Suggested laptop for someone going to college next year?

Tenacious E

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Son is going to Iowa. I am sure either Mac or Windows computers will work, but curious what works best with what the University uses/supports, or whether students can get computers or software cheaper through the University than what we can get at Best Buy or a similar store. Also, what is recommended these days in terms of attributes (RAM, storage capacity, etc.)? I haven't looked into any of this in a long time, as I just use what my job provides. TIA!
 

Hawki97

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Does he know what he’s going to do / major in? Because my no pics daughter was going into a particular major, we actually asked the department what they recommended and they had suggestions based on what was expected in the classroom.

If you just need an office 365 / emailing / web browsing machine, there are a million of them out there. Don’t spend too much. But if you’re going to be running anything specialized to their degree pursuits (e.g. CAD, ML, media intensive, etc.) it will be worth checking into other options.

Also, just a heads up that the Iowa schools have a program where you don’t pay taxes on hardware / software as a student and get some decent academic pricing. However, it’s not always the best deal even with those advantages. A simple google search of the models they have will tell you if it is or not.
 
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no idea about Iowa requirements, but just went through this with my oldest. Got him a Lenovo Slim laptop from Costco - was $1,200 on sale for $900. 1TB storage, 16mb RAM. He loves it and says it does everything he wants it to.

I overthought the process and was bouncing between more powerful laptops that cost twice as much. In the end I don’t think it matters all that much beyond a certain point. (Maybe if he’s a comp sci major it could).
 
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millah_22

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Son is going to Iowa. I am sure either Mac or Windows computers will work, but curious what works best with what the University uses/supports, or whether students can get computers or software cheaper through the University than what we can get at Best Buy or a similar store. Also, what is recommended these days in terms of attributes (RAM, storage capacity, etc.)? I haven't looked into any of this in a long time, as I just use what my job provides. TIA!
Both will work fine. Software basically interchangeable and no longer operating system specific.

You'll want minimum 8 GB ram if all they're doing is internet and microsoft word, 16 is good for photoshop and similar programs. 32 GB is overkill unless they're doing video/CAD

500 GB Hard drive is most likely enough unless they download their porn. Then they'll need 3 Terabytes.
 

Finance85

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What general area will your son be pursuing, i.e., math/science or design stuff? Will your son use the laptop for gaming. If it's math/science based, I'd go with a Windows machine. If there will be heavy graphic design, a Mac is a good choice.

As far as models go, I'm hating Dell right now. Before my Dell I had an HP and it was OK, but some of the internal security bios clashed with Windows from time to time.

Type of use will dictate RAM and storage. I highly recommend a SS hard drive over a mechanical drive. That said, solid state is pretty much the norm these days. Ask your son how many USB ports he thinks he'll need depending on external devices using blue tooth or not. (I have a wireless mouse). If he's into accounting or other math / engineering, he might want a separate 10 keypad.
 
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Mister Hawkeyes

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Does he know what he’s going to do / major in? Because my no pics daughter was going into a particular major, we actually asked the department what they recommended and they had suggestions based on what was expected in the classroom.

If you just need an office 365 / emailing / web browsing machine, there are a million of them out there. Don’t spend too much. But if you’re going to be running anything specialized to their degree pursuits (e.g. CAD, ML, media intensive, etc.) it will be worth checking into other options.

Also, just a heads up that the Iowa schools have a program where you don’t pay taxes on hardware / software as a student and get some decent academic pricing. However, it’s not always the best deal even with those advantages. A simple google search of the models they have will tell you if it is or not.
So much this.

If your son is going to be using his laptop for emails, internet, Microsoft Office, and personal use that ranges from YouTube to news outlets, there is no reason to drop $1,200 on a laptop.

If he's going to be majoring in something more specific that may need a high powered computer with certain software applications, then I would maybe look at a Mac. I've used Apple pretty much my entire adult life and enjoy their product, but you're going to be forking over a good chunk of money.

