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Picking the Perfect PC for Your Student

A guide to buying that perfect computer for back to school.

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It’s time to get those kids ready to head back to school. With technology playing such an important role in learning these days, many middle, high school, and college students will need their own computer. How do you pick the right one? Here’s a guide to buying that perfect computer for your kid.

Mac, Windows, or Chrome Operating System?

» Apple macOS computers will be the most expensive option, but they do serve a very important and specific niche. If your student needs access to high-end video editing, photo-editing, or specific Mac-only software, this is the way to go. Apple makes great computers and you’ll pay a premium, but for some students it’s the best option, especially if their school program requires it.

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» Windows is a good all-around option, can do most functions, and is a much more cost-effective choice. While macOS is the first choice for many video editors and graphic artists, that doesn’t mean you can’t do that on a Windows computer. You’ll just have to make sure you choose the right specs to support. More about that below. Windows computers start as low as $108 but can cost $2,000 or more. Windows is a great option for students who are looking for access to full apps (video editing, games, photo editing, etc.) but are trying to stay under the $1,000 price tag.

» Chrome OS is a newer option created by Google. It offers a much more affordable line of laptops that start as low as $130. You will have a slim selection of apps but full access to the Chrome browser. If your student doesn’t need specific apps and simply needs to access email, web portals, and cloud apps, a Chrome OS laptop is a great option. Expect to spend $250 to $400 to make sure you get a Chrome OS computer with enough “oomph” to last a few years.

Processor

While Chrome OS laptops use specific mobile processors, both Windows and macOS computers use Intel or AMD processors. For basic tasks you’ll be fine with an Intel i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 processor. Want to do video editing, graphics, and some gaming? The Intel i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 should do the trick. Power users who want the best in speed and performance should shop for the Intel i7/i9 or AMD Ryzen 7 or Ryzen 9 processors.

Memory and Storage

On a Chrome OS computer, look for 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. When buying Mac or Windows computers, look for 8GB of RAM and at least 128GB SSD for storage. I prefer SSD over traditional hard drives because they’re faster and external drives or memory sticks are inexpensive for easy storage and transfer.

Bottom line, don’t be afraid to ask for help at the store or online. Also, many schools have guidelines or even preselected models that work best in the classroom. Check with your school or college program before buying to make sure you’re getting the computer that will set your student up for success.

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