Laptop Buying Guide for College Students and Professionals

Buying a laptop is not an easy task. You need to take into consideration various factors like your budget, the specification of the laptop, the size of the display, among other factors. This blog looks at some of the factors to consider when buying a laptop for every student and professional.

Laptop Buying Guide for College Students

College students not only need laptops to complete their assignments, exams, and semester projects. At some point in the day, you will need to unwind yourself after long hours in a class by watching movies, playing a game, or catching up with your best TV show.  Knowing what type of laptop you need can be tricky. We are here to ease your mind.

laptop buying guide for college students

When in the market for a new laptop, our decisions will always lead us to the three most popular laptop types: MacBook, Windows laptops (those that primarily use windows OS), or a Chromebook. If you’re really on a tight budget, Chromebooks will be the way to go. They are often best for browsing the internet or using cloud-based apps. If you want to use Apple applications, a MacBook offers such options. But when it comes to Windows laptops, there are so many options to choose from.

What Should You Look for in a Laptop?

There are four primary factors you need to be focusing on when buying a laptopprocessor speed, RAM, storage type, and graphics. They form the basis of the experience you are going to get from a laptop. We’ll go over them briefly below.

Other factors like portability make for the secondary factors you need a laptop. You want a lightweight laptop that will fit into your bag and is ergonomic. Which would mean 17-inch laptops are out. 

What to Consider when Buying a Laptop?

Buy laptops not weighing over 5lbs plus the charger. A laptop that uses a USB-C port to charge might also prove important. As a college student, you may forget your charger at home and a USB-C port charger may come in handy. You can borrow a friend’s.

Also, consider a laptop with decent battery life. A small laptop with 50-Wh or more battery would be nice. Owning a laptop with a good battery life will give you more freedom to go out for hours without the need for a charger. That means you must have a battery that can hold its charge for at least 4 hours. 

Also, go for laptops with a legitimate extended warranty for accident protection. You are probably going to study for a long time in college and you never know what might happen to your laptop within the years of study – and having such a warranty may safeguard you from unforeseen repairs.

If you want to save money you can buy refurbished laptops sold by authorized resellers and are still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. Apple offers refurbished laptops. Best Buy open boxes, Amazon warehouse deals provide the best-refurbished laptops. If you aren’t on a budget, you can avoid these laptops as they may depreciate faster down the line.

General Laptop Specifications for Students

Earlier I touched lightly on what features to look for in a laptop. For processors, go for Intel series; Core i3, i5, i7, or even Core i9 within the 9, 10, or 11th generation of CPUs. We recommend Core i5 and i7 as they can run multiple programs on a laptop. You don’t need to buy one with the latest 11th gen processors if you’re just going to study with it. However, if you’re going for AMD we recommend a minimum 6 core 6 thread, for example, Ryzen 4500U which uses less power and produces less heat.


RAM is responsible for multitasking. Depending on what you major in college, a RAM size of 8GB is good. If on a strict budget you can get a 4GB RAM size and not below.

Storage type

Consider buying SSDs rather than HDD as they are faster. Aim for 256GB SSD as 128GB SSDs tend to be slower. It all depends on what you’re going to do with your laptop.

Screen Display

A laptop with a screen size of 14-inch and thinner bezels are good as they will give you ampler space to fit documents and are super portable. I do feel that MacBook Pro 13 is still a good option. For display resolution, a full HD (1080p) or an HD of 720p is recommended.

There’s so much to dig into, however, continue reading our guide to know what laptop best fits some of your college majors.

Laptop Buying Guide for Computer Science Students

A college student with a major in Computer science can’t survive without a laptop. Computer science students learn a lot about computer-related studies with AI, programming languages, human-computer interaction, software development being the major areas of study. Starting off with RAM, computer science/coding requires more RAM of up to 32GB, because they will be running more applications. They will need even more RAM to run the apps they’ve created for processing – especially if required to set virtual machines for some classes.

laptop buying guide for computer science students

If you’re doing AI-based tasks such as machine learning, you will need a high-performing graphics card to read the configurations. These tasks often require concurrent processing which only strong GPUs offer. Ideally, an NVIDIA GTX 1650 or higher. You don’t need the more expensive RTX. You can check on your class details to buy a fitting laptop, and if unsure you can reach out to faculty members for specific recommendations.

