Tips For Buying the Best Laptop on a Student Budget
BY ROBERT PARMER
As the digital age progresses, laptops and other tech gadgets are becoming less of a convenience and more of a necessity to educational success. BYOD (bring your own device) mindsets are becoming more popular than thoughts of BYOB.
While digital natives are ingrained in technology since birth, choosing to buy the perfect laptop for college can actually be a tremendous challenge. There are just so many options out there for computers–where do we even begin?
Do Your Research First
If you aren’t someone who considers themselves to be tech-savvy when it comes to laptop computers, it’s a smart idea to do some research first.
Whether you spend the time to do this independently or seek advice from a well-versed friend is up to you. Either way, you’ll save a lot of money by heavily weighing your options–and you’ll wind up with a better laptop in the long run.
Decide on exactly what you need before you start shopping too seriously.
How much battery life will be necessary? Do you truly need a laptop or will a tablet be sufficient? And what about tech specs: how much memory, processor speed, and hard drive space will you need for school?
These are all important questions to ask yourself ahead of time, as student needs are as diverse as the disciplines they study.
Thinking Like a College Student
A section on laptops within an article titled When is the Best Time to Make a Big Purchase?, gives some fantastic advice:
“In order to get the best deal on a laptop, you need to think like a college student. At the end of summer, high school students getting ready for college want the best laptop possible for the next stage of life. Retailers are happy to help, cutting prices on laptops for the incoming college freshman. As an added bonus, there’s likely to be a bundle offer, including anything from free software to a gift card from the retailer. If you are lucky, you might even get a free video game console – remember the sales are targeted at incoming college students.”
The time of year you purchase your laptop is crucial if you’re trying to get the best bargain. The best times to shop include Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Christmas, and the turn of the new school year.
Related: Keeping Your Identity Safe as an Online College Student
New, Used, or Refurbished?
Buying a used laptop saves the most money upfront, but this is only an intelligent option if you know a lot about computers. A wide range of knowledge will help you sniff out scammers selling broken computers–just make sure you’re careful. You certainly don’t want to get ripped off!
Refurbished laptops (which have been sent back to the manufacturer for repair and resell) are a good compromise if you’d like to pay less. This approach gives you a sense of security with your purchase. Most retailers that sell refurbished electronics will accept returns and exchanges if items don’t work properly.
Finally, the most coveted option is to just purchase a brand new laptop. You’ll more than likely get a manufacture warranty as well as a store return or exchange in case you change your mind after taking your new laptop on a trail run.
The Best of the Best
After many hours of online shopping on numerous sites, the following are the best laptops deals I could find for 2017. I factored in tech specs and other important features such as battery life, portability, durability, and storage space.
Asus Chromebook C202 — $199
Durable and easy to repair, 8+ hour battery life, water resistant
HP Chromebook 14 — $229
A long-lasting basic option for students with basic needs in a laptop, high quality keyboard and trackpad, fun colors
Acer Chromebook 15 — $249
The “King of Chromebooks”, one of the best bargains on a compact laptop
Asus Zenbook UX305 — $599
Commonly referred to as a MacBook Air knockoff, more economical than a Mac, large solid state hard drive, thin and sleek
Dell XPS 13 — $700
A powerhouse laptop with a super quick processor, all-around aesthetically pleasing
13-inch MacBook Air — $799
The holy grail of compact laptops for many, incredibly thin, lightning quick, constructed of the highest quality components
Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming — $799
Pro-quality on a student budget; crisp display, massive hard drive, several graphics cards
Apple MacBook Pro — $1,099+
Professional quality, industry-standard laptop; best for students who need the fastest, most reliable laptop money can buy
Whether you prefer Windows to Mac, or are looking to spend two hundred or a thousand dollars, a bargain is out there. If you do a little research and bargain hunting beforehand, you’ll find a laptop that meets your educational needs–for a price your student budget can handle!
Robert Parmer is a freelance web writer and student of Boise State University. Outside of writing whenever he has spare time, Robert enjoys creating and recording music, caring for his pet cat, and commuting by bicycle whenever possible. Follow him on Twitter @robparmer