Cassidy Williams

Software Engineer in Chicago

Cassidy's face

The laptop you need for college


Hello, cutie patootie. Your arms are so strong.

Now, let’s talk laptops.

Chances are, you’ll want one in college. They’re not absolutely necessary, but boy, are they convenient.

When I was about to go to college, I wanted the BEST MACHINE EVER. I was going to be the most hardcore computer science student in the world with the most attractive, powerful laptop that would carry me for the next four years and beyond. I dropped almost $2000 on what I thought was the coolest laptop in the world.

And you know what? It was cool. I loved that thing.

But it didn’t last.

By the middle of my junior year, I was using a different laptop, that was actually less powerful than the one I had bought. But it worked well for what I wanted.

So, moral of the story, don’t spend too much on the best, state-of-the-art laptop you can when you go to college. Every single one of my friends is on a different machine than the one they started with.

So, what laptop SHOULD you buy?

Well, that depends on what you want to do, and what you like!

I’ll give you some general guidelines that should help you. I won’t tell you straight up which laptop would be perfect for you, because everyone’s different (this is like Harry Potter getting a wand, oh boy oh boy), but these ideas should help you out.

Disclaimer: I’m biased. Also I’m going to talk about computers that aren’t as expensive, which means I probably won’t mention Macs much. But hey, Macs are good computers. They just cost an arm and a leg.

For non-technical majors:

I’m looking at you, you lovely people who write a lot of papers and proposals for your business classes and your education classes and your sociology classes. Hi. You could probably get away with something not too powerful, but still easy to use and efficient. A Chromebook might be good, if you’re okay with using something like GoogleDocs for all of your files. A Microsoft Surface might also be an awesome solution for you, because it’s lightweight and still has all of Microsoft Office and other cool applications. If you want a more traditional laptop with Windows on it, I recommend the Lenovo ThinkPad E Series and L Series, as well as the Toshiba Satellite laptops. From what I’ve seen, those computers are super functional and fast for what you need, and won’t destroy your budget.

For engineers, 3D-modelers, and drafters:

Hey, CAD-users. You’re going to need something with some pretty solid graphics and memory to handle all the things you’re making. You should have at least a 2.8 GHz CPU/Processor Speed for an i3 processor, or 1.8 GHz for an i5 or i7 processor, a 500 GB Hard-disk drive, and 4-6 GB RAM. I don’t think you’ll need as high as an i7 processor, but that’s just speaking from experience. You might be making something that is greater than I could ever imagine. Anyway, the machines that might just rock your boat are the HP Envy laptops, Asus K-Series laptops, and the Lenovo T Series laptops. These are some pretty powerful machines that’ll get the job done.

For design majors: Hey, artsy fartsy. For you, I’m going to recommend a Mac. The entire Design college at my school uses Macs. They will want you to have a Mac, even if you’ve already bought a PC. So, get one. Sorry there’s not much of an option here. But hey, it makes your choice easy. If you do get a PC, get one with a really good graphics card.

For programmers and scientific majors:

Haaaayyyy hollerrrr. I’m one of you. For you, you will need the extra RAM, at least 6-8GB, I’d say. You’re going to be sticking a lot of data on your computer. I’d also go with an i5 processor. You won’t be using THAT much power, unless you’re doing some extreme OpenGL programming (which if you are, you’re brave, and should look at the engineering bullet above). I recommend an ultrabook for you. It’ll give you the power and portability you need. I have an i5 Samsung ultrabook, and I really like it. Lenovo has some sexy ultrabooks too. If you’re in the field more often (like for biological, animal, or agricultural sciences), I recommend something more like a Toshiba. They’re really hardcore and can take a hit if you bring it outside. Boom.

So, there you have it. Now, you might disagree with my laptop opinions here. Again, everyone’s different. But, these guidelines should give you a general idea of what could be best for you. And again, don’t drop too much cash on a computer. Technology is moving fast, and you might end up getting a new one before you even graduate.

Good luck!

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