A mainstream 15" laptop would do well for most students. They don't need a lot of computing power or fancy features, and 15" machines are the cheapest thing beyond netbooks.
However as my daughter pointed out, sometimes they don't have room on the desktop in some lecture halls for a 15" machine, so if a student is taking the machine to class then maybe a 13" would be better.
If a student really knows that they won't be running anything but light office apps, maybe a netbook is all they need.
Assuming you're not trying to game heavily, I love my Dell Studio 15. I got the last generation 1535 series, and they're currently 1537's, but overall it's the same system really. The backlit keyboard isn't something I thought I'd love near as much as I do. It's fantastic for late night work!!
If it was a computer "solely" for the tasks of a student, then anything with a good amount of RAM and a decent CPU would be fine. I'd hate to go anything less than a 2.0ghz duo-core though, because modern OSes tax system resources like no other, and it is very frustrating for the average student if their computer starts to lag, especially once they get a few bloatware and unnecessary start-ups installed onto their laptops. Try doing your homework on a pentium 3... all you need is internet and openoffice? Good luck, even with that...
A 13in laptop or 9in netbook. A netbook with Linux is better if they are just taking notes, editing documents, viewing PDFs, and web browsing. A laptop is better if they are doing graphics editing or CAD. Another option is a netbook to carry around and RDC into a desktop in their dorm room.
[citation][nom]abswindows7[/nom]That's a school dedicated computer ( If you plan not going to your classes )[/citation]Considering how many "career" college students I've met, your recommendation makes sense in a scary sort of way.
Netbooks are just worthless to me. Just to get stuff done and be mobile, a low cost 13-15" Laptop is fine. I used a 15" Compaq with a Celeron 440M with 1.5GB of RAM and Vista Home Basic for 2 years and it's been a trooper. Did everything I needed it too (as well as run some HD video and StepMania) and it didn't cost spit. Lucky for me I had a spare battery and charger from my previous HP (weird to get 2 laptops that used the same stuff a year apart). Even so though, for school, battery life was never a problem. Each battery gave me about 2 hours but I always picked seats with plugs if possible.
But at the same time I had it, I had a desktop. Since I'm a "Power User", I like to have 2 computers (though I actually have about 5 or 6). I have one self built desktop with a 24" monitor for games and anime, then my newer 17" HP laptop that's considerably more powerful (and over twice as expensive) than my previous laptop, that I use for school, mobile use, laziness (I keep it downstairs in my apartment while the desktop is upstairs) etc. I went the exact opposite with it though than the trend. I hate small laptops/netbooks. I walked in the store and said "gimme the biggest SOB you got". Still gets 3 hours battery life and can play Team Fortress 2.
i'm going to college next semester to start my ME program and i'm definitely going to by a netbook. probably an 11z dell cause i need something to carry around (beside a ton of books and papers!). macs are good but no way i'm gonna spend 1000 bucks for a low end mac. if i need performance i'll put up a high end pc later but right now(and probably never) will i pay 2000$ for a laptop.
@jhansonxi : That is assuming that they dorm. It is actually very annoying for students who dorm when ppl assume this simply because those who dont usually end up working as well as going to college which is honest very hard.
I myself am a college student (going into my second year in a week). I bought a 15" HP. 2.8 ghz amd x2, 4 gigs ram, 250 gig hdd. This computer is perfect for alot of students. Depending on your major and your uses you can easily get a netbook. My major is engineering so I do need the 15" for things like cad (and my hobbies like watching movies, and editiing pictures/playing games).
To be honest battery life doesnt really matter much because chances are there is an outlet you can easily use. Another point Id like to state though is that for college you do not need any kind of laptop at all. Infact most people do not for many good reasons. I dont even use mine during class because I get bored and start browsing the web, so I only use mine while I have free time between classes to do hw or just browse/play games.
The Dell Studio XPS 16 for any kind of art student, because of the RGB LED backlit display, yay color gamut and accuracy.
For an average student who just needs to take notes and type up assignments? Any netbook running Ubuntu Linux with OpenOffice or Lotus Symphony.
For any kind of "power user" student, like a computer science student, the Sony VAIO FW. Good balance of power, portability, price, and... a decent GPU for playing games and not doing my assignments...I mean their assignments!
I'd say that it depends heavily on the major. Some majors need a LOT more computing power than others. My i7 has been fully loaded for the past 2 hours because I'm rendering an animation of an engine in solidworks for example, but it's unlikely that an international affairs major (just to pull a random example out of my ass here) would need that same level of power. For an engineering major, I'd recommend a decently powerful desktop plus a cheap laptop if possible, and otherwise, a decent laptop (2.5GHz C2D + discrete graphics) as a bare minimum. Otherwise, I'd go with something fairly small and light with a good battery life - the Dell Studio 14Z looks like a good option for example. I'd probably not go with an apple though.
...And i hate to say it, most male students will try at some point to load WoW or some other game on their computer... so consider the video card choice appropriately.
While a solid state drive is a nice thought too, kids these days back up their work to USB flash drives anyhoo, so save your cash. instead, invest that extra cash into a laser printer or something.
You can get a refurbished macbook 2.4ghz aluminum /w 9400m, 2gRAM, and illuminated keyboard for $999 at the apple store. Really, all the kid needs it for writing up lab reports, so this should be overkill, but it might be useful for getting some booty. art major girls dig macs. $1000 is still a lot tho; is it worth getting laid or two months rent?
On the PC side of things, I'm a fan of both Dell notebooks and Lenovo Thinkpads. I'd take them over a macbook myself- mainly due to the price, but also because of their customizability. A $400 laptop/desktop should be more than enough for most college student; an $800 laptop is great tho. More than that is just spoiling them.
Tablets are neat, but i never took notes anyways. easier just to photocopy someone elses. A Kindle with textbooks, manuals and lectures loaded on them might be usable though; photocopying and textbooks are expensive!
since most of the college students I know have a very tight budget, I usually overlook appearance, and focus just on getting a laptop that has a medium sized screen, dvd-r, decent enough battery life and possibly a dedicated graphics card if the person is a gamer. kids aren't picky; a system just needs to work.
I might not consider a desktop solution much anymore, but just a few years ago desktops were the only affordable way to go--- but they still do get the job done just fine. Maybe a lightweight laptop and a heavy duty desktop is a good choice for some students still- having a big screen, a tv tuner, and a nice sound setup are great benefits of a desktop tho.