much everything you need to do without breaking the bank.
On the other hand, it won’t run any newer games well (due to its integrated Intel graphics chip). If you aren’t a gamer or power-user though, this device should have plenty of juice for you. Its processor is a Core i3, which I’m quite familiar with. You shouldn’t run into any issues browsing the web, watching videos, writing papers, etc.
- Intel Core i3 4000M (2.4GHz)
- 4GB Memory 500GB HDD
- Intel HD Graphics 4600
- 1366 x 768
- Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
4. ASUS ROG G56JK-EB72
The laptop I bought last summer for college was an ASUS gaming laptop, sort of like this one. The only difference is that mine isn’t an “ultrabook” whereas this baby is. For about the same price as I paid for my laptop, you get nearly as much power in a slim, lightweight package. This is the machine you’ll need if you’re a serious gamer (and don’t want to lug your desktop to your dorm/apartment), or need the power for your major (engineering for example).
Despite how expensive this laptop is, it’s still a thousand dollars less than my next suggestion.
- Intel Core i7 4710HQ (2.50GHz)
- 12GB Memory 1TB HDD
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M 2GB GDDR3
- 1920 x 1080
- Windows 8.1 64-Bit
- DL DVD+-RW/CD-RW
5. Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display
If you’re a Mac person through and through, then this is the product for you. Sure, it’s expensive, but even I have to admit that its build quality is pretty off the charts. Not only do you get a classy looking device, but you’ll also be getting top-of-the-line hardware and software. While you could get the former in a PC for much less (see #4), the latter is what colors the decision making process of most Mac users, and I can’t really judge you since I use an iPhone.
MacBooks are extremely lightweight and they’ll last you for years if you take proper care of them. My old roommate’s lasted him all of college, and my other roommate’s lasted him through high school and college.
- Intel Core i5 2.60GHz (4th Gen Haswell)
- 8GB Memory 512GB PCIe-Based Flash Storage SSD
- Integrated Intel Iris Graphics
- 2560 x 1600
- Mac OS X v10.9 Mavericks
To close, I’ll go over some of the common themes tying all five of these laptops together. First off, they’re all pretty lightweight. Unless you’re crazy like me and purposefully went for the 17.3” behemoth of a laptop based solely on the power of its graphics chip, you’ll value portability over all else when choosing your college computer. You never know when a lecture or study group will call for you to have your laptop with you, and when they do, you’ll want something light and easy to carry. Second, all of these devices have processors more than capable of doing your basic college work (like writing essays, doing research, and procrastinating), though you may need something more powerful than the first three options if you’re a gamer or have a major that demands the extra juice.
Happy laptop hunting, and have a great year of college!
Featured photo credit: laptop.jpg/ MorgueFile via mrg.bz