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What do I need to know before I buy a student laptop?

rob333 (zone 7b)
5 years ago

I have never bothered to purchase my son a laptop since he could check out one when needed at all of his schools, and/or we have a decent desktop (I prefer easy to hold and no need to type on tablets). This puts me at a disadvantage in knowing the ins/outs of laptops. I want to get him one really soon for his trip off to university, because he could also use it for his current internship. He has one at his desk, but he's wanted to do more work at different times.


General suggestions for things to think about? Size? OS? Software? Batteries... I could keep going. Square one in understanding here. Thanks!


;)

Comments (42)

  • kathyg_in_mi
    5 years ago

    My DD was just talking about one for her son. She said it had to have a battery that would last all day. There are places to plug in, but they get full fast. It was recommend to get a laptop, not a pad. I’ll try to get more info.

    rob333 (zone 7b) thanked kathyg_in_mi
  • rob333 (zone 7b)
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    Hm. The battery life on the one I've short listed is 6.5 h. Doesn't sound great. Wonder if that's awful. Anyone?

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  • nycefarm
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I think electronics are very personal and that you should get his input! I will say screen size and fast processor are my top requirements. and don't forget to ask for an educational discount!


    rob333 (zone 7b) thanked nycefarm
  • Mrs. S
    5 years ago

    Our kids all have Chromebooks, and we buy them at Costco, for the way they stand behind their products. But come to think of it, all 4 of our Chromebooks are going strong, and the oldest one is about 5 years old (?). I am not a techie, but I do read reviews of products before buying. I would go for a really nice display, a "larger" screen (15"' or bigger), assuming that's what your student would want (carrying in the backpack) and now they come in touchscreen. We just bought our most recent Chromebook as a touchscreen, and it's fantastic.

    Chromebooks are virtually virus-free, very inexpensive ($200-$400). If I had a lot of money, I'd look at the Apple laptops, which also are not prone to viruses and problems, but jeez, they are expensive.

    rob333 (zone 7b) thanked Mrs. S
  • Iris S (SC, Zone 7b)
    5 years ago

    Maybe you should see what his school recommends? They might prefer a specific operating system. Both my daughters have MacBooks.

    rob333 (zone 7b) thanked Iris S (SC, Zone 7b)
  • sushipup1
    5 years ago

    I agree to check with the school first. A friend found that a certain Costco in San Jose near San Jose State had a special student machine deal. Don't assume that those school/manufacturer discounts are the best that you can do.

    rob333 (zone 7b) thanked sushipup1
  • sushipup1
    5 years ago

    PS, whadda ya mean that your son will be going to college? Last I heard he was a little kid!

  • rob333 (zone 7b)
    Original Author
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    He is a full fledged adult now. Votes, works, and drives. Look out world! He'll always be my little fella. Even though he could carry me around now.

  • Elmer J Fudd
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I agree completely with what fraker said. I remember with a couple of my kids, there were certain math and scientific programs that they needed to use in upper division that had specific PC requirements. Believe it or not, one was for Macs only. By chance, each had what they needed at the time.

    Chromebooks can be very useful for light use by adults but perhaps are not suitable for a college-bound student. Look for what the school recommendations are and follow that. For a freshman, there should be some accommodation or student discount price for Microsoft Office and that should be enough to start.

    Battery life shouldn't be an issue although you don't want to have one on the short side of the range. At most school facilities, including most classrooms and libraries, there are power sockets all over.

  • acraftylady
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    My son got a Lenovo think pad last year and I really like it. It's not huge, battery life is good ans it runs windows 10. He says it does everything he needs as he is writing programs for the lasers in the lab and stuff. He bought 2 docs for it so at work he just puts it on the doc and all his stuff connects and the same for home. Before this he had a full size toshiba laptop that still runs great but heard on the news last week they are getting out of the laptop business.

    I had the same model Toshiba he did and it's still going strong but they were on Windows 7. I upgraded to a full size Lenovo at Christmas with windows 10 and so far I have not had any issues and like it. I think I may get the think pad in the future because I really like the size for traveling.

  • annztoo
    5 years ago

    If you end up going with a Mac/Apple product, compare prices you find with their refurbished products. I've purchased refurbished and had no problems.

  • mike_kaiser_gw
    5 years ago

    Hopefully the school offers some guidance on what he might need in terms of specs. Since he's going to be hauling it around, I'd think a 13"-14" full HD screen with a minimum of a Core i5 processor, 256 GB solid state drive, and 8 GB of memory. Take a look at the Dell XPS, HP Spectre, or Lenovo Yoga 730 series.