I graduated from Iowa in 2018 and they offered Microsoft Office for free so don't buy it unless you need to.

Also, now that he has a college email, he will be able to buy Sunday NFL Ticket for cheap. You know, the important things in a college students life.
 

Aardvark86

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Does he know what he’s going to do / major in? Because my no pics daughter was going into a particular major, we actually asked the department what they recommended and they had suggestions based on what was expected in the classroom.

If you just need an office 365 / emailing / web browsing machine, there are a million of them out there. Don’t spend too much. But if you’re going to be running anything specialized to their degree pursuits (e.g. CAD, ML, media intensive, etc.) it will be worth checking into other options.

Also, just a heads up that the Iowa schools have a program where you don’t pay taxes on hardware / software as a student and get some decent academic pricing. However, it’s not always the best deal even with those advantages. A simple google search of the models they have will tell you if it is or not.
this, especially if your child is contemplating engineering.
 
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Tenacious E

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Does he know what he’s going to do / major in? Because my no pics daughter was going into a particular major, we actually asked the department what they recommended and they had suggestions based on what was expected in the classroom.

If you just need an office 365 / emailing / web browsing machine, there are a million of them out there. Don’t spend too much. But if you’re going to be running anything specialized to their degree pursuits (e.g. CAD, ML, media intensive, etc.) it will be worth checking into other options.

Also, just a heads up that the Iowa schools have a program where you don’t pay taxes on hardware / software as a student and get some decent academic pricing. However, it’s not always the best deal even with those advantages. A simple google search of the models they have will tell you if it is or not.
Thanks! He was thinking business, but now he says he wants to pursue criminology or something that will set him up to apply to the FBI.
 

artradley

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Having gone through this twice, albeit not at Iowa, I will say you are best sticking with Windows. Every semester there will be one course where you will need software that does not exactly work as needed on anything else.

I recently got an HP with 1TB and 16gb for $580 from Amazon. That should last four years with no problem.

HP Laptop, 15.6" HD Touchscreen, AMD Athlon Gold 3150U Processor up to 3.3 GHz, 16GB DDR4 Memory, 1TB PCIe SSD, Webcam, Wireless-AC, Bluetooth, Type-C, HDMI, Windows 11 Home, Silver https://a.co/d/iRcVsWy
 

Tenacious E

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no idea about Iowa requirements, but just went through this with my oldest. Got him a Lenovo Slim laptop from Costco - was $1,200 on sale for $900. 1TB storage, 16mb RAM. He loves it and says it does everything he wants it to.

I overthought the process and was bouncing between more powerful laptops that cost twice as much. In the end I don’t think it matters all that much beyond a certain point. (Maybe if he’s a comp sci major it could).
Gracias!
 

Tenacious E

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Both will work fine. Software basically interchangeable and no longer operating system specific.

You'll want minimum 8 GB ram if all they're doing is internet and microsoft word, 16 is good for photoshop and similar programs. 32 GB is overkill unless they're doing video/CAD

500 GB Hard drive is most likely enough unless they download their porn. Then they'll need 3 Terabytes.
Thanks!
 

hexumhawk

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This guy might have one but you will have to wipe it.
 

Tenacious E

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What general area will your son be pursuing, i.e., math/science or design stuff? Will your son use the laptop for gaming. If it's math/science based, I'd go with a Windows machine. If there will be heavy graphic design, a Mac is a good choice.

As far as models go, I'm hating Dell right now. Before my Dell I had an HP and it was OK, but some of the internal security bios clashed with Windows from time to time.

Type of use will dictate RAM and storage. I highly recommend a SS hard drive over a mechanical drive. That said, solid state is pretty much the norm these days. Ask your son how many USB ports he thinks he'll need depending on external devices using blue tooth or not. (I have a wireless mouse). If he's into accounting or other math / engineering, he might want a separate 10 keypad.
Good stuff. I think he is about the only teenager that does not play video games.
 

