If you’re looking for the best deal on a computer for your departing college student, check with the school first. You might score an educational discount by ordering the computer and software through them. We've got other tips as well - follow the link to read more. What kind of computer do you think is good for a college student? Desktop, laptop, tablet or netbook?
Which computer is the smart buy for college students?
The best answer is — it depends.
“It’s hard to recommend one model, because students’ needs will vary,” said Carol Mangis, Web editor for Consumer Reports.
Even a student’s major could affect the choice. For example, arts and science students could use either Windows or Mac, but business students, and engineering students who may need a program such as Auto CAD, will need to use Windows.
Desktop, laptop, tablet or netbook?
“If they’re taking notes with it, doing Web research, and want to carry it around a lot, the netbook might be sufficient,” Mangis said. “It’s lighter and cheaper.”
However, she warns students to try out netbooks in a store because the keyboards vary quite a bit.
“A hands-on try is good for any computer purchase.”
Desktop computers and tablets don’t earn the nod for students.
“The tablet is more for entertainment,” Mangis said. “The desktop is not portable, and students need to carry it around with them on campus.”
What’s the first step for shoppers?
Check with the university or college to see if there is a recommended operating system, or you may not be able to get on their wireless system. You might even be able to buy your software or computer through the school and score an educational discount.
“We did a survey of schools a few years ago, and we were pretty impressed with the hardware they were offering,” Mangis said.
Hold off on buying a printer.
“The student may have access to a school printer and may not need one, or the roommate could have one. Save money where you can,” Mangis advised.
Necessary peripherals include a laptop bag, cable lock and a thumb drive or other portable hard drive, which allows students to carry notes or papers from place to place and serves as a backup device if the computer breaks or is stolen.
“From personal experience, I’d recommend getting a mouse for your laptop. Saves you from carpal tunnel,” Mangis said.
When shopping, don’t let the specs alone guide your decision.
“There are a lot of computers out there that are super duper powerful that you just don’t need,” Mangis said. “Save money — don’t buy the most souped-up machine out there. You won’t need it.”
A final tip — check the battery specs.
“Students will carry (the computer) around a lot,” she said. “They may be out and about all day. So look for a good, long battery life.”
For more tips from Mangis, see her blog at new.consumerreports.org, and search on “back to school.”