    My employer issued a Microsoft Surface laptop and I like it very much. Nice screen, good keyboard, fairly light and compact. Unfortunately Consumer Reports says the Surface line isn't very reliable. Mine wouldn't boot one day, IT fixed it but didn't tell me what was wrong.

    I think most schools have deal with Microsoft where students get some version of Office for free by having an @edu email address. I'd check with the school before buying Office.

  • rob333 (zone 7b)
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    The only requirement they have is no Chromebook or netbooks. I think I am going to get a middle of the road through the school discounted (Dell Inspiron 15 5000), with 8GB memory, 1TB hard drive, Windows installed (which is why no Chromebooks)... seems like it'll cover the bases, and he's happy with anything he gets. Sweetie pie that he is, mom, if they have them to check out, I can just do that. Aw. No, honey, you need your own now ;)


    Thanks y'all!

  • Elmer J Fudd
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Sounds like a good choice. Think about getting an extended warranty or their equivalent of door to door coverage that covers any possibility, including getting dropped. I never buy extended warranties on anything I buy but I did for my kids' PCs for college - they tend to suffer more abuse and mishaps than you might expect. I had occasion to submit claims in each case and was glad to have it.

    rob333 (zone 7b) thanked Elmer J Fudd
  • PRO
    Anglophilia
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    His university should have info about this online. Also, there will be special offers at the university book store available. He will probably start getting emails from them with these offers a few weeks before he arrives. If not, a quick trip to the book store will get him what he needs.

    I'm giving my DGS1 a laptop as a combination birthday (it was in early April) and graduation present. I was lucky that I had received an weekly email newsletter for the past 20 years from a man whose own son is now a freshman in the College of Engineering at the same university. I reached out to him and he, his son, his wife (she helps with the newsletter) all replied with their recommendations. It will be a MacBook Pro, mid-level. Yes, a very expensive laptop, but he'll need it for his college. And they said yes, buy it at the university bookstore for savings and also for service after the sale. So that's what I'm doing!

    I was told that only the Architecture School specifically must have a PC - some very important software is only available in that format. Other than that, a Mac is fine in virtually all other colleges at his university. I would not buy a tablet, Apple or PC brand. It simply will not have the flexibility and power needed.

  • murraysmom Zone 6a OH
    5 years ago

    I just want to say that I have a MacBook Pro (2009). It has never given me trouble and I have been able to upgrade the operating system every time an upgrade came out. I know that won't be the case forever, but prorated, the price has been quite reasonable I feel.

  • Elmer J Fudd
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Quality wise, I think Apple products are as good as the competitors. Not necessarily better. I think the price premium mostly comes from the fact that they can get away with it. I don't think they're worth it, but there's no denying the "cool" factor and how well they can integrate the closed ecosystem of all their products, something others can't do. Integration can be done with Win PCs and Androids but it's limited and more of a manual process.

    My family has had back luck with Apple PCs. I consider it more an aberration than evidence of anything, just plain bad luck.

    One of my now adult kids has been a user of Apple products since college. This kid has had worse luck with a succession of Macs and has experienced more hardware problems (mother boards, keyboards, displays, batteries, etc) and software failures than the rest of the family combined. But they remain loyal and I think that's fine.

    Another kid decided to try a Mac for grad school following the lead of the older sibling. It died after 3 years, just after the warranty ended. Apple was generous in offering discounted repair options for the machine but my kid decided to move on and replaced it with a Win PC.

    We have an ipad. I dislike using it, my wife likes certain capabilities but gets frustrated with certain things it won't do, especially on some websites. Unlike with PCs or phones, I do think iPads are heads and shoulders above other tablets. That's fine, she can have one to use when it suits her and it doesn't bother me a bit

  • acraftylady
    5 years ago

    Curious to know what the ipad won't do on certain sites. Give me android and PC's any day. Mary

  • Elmer J Fudd
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I can't answer your question. As I said, I stay away from it. The tablet format really doesn't work for me. But when I'm around it being used, as with Skyping with family members, I marvel at the camera quality and display definition. Very sharp.

  • acraftylady
    5 years ago

    I use my browser in desktop mode so the same as using a computer browser and with word, excel and such on it about the same as the PC. I really use my phone the most these days for everything. Mary

  • jewels_ks
    5 years ago

    My oldest has a Dell that my dh got a good deal from ordering it from his job. My two dds have MacBook Air and they both love them. I bought one on-line and got a gift certificate and I bought one from Best Buy when it was on sale. My work through a school has deals through JourneyEd.com.