Hawki97

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Having gone through this twice, albeit not at Iowa, I will say you are best sticking with Windows. Every semester there will be one course where you will need software that does not exactly work as needed on anything else.

I recently got an HP with 1TB and 16gb for $580 from Amazon. That should last four years with no problem.

HP Laptop, 15.6" HD Touchscreen, AMD Athlon Gold 3150U Processor up to 3.3 GHz, 16GB DDR4 Memory, 1TB PCIe SSD, Webcam, Wireless-AC, Bluetooth, Type-C, HDMI, Windows 11 Home, Silver https://a.co/d/iRcVsWy

Solid every man's machine. I've had great luck with HP laptops over the years. Took a lickin' and kept on tickin'. Business / Criminology - should be fine for your son @Tenacious E. As @millah_22 said though - upgrade the HDD to 3TB to make room for all the pron.
 

Colonoscopy

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As far as specs...

If you can... quad core i7, 16GB RAM, dedicated graphics card, solid state drive. (ideally 256GB +)

At least: i5 (dual core) 8GB ram and a SSD. (ram, though, is pretty cheap... you can easily upgrade yourself in the future)

I'd also get a decent external monitor (21" to 27") and keyboard for desk work.

As far as brands? Seems like all the major companies have produced lemons through-out the years. I don't swear by any one brand. Just depends on the components being used in a model at any given time. So search by specs and then look at user reviews.

I've had an HP 5 years that has served me well, no HPs before this one...
 

Tenacious E

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As far as specs...

If you can... quad core i7, 16GB RAM, dedicated graphics card, solid state drive. (ideally 256GB +)

At least: i5 (dual core) 8GB ram and a SSD.

I'd also get a decent external monitor (21" to 27") and keyboard for desk work.

As far as brands? Seems like all the major companies have produced lemons through-out the years. I don't swear by any one brand. Just depends on the components being used in a model at any given time. So search by specs and then look at user reviews.

I've had an HP 5 years that has served me well, no HPs before this one...
I haven't been paying attention - do they roll out meaningful upgrades every year or is there something on the horizon? I imagine if we got him what you suggest, he'd be fine for awhile, but if there was a jump coming from like a PS3 to a PS 4, then maybe we should sit tight...
 

Tenacious E

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Will he be living in a dorm, or away from home? If so, my reply is -

he's about the only teenager not playing video games yet.
He will be in the dorms. We have all kinds of video game systems in the house that we have picked up for christmases or birthdays. He has played some in the past, but lost interest. He would rather watch his favorite podcasts on youtube than play video games. Kind of an old soul that way.
 

Colonoscopy

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I haven't been paying attention - do they roll out meaningful upgrades every year or is there something on the horizon? I imagine if we got him what you suggest, he'd be fine for awhile, but if there was a jump coming from like a PS3 to a PS 4, then maybe we should sit tight...

Yes and no. I don't know of any big game-changing processors coming out. The intel i7 line has probably been around a decade and is consistently being refined. We're probably on 8th generation or something. I really have no idea. But these generally aren't major upgrades, more incremental over time.

I'm using something 5 years old and it keeps up fine with whatever I want to do.

Basically... don't worry about it.

About the only 'upgrades' you'll be dealing with are related to your OS. The machine should last him through undergrad fine. (unless you get a lemon, but nothing much you can do about that)

Get the 750-1000 dollar 'good enough' windows machine. Not the 3000 dollar mac. (lest you have a bunch of $$$ to throw around you don't care about)
 
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SB_SB

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If he/she wants to work for the FBI, you'll need to do some research for their requirements. I know there's FBI internships that might provide some experience, but not sure how much the FBI hires right out of college. Your kid may need to get a job first and then apply a few years later. So finding a specialty might be a good thing to look for.

Colonoscopy has the right information, try to get an quad core with 16GB of memory.

