For most college students, a good laptop is not a luxury. It is a necessity. But with budget restrictions and the sometimes overwhelming amount of options on the market – not to mention the cryptic specs each laptop model boasts – choosing the right laptop can be a challenge.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the more popular models on the market. Break them down into categories according to various budgets, and weigh the pros and the cons. Hopefully, this will give you some valuable insight that will help you choose the best laptop for your college student.

The Operating System

A computer’s operating system functions a bit like the engine of a car. Some are known for their speed, others for their durability. When deciding on a new laptop. A good place to start is by deciding which of the top operating systems you want to go with. This will greatly narrow down the options for you, and it will help you to identify what your priorities are. 

While there are many open-source operating systems available on the market. So, 3 stand out as being the most popular with a good track record and a large trusted company behind them – MS Windows, Mac OS, and Chrome OS.

MS Windows Laptop for College Student

Windows has been around for decades. It is used to power most PCs. Unlike other operating systems, it does come at a price – generally between $100 and $200 dollars. The advantage of Windows is the strength of the company behind it, Microsoft, which provides regular security. In addition, performance updates, and many app and software developers create programs specifically with Windows in mind.

Mac OS

Mac OS is available exclusively on Mac products. So, while technically free, it does make it the most costly operating system on the market. Some would argue that it is the best, in terms of performance and design. However, many app and software developers do not create programs for Mac OS. And when they do, it is often months or years after the MS Windows version has been released.

Chrome OS Laptop for College Student

In 2011, Google launched its operating system, Chrome OS, in budget-friendly, net-based laptops and notepads called Chromebooks. It didn’t take long for these devices to become very popular, especially for cost-conscious users. Unlike other operating systems. The Chrome OS is dependent on the internet which while that may not pose a problem for some users, it does come with its disadvantages, especially when it comes to outdoor use.

The Verdict

10 to 15 years ago, Mac OS was considered the go-to for users interested in artistic endeavors. Graphic design, video, and music editing, etc. Since then, they have lost their sizeable lead in those domains. Now, they mainly appeal to past users who don’t want to adapt to other operating systems or to users for whom money is no object. So, one of the best laptop for college student.

For college students, money is more often than not a concern. This should steer them away from Mac OS. MS Windows remains the most versatile and trustworthy option. Though for the casual user, Chrome OS is a perfectly good low-cost operating system worth considering.

The Specs to Bear in Mind

Laptops come with 2 types of memory, RAM. For immediate memory that allows the device to manage the applications, the user is currently working with. ROM (long-term memory used for storage).

Laptops come with either 4, 6,  8, 16, or 32 GB of RAM.

If you get a laptop with only 4 GB of RAM. The chances are that you will find the device works too slow with frequent lags and glitches. Unless you will be using the device for gaming or complex video editing, 32 GB is overkill.

For users who rely on their laptops for work – remote data entry jobs, for example – 8 GB should be more than enough. And unless you are planning on doing video editing or running many programs at once. You are unlikely to notice much of a difference between 8 and 16 GB of RAM.

ROM is not much of a concern. You can always upgrade as needed. So, there are many external storage devices on the market, not to mention cloud options that don’t require any ROM.

Best Laptop for College Student Under $500

Practically all Windows-operated PCs in this price range only come with 4 GB of RAM. Frankly, you’re better off either spending a little more or opting for a used or refurbished device in this price range.

One notable exception is the Acer Aspire E 15.

It comes in around $400, has 6 GB of RAM and an Intel Core i3-8130U processor.  

If you’re comfortable using the net-based Chrome OS. You can find powerful devices at a lower cost. The top Chromebook we can recommend is the Acer Chromebook 715.

Coming in just shy of $500, this lightweight is sleek. The powerful device features an Intel Core i5-8350U processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of ROM.

The Verdict

To get a quality, durable, and dependable laptop with a high-performance processor and at least 8 GB of RAM. You are going to need to spend between $600 and $700. For devices under that price, your best bet is to go with a Chromebook. And if your college student needs a laptop to do heavy video or music editing and. Or graphic design, you are better off opting for a device with 16 GB and spending around $800. 

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