laptop for college

If you’re struggling to decide on a laptop for college, you’re likely stuck on two major factors: price and operating system. And while a laptop is certainly an item worth investing in, your parents may not feel the same when they see you eyeing the $1200-minimum Macbook Pro or a similarly-priced Windows gaming laptop.

Let’s explore how you’ll use your laptop in college, the pros and cons of both Mac OS X and Windows, justifying a high-end price tag, and take a look at some of the best laptops that are currently available.

Necessities

The most essential tasks for college laptops are web browsing and word processing. Windows and OS X are not going to outperform each other in either basic task. Your other needs, such as apps and affordable power, will likely be the deciding factors. (If your major involves graphic design, video editing, or programming, it’s safe to say that Macs are the standard.)

App Selection

You’re not going to have any trouble finding an app for this or that on either platform. OS X is home to some of the most visually-appealing and intuitive paid desktop apps, while Windows has a great selection of free apps. Of course, free isn’t always good, as you may find yourself spending an unusual amount of time searching for a free Windows app that properly serves its purpose.

Setting a budget for software — beyond Microsoft Office — will save you a lot of trouble on both OS X and Windows. This budget can also include smartphone apps, which often suffer the same problems as their desktop counterparts.

Stability

You’ll find that Mac users sing praises of OS X’s stability, and rightly so. That reputation works against Windows, with its history of system issues, despite improvements in Windows 8. And while OS X is by no means perfect, it is less prone to problems that may impact performance and usability.

Availability

Unlike Microsoft, Apple does not license its operating system for use on non-Apple hardware. This is why you don’t see manufacturers like HP and Samsung offering their own unique line of Macbooks the way we do with machines running Windows.

The availability of Windows-based PCs make them an impossible-to-ignore option, but each manufacturer offers different products that vary in quality. Apple’s control allows it to set the standard for its hardware, which is widely regarded as high quality.

Power

While there’s been a push for more PC game support on OS X in recent years, Windows will always be the go-to platform for gaming. The leading PC manufacturers all offer powerful laptops capable of running the latest and greatest games at an affordable price. If gaming is a necessity on your new laptop, a Macbook is likely off the table — if you’re on a budget, that is.

Justify the High Price

There are plenty of great Windows laptops for $500 and under, but you often get what you pay for. If you want something that will take care of all your computing needs while also lasting for the long haul, you’ll need to spend more.

Longevity

You’ll hear varying opinions about the longevity of laptops from different manufacturers, while Mac owners overwhelmingly rave about how well their laptops perform year after year. But opinions rarely paint an accurate portrait, and in this case, neither do reliability reports. One year, a particular PC brand may be listed as the most reliable — only to be stripped of its good name the next.

When buying, it’s best to research specific models on different websites to see if overall ratings match up.

Warranties

If your Mac or PC needs a hardware repair to function and it’s been over a year since your purchase date, you’re likely out of luck, as most manufacturers only offer one-year warranties.

If you’re investing in a laptop that should last, you’ll want to guarantee it does. Spending an extra $150-$300 to ensure that your $1200 laptop is covered for repairs will set your mind at ease. Just be sure to read through the coverage before carelessly throwing your laptop around, as accidental damage is usually only covered by specific, more expensive plans.

Recommended Laptops

macbook pro

Macbook Pro - $1049 (Sale)

  • Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion)
  • 2.5GHz Dual-Core Intel i5 Processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 500GB Hard Drive

 

samsung ativbookSamsung ATIV Book 4 (NP470R5E) – $699

  • Windows 8
  • 2.0 GHz Quad-Core Intel i7 Processor
  • 8GB RAM
  • 750GB Hard Drive

 

dell inspiron 15z

Dell Inspiron 15z (I15Z-4801SLV) – $799

  • Windows 8
  • 2.0 GHz Quad-Core Intel i7 Processor
  • 8GB RAM
  • 750GB Hard Drive

 

asus zenbook

ASUS Zenbook UX31A (Touchscreen) – $999

  • Windows 8
  • 1.7 GHz Dual-Core Intel i5 Processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 128GB Solid State Drive

 

asus G750

ASUS G750JW – $1249

  • Windows 8
  • 2.4 GHz Quad-Core Intel i7 Processor
  • 8GB RAM
  • 1TB Hard Drive
  • 2GB Nvidia Geforce GTX 765M Graphics Card

 

Disclaimer: This content was created in collaboration with Best Buy.