I've had good and bad luck with Dell and Lenovo. Dell's have a problem where they detect the power supply and if the system doesn't think it's a Dell power supply, it won't charge. It was a problem with the motherboard so after 1 year the laptop was junk.
 
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Colonoscopy

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Aardvark Jr., to my surprise, built his own along with a buddy who was a year ahead of him and majoring in CS.
Fun to do if you want to be assured of having good components that will last you a while. (plus... just fun if you've got some geek in you)

I don't think it's as economic as it used to be.
 

SB_SB

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He will be in the dorms. We have all kinds of video game systems in the house that we have picked up for christmases or birthdays. He has played some in the past, but lost interest. He would rather watch his favorite podcasts on youtube than play video games. Kind of an old soul that way.

You'll also have to decide on whether to get a 15" or 17" laptop. The nice thing about a 17" is that you don't always need an external monitor as much.
 
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Colonoscopy

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You'll also have to decide on whether to get a 15" or 17" laptop. The nice thing about a 17" is that you don't always need an external monitor as much.
Yeah... that's a plus. On the downside there are about a million more 15" options out there than 17"... and 15" is easier to tote around. (plus an external monitor at a desk is going to be much better than that 17" display)
 
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Tenacious E

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If he/she wants to work for the FBI, you'll need to do some research for their requirements. I know there's FBI internships that might provide some experience, but not sure how much the FBI hires right out of college. Your kid may need to get a job first and then apply a few years later. So finding a specialty might be a good thing to look for.

Colonoscopy has the right information, try to get an quad core with 16GB of memory.

I've had good and bad luck with Dell and Lenovo. Dell's have a problem where they detect the power supply and if the system doesn't think it's a Dell power supply, it won't charge. It was a problem with the motherboard so after 1 year the laptop was junk.
Thanks! He has looked into it and you typically need two years of experience after undergrad before you can apply. Who knows, he might change his mind once he's in college. I changed majors twice in undergrad before ending up with a finance degree, and after undergrad (and the Air Force), I went to a professional school in another field entirely.
 
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no idea about Iowa requirements, but just went through this with my oldest. Got him a Lenovo Slim laptop from Costco - was $1,200 on sale for $900. 1TB storage, 16mb RAM. He loves it and says it does everything he wants it to.

I overthought the process and was bouncing between more powerful laptops that cost twice as much. In the end I don’t think it matters all that much beyond a certain point. (Maybe if he’s a comp sci major it could).
A big thing is making sure they’re properly educated on which porn sites to visit. I’m not even joking. I spent a lot of time fixing my little brother’s laptop multiple times because he wouldn’t stick to the well known streaming sites. I bookmarked the damn things the last time.
 

Tenacious E

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Yeah... that's a plus. On the downside there are about a million more 15" options out there than 17"... and 15" is easier to tote around. (plus an external monitor at a desk is going to be much better than that 17" display)
I have had a 17" and 15" laptop and the 17 did not fit well in standard backpacks/brief cases/etc. Maybe that has changed though.
 

Tenacious E

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A big thing is making sure they’re properly educated on which porn sites to visit. I’m not even joking. I spent a lot of time fixing my little brother’s laptop multiple times because he wouldn’t stick to the well known streaming sites. I bookmarked the damn things the last time.
And for the love of god, use incognito mode!
 
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SB_SB

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Yeah... that's a plus. On the downside there are about a million more 15" options out there than 17"... and 15" is easier to tote around. (plus an external monitor at a desk is going to be much better than that 17" display)

It really depends. If you're doing anything like UX design or Programming with an IDE, then a 17" monitor becomes a need.
 
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Colonoscopy

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It really depends. If you're doing anything like UX design or Programming with an IDE, then a 17" monitor becomes a need.
Depends... I've known freaks that will use visual studio for dev on a 15" laptop, but almost everybody uses a monitor for serious dev work. Most of the time the laptop is used for taking notes, reading, and sharing information. At least that's how I do it. Serious dev work I just plug in.
 

