Gone are the days of needing a powerful, desktop computer to accomplish the tasks of graduate school and post-grad training. Today’s notebooks (“laptops”) offer performance, portability, and extensibility at a competitive price.
Some programs provide an allowance to use on gadgets. Others provide you with computers already pre-loaded with the necessary textbooks and software. In any case, I really don’t think you can go wrong with any current-generation laptop… with a few caveats.
- Consider investing in a laptop with a much more reliable solid state drive (SSD). These flash-based forms of storage have no moving parts, are much faster, and use less power. On the downside, they’re more expensive than traditional hard drive disks (HDD).
- Invest in an external hard drive! I can’t tell you how many times classmates’ computers have crashed prior to exams, but they were saved from a backup. I’ve used WD Passport drives over the last 5+ years with no issues. Many external drives come with proprietary backup software, so you’ll be good to go. Personally, I like partitioning my drives manually – a “backup” partition and a “data” partition I can use to store pictures, movies, documents, and music on-the-go. Also, try to get a device with USB 3.0, and make sure the external drive is compatible with it.
- Become familiar with cloud storage options like Dropbox or Copy. I store most of my documents less than 2 MB in the cloud. This offers another means of backing up, but it’s especially useful for those with multiple computers to ensure everything is synchronized.
- If at all possible, see the laptop in person! There are things you can only appreciate by holding the device (how far are the keyboard keys spaced out, how heavy does it feel, what’s the build quality, etc.)
- Ask about warranty details and get an extension if necessary (read: “I drop things a lot.”)
I feel like Ethernet and optical drives are being phased out in favor of wireless connectivity and streaming media, so my personal recommendation is the latest MacBook Air. And this is coming from an Android fanboy, so you can trust me. 😉