A laptop, in today's times is no longer just a status symbol or luxury product enjoyed only by the well-to-do community of computer users. In fact, recent market surveys have revealed that laptops are amongst the topmost selling electronic products. The present laptop sales are at a much higher level in comparison to those of desktop computers. There is one catch though. Laptops do pose users with a major problem - the problem of choice.
Choosing a laptop computer is much more difficult in comparison to choosing its desktop counterpart. There are a number of nitty-gritty involved in choosing a laptop that perfectly suits your needs. Durability is one of the important factors to be considered in choosing a student laptop. The device has to last for at least 4 years i.e. till the completion of education. High school or college going students have computer-related needs that are far different in comparison to professional software developers.
Basic Requirements of a Student
Before we move on to enlisting the best laptops that are total value for money, it is important to understand the general, computer-related requirements of an average college goer. Typically, college students require laptops and notebook computers for doing project-related work, academic research, presentations, taking notes while in lectures and seminars, etc. I have already taken it for granted that apart from studies, students will use their laptops for playing games, listening to music and watching movies. In fact, it's the gaming part that's going to want a better config than anything else.
Therefore, in terms of computer hardware, the bare minimum hardware requirements of an ideal student's laptop are as follows:
- Processor with a minimum capacity of 2.2 GHz or higher.
- Minimum 2 GB of RAM. (preferably 4GB or more)
- Minimum hard drive capacity of 500 GB. (This helps you store old files without being forced to delete them)
- CD drive with both read-write facility. (DVD equivalent will be even better)
- Minimum 13 inch display screen.
- Minimum 5-6 hours of laptop battery backup to last through multiple lectures.
- 4 USB ports, 1 Ethernet port.
- Bluetooth connectivity.
- A body that is sturdy and easy-to-carry.
- The graphics card is going to be a personal choice. You can do with a 512MB integrated card for basic picture and video viewing and editing. Gamers will want to go for a high-end one.
- Last but not the least, modestly priced.
Finding a laptop that fulfills all the above needs often requires a lot of research on the part of buyers. Many a time, you manage to zero in on a laptop with all the right technical features only to back out due to the fact that it costs a bomb. Price can often be a deterrent when it comes to choosing a good laptop with decent hardware configuration. However, the following models are definitely worth a buy when it comes to choosing from amongst usable student laptops.
HP Pavilion dv6 Notebook
The HP Pavilion dv6-3210us is a great buy for most students. At a base price of $690, you don't need to hold your breath for too long to save up and but it. The notebook is built to perform tough jobs and just asks to be pushed to the max. Runs Photoshop and 3D-CAD quite easily, making college software a breeze for it. It has a 15.6" display, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB HDD, Phenom II N660 and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. This makes it a great gaming laptop as well as a high-end software oriented laptop. The only problem with the Notebook is its low battery life and battery quality. There have been several unhappy users when it came to the battery; it ran out fast (in about 2-3 hours) and needed a replacement in 6 months.
This is a great choice, a laptop with a good config at a very affordable price. If you need a laptop with HD video streaming, then you can buy the Toshiba NB550D. The laptop proves to be a great buy for a student to last through years of college, given that he/she doesn't have too many intense things to do on it. It's priced at $400. To be clear, this laptop is not meant for gaming or for performing heavy-duty software that college students probably won't need. It also does not have a built-in Wi-Fi port, making internet access a bit cumbersome. What it does have is an AMD Fusion C-50 1GHz chipset, 2BG RAM, AMD Radeon HD 6250, 1,024 x 600 native resolution and a comfortable keypad. If you're living on your own and are finding it hard to save up for a better equipped HP Pavilion, then you can safely go ahead and buy it.
Apple MacBook Pro
Released late-2011, the Macbook Pro is something that you can buy if cost is not an issue. There are two versions; one is a dual-core Core i5 2.4GHz chip with 500GB of disk space and the other is a dual-core Core i7 2.8GHz with 750 GB of space. Both come with 4BG RAM. Legal issues with Nvidia disallows the use of their graphics chipsets, making Apple use the Sandy Bridge Intel HD graphics 3000, the default option. The only problem Apple Macbooks give is their low compatibility with a lot of hardware and software, making their use very limited. But whatever you do on the Macbook, can be done pretty smoothly. The screen is a regular 13.3 inch display with a 1280 x 800 resolution. The battery life is about 7 hours. The price for the lower end version is $1,199 and $1,499 for the second one, making the Macbook Pro an option pretty much for the ones who can afford it all.
Lenovo IdeaPad Z570
This laptop is both packed with numerous features and delivers great speed, thanks to the i5 processor. The appearance is enhanced by its aluminum body. It can go up to the second generation Core i7 processors, has a Nvidia Geforce GT540M 2GB with Directx-11 support and 4BG DDR3 RAM. Hard drive capacity of this laptop is 640 GB. The screen of Lenovo IdeaPad Z570 is 15.6 inches while it has a backlit resolution of 1366 x 768. Other features of this device include the Ethernet, HDMI, VGA, USB 2.0 ports (4 in number), 5 in 1 memory card reader, USB/eSATA combo drive, etc. Starting price of this laptop computer is $599.
For those of you with a budget between $350 to $600 and willing to compromise a little bit on the technical front, here are few laptop models to consider:
- Dell XPS 15 (would have featured if not for the complaints about battery life)
- HP Pavilion g4t series
- Toshiba Satellite P755-S5380 notebook
- Asus X32A notebook
As I sign off, here is a small bit of parting advice. If you're short on cash and cannot compromise on hardware specifications, think about buying a good quality used laptop. Such a move is considered sensible than buying a brand new laptop that is of inferior quality.