- Best Online Colleges That Offer Laptops
- Comparing Top Picks
- Choosing the Right Laptop
- Other Resources to Help Pay for Laptops
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Laptops are the technological tool of choice among college students today. It should come as no surprise that – according to a 2014 survey by computer company AMD – nearly 85 percent of college students report using a laptop for classwork, research, and assignments. The same survey reports that 41 percent of students regard their laptops as their most prized possession, even above their phones and cars. Despite the popularity of laptops on the college campus, costs can be prohibitive, and make it difficult for already financially-stressed students to afford what is increasingly becoming a necessary tool. Thankfully, many colleges are recognizing this need, and financial aid programs have begun to spring up to help students afford the costs of these portable machines.
Over the past year, smartphones and tablets have become powerful tools in the classroom, as well. Apps such as Evernote, Wunderlist, and Google Docs make these micro gadgets valuable for note taking, audio/video recording of lectures, and sharing information with classmates in real-time or after class. But which tech provides the most value, the largest bang for your buck, and the best way to keep education mobile? See the specs on today’s top tech, and learn which online colleges offer free laptops and iPads in 2018.
Covering the cost of necessary technology can seem overwhelming for prospective students. To help alleviate some of the financial strain, various colleges offer laptop programs and other valuable tech perks. Most programs either gift a laptop or tablet to incoming students, offer discounts towards a laptop or tablet, or loan a device to students during their enrollment. Beyond laptops, many colleges also provide complimentary or discounted software, mobile phones, and plans, software training, or cloud storage. View the 50 colleges featuring the best combination of tech perks, overall affordability, and online academic excellence below.
Laptops range widely in price with the least expensive priced at just under $200 and the most expensive topping $3,000 in 2015. A typical student probably will not have to pay over $800 for a laptop used for college coursework.
PC Magazine recommends the following laptops for college students in 2015:
|Product||Tech||PC Mag Score||Price||Screen size||Weight||RAM|
|Asus Chromebook Flip (C100PA-DB02)||Chrome OS||$239||10.1 inches||1.96 lbs.||4 GB|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T450s||Microsoft Windows||$1,254.99||14 inches||3.5 lbs.||8 GB|
|Acer Aspire E5-573G-57HR||Microsoft Windows||$554.99||15. 6inches||5.29 lbs.||8 GB|
|Alienware 15||Microsoft Windows||$1,899.99||15.6 inches||7.1 lbs.||16 GB|
|Apple MacBook Air 13-Inch||Mac OS X||$894.78||13.3 inches||2.96 lbs.||4 GB|
|Apple MacBook Pro 13-Inch, Retina Display||Mac OS X||$1,234.99||13.3 inches||3.48 lbs.||8 GB|
|Dell Latitude 13 7000 Series 2-in-1 (7350)||Microsoft Windows||$1,549||13.3 inches||1.92 lbs.||8 GB|
|Dell Latitude 14 7000 Series (E7450)||Microsoft Windows||$1,368.30||14 inches||3.59 lbs.||8 GB|
|Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12||Microsoft Windows||$1,572.99||12.5 inches||3.48 lbs.||8 GB|
|MSI GT72 Dominator Pro G-1438||Microsoft Windows||$2,099||17. 3 inches||8.5 pounds||16 GB|
The same laptop will not work for every college major or student. For example, a graphic design student needs a high-graphics laptop, complete with editing software and a powerful processor. A political science student needs a much less powerful laptop. Students should consider what they need the laptop to do, what software programs they will need and their target budget before shopping for a laptop computer.
Graphics and animation support
Ability to run Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator or Final Cut Pro.
Laptop: Mac. Example: MacBook Pro
Ability to use AutoCAD software
Create spreadsheet and run program simulations.
Laptop: PC. Example: Lenovo ThinkPad
Word processing software
Moderate hard drive storage
Wireless Internet card.
