Which Laptop Is Best for College Students?

Q: Which laptops are best for college students? What computer features do students need?

A: This is a great question because college students have many unique computer needs. Here is a list of the most important features to keep in mind.

1. Netbook or Laptop: Before you make a choice here, you need to understand the answer to this question: What is the difference between a netbook and a laptop? A netbook is a streamlined mobile device designed for the Internet, so you can stay connected on the go.

Netbooks look like laptops, but they do not have all of the capabilities of a full computer. Instead, a netbook specializes in mobility and the Web, so netbooks are not a good choice for running large software programs. They can be a good choice for students, but it depends on what you need.

If you can get by with less computing power and you will have good access to the Internet, you can use free word processing programs from Google and others.

2. Operating System: Do you want Microsoft, Apple, or Linux to run on your laptop? Linux systems (like Ubuntu) are growing in popularity because it is a cheap and powerful alternative to other operating systems. But if you are new to computers, you might want to choose Microsoft or Apple because you will find more help when you need it. Apple is more expensive, but is very popular among college students.

3. Power and Technical Specs: Choose a laptop with at least 50 gigabyte (GB) hard drive storage. Luckily, most netbooks and laptops over much more hard drive space than this. Keep in mind that you will also need at least 2 GB of RAM to run Windows software properly.

4. Connections: A wireless (wifi) connection is a must and is built in to almost all netbooks and laptops.  This is good because college students will need access to the Internet everywhere on campus. Most laptops will also have these connections: a printer port, a 56Kbps-modem, a VGA port for an external monitor, and should have at least one USB port for keyboard/mouse, digital cameras, external drives, and MP3 players.

5. Battery Life: Make sure your laptop has a reasonable battery life. Five hours or more is considered good.