Laptop for a student

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Post Reply
Topic Author
Posts: 165
Joined: Tue Dec 01, 2015 7:25 pm

Laptop for a student

Post by MrMojoRisin » Wed Sep 18, 2019 7:51 pm

My mother and stepfather are helping one of his grandkids better themselves. She recently passed her GED and is enrolling in a local jr. college.
They have asked me to purchase a laptop for her to use for her educational purposes.
I need to keep the price as low as possible yet still provide her with a reliable and appropriate laptop.

Any suggestions?

User avatar
Posts: 173
Joined: Tue Aug 30, 2016 8:21 am

Re: Laptop for a student

Post by elcadarj » Wed Sep 18, 2019 7:58 pm

Check with the community college IT department to see what they recommend and support. Our DS's college was Lenovo and Apple.

ETA: And they may have student discounts.

Posts: 182
Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:30 am

Re: Laptop for a student

Post by stuper1 » Wed Sep 18, 2019 8:05 pm

My son is in his third year of college at a state school and has been fine with a $200 Chromebook. This may not work for all colleges or majors.

Posts: 165
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 6:40 am

Re: Laptop for a student

Post by mouth » Wed Sep 18, 2019 8:31 pm

If you are so technically inclined, and really not THAT technical, consider a used laptop from craigslist. Then do a few things ...
  • Before buying said laptop, confirm how much memory it has, what type of memory it takes, and then plan to buy more memory for it. Chances are any laptop you're buying comes with too little memory (they all friggin do) and even too-er little-er for the latest version of W10. One of the single best upgrades to most consumer computers, laptop or desktop, is more memory. Ideally you can install 16GB, but don't even think about less than 8GB.
  • Also before buying, confirm that laptop battery replacements are easy and cheap. Most old laptops are "crap" because their batteries don't hold up. You shouldn't need to pay more than $40 at amazon or BatteriesPlus for a replacement battery.
  • Confirm that the school they are going to is part of Microsoft's school program to get a free copy of Office 365 ... cts/office assuming it does you can move to step 2 to reset. If not, and the laptop has Office already installed, then do a "refresh" so you retain the current install of Office
... profit.

I've done this for two students so far this year with laptops that just "ended up" in my house (yes, I'm the guy that collects your old "crappy" laptops). I linked up with a friend recently to turn around all the hardware I've accumulated to make them into something useful like helping low-income students. These are over 5 year's old in some cases and when I'm done with them they are amazingly capable. On one I swapped in an SSD for a really slow spinner drive and the transformation was remarkable. But that's a step many people won't be able to do without running the risk of needing to pay for windows again. It's a tricky bit to migrate (totally legally) the OS from one drive to another. But if you can google and follow it, you'll be amazed.

End of the day I took $150 (at best) laptops, added $100-$150 in parts (memory, battery, SSD), and had something that was perfect for a student that needs a full MS laptop with Office 365. If a Chrome book really will suffice (and you need to confirm it will be based on their school's IT) then that's the better route. Otherwise consider my suggestion.

Posts: 453
Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2017 4:15 am

Re: Laptop for a student

Post by gtd98765 » Wed Sep 18, 2019 8:36 pm

Posts: 67
Joined: Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:36 pm

Re: Laptop for a student

Post by mav12 » Thu Sep 19, 2019 12:48 am

Depends what area of study the will be. I'm not in college, but do use my laptop for number crunching in excel .

I bough the cheap one from Costco, some time ago for around $300. Don't let specs scare you because you can upgrade the ram and the hard drive for a few $$$.

Here are the thread w/ discussions from the past deal

HP 14" Laptop: i3-8130U, 4GB DDR4, 128GB SSD ... gb-ssd-315

User avatar
Posts: 2141
Joined: Tue Mar 24, 2015 4:22 pm

Re: Laptop for a student

Post by sunny_socal » Thu Sep 19, 2019 6:28 am

Just went through this myself. My MIL bought our kids entry-level laptops for school.

Lessons learned:
- Don't cheap out too much! The initial machine was only $400 but was really sub-par: 1300x768 display (looks terrible), hard drive (5min boot time), 8G RAM (barely adequate these days, even a browser can eat 8G)
- Upgrades not simple! Some laptops have a little hatch that's easy to remove to pop in more RAM, this one required the entire bottom of the machine to be removed and had 'special' screws. Also had an RF shield surrounding the RAM. Most people should definitely not attempt at home.
- Upgrades may be limited! That machine had a max of 20G memory.
- Battery not user replaceable! Indeed laptops are like phones these days, expect to get by with the built-in battery. If you're adventurous and have to the tools it's not hard but it will certainly void the warranty.

Minimum requirements, do not settle for less:
- 8G RAM (16G is better but expect to pay more, get 16G if possible)
- 256G SSD. This one cannot be overstated. Do not buy a computer with a hard drive!
- High resolution display with good viewing angle, usually marketed as "HD" (ie. 1920x1080)

Do not fall for the $300-400 entry-level computer from Walmart or other such big box store. Better machines can be found on sale especially around major holidays. $500 is enough to get something decent with the specs I posted above.

If you can find the funds I highly recommend an Apple laptop or a Lenovo Thinkpad (ie. the business models, not so much their low end consumer line.)

Some decent models from slickdeals: ... =catpagev2 ... ate:bv0as6 ... =catpagev2 ... =catpagev2 ... =catpagev2 ... =catpagev2 ... =catpagev2 ... =catpagev2 ... =catpagev2 ... =catpagev2

Posts: 40
Joined: Sun Mar 24, 2019 3:43 pm

Re: Laptop for a student

Post by Tortoisesque » Thu Sep 19, 2019 6:31 pm

If they’ll be doing a lot of typing, consider a Lenovo Thinkpad. It’s currently the only laptop on the market with a decent keyboard.

Posts: 67
Joined: Thu Jun 27, 2019 2:29 pm
Location: Snohomish County, Washington, USA

Re: Laptop for a student

Post by Arlington2019 » Fri Sep 20, 2019 9:55 pm

Costco almost always has good sales on laptops. I am a fan of Lenovo laptops myself.

Post Reply