The Best Laptops for College Students (2012)
Heading off to college is always a major step in one’s life, and one of the most common gifts for a soon-to-be college student is a new laptop. It’s one of those gifts than can stun and surprise, and it’s always met with excitement –it’s practical, too. With all of the choices out there, it can be tough to find the right one, but alaTest has some great recommendations for you.
Balanced Performance without Breaking the Bank
Laptop performance has come a long way over the past few years, and even more affordable laptops can keep up the majority of computing needs. AMD’s A-Series processors (particularly the A8 and upcoming A10) offer great all-around performance at budget-friendly prices.
Lenovo IdeaPad Z575 – The AMD A8 version of Lenovo’s Z575 is arguably one of the best values on the market. It’s very well built, with a sturdy yet still lightweight chassis, and at around $500, it’s easy on your wallet as well.
Performance that will Last
Since College will generally last at least four years, you probably want a laptop that can last that long as well. Solid construction and strong performance is one way to help ensure a laptop will still be useful several years down the line.
Sony Vaio SE Series – Configured with a 1920×1080 resolution display and Core i5 processor, the SE series is probably one of the best choices on the market right now. Currently available is the VPC-SE25FX, which, at less than $1000, offers stellar performance for not only productivity, but also gaming and just about everything else. It also has useful features, such as a backlit keyboard and USB 3.0. Sony also offers very good technical support.
Sony Vaio S Series – Similar to the SE series, the S series is a bit newer, featuring Intel’s 3rd generation of Core i5 and i7 processors. A configuration closely matching the SE25FX mentioned above weighs in at just over $1000.
Ultra-Portability that doesn’t Skimp on Performance
When you’re darting around campus, running from class to class, you might not want to be lugging around a bulky laptop, but at the same time, tablets and netbooks aren’t really the best choice for productivity. Ultrabooks represent a middle ground which features the performance you’d get from a full-sized laptop paired with the portability and battery life of a netbook.
Asus ZenBook UX31 – The ZenBook UX31 is currently alaTest’s top rated laptop. It’s one of the top performing ultrabooks for around $1000, but its biggest appeal is its 1600×900 resolution display. The extra desktop space provided by a higher resolution is a major benefit compared to the 1366×768 resolution display of most ultrabooks.
Apple MacBook Air (2012) – The new MacBook Air is the first ultrabook to run Intel’s 3rd generation Core i5 and i7 processors, which gives it an edge particularly in graphics performance over other ultrabooks. The 13-inch model also has a 1440×900 resolution display, which, while not quite matching the UX31, is still a great benefit.
What about Laptops We Haven’t Mentioned?
Just because we didn’t mention it in this article doesn’t mean it’s not a good choice. There are a ton of other laptop choices out there, so here are a few key things to consider when making a purchase:
Dedicated Graphics – A laptop with a dedicated graphics processor will almost always outperform a laptop with an integrated graphics processor when it comes to things like HD video and gaming; however, the AMD A-series and Intel’s 3rd generation Core series with HD 4000 graphics are still strong performers.
Screen Resolution – Most laptops have a resolution of 1366×768. Laptops with 1600×900 and 1920×1080 resolutions often cost a premium, but offer much more on-screen workspace which helps considerably with productivity.
Backlit Keyboards – Backlit keyboards are amazingly useful.