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How to Buy the Best Laptop for Your Back-to-School Needs

Tech Talker covers what features you should look for in a new laptop for school. 

By
Eric Escobar,
August 18, 2016
Episode #233

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Every year, I get asked for recommendations for school laptops, and unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all laptop solution, which is why my answer is always, "That depends ... "

Here are some things to consider when picking out a new laptop for school.

Windows or Apple?

The biggest question when buying a computer is to answer the question of Windows or Apple? 

Apple products are almost always more expensive than their Windows counterparts. However, they are typically better built and will last a little bit longer. This is because Apple controls the entire supply chain, from operating systems to computer parts. Windows, on the other hand, typically has cheaper laptops because they are made by all different types of companies which allow cost savings.

Ultimately, your decision will probably be made for you depending on the software you’ll be using for school. If you’re in any sort of graphics major where you will be heavily using graphic editors such as Photoshop, or video editors such as Final Cut Pro, you’ll most definitely want an Apple computer. There is no video editing software that can run on a Windows operating system that can compete with iMovie or Final Cut Pro for the price.

The same goes for many STEM degrees, such as engineering. Most of the software you’ll be using requires that you have a Windows operating system for AutoCAD or Solid Works. These computer programs are only available for Windows, which is a huge bummer. All of this to say that before you go off and buy a laptop, call your school or department and ask what software you’ll be required to run, and if they have any specific recommendations.

Computer Labs

Another option to keep in mind is that most schools have computer labs that you can use for free. These are awesome because they will typically already be set up with all of the software that you would need to complete any of your assignments. I bring this up as an option because you could simply get a budget laptop to take notes on for a quarter of the price of an expensive laptop and then use the computer lab to complete assignments that require specific computer programs or a lot of horsepower.

How Will You Use Your Computer?

Once you’ve identified the software that you need for school, let’s look at the primary uses of your laptop on a day-to-day basis. Will you be taking it to class every day? Will you only be using it at the library? Will you just be using it at your dorm or apartment?

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