For computer science students not doing many AI-based studies, you can use the general buying guide for college students but make sure the RAM is 16 GB minimum. However, you can also check with your school if they allow access to their server environments so that way you can run large amounts of data, and won’t need a powerful laptop.

We recommend the following as our top picks: Lenovo Yoga, HP ENVY, MacBook Pro, etc. You can find all of these on amazon. 

Laptop Buying Guide for Engineering Students

Having the best processors and graphics card is definitely important – as engineering students need to run complex programs like CAD and CAM as well as run computation-related tasks which require fast and powerful processors and a great GPU.

But what precisely makes up for the best affordable laptop engineering students should purchase?

We recommend buying a laptop with the latest version of Intel or Ryzen. Core i5 and above or Ryzen 5 are both good options. There are some engineering programs that are CPU-exhaustive like MATLAB therefore it’s important to have a fast CPU. A minimum of 8 GB is required, although 16 GB is also preferred and better. Settle for Mac and Windows OS, especially Windows. When it comes to SSD vs. HDDs, choose SSDs which are faster and efficient than HDDs and are more reliable.

laptop buying guide for engineering students

You also need a dedicated GPU to run graphic intensive programs like MATLAB and Solid Works which are used for 3D Modelling and video rendering. You may require a video card to meet the video processing needs. A large screen which high resolution and full HD (1920 x 1080p) are preferred. For portability reasons, we recommend a 14-inch or 15-inch laptop.

You need to do your research and know what you want as laptop requirements for engineering students may not fit everyone’s budget. However, give priority to things like storage, processor speed, and screen size.

These recommended features lead you to Dell XPS 15, Google Pixelbook Go (A Chromebook), Apple MacBook Air, etc. 

Laptop Buying Guide for Data Scientists

Much like engineering and computer science students, data scientists require fast and high-performance laptops with powerful processing speed and graphics. If you’re a data scientist you can use the specifications given for engineering and computer science as you also do similar tasks; programming, machine learning, data visualization, analytics, and modeling – all of which require powerful laptops. We stress on 16GB RAM as you’ll be doing heavy multitasking.

laptop buying guide for data scientists

When it comes to the hard drive space, you can stick with the normal HDD but look for a 1TB size. Ideally, you should be looking for SSD, then we recommend at least 512GB but 1TB would be great. As for the processor, preferably go for a quad-core processor with similar recommendations for engineering students.

Obviously the bigger the screen size the better it is for data scientists. That is why sometimes they have multiple screens like in the movies. But if you’re looking to carry your laptop around, a lightweight machine with a screen size of 15 to 17-inch below will be good. You might consider having a blue-light filtering feature because you’ll be staring at the screen for a long time. Anyways, you can learn about the requirements you need here.

Dell XPS 15 and the rest above can get the job done for you. 

Laptop Buying Guide for Teachers

“Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions” – and so far they’ve given us laptops. Apart from the boards, erasers, and chalks, we think teachers need one more thing; a laptop. But what things should a teacher consider when buying a laptop? What do you often do with your laptop? Do you do document editing, browsing, or tasks that demand more hardware power like video editing?

laptop buying guide for teachers

As a teacher, you probably store a lot of files and data. I recommend going for SSDs and as for the storage capacity with at least 500 GB capacity. Like with college students, don’t go for a laptop with more than 15-inch screen size.

Consider the laptop specifications for your daily activity. You need 4 to 8GB RAM for simpler tasks like document editing, internet browsing, or entertainment. If you do heavy multitasking like opening multiple tabs in the browser or many program windows, you need 8 GB RAM or higher.

Choose quad-core processor or higher – Intel Core i3 or Core i5 – for simple tasks like editing and browsing. But if you’ll do tasks that require more powerful CPUs, go for Intel Core i5 or higher. Try out the AMD Ryzen series if you’re a fan. Avoid Intel Celeron or Atom as those won’t give you a better experience and are now obsolete.

