What should you be looking for in a student laptop?
With all the options out there, it can be tough to figure out what’s a must-have
feature vs. what’s a nice-to-have. We’ve broken it all down into seven key
topics, so you can ace your “Best laptop for a college student” exam! (Just
kidding—there’s no exam.)
When it comes to PCs, the amount of computing power a machine has relates to what
it’s capable of doing (i.e. running specific software, handling multiple tasks
simultaneously), and how fast it can do it. The CPU (Central Processing Unit) –
or simply, “the processor” – is the internal component that gives a laptop its
power. If you’ve ever heard people use buzzwords like “Intel Inside,”
“dual-cores,” or “Core i7,” these all refer to CPUs. Though there are some other
considerations, like the amount of on-board memory or the use of SSDs
(solid-state drives), generally speaking, the CPU speed is the single biggest
factor when it comes to power. The faster the CPU, or the higher the GHz, the
more expensive it can be. Just like driving a fast sports car or a minivan, you
can definitely notice the difference.
Of course, sometimes a minivan is fast enough for your needs, so spending more to
buy a sports car just doesn’t make sense. The same holds true for laptops. Some
students only need to surf the web, watch the occasional YouTube video, create
documents, and do Skype video calls with family and friends back home. For these
students, an inexpensive laptop with an Intel Core i3 processor or equivalent is
plenty powerful enough.
On the other hand, if your student is just as likely to be found neck-deep in an
online multiplayer game like Fortnite, or Overwatch, as s/he is to be working on
their physics PhD dissertation, you should probably be looking at a laptop that
can keep up. A laptop with the latest 10th generation Intel Core i9 processor is
a genuinely ferocious machine that should be more than a match for whatever your
kid throws at it. We should also point out that discrete graphics (an extra
processor inside the laptop that just handles what you see on the screen) is
quickly becoming as important as the CPU. Discrete graphics share the computing
burden with the main processor, making the whole machine faster when it comes to
gaming, video editing, or any other graphics-intensive activities.
For power, check out Lenovo IdeaPads - these laptops are affordable, and
feature the latest processors for ample power to handle whatever your professor
throws your way.
Your student’s laptop is going to have to survive some pretty tough conditions.
Unlike laptops that are primarily used for business, your kid’s machine is going
to go with them everywhere and be used for just about everything. Classroom? Of
course. Dorm room? Definitely. But also, every place in between, from the
college lawn, to the local Starbucks, to the cramped seats of a campus bus – and
probably a few places we haven’t even thought of. They’re going to need a laptop
that’s built to withstand a bit more than casual typing, which is why laptop
durability is such an important consideration.
When shopping for a student laptop, look beyond the specs and feature lists and
consider how it’s built. Is the hinge going to be durable enough to withstand
constant opening and closing? If it’s a 2 in 1, will that hinge be able to
support the laptop in a variety of positions without loosening? Does the
keyboard feel sturdy, or does it rattle when you type on it? If you open the
screen from the front edge, does it flex, or is it firm? These are all areas of
potential weakness, and a poorly made laptop will experience a failure of one or
more of them, long before the internal components become obsolete.
If durability is a key issue for you, you’ll be interested to know that our ThinkPad line of laptops go through military grade
testing, and can more than stand up to the worst college can throw at your
3. Weight & Portability
There can be a substantial difference in the weight of laptops, from under two
pounds, to well over 17 pounds. When picking a laptop for your student, the goal
should be to find the lightest machine that still meets their needs. That may
sound fairly straightforward, but things get a little more complicated when you
start to take into consideration things like battery life, screen size, form
factor, and performance.
Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind:
Bigger is bigger. It goes without saying that the bigger the laptop screen, the
heavier the laptop. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but generally
speaking, if you take two laptops of equivalent power with equivalent features,
the one with the bigger screen will weigh more. Sometimes the tradeoff is worth
it, especially if your student expects their laptop to replace all the features
of a desktop computer.
The more powerful a machine—say a laptop that’s built
for gaming—the greater its electricity demands, and therefore the bigger
its battery will be. So, a 15-inch gaming laptop will weigh more than a 15-inch
model that’s designed for more casual computing.
Larger storage also means more weight. Spinning disk hard drives can store way
more data than SSDs and cost a lot less, too, but these hard drives also weigh
more. If you really want to shed some pounds, you’ll have to compromise on
internal storage. You can always supplement with an external USB drive to add
more storage, so you’re never completely stuck if you need more room. Check out
some other top computer accessories for students.
However, if all you’re looking for is a truly lightweight option for portability,
check out Lenovo Chromebooks.
4. Battery life
It doesn’t matter how great your laptop is if it runs out of power when you need
it most. That’s why battery life is a top consideration for student laptops.
While battery life is improving as technology advances, not all laptops can run
all day on a single charge. The more powerful your machine, the larger the
screen, the bigger the hard drive, and the more ports it has, the greater the
drain on its batteries. Using a laptop for high-performance activities like
online gaming or engineering applications will reduce battery life even further.
Much like with the weight of a laptop, the goal here is to maximize battery life
while keeping in mind what your student needs most out of their computer. If it
turns out that being able to stay unplugged is what your kid values most, we’ve
got good news: There are many laptops that can deliver this level of electrical
independence and still provide the kind of computing power they need, such as
the ThinkPad T Series.
5. 2 in 1 Functionality
If you’ve been putting off a decision on buying a new laptop for your student
because you’re not sure if they’ll need a tablet as well, it’s time to take a
look at 2 in 1 laptops. These machines
are relatively new to the laptop market, but are rapidly gaining in popularity,
thanks to their unique ability to blend the best features of both a traditional
laptop and a tablet into a single device. When sitting on a surface with its
screen angled away from you, a 2 in 1 looks and works just like a regular
laptop. Flip the screen all the way around by its 360-degree hinge, and it
morphs into a touchscreen tablet that you can navigate with your choice of a
finger or a stylus pen.
2 in 1 laptops are ideally suited to students who prefer to take notes using
handwriting, or who need to sketch out designs. If your student is enrolled in
an arts program, the benefits of a 2 in 1 are obvious, but an increasing number
of applied science programs like architecture and mechanical engineering can
take advantage of a 2 in 1’s tablet features, too.
If a 2 in 1 is needed, look no further than the Lenovo Yoga computers for the best
of both worlds.
6. Windows 10 compatibility
Buying a laptop running Windows 10 means you’ll be running the world’s most
powerful operating system, with hundreds of thousands of apps at your
fingertips. The OS is designed for speed, security and usability, meaning you’ll
get the best in user experience. Windows 10 also includes touchscreen
capabilities for laptops equipped with those displays.
With options ranging from value-priced machines to top-of-the-line gaming
systems, there’s a Lenovo Windows 10 laptop for every budget and need. And with
more than half of computers around the world running Windows 10, you’ll never
have a problem finding the software to meet your needs.
7. Remote-learning ready
Online instruction has been growing in popularity in recent years as students
work to incorporate the classroom into their busy lives, and everyone was hit
with an unexpected shock in Spring 2020 when colleges around the country went to
an online-only format. It’s difficult to predict how instruction will be
delivered in the future but having the right equipment can make remote learning
a breeze. Whether students opt for online classes out of convenience or
necessity, it’s important to have a laptop that’s up to the task.
Along with the ability to handle basic computer chores laptops need to be able to
handle all the accessories required for distance education, including webcams,
printers, speakers, headsets and more.