Nathan’s Tech Recs: Laptops

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By Nathan Cartmell

College technology is an interesting topic, especially when it comes to laptops. On one hand, most people want to buy something that performs well, looks decent and will last at least through college. On the other hand, money can be tight when you’re in college. Spending $2,000 or more on a super high-end laptop is likely not an option for most college students, especially not in one big chunk. In this article, I will explain what college students should likely look for in a laptop, and the different challenges that come with picking one.  

First, and most importantly, picking a laptop depends on the type of products you are already familiar with and already have. If you’re an Apple user like many young people, you might be more inclined to buy a MacBook. The benefits of Macs are simple: they work very well with iPhones, iPads, AirPods, and other devices that are in the Apple Ecosystem. If you already have an iPhone, a Mac can be a very good computer. The power is incredible, and the entire lineup of Macs are good quality. If you need a good machine for everyday tasks, I recommend the 13.6” M2 MacBook Air. I’d also recommend upgrading to the 512gb storage model. That is what I’ve been using since I started college, and it has served me well. If you have a more restrictive budget, the M1 MacBook Air from 2020 is still a good choice, and Apple still sells it.  

However, Apple is not the only one making good laptops. If you don’t want a Mac, chances are you’ll want a Windows laptop or possibly a Chromebook. Between these three, it depends on what you’re doing. If you’re almost exclusively doing things in a browser like Chrome, such as using Docs, Sheets, Gmail, or Slides, with the occasional game of Candy Crush, then the Chromebook could be enough for daily use. The low powered hardware is usually enough to run ChromeOS, but it isn’t nearly powerful enough to do heavy tasks like video editing or gaming. If you’re looking for a Chromebook, I’d recommend the ASUS Chromebook CM14. At $200, it is quite decent, although you might have to be choosey with apps, as it only has 64gb of built-in storage. 

If you’re a business student who needs more features and more advanced software, like intensive rendering programs, as well as the Office Suite of apps, then a Windows laptop is your best bet. However, if you’re thinking of buying a Windows computer that’s $250 or less, there’s likely something very below average with it, most likely the specifications. While ChromeOS can run decently on low-end hardware, Windows is a much heavier operating system, and as such required more power to deliver a smooth experience. For a Windows laptop, I would personally recommend the Acer Aspire 5. It has a decent amount of memory and storage, which is good for most light to medium tasks, and it is a lot of value for $400. 

Overall, all these computers can be serviceable depending on the use. If you’re seriously on a budget, Chromebooks are the least expensive, whereas Macs are usually the most expensive but the best performing out of the four laptops I recommended, with $400-500 Windows computers also being a compelling option. The most important thing though is that you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a laptop to do average college things.