Student Computer Suggestions


This article makes some general suggestions aimed at parents considering a new computer purchase.


We often get requests for advice on what is the best computer for a new college student. With an endless amount of choices, differing needs and budgets, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. This article provides tips which should be taken into consideration when assessing options.

General tips

  • Consult your major/dept as they may have software or platform requirements that influence purchasing decisions.
  • Webcams come standard-issue with most laptops. If purchasing a desktop, be sure to also purchase a webcam
  • A bigger screen adds to the bulk/weight of a laptop. On the other hand, a smaller screen can be frustrating to use. When in doubt, aim for 14-15 in.
  • Hands-on demos reveal more than a list of specs and measurements. Avoid mail order unless you are 100% sure of what you want.
  • While functional laptops can be had at under $300, there are definite trade offs: short battery life, weak processors, less RAM, and older hard drives. On average, products in the "mid-range" budget of $600-$900 will come with more acceptable specs.
  • Choose a brand with a good support reputation.
  • Consider USB sticks, external hard drives, or cloud-based storage for backups. Your Xavier account includes OneDrive, which offers 1TB of cloud storage.
  • Consider an extended warranty, including coverage for Accidental Damage. Standard 1 year warranties generally do not cover such damage.

Windows PCs

Windows 10 Home is the standard version installed on all new Windows PCs. Do not buy a used PC with Windows 7 unless it can be upgraded either yourself or by a local repair shop prior to arrival at school. Before considering a used PC in such condition, make sure it will exceed the Windows 10 requirements for an upgrade.


Macs tend to be more expensive than equivalent PC models. We strongly advise against buying a used or refurbished Mac unless it is Apple-certified for many reasons, including the one-year warranty. The older a used Mac is, the more likely it will eventually be incapable of receiving essential security updates.


ChromeBooks have appeal mainly due to their lower price and long battery life. Most have flimsy construction and are under-powered, compared to Macs and PCs. It also important to note that the ChromeBook's "operating system" is designed for light web browsing and email. A ChromeBook will be unable to run native Mac or Windows software, including the Respondus Lockdown Browser often used for online tests. For these reasons, we strongly recommend against purchasing ChromeBooks as a primary device.


Like Chromebooks, iPads are primarily designed as consumption devices for entertainment and lightweight tasks. Although keyboards and other useful accessories can be added, iPads are not designed as a full substitute for a Windows or Mac laptop. While the App Store offers many mobile equivalents to desktop software, functionality tends to be limited compared to their Windows or Mac counterparts. For these reasons, we strongly recommend against purchasing iPads as a primary device.



Article ID: 595
Mon 3/30/20 1:24 PM
Fri 11/10/23 9:09 AM