The decision on which computer is best suited for our students is a decision best left to them. However, here is some information you may find helpful in making that decision.
Desktop vs Laptop vs Tablet
Tablets are very convenient, but may not be able to run all of the software that you will need to be able to use. Although I would certainly recommend that students have a tablet, it shouldn't be their primary computer. Of course, the line between tablet and laptop is constantly narrowing and some tablets are nearly as powerful and capable as laptops today.
Desktop computers are probably the most reliable of the form factors, but loses major points for lack of portability.
Laptops are also very portable and can easily be connected to a larger, external monitor, keyboard and mouse when sitting at your desk. Personally, I would recommend a laptop for the combination of portability and versatility.
Microsoft PC or Apple Mac?
Either operating system is suitable for college students. If you already have experience with one or the other, you may just want to stick with the one that you are already familiar.
In my experience, Mac's tend to be more reliable and not targeted by malware as frequently. They are also more expensive and generally not designed for the user to upgrade or repair.
PC's are less expensive, and easier to upgrade/repair.
My personal preference is an Apple Macbook Pro. It's very capable, lite and reliable and with the addition of Windows emulation software it is capable of running nearly any software I need.
- Laptop addons. If you get a laptop, consider the following options for more comfortable use:
- Small wireless mouse for use in class
- External, larger monitor for home use (22" or larger)
- Full size Mouse and Keyboard (wireless) for use at home (bluetooth if compatible with your computer)
- External hard drive for extra storage and backup
- Backup Plan. At some point, your computer is likely to crash or become infested with viruses or malware. It could even be lost or stolen. Prepare for the inevitability of this disaster and have a backup plan.
- Store copies of all your important documents in the cloud. Your student email account is through Google and includes 25 gigabytes of storage.
- External hard drives can be used to backup your entire computer, not just the documents.
- Wireless Router - used to connect your devices to the internet from your home/dorm room easily. Consider an Apple Airport Express, or just about any Linksys router.
- Printer - most inkjet printers or multifunction printer/scanner/copiers are affordable these days, where they really get you is on the ink refills
Consider the information provided above along with your personal experience and preferences related to computers and purchase the best computer you can afford.
If price is not the primary driving force, personally, I would purchase:
- Apple Macbook Pro
- Parallels Desktop (and a Windows 8.1 license)
- Airport Extreme (combination external hard drive and wireless router)
- 24" wide external svga monitor and the thunderport adapter
- Full size bluetooth keyboard and mouse
- Multifunction printer (HP OfficeJet Pro wireless or Epson WorkForce)
- iPad for light reading, responding to emails on the go and video chatting with parents.
If price is the primary driving force, then I would get the following as a minimum:
- PC laptop (Dell, HP or ACER)
- External 2 terabyte hard drive
- Linksys wireless router
- Multifunction printer (HP OfficeJet or Epson WorkForce)
- If possible, I would also purchase:
- 19 or 22" wide external svga monitor
- Full size wireless keyboard and mouse
See the following article regarding educational discounts.
*Please note that the recommendations expressed in this article are my personal recommendations and are not an official recommendation of Life University.
They are based solely on my personal experience and I have not been paid by or received any inducements from any of the computer or software companies mentioned.