Best Back-to-School Laptops

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Buying a laptop for school requires us to take into consideration a few simple facts. They are:

  • Your laptop will be with you for two to four years.
  • You will tote your laptop around like one of Paris Hilton’s hairless dogs.
  • Your laptop will get beaten up a bit more than those selfsame dogs.

With these things in mind, we now have to find a laptop that is low-priced yet high in quality. This rules out a number of very cheap models and every expensive, bulky models. In short, students need a laptop that will still look good after two years and will still work after six months. A tall order indeed.

But never fear: I’ve been looking at laptops for almost a decade now and there are a few I’ve seen that particularly catch my eye. These are laptops I’d buy my own kids.

Low


ASUS Eee PC 1215N – about $500 – This, the latest in the ASUS Eee line, has Optimus graphics and a high-powered Atom processor. This 3.2-pound notebook is thin enough to slip into a backpack but lacks an optical drive – a minor concern for some students. Yes, it’s a netbook, but ASUS built their recently fortune on netbooks so I’m willing to give this a pass. It’s definitely not for games or video editing, but it will work just fine as a text editing, web surfing, IMing machine. It also has HD video playback on the 12.1-inch screen. [Product Page]


Samsung N150 – About $350 – If you’re a literature major eating Ramen or you want a little notebook to use in class, the N150 is a safe bet. The 10.5-inch laptop runs Windows 7 Starter (you’re probably going to want to upgrade) and it will run most office applications without any problems. Just don’t plan on doing any high-resolution image editing and you’ll be fine. [Product Page]

Middle

Dell XPS 16 – $949 – If there’s a laptop line suited for students it’s the Dell’s Studio brand. These small laptops are designed for a few simple purposes – multimedia, video, etc. – but the XPS 16 is the only one designed for (ssssshhhhh) gaming. The 15.6-inch screen displays full HD graphics powered by an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 565v graphics chip. Whether you’re going to be dropping heavy duty science in Chemistry class or dropping rockets in Modern Warfare, this is the laptop for you. [Product Page]

MacBook – $999 – Call us fanbois all you want but a MacBook is the perfect laptop for most students. Thanks to lots of battery life, plenty of power, and compatibility with almost anything you can throw at it, a standard MacBook is fast becoming the de facto notebook on many campuses. While Windows 7 is a great OS, I suspect the average computer user will have very little trouble switching and as long as you maintain regular back ups there is little that you can do to this thing that will fold, mutilate, or spindle your data. [Product Page]

High


Alienware M11x – $1150 – A few years ago, Alienware laptops were so expensive – and so large – that it was ludicrous to consider them as viable school computers. However, with the advent of cheaper chip technologies and a number of improvements to portability, I’m pleased to report the M11x is a great smaller notebook with lots of staying power. Devin reviewed this laptop in April so check out his comments. This is a “heavy hitter” with lots of processor power but it’s a bit on the heavier side. We’re big fans, but check it out in the store before committing to a purchase. [Product Page]

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