Learn more about the importance of processors, storage and battery life for student laptops. Find out about the top student laptops for 2021.
Laptops have become a necessity for the majority of students. While laptops were always popular among college students, even high school or elementary students benefit from having a laptop. Many schools are starting to require laptops, issuing school computers to students who are unable to afford one. One of the biggest advantages a laptop has over a traditional desktop is portability. With a laptop, you can bring the computer into the classroom. Some schools allow students to take notes on their laptops, while others use laptops to teach virtual lessons.
Selecting the right laptop is difficult, in no small part because there is no correct answer. Many laptops are specialized towards certain subjects. An engineering student has much different technological needs compared to a mathematics major. Some courses require specific programs or software, which is not compatible with every type of laptop. Listed below are some of the best student laptops, as well as general tips to help you select the right computer.
Basic Laptop Considerations
Before looking at the technical specs of a laptop, start by considering the size and weight. If you travel with your laptop around campus, you may want a smaller, lighter model. If you study in a field where you frequently use your computer, such as computer science, you may want a larger model with more screen size. In terms of power, there is little difference based on size. Previously, larger laptops were considered more powerful because they had additional space for hardware, but as technology advanced and became smaller, this is less of an issue.
Another consideration is battery life. The average laptop battery lasts between 10 to 14 hours. Your battery drains quicker based on what activity you use your laptop for. If you are only taking notes or browsing the web, you can get the full duration of your battery. If you are running complex software, your battery drains faster. With a tighter class schedule, you may not have time to return to your dorm to charge your laptop.
Advanced Laptop Considerations
In terms of power, there are a few factors to consider. The first is how much random access memory (RAM) your computer has. The majority of laptops have at least 4 GB of RAM. This is more than enough to run basic programs, such as Microsoft Office or an internet browser. Science or engineering majors benefit from upgrading to 8 GB of RAM. This is enough to comfortably run most high-end programs. If your major requires you to run multiple programs at once, consider upgrading to 16 GB of RAM. Another consideration is your processor. As of writing, Intel Core i3 or i5 are considered entry level processors. Students involved in graphic or video editing should upgrade to an i7 or even an i9.
The majority of laptops run a solid-state drive (SSD). SSDs are powerful hard drives, which run nearly three times faster than a traditional hard drive. Laptops often have smaller hard drives compared to desktop computers. This determines how much storage space your computer has. Students are recommended to have at least 128 GB of storage, but if you use specialized software, invest in a 250 GB hard drive. If you also use your computer to play games or edit videos, upgrade to either a 512 GB or 1 TB hard drive.
Finally, you must decide on your operating system. The two biggest operating systems are Windows and Mac. Windows are typically less expensive and provide more customization option. However, certain professions exclusively use Mac programs. If you are unsure which you need, check with your teacher or course advisor. Today, most classes list if you need a specific operating system. Make sure you consider future classes as well, otherwise, you may end up having to invest in a second laptop at a later date.
Lenovo Yoga 7i
Lenovo offers many laptops, but the Yoga 7i is designed with students in mind. Lenovo offers a base version of the laptop, but there are many customization options available. The basic model comes with 8 GB of RAM, which is more than enough for the majority of students. It features a 14-inch screen, making it a larger laptop, but it still weighs under four pounds. It comes with a 256 GB SSD hard drive, with options to increase the size to either 512 GB or 1 TB. It has an average battery life of 13 hours.
The cost varies based on which model you choose, but the base Yoga 7i costs between $700 and $800, making it one of the more affordable student computers.
HP Envy 13
The Envy 13 is a great choice for computer science, engineering or graphic designers. The base laptop has an i5 core, but it comes standard with 16 GB of RAM. It features a 13.3-inch touch screen with a bright, vivid display. While it is a powerful computer, it has shorter battery life compared to other laptops, lasting for 10 to 11 hours on average. If you use particularly demanding programs, this may drop to eight or nine hours. Despite being one of the more powerful computers, you can normally find the Envy 13 for $900 to $1,000.
MacBook Air M1
The M1 is not the latest MacBook Air, but it is still a powerful computer. As of writing, it is one of the most popular Apple computers for students because Apple provides a generous student discount. Without a discount, the M1 costs around $1,000. It comes standard with 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD. The M1 has a 13.3-inch screen and weighs under three pounds. It boasts a powerful battery, lasting between 13 to 15 hours. It is considered a top-of-the-line computer for video editing and graphic design. One downside is the M1 only has two USB ports, but this can be solved by installing a USB hub.
Google Pixelbook Go
Google Chromebooks are not as powerful as other types of laptops, but they are significantly less expensive. The Pixelbook Go is one of the more powerful models, with plenty of upgrade options. It has an impressive i5 core, as well as 8 GB of RAM, with the option to upgrade to 16 GB. You can also opt for a more powerful processor, but this greatly increases the base price. The standard Pixelbook costs around $650, but upgrading to an i7 costs closer to $1,000.
The basic hard drive is small, starting at 64 GB. There are larger hard drives available, but only up to 256 GB. Chromebooks are much smaller and slimmer than other laptops, making them easy to transport. The Pixelbook has a 13.3-inch screen and weighs about two pounds. It has an average length battery, lasting for 11 to 13 hours.