Side Column Laptops

Student FAQ Questions


Your computer should be able to run at normal speed while having multiple windows open. Some may be playing videos, downloading music or programs, or viewing documents. Most laptops being sold to students today have more than 2GHz of processing power. This is a pretty good baseline to draw when shopping for a laptop.

Simply put, a student’s laptop is his or her lifeline. You’ll be on your laptop several hours per day, whether you’re writing computer code, typing an essay, researching a topic, or just checking Facebook. A laptop needs to be able to handle all of these tasks—sometimes simultaneously—and still operate with reasonable speed.

That being said, an English or Philosophy major who uses Microsoft Word and Adobe Reader is going to put less stress on their computer than an engineer who uses MATLAB or a computer programmer who uses Java. If all you need out of a computer are relatively basic functions, processing power is of less concern to you. Based on your interests, try to figure out what the specific uses of your computer may be.

Windows 7, Windows 8 and the latest Apple iOS are going to be the easiest operating systems to use in college.

Windows 7 is used by many library and administrative systems, so student portals like the widely-used Blackboard run very well with Windows 7. With the recent release of Windows 8, you can expect most administrative systems to upgrade. Even if they don’t, Windows 8 will have no problem negotiating its preceding model.

Apple’s iOS is incredibly popular among college students and most programs, student access portals and email systems run very well on MacBook Pro. However, many students even choose to run Windows on their MacBooks because of its compatibility around campus.

It depends upon your course of study. The chart below should help you go forward in your decision.
Major Graphics Needs Examples
Liberal Arts (History, English, Linguistics, etc.) Standard Intel HD Graphics 4000
Engineering High: Engineering-specific NVIDIA Quadro FX
Graphic Design High: Design-specific NVIDIA GTX 570
Architecture High: 3D-specific NVIDIA Quadro 4000
Video Game and Graphic Programming High: Program- and Design-specific ADM Radeon HD 570
Foreign Language Standard Intel HD Graphics 4000
Life Sciences (Biology, etc.) Standard Intel HD Graphics 4000
Math Standard Intel HD Graphics 4000


This just presents a starting point from which to explore the world of graphics cards. Many options exist and in today’s diverse market you should be able to find a graphics card to suit your needs. For the majority of students, the graphics card that comes with your laptop is going to be more than enough. For some, however, student life can benefit greatly from improved graphics. Not only does your choice depend upon your major, but upon your hobbies and interests: Are you a film buff, for instance? If so, your experience can be enhanced by a step up in the graphics processing unit (GPU) department. Are you a gamer? Then look for gaming-specific graphics cards.

Students are studying a variety of subjects simultaneously. A common hybrid course of study, for example, is a double major in math and computer science. Naturally, it doesn’t make sense to buy two graphics cards to accommodate your two majors, so even though a high-end graphics card is not necessary for math homework, it might serve well to buy a high-quality graphics card for computer science needs.

Offering mainstream performance and functionality for use at work, home, or school, Lenovo's G Series laptops are affordable devices for everyday. This combination of affordability and performance makes them ideal for students on a budget. G Series laptops are available with both 4th and 5th Generation Intel Core processors, as well as high-performance Intel graphics cards, large HD displays, and a host of attractive features, such as Microsoft Windows. Learn more about the Lenovo G Series.

Students may also be interested in the S Series. Known as everyday ultraportables for their size and performance, Lenovo's S Series laptops include ultra-efficient AMD multi-core processors, full-sized AccuType keyboards for greater comfort and ease of use, ample storage space for pictures and videos, and the latest version of Microsoft Windows. Further adding to the appeal of the S Series, these laptops are ultra-thin and lightweight, and available at an affordable price point. Learn more about the Lenovo S Series.

If long battery life is a priority, the X Series is right for you. With between 10 and 20 hours of available charge, Lenovo's X Series laptops can be used on and off for several days without having to be plugged in. This battery life also means that X Series laptops can be used continuously on long flights and train rides without worry of losing power. Flexibility and usability are hallmarks of the X Series, making it the platform of choice for businessmen and women, students, and individuals who are constantly on the move. Learn more about the Lenovo X Series.