  • rob333 (zone 7b)
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    The only requirement the University IT department specified is Windows must be on the device. I see no point in ignoring them since they've been so reasonable about the laptop. This is a school tool, not a gaming PC or some sit on the couch and surf the internet respite tool. If it were for some other purpose, he'd pick out every last inch of it. As it is, he's thrilled with the speed, memory, and screen size. It's all he cared about. He's not a material kind of guy, and he thinks it's asinine to invest so much in an object (iPhone) that you can have just as much fun when it's a Samsung. Honestly, he'd prefer a well running machine than to spend twice as much for some logo. I'm with him.

  • PRO
    Anglophilia
    5 years ago

    My first experience with a computer was the one my in-laws gave my daughter for HS graduation. It was a Mac Classic.I had to set it up and have it ready for her to use as I was picking her up in Boston, driving her to NYC, where she was flying the the UK for a year in a boarding school there. That was in 1990. I think that thing still works!

    Over the years since then, I've owned 8 different Macs and I've only had a problem with one - I did have a motherboard die in a Powerbook, but it was old when it happened. I've owned 3 versions of the iPad, including the first. I've never had a problem using them on any web site nor any other problem with them. I've also owned 3 iPhones, including the first. I'm still using my iPhone 6 but do intend to upgrade sometime soon - want the larger screen - mine still works fine. I also own 2 Apple TV units.

    Yes, I'm an Apple "fanboy" as I've had very good luck with all my Apple products, found their customer service to be outstanding, and find Apple products very intuitive and easy to use. I love the easy compatibility between my iMac, my iPad, and my iPhone. I can be at the doctor's office, put in my appointment, and it automatically appears on all 3 devices with no other effort from me.

    This is one of the reasons that the newsletter writer suggested getting my DGS a Mac (and why he bought the same for his own son); today, most young people have an iPhone or an iPad and it's nice if all of these "play nice" with his laptop.

    There is no question that back in the early years of Apple, one paid an enormous premium for an Apple product. But that has changed over the years, and now the price is quite comparable if one compares standard features vs add-on's.

    I love my iPad! When it came out, I knew I no longer needed a laptop for when I traveled - my iPad would be fine, and I could have an iMac for home - great value with a huge screen and tons of memory. I do take my Bluetooth keyboard withe me if I'm going to be gone for more than a weekend -easier to type quickly - I'm not a "thumb" typer.

    Yes, as an interior designer, I do appreciate how Apple products look. I think Jony Ive is brilliant - he has a remarkable eye for design, and good design IS important to me. Clearly it is to a lot of people or all the Windows computers would not have dropped their old, big clunky looking machines and copied Apple as best they can. I find the iMac a remarkable computer - one cord and that's all - no keyboard cord, no mouse cord (yes, there is a small cord to plug in when they need to be recharged, but that happens very rarely - about 2- 3 months typically). No tower. It's elegant, looks good in a room and is SO easy to set up. With printers etc now being wireless, too, the printer can be in a closet somewhere.

    Yes, I AM an Apple "fanboy"!


  • maifleur01
    5 years ago

    Peeking in for a comment. Depending on what field of study you might consider a desk top with a lighter laptop or tablet to download or mesh with it. More money I am aware but gives the versatility to take to class and other places but can also give more storage for the entire college time. The real expense is not the machine but purchasing the software after the trial period is over.

  • donna_loomis
    5 years ago

    His courses may make a difference. My grandson is taking engineering classes and we were advised that he really should have what is considered a gaming laptop. Both for long battery life and for speed.

  • Elmer J Fudd
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Ipads were first released in 2010. If you've had three in 8 years, that doesn't speak to their durability. Same thing for having 8 Macs. You said in 1990, the first was for your daughter. Assuming you got one the same year, that's 8 PCs in 28 years, about 3.5 years per PC? Also not very good durability. Something wrong with my math? Maybe you had a few at the same time but with that, you should have gotten many years of use from each.

    " I can be at the doctor's office, put in my appointment, and it automatically appears on all 3 devices with no other effort from me."

    anglo, the very same thing happens for anyone who uses Google Calendar with any device - Android or Apple, Mac or PC. And with contacts too. And for email with Gmail or any other mail service with apps, all activity is synchronized to all devices immediately. Just as examples.

    I've found that not infrequently, Apple users think the capabilities their devices offer are unique when, in fact, the same is done on other platforms.

  • Elmer J Fudd
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    maifleur, maybe your kids are different from mine, but none of mine at any time would have found a desktop to be acceptable to use.