Laptop: Chromebook. Example: GP Chromebook 11
If you do not need a high-powered laptop, the following key features should be powerful enough for most college-related applications:
Wi-Fi readiness: minimum 802.11g Dual-Band wireless card
Lightweight for easy portability: 3-5 lbs
Screen resolution: minimum 1024×768
Ram: minimum 4 GB (8 or more is best)
Hard drive: minimum of 128GB solid state drive or 250GB hard disk drive
Backlit keyboard with a number pad
Battery life: minimum 4 hours
Ports: At least two USB 3.0 and an HDMI
Screen: 11 inch minimum
Operating system minimums: Mac OS 10.6, Windows 8.1
Since the invention of the personal computer, there has been extensive debate over whether the PC or a Mac is the better option. Today, there is little difference in capabilities between the two – except where it concerns software. Mac computers are typically loaded with software designed for creative applications (like video editing and audio recording); personal computers are usually come stocked with software designed for business use, such as spreadsheet programs and word processors.
Students also depend on other portable electronics during class, such as tablets, smartphones, e-readers or hybrid machines. According to a 2015 report from PC Magazine, tablets are used as secondary devices but have limited software selection and processing power. However, students have successfully used tablets and other devices for classwork without the need for laptops or traditional desktop computers, depending on their majors and course requirements.
Shopping for a notebook? Here are some key questions to ask:
Do you offer student discounts?
Do you offer payment plans?
What kind of warranty comes with the laptop?
What is the laptop’s processing power?
How long is the battery life?
Can additional RAM or a larger hard drive be added?
What kind of wireless card is installed?
Does the laptop have a dual-band wireless card?
What is the screen size and resolution?
What software comes installed on the laptop?
What kind of DVD, optical, Blu-Ray, player/burner does it have?
How many USB ports does the laptop have?
Are the USB ports 3.0?
Does the computer have a dedicated graphics processor? (Especially important for design students.
Tablets and e-readers are also popular choices for college students. A 2013 survey conducted by Pearson Education revealed that over half of college students claim they perform better in the classroom because of tablets. Two-thirds of students surveyed believe the tablet will replace printed textbooks in the near future. Nearly 90 percent of college students own laptops, Pearson found, but almost 40 percent of college students own a tablet.
Tablets are limited in processing power and may not be suitable when visual design, animation, data crunching or academic research is required.
PC Magazine selected these top-performing tablets for 2015:
|Product||Tech||PC Mag Score||Price||Dimensions||Weight||Storage Capacity|
|Apple iPad Air||Apple iOS||$339||9.7 inches||16.86 oz||16 GB|
|Apple iPad Air 2||Apple iOS 8||$449.88||9.7 inches||0.96 lb||16, 64, 128 GB|
|Asus Transformer Book T100TA (64GB)||Microsoft Windows||$256||10.1 inches||1.44/2.4 lb||64 GB|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4||Android 4.4||$399||8.4 inches||11.68 oz||16 GB|
|Apple iPad mini 2||Apple iOS||$259||7.9 inches||11.68 oz||16, 32 GB|
|Asus VivoTab Note 8||Microsoft Windows||$289.99||8 inches||0.85 lb||32 GB|
|Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000 Series (7140)||Microsoft Windows||$799||10.8 inches||1.6 lb||128 GB|
|Microsoft Surface 3||Microsoft Windows 8.1||$599.99||10.8 inches||1.37 lb||128 GB|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5||Android 4.4||$448.99||10.5 inches||16.47 oz||16 GB|
|Google Nexus 9||Android 5.0||$305.37||8.9 inches||14.99 oz||16, 32 GB|
A 2014 survey from Infographics Commons found that many college students use their phones to study. The survey indicated that 65 percent of college students rely on phones to get their news and 82 percent use their phones for research. Students also use smartphones to take lecture notes, dictate papers, use scientific calculators, coordinate their school calendars and streamline study time.
