Laptop for College

Updated on July 28, 2015
S.K. asks from Houston, TX
16 answers

Suggestions on good laptop for college freshman?

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all the suggestions! MacBook was a bit expensive...we looked at the Microsoft Surface, still over our budget, so we went with a basic HP x360 to get started and she's also working part-time and will save up for something a bit better in a year or so.

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answers from Washington DC on

my kids both have macs. they paid for 'em, though. (we did help out.)
my younger son's laptop is almost 10 years old, and still going!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

We've always used Macs. My son used it all through college and now that he's out, he upgraded with yet another Mac. My husband has always used a Mac due to lots of graphics files (he's in advertising) but my son was an engineering major and used the same thing. I use a MacBook Air for all basic Microsoft Office programs.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Tyler on

Mac for sure! My daughter has gone through two touch screen laptops and both ended up with major problems. She finally saved up and purchased a new Mac on her own and LOVES it! I've had a MacBook Pro for 4 years. It's getting older and slower, like its owner! But overall, very worth the investment! For savings, ask the stores for "open box" items. You could score a good deal.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

It really kind of depends on what she will be using it for. Just basic word processing, spreadsheets, PowerPoint, etc. I would go with something NOT a Mac. If doing more with photos, video, graphic design, music, etc. I would go with Mac. If she is going to use an iPad a lot or has an iPhone she might want a Mac for consistency. Take her to a store that has both and let her play around with them. Ask lots of questions. If you can find an Apple store and a Microsoft store rather than a big box store you will get better help and more accurate information.

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answers from Washington DC on

Get the specs from the college for what your student will need at a minimum for things like connecting to the wifi/network. Further, ask the department if there is any specialized software required. My SD got a computer from the campus bookstore because it provided her the software she needed for classes, was already configured for the campus, and came with a 4 yr warranty. I normally would not pay that much for a computer, but honestly it's been good for us since she is so h*** o* electronics. Her "extra sturdy" laptop has been in the shop (on campus) more than once and in the meantime they provide her a loaner so she's not stuck. Don't just to for cheapest if it won't be enough. A graphics art student, for example, might really benefit from a good Mac vs a low end PC.

Other than that, I'd skip DELL, unless they have suddenly gotten better. SS and niece and nephew all have DELLs that have been nothing but trouble. DH recently got an HP something or other, SD's is an HP, and SS and I use Thinkpads. Make sure the student has a good bag for it and I agree to look for long battery life as well.

As a side note, a wireless printer will also be very handy. I forget how much we got SD's for but I don't think it was much. She put it on top of her wardrobe to save space.

ETA: DEFINITELY get renter's insurance and register the laptop and any other valuables. It's usually about $100 a year and can be a lifesaver.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

We got a MacBook Pro for my daughter when she was Junior in High school and she is now starting he Junior year in college and that machine still works like new.....she loves it. We offered to upgrade it and she says there is no need that it still runs like new.

Most of the students on her campus have Mac products. The odd thing is that most of the professors use PC and PC programs. Most of the time, everything works out ok but she had 1 class where the majority of the students had a Mac and they had to go to a lab to use a PC to complete assignments.

We would purchase another Mac in a heartbeat for her.

On a personal note, I have a Dell XPS and LOVE it. I plan to upgrade my laptop to the newest XPS model this year. This is my 2nd XPS and 4th Dell. I love the Dell products. I typically use them 4-5 years before upgrading. I've never had issues and I have to have a good machine because I run my company on it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

There are a lot of good laptops available, PC & Mac. I went back to school & debated between getting a PC-based laptop or a Mac. Cost was a factor, & in the end I have a Mac due to generous family members who gave me a "going back to school" gift.

Having attended classes @ 2 different universities, I can say >50% of people have Mac laptops, probably closer to 75%. There are pros & cons to each.

Pros - less cost, Word/Excel readily available & compatible with school programs for coursework.
Cons - susceptible to viruses (need to install & maintain anti-virus), power cords tend to wear out quickly

Pros - lightweight, virtually virus-free, compatible with other Mac devices (if you have iPad, iPod, iPhone), strong capabilities for graphic/art programs (photography, music, etc.), free support @ the Apple stores, magnetic power cords increase longevity
Cons - more expensive, proprietary software (Pages/Numbers) have limited capatability with Word/Excel

My personal recommendation is to get a Mac laptop, purchase the Microsoft Office package for Mac (yes, your student WILL need this, or they will need to convert every project they work on their laptop & risk losing formatting, pain in the keister!), & investing in a good case (I use the BookBook case by Twelvesouth, my computer never even needs to come out of the case!).