    Why would a student need two PCs? Important files are backed up either online or to external devices, a second PC isn't needed for that function.

    Also, given the big discounts available for student editions, software was never a big expense for any of our kids' machines. All completed STEM majors and so had lots of supplemental programs in addition to a basic Office suite. Many were provided for free by their schools. It's a good marketing strategy for the developers of technical software - get students accustomed to their products while in school and then they'll want to continue using them when they are working in their careers.

  • acraftylady
    5 years ago

    When my son did his first 4yrs he only had a laptop but quite a few had a desktop and laptop, that was several years ago. Not only does my google stuff appear across all devices but with the edge browser so do all my favorites now. Mary

  • PRO
    Anglophilia
    5 years ago

    Elmer, they didn't break! The first was my daughter's - she used it for 5 years and then needed a laptop. It was still working when she got her laptop. It's sitting in her old closet and will still boot up!

    The next was my 1st. It had the tiny screen. I used it until a friend sold me her LCIII - I sold the other one to a teacher in my husband's dept. I upgraded the memory and it was great.

    Then we started traveling and I wanted a laptop. Sold the desktop to a friend and bought a laptop. I used that for several years until a newer PowerBook caught my eye. My husband used the laptop until the MacBook came out so we bought him one. I used it as an "extra" after he died until the first iPad was introduced. Sold the MacBook and bought the first iPad.

    The new Powerbook is the one that had the failed motherboard when it was several years old. I didn't have it replaced as I wanted an iMac. Kept that one for 5 yrs, gave it to a grandson. It's still working and is 8 yrs old.

    i sold the original iPad to a grandson as I wanted the new one with a Retina screen. It was easier for me to see after my cataract surgery. When the iPad Air2 came out, I sold the previous one. I made a mistake and should have bought one with more memory. Traded that one in and bought a reconditioned one from Apple with a larger HD. I'm still using it.

    I bought a new iMac 3 yrs ago - no plans to replace.

    Phones! Still using the original like an iPod for music on a small stereo. I traded in my 2nd one when the iPhone 6 came out as I wanted ApplePay. It still works fine but I think I like the size of the iPhoneX. Haven't bought it yet.

    So, as I previously stated, the only one that had a failed part was the PowerBook whose motherboard died. Other than that, they all worked perfectly and were either sold/given/traded when I wanted a newer model for new features. I don't have to have the "latest and greatest" - I've had my iPhone 6 nearly 4 years- grandson going to college will buy it to replace his older iPhone. But if there is a new technology I want/need I trade in or sell the old and get it. I LIKE new technology! Only one failure in 28 years - pretty good track record, I'd say! Most people replace phones every 2 yrs and their computer every 3-5years. My son is using an early iMac that is at least 10 years old - works fine.

  • maifleur01
    5 years ago

    Elmer my comment about having a desktop and something to take to class was for the ease of carrying nothing else. I use a gaming laptop because it has a larger screen. You may not think that activating the various needed things on a computer is expensive but when I was finished activating the things I normally use the cost was about $1,000 almost as much as my laptop. That was three years ago. Some of the CAD programs that were added helped to raise that cost that most other than for a few majors would not need. Many would not need what I use and the annual fee is much smaller but for a family sending a child to college for the first time every dollar costs.

  • Elmer J Fudd
    5 years ago

    Your comments aren't clear to me but I'll assure you most college students today have all they need with a laptop and spending for software of only a few hundred dollars.

  • PRO
    Anglophilia
    5 years ago

    Cornell's College of Engineering has multiple computer labs with desktops with special software available for the students use. Apparently this software cannot run on a laptop. They say that there is no trouble finding a computer available so no need to buy a desktop.

  • Elmer J Fudd
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    A networked signal doesn't know what kind of PC it's connected to nor what kind of physical connection it's travelling over. What you're describing sounds like some kind of client/server or other internal IT resource that has been set up to NOT allow remote access, and so use is restricted to in-house workstations that have been set up and permitted to give access. Such IT systems can often require client software be installed on the user side and restricting that restricts access.

    Software license pricing is sometimes "per seat", another way of saying "per connected PC". By restricting access to PCs under the roof, one seat equates to many, many users and that saves licensing costs. Assume there are 50 "seats" allowed in the system. Maybe that accommodates 250 occasional users. That costs licensing for 50 seats, not 250. Use whatever numbers are reasonable, that's perhaps what's going on.

  • maifleur01
    5 years ago

    Elmer I stand corrected it was the other stuff I had installed on my current computer that cost almost $1,000. I found the receipt and Windows was only $165 three years ago.

