Back to School is an exciting time of the year. It is synonym of a fresh start and it conveys a lot of illusions. As a consequence it is often the time when you consider the purchase a new laptop for studying. There are plenty of models available in the market so EatYourBytes will give you some advices to help you to choose the right one for your needs.
First, as for many other purchases, identify what are your needs and the amount of money your can afford to dedicate to the purchase of the laptop. A cheap laptop will cost you only a few hundred of dollars and could be more than enough if you are only going to use it to take notes or to attend online courses. On the other hand high-end laptops can cost a few thousands dollars and are as powerful as some decent desktop computers.
So let’s see some recommendations for the specifications of a laptop:
If the main purpose of the laptop is to use it to take notes, browse Internet, participate in video conferences, consult social media, attend online courses or to watch streaming content you will not need a laptop with a powerful CPU. Any CPU manufactured by Apple, AMD or Intel these last five years will do the job so it should not be the main criteria for choosing the laptop. In fact, even an older CPU would surely still be enough for executing these tasks in 2023 (I still use a MacBook Pro 2014 when I travel). A cheap Chromebook could also be a solution as long as you don’t need to use programs that are only available for Windows or macOS.
A lower-end CPU will consume less energy, generate less heat than a powerful one and will require a smaller battery. Be aware that a latest generation CPU will be more powerful than the equivalent CPU of an older generation while consuming less energy. A recent CPU will also be more prone to execute future versions of the operating system and programs.
If you would like to use your laptop for some casual gaming, a CPU with a powerful integrated GPU could do the job. The latest AMD Phoenix CPUs with a AMD Radeon 780M iGPU are powerful enough to achieve 60 FPS in some AAA games at full hd (1080p) resolution.
A powerful CPU will however be required if you plan to use your laptop for performing heavy computing tasks (video content generation, scientific computing, heavy gaming). You can access a list of the most powerful laptop processors currently available in this page.
A discrete GPU is not necessary if you are not a gamer, but you will need definitively need a laptop with a powerful GPU if you expect to be able to play the latest AAA video games in good conditions. The best gaming laptops are currently powered by Nvidia RTX 3000 or RTX 4000 series GPUs. Be aware that these laptops can be noisy and generate a lot of heat. They will also quickly drain their battery if they are not plugged during your gaming sessions.
The bare minimum amount of RAM in 2023 should be 8 GB. It will be enough as long as you do not execute many programs at the same time. More memory (16 GB or more) will allow the laptop to execute more programs simultaneously. A large amount of memory is also recommended to run programs working with huge amounts of data. Having more RAM also means that the laptop will be more future-proof. Be aware that some laptop have the RAM soldered on the motherboard and it cannot be upgraded after the purchase. Other laptops use standard SODIMM memory slots for the RAM modules so that they can be upgraded. Please note that accessing the memory slots is not always an easy task and that it could require to disassemble part of the laptop. Check with the manufacturer technical support what are the memory modules compatible with the laptop and about the procedure to install them.
Solid state drives (SSD) are far quicker than traditional mechanical hard disk drives (HDD) and are not expansive anymore nowadays. A SSD will make the laptop far more responsive while loading the Operating System, programs or huge files, so be sure to choose a laptop equipped with a SSD. A SSD with a capacity of 256 GB or more will be enough for the installation of the Operating System, many programs and to store plenty of documents. Some manufacturers propose SSD with bigger capacities (1 TB or more) as options. Such capacities will allow you to install program requiring a lot of disk space like video games or to store a lot of content. Please note that the SSD is sometimes soldered on the laptop motherboard. Therefore it will not be possible to replace it after the purchase so be sure to choose the right amount of storage for your needs. Other laptops use a standard SATA or M2 slot for connecting the SSD making it possible to replace it. Check with the manufacturer technical support what are the SSD compatibles with the laptop and the procedure for replacing it. You can also use an external SSD to perform backups of your laptop and to store huge files.
A laptop with a large screen will be heavier than one with a smaller screen. Not only because of the weight of the screen and chassis but also because a large screen consumes more energy than a small one and the laptop will therefore need a heavier battery with more capacity to achieve the same battery life.
A laptop with a 13” or 14” screen size and weighing no more than 4.5 pounds (~2 kg) will be easier to carry every day than a larger and heavier one. A heavier laptop is not necessarily a problem if the extra weight does not bother you or if you don’t have to carry it with you daily. You could also consider to use a tablet (an iPad with a keyboard case for instance) instead of a laptop if you are looking for something lighter and smaller to take notes.
The choice of a brand is often a matter of taste. If you are already using some Apple devices, a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro will allow you to benefit from the advantages of the Apple ecosystem: iMessage, FaceTime, iCloud, AirPlay or AirDrop for instance. If you are a gamer you will surely consider purchasing a Razer laptop. Anyway, consider a brand with a good technical support as it will make it easier to solve technical issues that may occur with the laptop. Razer, Apple, Lenovo, Dell, Asus, Acer, Microsoft and HP are currently considered to be the brands with the best Tech Support. Some brands or resellers have additional warranty plans to cover incidents or even theft. It is not a bad idea if you carry your laptop everywhere.
Some brands like Apple propose different colors for their laptops. But even if it is not the case, you can personalise your laptop with stickers, decal or a case. A laptop case is also a good way to protect your laptop from falls or scratches.
The battery is generally the heaviest component of a laptop, but a large battery will allow you to use it without plugging in for many hours. Some manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung and Microsoft have laptops with more than 12 hours of battery life. CPU or GPU-intensive programs consume a lot of power and will drain the laptop battery quickly. Battery life is definitely a criteria to consider if you expect to be able to use your laptop for many hours a day without having to plug it into a power source.
We hope that these recommendations will help you to choose the right laptop. In case of need, you can quickly access the details of a CPU using this link.
This page contains affiliate links and I earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of the links, at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This does not affect the information provided on the pages of this website. Product prices and availability displayed on this page are updated multiple times daily. They are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of the products.
The post Recommendations for choosing a Back to School laptop appeared first on EatYourBytes