Gone are the days when a laptop was an optional item for a college student. Now we are living in a modern age; wherein almost all our daily tasks are handled and assisted by a laptop. College students know that a laptop is not just a tool to check email or surf through social media. College life nowadays is very demanding and academic dependence on technology is fastly growing.

Having a fast laptop is not a luxury anymore; it has become a necessity.

Though almost all the activities can be performed by the smartphones and tablets, still there is a need for a laptop.

Students know that laptop is an essential requirement for their coursework and completion of tons of research needed during academic activities. A serious word processing is required for essays and term papers, and there is no clear replacement of the laptop.

Having a powerful laptop is necessary in this ever-growing age of online courses for interacting with teachers and classmates.

A laptop is also needed for data storage on the hard drive or a cloud. This is all besides mentioning the things that college students use their laptop for in their free time: from gaming to streaming movies, surfing the web, or just keeping up with social media.

Luckily, for college students, there are a lot of options today. From small, lightweight little notebooks to fully-loaded laptops numerous options are there. But sometimes when there are more options, it becomes harder for the consumer to decide.

Whether you are looking for a convertible laptop that can also become a tablet, a low-budget laptop or a trusted brand that you are familiar with, this guide can help you narrow down your options and find how to select a laptop for your specific usage, based on your college and major subjects.

Choosing the right laptop for a college student is not an easy game, because every student is different – and so are their computing needs. Do you need to spend a lot of time typing long-form prose? A great keyboard may be the most critical factor in this case. Do you need to run high-end applications like CAD packages? A powerful CPU and GPU will be more critical here. And of course, there’s downtime to consider: Any college student who wants to play a game when the homework is finished will need a machine that can keep up with heavy video demands.

The very first thing to consider when buying for a new college laptop is how you are going to use it now and in the future. With technology changing fast year after year, it’s a good idea to consider a laptop that can handle new applications and programs. This is called “future proofing” your purchase or buying a laptop that has headroom for more advanced technology which is yet to be introduced.

Ask yourself these questions—your answers will help narrow down your choices.

• What programs or applications are requirements for your classes?
• What fields or majors are you interested in?
• Do you play video games, or do you want to get into gaming?
• Do you use video to chat with friends or family?
• Do you enjoy creating your own content—videos, podcasts, etc.?

Here in this guide, we are trying to explain the factors based on which the decision to buy a laptop for college students can be made.

Since our requirements may vary a lot, we will talk about what features you should look for in your machine and why you might need them, so that you can decide about selecting your ideal device among the choices out there. When you go shopping on an online portal, you’ll see lots of specifications, such as the processor or CPU, graphics card or GPU, RAM, screen size, and more. This is what you need to know when you’re looking at these numbers.

The name of the laptop will be followed by something like (Core i3 4th Gen) – this is what refers to the processor in the laptop. There are a lot of different options for processors, but to keep it simple, try and stick to one of the Intel processors, whose name will begin with ‘Core i’, and then a number.

If your field of study requires only basic usage like browsing and documentation, then a relatively less powerful processor like an i3 may suit your requirements, and save you quite a few bucks in the process.

However, if you need to use software like Photoshop, MATLAB, or AutoCAD, then your laptop must have a powerful processor. Look for a 4th or at least a 3rd generation Intel processor. An i5 will comfortably manage most of the software you use. An i7 is not really needed unless you are a dedicated gaming lover.

Graphics card
An integrated graphics card usually results in much better battery life and reduced heat generation in such laptops. A dedicated graphics card like NVIDIA’s GeForce series has its own processor and RAM for managing complex 3D graphics, which affects the battery life (and of course price) of your laptop. But how much power do you really need?

Many people will say that you should have a laptop with a standalone graphics card, but that’s just not true. You’re in college, and a little compromise can be made. And an integrated graphics card, with a decent processor and sufficient RAM, will still run most games.

Unless you are a dedicated gamer who play videogames at the highest settings, there is no need for a dedicated graphics card.

You will also need to know how much RAM the laptops have – typically, you’ll see a number like 2GB or 4GB. This is a critical specification. Modern computers are expected to do several tasks at once. More RAM makes the processes run smoothly. With new age programs becoming more and more demanding, consider 4GB as the bare minimum amount of RAM.

However, 8GB is ideal. Keep in mind that more RAM can be added later to your laptop in case you want to upgrade even after you’ve bought it.

Display and Speakers
From reading textbooks to watching movies to videos chats with friends, you’re going to be looking at that screen a lot. While you don’t need a full-HD screen, go for a decent display with adequate brightness.

Another important factor is of screen size. A large display will only add to the weight and your back may get a problem. On the other side, with anything below 11-inches, the screen may become uncomfortably small. I personally recommend 15 inch screen works best.

Most laptops don’t have powerful speakers, and this is off course not a priority, as your roommates will not appreciate being disturbed in their study Instead, invest in a nice pair of headphones to better enjoy your movies or TV shows.

DVD Drive and storage
These days, you don’t need a DVD drive, and can skip it, thanks to the widespread adoption of USB pen drives.

For storage options, you’ll need to see the number next to the words HDD (Hard Disk Drive) – typically something like 250GB or 500GB. I recommend at least 500GB of storage so that you can save your favourite movies and TV shows.

SSDs – This is the kind of storage that can be seen in Apple’s MacBook and some other laptops – It is an alternative to traditional hard disks and is faster but more expensive, which means you usually get a lot less storage.

Operating System
Windows 10 is one of the most popular operating systems today. You may find it pre-installed in almost every laptop these days. It is easy to use. You can install any software, be it productivity to entertainment to games. Depending on what you’re studying, there might be specific system requirements such as Mac OS or Linux.

This is something to consider. For example, if you need a software package that runs on a Mac, you won’t be able to do that on a Windows laptop. However, a MacBook or a MacBook Pro is expensive, but you can choose to install Windows on it as well. Laptops running Linux might be more affordable than ones that come with Windows pre-installed. This might save your money, but you’ll need to spend a bit more to get a copy of Windows.

Battery Life
The battery on a laptop is as important as the processor and RAM. As a college student, you might need to carry your laptop to college and back. You might not always get a chance to charge it at college. A good capacity battery can last for hours. One easy way to find out the capacity of the laptop’s battery is by looking at the rating. It’s usually marked as a 3-cell, 6-cell, or 9-cell battery. You can generally find this information on the retailer or on the manufacturer’s web site.

You’ll need Wi-Fi at the very least (there is no world without the Internet), and it would be best if there is a Bluetooth function as well. This will make sharing your works easier and also save time and money for flash drives.

When it comes to USBs, the more, the better, especially with all of the peripherals, such as smartphones, that a student might need to plug in. The same goes for external connection options (HDMI, DVI-D, USB Type-C); the more you have, the higher your flexibility. Other features and accessories are less critical.

Durability and Protection
Laptops with added features for hard use or rugged environments are already popular in various settings and are fastly moving into the student market, too. Models with spill-proof keyboards (in which any small amounts of liquid are directed away from the interior electrical components) are ideal for students and available in every price range.

Technical Support and Warranty Options
Depending on your technical knowledge, the availability of technical support from the laptop manufacturer and its quality may be an essential factor so you can check the online forums where these matters are discussed. And review the terms of the laptop warranty. If you really need a new student laptop to last next few years, you may decide about the cost-benefit value of an extended warranty that might be offered.

The Final Decision
It may seem a little confusing, but finding the perfect laptop for your college career can really set you on a path to success. Make a checklist using the features in this article, and focus on what you’ll need most from your college laptop in terms of processing power, storage, battery life and connectivity options.