The 5 Best Laptops for College Students and the 3 Best Budget Picks

The 5 Best Laptops for College Students and the 3 Best Budget Picks July 16, 2012

It’s nearly impossible to make it through college without a computer, but luckily there are a number of excellent options for big spenders and frugal students alike. Of course, you’ll want to do your research before you take the plunge; some colleges require you to use a certain OS, and sometimes it’s a good idea to get your laptop directly from them since they may have an on-site repair facility with quicker turnaround times than companies like Dell or HP can offer. Your computer may also need to meet certain specifications because of software compatibility or your chosen course load, and if you’re going to do a lot of work with Photoshop or video editing, you’ll need the beefiest rig you can afford. With that said, here are the 5 best laptops for college students and even 3 laptops under $500.

5 Best Laptops for College Students

1. The Macbook Pro 15-inch MD104LL/A

Although Apple is putting its focus on its glossy new retina displays, they’ve continued to produce traditional Macbooks for the slightly more price-conscious consumer. The high-end model comes with default price tag of $2,199.00, but for those that need to

Macbook Pro 15-inch review

perform heavy-duty tasks it’s one of the best options available within the Macbook line. It boasts a 2.6 GHz Intel i7 processor that can be boosted up to 3.6 GHz, 8GB of RAM, and it contains both integrated graphics and a full-fledged graphics card, namely the NVIDIA Geforce 650M with 1GB of DDR5 memory. With seven hours of battery life, this thing will see you through the roughest projects and the most mundane nights of Web browsing.

The traditional Macbook line is also the only way you can get an Apple laptop with a built-in Ethernet port, so it’ll save you a lot of hassle if you find yourself routinely working off of a wired connection. It also supports USB 3.0, but it lacks an HDMI port, and it has a MagSafe port instead of a MagSafe 2 port. While it’s one of the more expensive options, Apple’s reputation for excellent hardware and robust software suites more than makes up for it. Look at it this way: The extra money you’d sink into this machine would save you from having to buy Adobe Premiere if you were to get a PC. Considering how software purchases can drive up your total costs, a Mac is a better deal than it looks on the surface.

2. The MSI GT70

If you’re looking for something that boasts the power of a desktop computer in a portable package, this is your machine. It comes with a hefty price tag for a laptop; it weighs in at $1,479.00 on Amazon, but for that price you get a 17 inch screen, a surprising five hours of battery life, a 2.3 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 12GB of RAM, a 720GB hard drive, and an Nvidia GTX670M GPU.

MSI GT70 Review

This is your all-in-one homework and entertainment machine. If you’re into PC gaming you’ll be able to enjoy some of your favorites so long as you’re willing to turn down the graphics settings or settle for a lower frame rate, and it features a built-in blu ray player for you movie buffs out there. Of course, all this power comes with some drawbacks: It weighs around 10 pounds with the accompanying power brick, so taking it from place to place will either be exhausting or it’ll be the perfect way to build your strength and stamina. It’s also not the most aesthetically pleasing machine, but if you’re going for power you can’t be too picky. The main reason you’d want to go for this is, again, you need to do video or photo work, or you don’t want to give up any of the comforts of home while you’re at school.

3. ASUS Zenbook UX21E-DH52

11.6-Inch Thin and Light Ultrabook

This laptop is for students who want an ultra-portable, ultra-sleek machine that doesn’t pack a lot of power but boasts a few nice features. It retails for $999, and even though it only has 4GB of DDR3 memory and integrated graphics,

ASUS Zenbook UX21E-DH52 Review

it contains a 128GB solid state hard drive. If you won’t need to store many large files, the solid state drive alone makes it worth the price since fewer moving parts means a longer lifespan, and solid state drives work much more efficiently than traditional hard drives so you’ll need less processing power to get things done quickly.

Something else that gets sacrificed for the sake of its form factor is a built-in optical drive, but the form factor isn’t something to be underestimated. This machine weighs under three pounds, and although its battery life of five hours is a little less-than-impressive given the size of the machine, it automatically backs up any unsaved data when the battery is sitting at five percent and it gives the user plenty of alerts to let them know when to pack it up and give it a charge. For students on the go, there are few Windows laptops that provide comparable sleekness and portability.

4. Samsung NP-QX411-W01US Laptop

This is a good middle-of-the road option for the price conscious consumer that can afford something pricier than $500 but who has to stay under $1,000.

Samsung NP-QX411-W01US Review

The sticker price is in the high $800 range, but it’s fairly easy to find this laptop for $750.00 or lower. What you get for that price is almost a steal. This machine has a 14 inch screen, a 2.3 GHz Intel i5 processor, 6GB of RAM, a 750GB hard drive, and an NVIDIA GeForce GT520M. While it definitely can’t be called a powerhouse, it can handle simple photo editing and some older games. It weighs in at around five pounds so while it’s not the sleekest laptop out there, it’s not going to break your back, either.

5. HP DM4-3050us

If your budget is just a little higher than $500 but anything over $700 is too rich for your blood, this provides excellent val

HP dm4-3050us Review

ue for the price. It’s easy to track this down for $650 or less, and it boasts a 14 inch screen, 6GB of RAM, a 2.5 GHz Intel i5 processor, and 7.5 hours of battery life. It has integrated graphics so you won’t be doing any heavy-duty tasks on it, but if you like indie or free-to-play games this will run most of them, and it’s got more than enough power for word processing and Internet applications. It’s a pretty good bargain for the price.

Some of you won’t be able to afford anything above $500, and for those proud students bootstrapping their way through their education, there are a number of options that will get the job done.

The Best Laptops for College Under $500

#1. Toshiba Satellite C655-S5542 Toshiba Satellite C655-S5542 Review

This offering comes with a $399 price tag and boasts a 15 inch screen, a 1.6 GHz Intel Celeron processor, 3GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive. It’s everything that you’ll need to get things done with a little extra on the side.

#2. HP Pavilion dm1-4010us

HP Pavilion dm1-4010us Review

At 11.5 inches with very similar specs to the Toshiba Satellite and an average price tag of $450, what makes this laptop worth purchasing? The nine hour battery life. HP makes good machines and this one isn’t an exception. If you don’t have to go under $400, don’t. This is one of the best budget rigs on the market.

#3. Acer Aspire One AO722-0825 11.6-Inch Netbook

Acer Aspire One AO722-0825 Review

If your budget just won’t stretch beyond a few hundred dollars, Acer has you covered With a price tag of $350 or less, you could do a lot worse than this netbook.This is the bare minimum of what you need to perform in college. It has an 11 inch screen, 4GB of RAM, a 1 GHz dual core AMD processor, and its battery life averages at seven hours. Overall, it’s an impressive bargain computer, and while you won’t be doing any gaming on it you can eke enough power out of it to watch YouTube videos and movies without worrying about choppy frame rates or skipping.

College is hard, and choosing the right laptop can make your experience far less stressful and allow you to focus on what matters. Whatever you plan to do, whatever you’re going to study, there’s a machine out there that will fulfill your needs. If you need something powerful to get your work done but the brand new models are too expensive for you, don’t give up; look on Craigslist, connect with people, and see what kind of price you can haggle. Education is important, and it’s just as important that you don’t settle for anything less than what you’ll need to excel at it.


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