Choosing a computer

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So you want to buy a computer...

(This is written as an advice for students thinking about a computer for their studies)

There is no one computer that will be the best... It depends what you want to do with it, and the budget you have for it.

As a rule of thumb, the newer version you buy, the longer it will last. But the newer versions cost more. Just like with smartphones...

First: Laptop vs desktop computer

  • Laptop is for mobility, and for the school that would be good.
  • Desktop however provides better performance. However, the school does not require a top performing desktop for any class.


  • Memory - is probably the most important - Go with at least 8GB. 16GB would be better.
  • Hard drive. Choose SSD tupe (Solid state drive). That will be lighter and also consume less, and more prone to impact damage should you drop the laptop. The size depends on your budget - 512GB is a good start, and might be sufficient.
  • Processor - generally take Intel Core i5 or i7 (or AMD Ryzen 5 - 7) with the latest technology available, while the speed (in GHz) does not have to be top. The newest Apple laptops may have the M1 processor.

Operating system

There are three general options:

  • MS Windows - is the most popular with wide support for software. Also loved by virus makers.
  • MacOS - comes with Apple computer hardware, offers a stable and fairly foolproof environment for a wide population. At a price.
  • Linux, e.g. Ubuntu, is the most flexible, but better for advanced users. Lots of free software support, but some required software may still require Windows or MacOS, which you may get up and running on Linux, but with some effort.

Unless you already know what to do with Linux, I'd suggest Windows or MacOS depending on your experience and budget for the hardware. Usually, one can install Linux on the side if needed later on.

The brand

  • Going with a well known brand is a safer bet. + Apple makes solid, good looking and performing laptops, at a price. MacBook Pro would be good and will last longer, while MacBook Air would serve as a decent lightweight and somewhat cheaper option.
  • There are many other decent brands, such as ASUS, Lenovo, Dell (Dell XPS), HP and others. 

The price

As a rule of thumb, expect to spend 800 - 1300 for a laptop that should last a few years.

The NO

Stay away from Chromebooks - they are cheap and good for browsing and text, but not enough for development.

Other details

  • Comfortable keyboard is essential, and everyone has their own taste.
  • Screen size - larger is better. However, larger is also more heavy and has a higher chance to damage. Perhaps, going with a comfortable medium size (and good eyesight) is OK, while at home using a larger external monitor.+ Battery size - For a business person travelling a lot the battery size is important, for a student - not so much.
  • Camera - builtin camera might be convenient, but an external webcam may still offer better quality and flexibility.
  • Ports - for many modern laptops that are built to be compact and lightweight you may also need to purchase a prot expansion adapter or docking station so that all the USB and other devices such as keyboard, mouse, camera, external monitor, network cable and so on could be plugged in as needed. This may add 30 - 100 to the price.


Whatever you buy, will get old in a couple of years. You will have to upgrade eventually. The more you invest now in the memory size and processor technology (not necessarily the speed), the longer it will last.

Regarding the fit of the computer for studies - the software and tools that are used in the coursework do not require the super-latest and fastest technologies, or the school provides the means to connect to such resources remotely from any computer.

For the particular models, I would search online for the current (year) tech info and suggestions, here is one example:

I hope this helps.