Another product line that offers extended battery life is Lenovo's T Series. This flagship model line combines award-winning performance, superior design, durability, and exceptional security features under one platform. With up to 17 hours of battery life available, Lenovo's T Series laptops allow users to take full advantage of the many benefits and features on offer. Lenovo recognizes that portability is one of the fundamental traits of laptops, and in order to achieve this, battery life is important. The T Series has been designed with this in mind. Discover the Lenovo T Series.

A good bottom line to set is 4GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive. Students don’t just need to store Word documents and Excel spreadsheets; they sometimes need to store thousands of images and PDF files or run large, complex programs. Therefore, sufficient memory is vital when buying a laptop.

And that’s just for classes. Campuses are the place for cutting-edge technology, so laptops must be able to handle the programming software for programs like Skype and ooVoo, webcam software and Adobe Photoshop. Many students today use music programs like VirtualDJ and Mixxx. All of these require a strong, capable laptop.

For many students, it’s important that their laptop performs as a gaming console.. Many laptops are made specifically for gaming, such as those in the ASUS G-Series and most Alienware laptops. Almost all gaming laptops come with increased RAM. It’s not uncommon to see up to 16GB of RAM come standard on high-end gaming laptops. Of course, most daily functions are completely possible on gaming laptops, so if you’re interested in laptop gaming, looking into these products is not a bad idea. Gaming laptops tend to sell at a much higher price, but the increased memory could be beneficial outside of the gaming world, especially if you’re interested in graphic design or architecture. With processing power, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

It is a good idea to have a laptop with a drive that can read CD-ROMs. DVDs and Blu-ray discs are hardly ever used for class, but they are often used for impromptu dormitory movie-watching parties.

Most of the time you won’t need to use a Blu-ray, DVD or CD-ROM drive. However, certain courses of study require it more frequently than others, and there are times in almost every student’s career when he or she is glad to have a disc drive available.

Many course textbooks—especially for language and math, engineering and computer science courses—come with a CD-ROM that has a specific program and serial number. In some cases, this serial number is actually necessary to log in with via an online account and use as an assignment portal. In others, it is merely a helpful resource.

What software you need depends very much upon what you major in and which courses you study.

Though most laptops come equipped, it’s important to first mention that Microsoft Office (PowerPoint, Excel and Word at the very least) are almost essential for every student. Though a small portion of students choose to use alternative word processors and spreadsheet creators, the vast majority of professors, administrators and other students use the standard Microsoft suite. Because many assignments are turned in via email attachments, having this basic software is very important for a college student.

Adobe Reader and Photoshop, though not used as often as Microsoft Office, are also useful and widely-used.

For engineers and computer science majors, MATLAB is one of the most popular software programs. Math and economics majors use this program heavily as well. In MATLAB, students can do anything from test the maximum stress of sample material to designing stunning mathematical works of art using fractal functions. They can use it to test economics hypotheses and decide how best to secure the arches on a virtual bridge.

CAD is an alternative to MATLAB that many students and professors choose to use. It comes in a few different packages, each tailored to the needs of its users. AutoCAD and WaterCAD are two examples.

Java is the most popular coding program for entry-level computer science majors. Students who learn to write code do so in Java most of the time. It’s an important, if rudimentary, program to be proficient in if you wish to enter the computer science field.

Aside from basic software necessities, professors will specify before the class which software is necessary to have on your computer. Often, this information is included in the course description. If it’s not, a simple email to the professor will suffice. Because the American academic environment is so large and diverse, you’ll have to be prepared for many different types of software if you’re in a field where computing is important. Often, the choice will be based on little other than the professor’s personal preference, as in so many other facets of student life. Your responsibility is to make sure that your laptop can handle whatever you throw at it.