Choose a laptop with the right specifications for your needs
Next, you’ll want to think about factors like how much processor power you need and what size you’re looking for in a laptop. Here’s a rundown of the most important specifications you should consider during the shopping process.
Processor and memory
A laptop’s processor is the biggest factor in determining its performance. Most laptops run on Intel processors, but you’ll occasionally find some powered by AMD chips as well.
In general, it’s best to avoid buying a laptop with a processor that’s more than two generations old. That’s because you want to make sure your laptop remains fast and capable for at least four to five years. Investing in technology that’s several years old could result in you spending more money in the long run since you might have to replace it sooner than expected.
When it comes to memory, you’ll ideally want a machine with at least 8GB of RAM. The RAM often determines how good your computer is at juggling multiple tasks, such as opening dozens of tabs in a web browser, and buying a laptop without enough RAM could result in slower performance under heavy workloads.
In general, a laptop with an Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM is plenty for most tasks. But an Intel Core i3 laptop will also suffice if your budget is a little tighter and you don’t anticipate that you’ll be using your laptop for much more than browsing the web and watching
. It’s common to see Chromebooks with lower-end specs when it comes to the processor and RAM because they’re only meant for basic tasks like these.
Just like anything else, your laptop’s display quality and size depends on how you intend to use it. If you’re mostly using your laptop for writing papers, taking notes, and conducting research, you probably don’t need a super high-resolution screen. Many laptops come with a screen resolution of at least 1080p, which is all you really need for basic word processing and research.
If you’re already planning to spend $1,000 or more on a laptop for other reasons, like the processing power, your laptop will probably have an even sharper display with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 or 2,560 x 1,200. Touchscreens can also add to the price, so consider whether that’s a priority for you before buying. Some laptops come with the option to upgrade to a
display, but it’s usually more money than it’s worth, especially considering it can impact battery life.
Many laptops come with 13-inch screens, but you can also find larger models with 15-inch or 17-inch screens, and smaller-sized 11-inch laptops. Larger-sized models are more expensive and usually come with more powerful processors, while smaller-sized laptops are tailored for convenience and portability and are generally equipped to only handle the basics.
Laptops with 13-inch screens fall right in the middle and usually offer the best combination of screen space and portability for most people.
Consider how you plan to use your laptop before deciding which size is right for you. Is having a device that’s lightweight enough to squeeze in a small bag and carry around campus your main priority, or are you planning to primarily use your laptop at your dorm room desk?
Many laptops come with at least 128GB or 256GB of storage, except for Chromebooks since they rely on cloud storage. This should be enough storage for most people, but students working with large video files and photos might want to upgrade to a laptop with 512GB or more.
Just remember that storage drives up the price, so it’s important to carefully consider how much you need. If you’re not sure how much storage to get, you can always opt for a laptop with 128GB or 256GB and purchase an external hard drive later if you need it.