PC Magazine recommends these smartphones for 2015:
|Product||Tech||PC Mag Score||Price||Dimensions||Battery Life||Screen Size|
|Apple iPhone 6s (T-Mobile)||iOS 9||$649||5.44 by 2.64 by 0.28 inches||4 hours 21 (LTE streaming) minutes||4.7 inches|
|Apple iPhone 6s Plus (AT&T)||iOS 9||$799.99||6.23 by 3.07 by 0.29 inches||4 hours 11 (LTE streaming) minutes||5.5 inches|
|Motorola Moto X Pure Edition (Unlocked)||Android 5.1||$399.99||6.06 by 3.0 by 0.44 inches||4 hours, 42 (LTE video streaming) minutes||5.7 inches|
|OnePlus 2 (Unlocked)||Android 5.1||$329||5.98 by 2.95 by 0.39 inches||5 hours, 19 (LTE video streaming) minutes||5.5 inches|
|Samsung Galaxy S6 (T-Mobile)||Android 5.0||$579.99||5.65 by 2.78 by 0.27 inches||7 hours, 48 (LTE video streaming) minutes||5.1 inches|
|Alcatel One Touch Idol 3 (Unlocked)||Android 5.0||$279.99||6.01 by 2.96 by 0.29 inches||4 hours, 12 (LTE video streaming) minutes||5.5 inches|
|Motorola Moto G (2015, Unlocked)||Android 5.0||$149.99||5.59 by 2.85 by 0.48 inches||6 hours, 32 (LTE video streaming) minutes||5 inches|
|Samsung Galaxy Note 5 (Verizon Wireless)||Android 5.0||$349.99||6 by 3 by 0.3 inches||7 hours 35 (LTE video streaming) minutes||5.7 inches|
|ZTE Grand X Max+ (Cricket Wireless)||Android 4.4||$199.99||6.38 by 3.27 by 0.31 inches||5 hours, 49 (LTE video streaming) minutes||6 inches|
|HTC One (M8) for Windows (Verizon Wireless)||Windows Phone 8.1||$480||5.7 by 2.8 by 0.37 inches||10 hours, 50 minutes||5 inches|
Many top computer and software manufacturers, big-box stores and resellers offer student discounts on technology. Some companies may require students to join a consumer club, and other companies may offer free trial programs for software or services. NOTE: Students must provide a student ID or an .edu email address when applying for most discount programs.
is offered to students through a free six-month trial through Amazon Prime, with exclusive promotions in technology, two-day shipping and access to movies, TV shows and music. After the trial, Prime membership costs students $49 per year.
offers student discounts up to $20 on a new iPad and $200 on a new Mac computer.
sends e-mail updates regarding upcoming sales. Recent specials included a $50 discount on iMacs and MacBooks, including free shipping. Students can also save $80 on the Microsoft Surface 3 128GB, keyboard and pen package.
is Dell Computer’s online membership purchasing club for college and university students. Discounts are available for desktops, laptops, gaming PCs and monitors. All Dell PCs come with a one-year warranty.
offers members savings up to 20 percent on HP products, free shipping and student-tailored product recommendations through its free PC MatchLab service.
is a charitable computer reuse organization designed to help students find PCs, Macs, laptops and monitors. A refurbished laptop including Windows 7 Pro, Office Home 2007, Wi-Fi Card, Spyware and Antivirus software sold for $99 in 2015.
offers discount tablets with prices reduced by as much 47 percent. Laptops are up to 53 percent off of Lenovo’s original list pricing.
’s student-only store offers deep discounts on new or refurbished notebooks, tablets and other electronics to members. Students need an .edu email address to apply. Students can get up to $100 off a new Surface Pro 3 through the program.
(NSF) is a nonprofit organization created by students for students in 1998 as a way to provide students with dependable, powerful laptops at affordable prices. Deep discounts are available through the program on select computers.
offers 10 percent-discount student deals on Xperia tablets, laptops and smart devices. Students must provide student ID to qualify for student discounts.