While you’re getting ready to go Back to School, you might find yourself shopping for a Back to chool laptop. Buying a laptop for school comes with its own particular questions you’ll need to think about before you buy.
Whatever type of laptop you’re thinking of getting about for school, you’ll want to check out these tips to make sure you don’t pick something too quickly. It’s easy to forget an important consideration when you’re faced with something that seems like it’s the perfect choice.
1. Plan for multiple years
There’s a lot you need to balance to get the right Back to School laptop, and among them is getting hardware that’s high-end enough to make it through the rest of your education. While you might have to eat some greater up-front costs, you’ll be better off in the long run.
If you get a low-budget computer, you might struggle with performance the whole time. Worse still, you may need to get multiple new computers every few semesters. It’s better to get something with decent hardware by maxing out the internal upgrade options like more RAM and increased storage.
2. Battery and power draw
You don’t want to worry about your battery running out in the middle of studying, class, a lecture, or a presentation. Many laptops these days are coming with all-day batteries, so when you check reviews, make sure your pick can last throughout the day.
Another factor to this is to be sure you’re getting a laptop with efficient internals. Some gaming laptops offer decent battery life, but the crazy powerful ones can burn through their batteries incredibly fast. You’ll need to find a machine that balances power and performance so you can get productive for as long as possible. If you see the computer uses a large, high-wattage power supply, odds are the battery drains quickly.
This is simple: if you’re going to carry a laptop around with you everyday, you should do yourself a favor and make it light. It’ll make it easier to bring around, so you won’t decide not to bring it with you when you really should.
The tricky thing, is if you want to get a powerful laptop with a big battery, it may end up getting heavy fast. You can avoid some weight by going with a laptop that doesn’t have a spinning hard drive. So look for laptops with SSDs, and if you need more storage, opt for an external drive. That way, you only have to carry the extra weight when you need the extra data.
4. Operating system
Before you get too far into your computer shopping, make sure you’ve look at the details offered by your classes. Certain course might have specific requirements for the operating system use because they may use software only supported on one operating system.
Yes, cheap Chromebooks can be effective for a lot of school work, but they may not support any class-specific software. Art programs might require Mac OS-specific programs or only explain how to complete tasks in the Mac version of the software. It can vary by school, so make sure you know what your classes require, and don’t spend too much on a computer that won’t do the job.
5. Cooling vents for lap-use
If you do get a powerful laptop, make sure you’re aware of the way it cools itself. Lots of laptops will have air intake vents on the bottom of the chassis, and the more powerful the laptops are, the more important it will be to ensure good airflow.
Since you may be using your laptop at school with it actually on your lap, you may have a hard time not covering those vents up with your legs. That can be bad for your laptop and uncomfortable for you, as the heat goes up. If you pick a laptop with air intakes, plan to keep them uncovered or get a cooling pad.
6. Pen input can be useful
One feature you may want to give serious consideration is proper active stylus input. If your schoolwork is going to involve a lot of PDF reading, you’ll be able to save a lot of time and space if you don’t have to print them out or try scribbling notes with your laptops touchpad.
A stylus can make it super simple to markup PDFs and other documents with notes. When you’re taking notes in lectures, you may have an easier time copying down figures or mathematical notation as well. While the benefits may not be for everyone, having the option is certainly nice. To make the most of a stylus input, a laptop that can fold open on itself will also be handy.
7. Don’t go all in on gaming
While it can seem logical to buy one machine that fits all your curricular and extra-curricular needs, it may not be the best idea. If you’re really into gaming and want to get a machine that’s going to give you incredible performance for high-quality settings and fast frame rates at high resolutions, you’re going to be picking a computer that’s overkill for class and extra expensive.
In that case, you may find that you’re actually better off buying yourself a gaming desktop and a more affordable laptop for class. Rather than going with a $2,000 gaming laptop, you’ll probably get a lot more mileage out of a $1,300 desktop and a $700 laptop. You’ll save even more money when you want to upgrade your gaming specs after a couple years and don’t need to buy a whole new machine to do it.
8. Don’t neglect durability
On paper, you might find a computer that sounds perfect. It could have a great balance of price, performance, and efficiency, but that won’t mean much if it’s built poorly. A Back to School laptop is probably going to be traveling with you a lot in your backpack, and may be subjected to the occasional accident. So, if it’s not built strong, you may find yourself replacing it way too soon.
Laptop reviews will often give the screen hinge a bit of stress, put some torque on the screen, and put pressure around the chassis of the laptop. If you’re buying online, make sure you look for reviews like this that have tested for weakness in the build. If you’re buying in a store, check for yourself whether any parts feel flimsy or easily breakable.
9. Get a laptop sleeve with it
While you’re thinking about the durability of your Back to School laptop, think about what else you can do so that the solid construction doesn’t have to get tested too often after you purchase it. A laptop sleeve is a smart way to make sure your new laptop stays in good shape.
On top of protecting your laptop with a little bit of extra cushion, a sleeve can also help keep liquids and other debris inside your bag from getting into the computer. Considering the cost of most laptop sleeves, there’s little reason not to get one, especially when it effectively acts as a secondary insurance policy.
10. Bright and matte screens can help your eyes
If you think you’ll be using your laptop much outdoors, considering that not all screens are created equally. You’ll probably see “matte” or “anti-glare” and “glossy” listed in relation to laptop screens when you’re shopping. While glossy may look better for imagery, you’ll be doing your eyes a major favor by having a matte or anti-glare screen when you’re in sunny settings.
Then, you need to think about brightness. For laptop screens, this will likely be listed in hundreds of nits, though not every laptop will advertise this. 300 nits isn’t bad, but if you think you’ll want to be working outdoor, even under an umbrella or awning, you should to see if you can find a laptop with 400 nits or even better. For a few examples, this year’s Samsung Notebook 9, Huawei MateBook X Pro, Dell XPS 15, and last year’s Razer Blade Stealth all screens offering at least 400 nits.