College Advice Blog

May 27, 2011

The Top 7 Laptops for College Students

It's that time of year again. Millions of high school seniors are graduating. That also means parents will be buying new laptops for their college-bound kids. Colleges and academic departments usually offer basic laptop specifications. Find them at the schools' website, often on the "Welcome" or "Orientation" pages. Once you have found your specific schools' requirements, follow my recommendations for a laptop your grad will truly love. Technology salespeople recommend keeping it simple and buying based on your personal preferences. Here are the basics you need on operating systems, memory and speed, followed by my recommendations for the 7 best laptops for the college student.

You will want to purchase the software package Microsoft Office Home & Student; Word, Excel, Power point, and One Note. Many retailers offer an in-store coupon for dollars off when purchased with a new laptop

Choosing a Windows machine may be complicated. You'll find a variety of options from many manufacturers. Specifications vary widely, and there are a few different versions of Windows. So shop carefully. Go with Windows 7 Home Premium or Ultimate. I recommend a 64-bit version. You can use more RAM for speedier performance allowing the machine to not lag if you open several programs simultaneously.

Select an Intel Core i5 or AMD Phenom processor, if possible. A dual-core model is fine for most students. Don't waste your money on a top-of-the-line processor, such as an Intel core i7. In fact, older Core 2 Duo or Turion II processors will satisfy general computing needs.

At minimum, go with 4GB of RAM for 64-bit Windows. More than 3GB of RAM won't be supported by 32-bit Windows; save your money. Storage space is important; as well. Don't settle for a hard drive smaller than 250GB. Purchase an external hard drive for more storage space, because protecting current information is a must. Currently, many 2.0 version external hard drives are clearance priced, as the faster 3.0 (625MB/sec) is making it way to the retail marketplace. Current 2.0 devices operate at high speed 60MB/sec.

Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections should come standard. You also want plenty of USB ports and a DVD burner. Don't underestimate the importance of a large keyboard and screen. The laptop will be more comfortable to use with those features.. You'll need to balance this with weight. Anything over five pounds may be too heavy to carry.

Pricing and Financing
A machine meeting these specifications starts around $500. Watch for retailer weekly advertisements. Many ads promote laptops at an astonishing price, only to be achieved with online or mail in rebates. That means you will pay more initially.

The Top Picks
1. Hewlett-Packard (HP g7-1070 us)
  • Intel® Core™ i3-380M Processor (2.53GHz)
  • 4GB installed memory
  • 500GB hard drive
  • LightScribe SuperMulti DVD Burner
  • 17.3" diagonal High Definition+ HP BrightView LED Display
2. Toshiba Satellite L675D - S7107
  • AMD Phenom™ II Dual-Core Mobile N660 Processor (3.0GHz)
  • 4GB installed memory
  • 500GB hard drive
  • 17.3' diagonal widescreen
3. Acer Aspire AS7741Z - 4839
  • Intel® Pentium® Dual-Core Processor P6200 (2.13GHz)
  • 4GB installed memory
  • 500GB hard drive
  • 17.3" HD+ Widescreen LED-backlit Display
4. Toshiba Satellite A665D - S5175
  • AMD Phenom™ II Quad-Core Mobile P960 Processor (1.8GHz)
  • 4GB installed memory
  • 640GB hard drive
  • 15.6' diagonal widescreen

5. Lenovo G560 0679ALU

  • Intel® Pentium® P6200 Processor (2.13GHz)
  • 4GB installed memory
  • 320GB hard drive
  • DVD Single Layer Burner
  • 15.6" LED HD Widescreen display
6. HP Probook 4520s XT991UT
  • Intel® Core™ i5-480M Processor (2.66 GHz)
  • 4GB installed memory
  • 15.6" diagonal LED-back-lit HD anti-glare
7. The Big Mac
  • Intel Core 2 Duo processor
  • 2GB Ram
  • 250 gigabyte hard drive
  • 13.3" LED back-lit screen
  • The entry-level MacBook ($1000.00) should meet schools' requirements. Mac's are best for students who create graphics, art and music.
PC vs. MacBook
For the money, a windows based product will far outsell a MacBook. The perception that Mac is all powerful is just that...a personal opinion. Macs are built strong, aren't as susceptible to viruses, and have undeniably superior graphics for creative work. If you are an art student, the Mac may be best for you. However, keeping personal preference out of it, all PCs out perform the MacBook in RAM, screen size and built-in hard drive storage space.

About The Author
Charles Tran blogs for, a site that helps consumers compare credit cards, letting them find the best card for their needs.

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