How to choose the right laptop for going back to school

Best Buy experts provide helpful tips for their fellow students.

With the start of school just around the corner, it’s time for students to find the right laptop to meet their needs — whether they’ll be learning in the classroom or from home this year.

There’s a lot to consider when choosing a new computer for college. But regardless of your major or how much you’re willing to spend, there are plenty of good options for everyone.

Here are some helpful tips from Best Buy employees who are doing double duty as college students.

Check the specs

Choosing the right laptop starts with determining how you’ll use it. Are you just looking for light use like surfing the web, checking email and typing papers? Or will you be using it for gaming, streaming movies and editing photos? 

“In my opinion, the most important thing is to make sure whatever device you choose is reliable and works well for your major and your field of study,” said Kamar Gamble, a Microsoft expert at our store in Columbus, Ohio. He plans to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.

Depending on your needs, a Best Buy expert will be able to help you pick the right operating system, screen size, processing capabilities and storage size.

Prioritize portability

Social distancing has changed the way we live and learn, but you’ll probably still want to pick a laptop that’s compatible with an on-the-go college lifestyle.

“During my freshman year of college, I had a very heavy computer and I did not like to carry it around,” said Zjonte Francis, a nursing student who works at our Buckhead store in Atlanta. “A lightweight computer with a long battery life is very beneficial [for getting] around campus without having to worry about finding a charging station or outlet.”

A lighter user might even be able to use a tablet or 2-in-1 laptop.

Value versatility

Whether or not this school year starts on campus, the COVID-19 pandemic has showed the importance of being able to learn from home if necessary.

“A computer with a microphone and webcam to use during lectures is essential for online classes,” said Max Puleo, a computer animation student who is an Apple Pro at our store in Clearwater, Florida. “I find it useful to use a two-monitor setup, so I can dedicate one screen for live lectures and the other screen for typing notes, or one for looking at PowerPoint presentations and one for following the professor while they’re teaching a new program.

Invest in innovation

Some of the computing industry’s latest technology is aimed at boosting your productivity.

“Every student should be shown and given the opportunity to use a Windows computer with the Windows Ink stylus or an iPad with the Apple Pencil to see how they can replace their physical notebooks with digital ones almost entirely,” said Zach Fanto, an intercultural communications major who works at our store in Niles, Ohio. “Not to mention, it can be extremely fun to use!”

Zjonte agrees. “When I first started school, I did not have Windows Inking, but I really wish I did,” she said. “Having these productivity tools would have made my college experience a lot less stressful.”

Look for longevity

Finally, you’ll want to want to make sure your new laptop is going to meet your needs now and into the future.

“One of the biggest characteristics you should look for in a laptop for school is longevity,” said Randy DeVengencie, a physical therapy student who works at our Niles store. “I always like to know that no matter what, my tech will last me through any amount of schooling I choose to do.”

Still not sure which laptop is right for you? Click here for more tips and to find our latest back-to-school deals.