Laptop Buying Guide for Artists

If you’re an artist, you need a powerful laptop that can handle graphics programs – not just any laptop will do. If you study photography, film, you need a color-accurate display with a high-resolution retina screen or 4K. Preferably larger screen if you’ll be drawing. You can still apply the recommendation we made for general college students, but these features are mandatory if you need high-quality detailed art.

laptop buying guide for artists

You also want a powerful GPU if you plan to edit photos or videos. You will need a high-performance processor – an 8 to 11th generation Intel Core i5. A Core i7 will be a worthy investment.

There’s also the need for lots of storage with a minimum of 512 GB or worse 256 GB. You can couple it with an SD card which you’ll use to upload photos and videos to your laptop. A RAM of 8GB to 16 GB is enough as you’ll probably be multitasking. I’d recommend Asus ZenBook Pro Duo or Apple’s MacBook Pro 16 which display the above qualities.

It is also important to get a laptop with touchscreen capability. With this feature, you can draw on the screen using a stylus. Finally, a laptop with longer battery life is important – at least 10 hours – for flexibility and freedom to work anywhere.  

Laptop Buying Guide for Writers

Writing has been a great part of our history, from recording the events of history on paper to typing on keyboards books, articles, or editing manuscripts. But now, in this modern world, what laptop specifications should writers convey their work best work? Much like video editors, photographers, writers have specific needs for their main writing tools – not only MS Word and a keyboard as some people often think.

laptop buying guide for writers

If you are a writer, you can refer to the buying guide for teachers for specifications on the RAM, processor speed, storage capacity, and screen display. A writer needs a highly portable laptop, weighing less than 5lbs as per our recommendations. 

A full HD screen resolution with a brightness not less than 300 nits is good. You won’t strain your eyes looking on the screen while typing.

There are also added features you can opt for, like buying a laptop with a backlit keyboard or ensuring the laptop you buy has a comfortable smooth premium feel on the keyboard for faster typing. Should you want to do some photo or video editing then laptops with powerful processor speed and graphics will be a good option. We recommend notebooks, Chromebooks with longer battery life: so that you can type for long hours and unwind yourself with some Netflix TV shows.

Laptop Buying Guide for Bloggers

Blogging is freedom in itself. Much like writers, they travel around and write articles on events, places they went, and so on. We would recommend bloggers to apply the same guide we’ve given writers with only a few exceptions. If you’re a travel blogger, you need a 14 to 15-inch laptop with a thin frame.

laptop buying guide for bloggers

There’s much more to blogging and it may involve having your own website, Photoshop, content quality, and SEO tactics. Just think about it. There’s a lot. And because bloggers compete for quality content, there’s a lot of research involved, watching tons of online videos, to produce better and quality content in their niche.

Because of this, a blogger needs laptops with powerful processing speed and graphics. There are different bloggers tough and therefore your specifications may vary. An Intel Core i3 is recommended. But if your niche involves editing, then an Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 5 chips with better screen resolution preferably 4K or full HD.

A RAM of 8GB is efficient but you can choose 4GB RAM if buying Chromebooks or Linux laptops. If you do heavy video/photo editing, then you might choose to go for 16GB RAM. Storage capacity varies. If your niche is in gaming, then you might want to know what to look for in gaming laptops to buy a better laptop.

Having a buying guide is one of the many options out there for finding the best laptop you need based on what you do. But first, you have to challenge yourself, learn, and research each laptop feature you want for a better and optimal experience with a laptop. Hopefully, you’ll find your ideal laptop and if you enjoyed reading this guide, leave us a comment down below.

Chris Martin is a professional tech writer. He's been covering tech tutorials, hardware reviews, and more as a professional writer for over seven years now and it doesn't look like he'll be stopping anytime soon! In addition to writing about the latest gadgets on the market, he also covers topics such as how to set up your home network or troubleshoot any computer problems you may have.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for such a detailed and specific overview. Now I feel like I know what to look for – great, unbiased advice,

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