    I also looked at the Windows site for the current prices. The site stated that there was some type of agreement with certain colleges to provide free Windows and to check with the college. It did state that the college controlled what was allowed to be accessed. Some parents would love this. Regular price is now $99 each year.

    One of my nieces have been accepted to the University of Seattle for this fall and her mothers, has been looking for computers for her and asked for suggestions of what beyond what the college suggests would be useful. So I will be looking in off and on to see what Rob and others find that they think will be useful for their student.

  • mike_kaiser_gw
    5 years ago

    Since we're, I think, talking about a new computer a "free" copy of Windows wouldn't be of much value since most laptops come with Windows already installed (except Apple, of course, and there may be some options out there for Linux).

    Microsoft does provide "free" access to Office 365, which is their office suite subscription program, for a lot of colleges and universities. I don't know if simply having an @edu email address is sufficient or one needs to sign up through the school.

    Microsoft, Apple, and lots of other companies offer discounts for students but it usually isn't very much and one might be better off just waiting for a good sale. Around here the kids have been out for about 10 days so the "back to school" sales should be starting any day. <lol>

  • maifleur01
    5 years ago

    mike k my computer is three years old so things along with prices may have changed but that already installed Windows only worked for a short period of time then I had to pay to keep it. It would be nice if it had changed because the screen portion of my laptop has a crack and is starting to separate and I have been told there is no real fix.

    I miss the days when you purchased a software product and you could use it indefinitely rather than having to pay a annual fee to keep it. I tried not paying Windows fee last year and was blocked from access on the data I already had.

  • Chi
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Everyone in my company uses Apple laptops except me! I don't like their products. I had a laptop but I can't work on it. I need the type of power only found in desktops. Some college students might have the same issue.

    Speaking of Apple and style, a company I worked for a few years ago was very image-conscious. They laid off a bunch of people due to finances, but then within a week had decided everyone needed brand new Apple laptops and huge monitors for a "cohesive" look. They probably spent many hundreds of thousands of dollars on new equipment for hundreds of employees. It was unreal, especially right after layoffs. I should mention that the previous gear was not outdated or broken. It just wasn't flashy.

  • PRO
    Anglophilia
    5 years ago

    There are few software products that need more power than a good laptop, either Windows or Apple, require. That's a LAPTOP, not a TABLET. People do confuse the two and they are very different things. Heavy duty photo editing and CAD usually do require a desktop. Also, some business proprietary software may as well.

    Many colleges offer free Microsoft Word. Windows is already installed on most PC computers, laptop or desktop. It's Word that is free - free for as long as the student is enrolled. By that time (4-5 years), they will probably be buying a new computer/software anyway. My DGS's college-to-be does this.

    maifleir, I strongly advise your NIECE to look on the U of Seattle's website, for computer requirements/recommendations. It will be there, I promise. And the niece better start learning how to find such info or college is going to be a big challenge! No more "mom" doing things for her!

    Also, look at the prices on their Bookstore website. At Cornell, the laptop that I will most likely be buying my DGS, is $200 less than it would be on Apple's website. As the time for students arriving draws closer, they may have some "package offers" - free or heavily discounted printer with computer deals - they did when DD arrived there 27 years ago! Unfortunately, they were far more expensive than what the money her grandparents had given her, would buy, so we did not take up that offer. We're going to wait until a week or so before he goes to college to buy and he can pick it up in the bookstore when he gets there.

  • Elmer J Fudd
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    maifleur, there's confusion because what you're calling "Windows" is maybe Microsoft Office in some form. That's the suite that includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc., The word "Windows" refers to the operating system only, and PCs with it have a perpetual license requiring no further payments.

    anglo, you're great at name dropping.

  • mike_kaiser_gw
    5 years ago

    ...already installed Windows only worked for a short period of time then I had to pay to keep it.

    I've used Windows 3.0, 3.1, '95, '98, NT 4, XP, Vista, 7, 8, and finally 10. I only purchased them once (either pre-installed on a new machine or at retail).

    Are you sure you aren't talking about Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.)? Sometimes manufacturers will put an "evaluation" copy of Office on machines that expires after 30 days or so.

    I'm assuming we're talking about new, name-brand computers from reputable sources.




  • mike_kaiser_gw
    5 years ago

    It was unreal, especially right after layoffs. I should mention that
    the previous gear was not outdated or broken. It just wasn't flashy.

    I was watching Buying Jets (or some such TV show) and two executives from some startup wanted a business jet for the company. The styling of the jet needed to match the "DNA of the company." Uh huh.