If you go the PC route, make sure to purchase the best anti-virus software & never forget to update it. If possible, look into warranties.

A few links with additional information:

Good luck! T. :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I would get the same Microsoft Surface that I have. It is a touchscreen and has a pen, so I can take it to meetings and take notes with it - then click a button and it turns my chickenscratch notes into text. And it does everything that a traditional laptop computer does when it has the keyboard attached.

I think this would be perfect for a college student, because he or she could take it to class to take notes on, as well as use it as a regular computer.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

If the student will be studying anything technical (pre-med, any kind of engineering, science, art or graphic arts or visual arts, etc) there may be certain requirements for installing programs. And some programs work only on Macs or only on PCs, or only on computers with certain specific capabilities. So those are things to take into consideration. The student's adviser or counselor can help with those kinds of decisions.

Another consideration: laptops are often stolen, damaged, dropped, or spilled on. Buying a young freshman a top-of-the-line, expensive laptop might make that laptop a target, or a costly risk. And you might ask your homeowner's or renter's insurance company about a computer rider, or how best to protect an investment like that. Take into consideration the type of person this college freshman is: does he or she take care of possessions, keep track of belongings, or is he or she the type of person that can never find the phone charger, has already lost 3 phones, and knocks over cans of soda all the time? A kid who's always in a hurry, who's already spilled chocolate milk on a keyboard or two, might need a sturdier laptop.

If the student doesn't know what he or she will be studying, and is going off to a college where the first year will be spent on core classes, deciding on a major, and exploring the options, then a basic laptop will do. You can wait until they've decided on a career path and then get the best laptop for that field of study.

17 inch laptops are nice, but it's harder to find cases for them, and they are harder to take around. The smaller laptops with the tiny screens are harder to see and the keyboards can be hard to use due to their small size. 15 inch screens are easy to find cases for, and they're portable but easily viewable.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Macs are expensive and you're stuck with Apple-specific/iTunes only crApps. Microsoft based PCs...I hate the new OS. It's so cumbersome to use.

Check out Google Chromebook. Love an Android based OS.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

MacBook. Light. Years ahead!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Get a MacBook Air. It uses solid state technology, so there are very few moving parts inside the computer. My ten year old has one and dropped it down the stairs. Believe it or not, it survived intact and still functions perfectly. It's a good choice for a dorm room!

Also: On my (Mac) desktop, I'm able to run Windows, and actually it runs Windows faster than PCs do. So any program that can only run on Windows, I have no problems running it on my Mac. I also have Microsoft Office for Mac on my computer, and it has no compatibility problems whatsoever when I e-mail or DropBox things to colleagues who are on PCs. So don't let the whole software issue confuse you. Mac is for sure the way to go if you want a trouble-free experience.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

It's got to be light weight and have a long lasting battery life.

It also depends on what sort of software they will need to use.
If they are going into engineering and will be expected to use AutoDesk or other CAD programs then they need a computer will be able deal with that.
Some kids are already using this sort of software in high school.
Ask if the college has any recommendations.

The Best Laptops for College Students,2817,###-###-####,00.asp

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

MAC for our daughter. when she graduated she purchased a new one. I agree get insurance. We purchased hers through her college computer store. They then could work on it for all sorts of situations,
Seemed like liquid spills were her main problem in college.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I have a Toshiba. I really like how the newer Windows programs are more like cell phone apps instead of like old Windows programs.

I think any computer you get needs to have a couple of things.

The fastest processor you can find. That is what makes the information they'll be researching and reading move faster. It is the power that makes the process work.

Then it needs to have the size and weight they can handle on a daily basis. I want a larger screen because my sight isn't great anymore. My husband wanted convenience to carry a computer in a smaller sleeve. So he got a laptop about 1/3 smaller than mine.

Each person has their own preferences. I think you should plan on spending around $500-$700 for a computer. There are less expensive ones out there but they may not have very good speeds and connectivity.

Be sure to check them out online for reviews. Discount those who hate Windows 8, I love the program. It has issues for me but overall I love how easy it is.



answers from Miami on

Get insurance. You may scoff, but the first time your kid calls you and tells you that he stepped on the screen because he fell asleep and just laid it in the floor, you'll wish you had the insurance.

Mac or PC? You kind of need to have that info from your kiddo...

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