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Laptop vs. Desktop Computers for College Students

written by: Nicholas•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 3/31/2010

As far as laptop vs. desktop computers for college students, there are several things that you may want to consider before deciding which is best for you. Here, we will weigh the pros and cons of desktop and laptop computers, and take college student's needs into special consideration.

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    General Pros and Cons of Desktops vs. Laptops

    As far as general pros and cons of laptop vs. desktop computers for college students, check out this article, which gives a good overview of the more technical aspects such as reliability, ease of repair, durability, performance, and more. It may help assist in your decision making process.

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    Laptop Usage in the Classroom

    Portability is probably something that you are considering as far as having the right computer for college. The thing with this is all colleges have different trends when it comes to using laptops in class. It's not that classes won't allow laptops in class, but at some colleges, the heavy majority of students choose simply not to take notes on their laptops. The traditional notebook and pen is still the majority chosen method in those classrooms. Upon signing up for classes, you may believe that you need a laptop so that you can take it with you to class. But upon actually being in the class for a week, you may notice that not one person is using a laptop. Should this influence your preference? Not at all. If the teacher allows it, bring your laptop to class to take notes, if that's what you prefer.

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    Laptop Usage Elsewhere

    macbook Chances are you will actually find the portability of a laptop to be more convenient for things that you do outside of the classroom. Here are a couple of examples to consider:

    Your roommate doesn't have homework today but you do. Thus, he is having a party. As much as you'd like to join right in and party it up, you have assignments due at 8:00AM tomorrow morning. With a laptop, you can go to the library, find a room and study (without the distractions), or go to a buddy's place and study.

    You are struggling badly with a take home test, spending 20 minutes on each question. For this, it can be of great benefit to study with someone that's in your class, and work on the test together. For stuff like this, it's always nice to have a laptop, so that you can work at their place, or yours, and work on the test at the same time.

    Your stupid printer is not working and you need to print 10 pages before class starts in an hour. Carrying your laptop to a working printer is much easier than finding a working printer and carrying it to a desktop PC. Of course, flash drives also work great for stuff like this; but what are you going to do when you get to the library to print the paper, and there is not an open computer in sight?

    In college, time is usually difficult to manage. If you want to go to the beer pong party tonight, you need to eat some dinner, do laundry, and get some homework done before you go. With a laptop you can pickup McDonalds, eat while your on your way to the laundromat, get your clothes started, and type the report while they are washing.

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    Laptop Cons

    Aside from all of the positives of laptop vs. desktop for college students listed above, laptops also have some cons.

    College is a rowdy place, and laptops are not exactly built like a tank. Some students go through two to three laptops throughout college, simply because they are not careful with them. Being a portable device, laptops always have a better chance of being dropped, damaged, or broken than desktops.

    The chances of saving a laptop that has had beer spilled on it are not good.

    Laptops can be stolen. A desktop can too, but not nearly as easily. An uninvited guest to your party can easily throw a laptop in his backpack and go. A dude carrying a 25 pound desktop through your place is a bit more noticeable. Some colleges have more problems with stealing than others. But no matter where you go to school, never underestimate someone that has had a couple too many drinks in a college setting.

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    Desktop Computers

    Inspiron 560 

    In my opinion, desktop computers are not a good choice for college. Portability is something that many students need, and desktops simply do not offer that.

    As noted above, a good thing about desktops for college students is that they are difficult to steal. They are also more durable than laptops, can better withstand a liquor spill, and tend to be a bit cheaper in price.

    - ed. - There is another reason to choose a desktop computer, possibly with a netbook combination for portability. If you are majoring in a subject where you will be working with a lot of graphic applications, or are a Computer Science major, you may need the extra processing power and speed. You can find this in a mid range desktop, which you might not find- or afford- in a high end laptop, and still not spend an excessive amount. In that case, getting the most advanced and powerful one you can afford is a good idea, so that it stays current throughout four years of college.

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    Additional reading

    Enjoy this article? You may also be interested in:

    Laptop vs. Netbook

    How Do I Download Music for My iPod

    The Benefits of Mac vs. PC

    Earn Extra Money with an At Home Tutoring Business

    Bright Hub also has a number of different articles which compare different brands and product lines of desktops.