So you need a laptop for college…

As Black Hills High School seniors begin to make college decisions, they will also be thinking about what they might need before moving out. Although students could use a lot of things as they go off to college, one item is imperative to any professional lifestyle. A great laptop. If you are in in the position to pick out a laptop for college, The Wolf Crier’s recommended laptop choices by academic focus are outlined here.


Because most people will not need to read the full opinion on each option, here is a quick guide.

General purpose laptop —> Buy the Dell XPS (Windows) or Buy the Apple MacBook Air.

If you want to spend the least amount of money possible —> Buy any Chromebook.

If you are in any artistic major —> Buy the Apple MacBook Pro.

If you are in any STEM major —> You will be provided with computers capable of high-intensity rendering, but you’ll want to buy the Dell XPS or Dell Inspiron. If you prefer Apple, make sure to buy a loaded Macbook Pro, and you’re running Parallels Desktop or Fusion 8.

Laptops referenced in this article

Great general purpose laptops for college

Qualifying criteria:

  • Long lasting
  • Fast
  • Note taking options
  • Research
  • Excellent word processing
  • Portable/lightweight
  • Reliable
  • Price point


The Dell XPS is a great general purpose laptop for anyone who needs a portable, powerful, and lightweight computer. The Dell XPS laptop series runs the latest version of Windows and is capable of running all Microsoft Office programs. Unlike many other less expensive options, the Dell XPS is a relatively high-end laptop and should last a long time for most users. For these reasons, the Dell XPS will make for a reliable, solid laptop for pretty much anything you need to do in college.

In addition to the Dell XPS, you should also consider buying a computer directly from Microsoft such as the Microsoft Surface Book because it features many of the advantages of an Apple computer despite running Windows. This is mainly because the hardware and software are both regulated by Microsoft, similar to Apple’s regulation of both hardware and software.

Every laptop list on the internet will include at least one of Apple’s flagship laptops due to their superior interface and build quality. However, if you’re going to pick an all-purpose laptop from Apple, you should consider each option, as they only offer three major laptops. For general college purposes the Macbook, Macbook Pro, and Macbook Air will all meet your needs. All Apple products come with the advantage of a tightly constructed operating system that offers speed, efficiency, and security. The biggest difference between these three laptops is price point and processing power. Because OSX has different needs than Windows 10 and is designed in an entirely different way, Apple computers require less processing power than their PC counterparts. Considering those facts, here is how you should pick an Apple laptop: If you want an extraordinarily lightweight, minimal, and cutting edge laptop, choose the Macbook. If you want the light weight and portability of the Macbook, but you want a little more power and a bigger screen for a smaller price tag, consider the Macbook Air. If you need a powerful computer and price point is not a consideration, buy the Macbook Pro because it is the top of the line Apple Laptop. My final recommendation for people who want an Apple Laptop but don’t want to spend over $1000 on a laptop is to buy the Macbook Air. The Macbook Air is an excellent computer, and the only reason it’s the least expensive Apple laptop is that it utilizes a non-retina display and non-3D touch trackpad. If you don’t know what either of those features are, then you probably won’t care, and the Macbook Air will be a great fit for you!

Chromebooks range from $200 to $1500 depending on your choice of manufacturer. All Chromebooks will run Chrome OS, and you will be limited to Google’s services. For our general criteria, Chromebooks only lack in two areas. First, Chromebooks do not offer powerful word processing features like Microsoft Office, so they will not be easy to use in a professional environment. Secondly, depending on how much you choose to spend on a Chromebook, you will get varying quality and longevity. For those reasons, I suggest buying a Chromebook only if you want a cheap laptop or prefer Chrome OS.

For artistic majors

Qualifying criteria:

  • Enough hard drive space for large files
  • Creative software community
  • As much of general criteria as possible


Many creative majors will require their students to buy a particular version of an Apple Macbook Pro. If you are not obliged to purchase a Macbook Pro, you should still buy a Macbook Pro! The Macbook Pro will serve a fantastic platform for anyone who wants to be creative and make digital art or work with any form of digital media. You will be able to get all professional creative software for this computer.

Some people may want to stick with what they are used to. If you are in the business for a new Windows laptop and you are not required to get an Apple Macbook Pro by your major, try the Microsoft Surface Pro. The surface pro offers many unique options for creating artistic work including the ability to draw accurately right on the screen using all of the professional Adobe applications. If you want something light to put in your backpack and you want to try utilizing the productivity of the Microsoft Pen, try the Surface Pro.

For STEM majors

Qualifying criteria:

  • Powerful processing
  • Professional drafting capable with industry standard software
  • Microsoft Office
  • As much as the general criteria as possible.


For STEM majors, your options are limited to Windows computers. Unfortunately, many professional platforms for engineering design will be limited to Windows unless you are dual booting your Mac. For this reason, the Dell XPS or Dell Inspiron is the best computer to buy. These computers will offer processing power and professional software compatibility. Programmers will have more than enough runway on these computers. However, it’s important to note that no laptop on the market will be a great option for high-intensity design projects using CAD software. Most if not all universities and engineering firms will provide powerful computers loaded with software for engineers. Ultimately, the likelihood of a university requiring their students to purchase $10,000 CAD software is zero. Buy the Dell XPS.

By Max Parker – Technology Editor


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