SB_SB

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Depends... I've known freaks that will use visual studio for dev on a 15" laptop, but almost everybody uses a monitor for serious dev work. Most of the time the laptop is used for taking notes, reading, and sharing information. At least that's how I do it. Serious dev work I just plug in.

It depends on the person, I've seen it both ways. I know someone who likes to work outside and so having the 17" monitor allows that to happen. A 17" is bigger to carry, but it can be worth it. Also my kid is in grad school (and is coding) and he/she picked a 17" (bought it new 2 years ago) because he/she wanted the flexibility of being about to work from anywhere. He/She prefers a 28" monitor but can work with 17.
 
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NDallasRuss

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There's already a lot of information in here, and I'm sure a lot of it is more specific/technical than what I can offer.

I got the daughter this computer in the summer of 2020 for her senior year of high school, since it was during covid and remote the entire year:

HP - ENVY x360 2-in-1 15.6" Touch-Screen Laptop - Intel Core i7 - 12GB Memory - 512GB SSD + 32GB

Decipher it the best you can, but it was just a normal "average" computer that cost $800.

It worked well for her senior year, and is still working just fine for her in her second year of college (no pics of now-legal daughter). I think it probably lasts her through undergrad, at least.

I do agree that it depends on the kid's major, but for most things, you don't need it to be super high-powered, and I think windows is probably easier to match with all the software/applications the school and classes will use/prefer, unless the kid's a art/graphic design major. That's probably generalizing some, but I think it's largely accurate.

The daughter also has an i-pad that she takes to class to take notes on, since some of her professors don't want them bringing in laptops and taking notes on them during class.

The bigger deal for the daughter was having a good monitor that she could use to do schoolwork, and then also to stream shows/movies on. I got her a pretty good Samsung 32" curved monitor that she loves. It makes it a lot easier to do school work on, and she doesn't need a separate TV for her dorm room.

Good luck - I hope that helps some!
 

artradley

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Depends... I've known freaks that will use visual studio for dev on a 15" laptop, but almost everybody uses a monitor for serious dev work. Most of the time the laptop is used for taking notes, reading, and sharing information. At least that's how I do it. Serious dev work I just plug in.

I develop anywhere as long as I have a mouse.
 

Tenacious E

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The daughter also has an i-pad that she takes to class to take notes on, since some of her professors don't want them bringing in laptops and taking notes on them during class.

The bigger deal for the daughter was having a good monitor that she could use to do schoolwork, and then also to stream shows/movies on. I got her a pretty good Samsung 32" curved monitor that she loves. It makes it a lot easier to do school work on, and she doesn't need a separate TV for her dorm room.

Good luck - I hope that helps some!
Thanks! One comment and one question. The comment is not permitting students to take notes on a laptop is just asinine. If they are worried about distractions or being recorded, there are phones... The question is what advantages does a monitor have over a tv? In my office at home, I used tvs for monitors and they work great, and they are the fraction of the price of monitors. What am I missing on that?
 

NDallasRuss

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Thanks! One comment and one question. The comment is not permitting students to take notes on a laptop is just asinine. If they are worried about distractions or being recorded, there are phones... The question is what advantages does a monitor have over a tv? In my office at home, I used tvs for monitors and they work great, and they are the fraction of the price of monitors. What am I missing on that?
re: laptops in class - I can only guess but I think it could be 1) those with screens that flip up but don't rotate into a flat tablet shape, the screen being up could be perceived as not paying attention?, and 2) kids typing on laptop keyboards could be distracting with all the constant clicking of keys being pushed. Or, I guess 3) she made it up to get a new ipad... :)

re: monitors vs TVs - you've now exceeded any technical knowledge I have. Maybe they work the same? I got her a monitor that she could use for her schoolwork, streaming, and for her PS5. Maybe a TV would work for all those things.
 
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