Spring semesters are beginning all over the country, and with remote work still the norm at many universities, a reliable laptop computer is even more important for college students than ever. With the availability of computer labs, student notebooks could generally be bareboned and still get the job done, with more tech-centric work able to be completed in the labs.
With the pandemic still looming, though, college students need to be able to hone their Microsoft tips and tricks on their own machines, and online communication capabilities are also essential in the remote student world. Here is a comparative look at 5 laptop brands and their pros and cons relative to the needs of college students in 2021.
Apple MacBook Air, ~ $1,000
Even though the author of this article isn’t an Apple person, it’s difficult to make too many arguments against the brand for college students. Generally, a fair knock on Apple products is the price tag, but the Air stays under $1,000, which is the same price as most new smartphones in 2021. Touted by college students simply for being “cool,” it is, indeed, very sleek, portable, durable and easy to entertain from, especially if the user has Apple everything (smartphone, tablet, etc.).
In addition to aesthetics, Apple’s M1 processor comes standard, and is top-of-the-line when it comes to performance at this price, and the batter life is also worth mentioning, especially regarding students who will be likely spending a lot of time studying on the campus lawn. Cons are pretty few, but there are more affordable options, and Apple has not offered a touch screen feature with the Air, yet.
HP Envy x360 (13), ~ $790
HP has had a bit of an up and down history as far as reliability, but recently the company has been at the top of most comparative analyses for computers, both laptop and desktop. The Envy series boasts a Ryzen processor that dusts most competitors offering a model in this price range. The versatility of the touch screen makes it a great tool for group presentation and organization, and if you or the student you’re shopping for has a flair for the entrepreneurial, the Envy series is a great option for starting a side hustle, as well.
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 – Starting at $550
It’s no secret that college isn’t cheap these days, so value in a laptop is important to the majority of the student body, especially ones who may have had human error lead to the demise of their first student laptop from grandma. Lenovo’s are revered as “cheap” because of the price tag, but they offer plenty of performance for a college student. They are durable (though a bit on the heavy side), high-speed, and the Flex models are also touch screen, allowing for more artistic capabilities, if, indeed, a given field of study lends itself to digital creativity.
Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – Starting at $595
The surface series of PCs from Microsoft have quickly become viable options for students and business personnel, alike, and from law students to undeclared freshman to nursing students, online learning capabilities must be aplenty, as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers on, and the Surface Pro series is great for online communications. It’s instant compatibility with all of your Microsoft accounts make it perfect for group work and remote communications between classmates and professors. It’s not the fastest processor on this list, so students with heavy reliance on performance may want to look elsewhere, but for most majors, this machine offers a lot for the price. It does come as a “tablet,” but the keyboard add-on is inexpensive and very much qualifies this as a laptop option for students.
MCI Bravo 15 – Starting at $900
Let’s be honest… college is supposed to be fun in addition to educational, and in an educational environment cast to the remote world, a lot of the options for fun have been as well. The Bravo 15 is a student-gamer’s machine, and has a high-speed Ryzen 4000 processor, making it the most capable on this list as far as computing speed goes. The batter life and speaker quality are both touted by customers, making it a pretty good choice for the home DJ as well.
Other Things to Consider
As the laptop industry continues to advance overnight, it’s important to step back and make sure your other devices will be compatible with your new laptop. Second screens, for instance, may require an HDMI connection, and many laptops simply do not have room for these inputs. The same goes with USB configurations. Durability should be considered in the college realm, as well, as we all make mistakes when we’re young (and old).
Ultimately, if you’re willing to take a few steps up from the cheapest options, you’re going to find a nice machine to help with your educational needs.