Top 10 Tips for Choosing a Budget Laptop

Choosing a Laptop on a Tight Budget: Tips for Canadian College Students

One thing of all Canadian University Students they’re going to need these days is a laptop. The main advantage of a laptop over a fixed PC is its size and portability. For many degree programs, a laptop can be an essential tool for most, if not all, of your classes. In the modern digital age, most teachers or class lecturers use PowerPoint or Adobe formats for their class notes and presentations. Most provide copies to students via class websites to download and print, and many classes even require them as daily classroom material. While printing your notes or presentations and following them is a perfectly fine way to manage your classes, using a laptop puts everything in one place.

Imagine sitting in class, following through the notes and writing your own comments or memory aids just below each slide. At the end of the class, press Save, close the laptop, go to your next class and rinse / repeat. While this may seem obvious, it is the not-so-obvious benefits that are causing more and more students to switch from the old pen-and-paper system to a digital one. As you follow along in class, you can catch up on emails, use Wikipedia or Google to get more explanations on topics you’re not 100% sure about, or even participate in real-time class discussions on the same notes. you are covering! I had a teacher who encouraged the use of the laptop not only to manage digital notes, but also to participate in a live Twitter feed that I set up every day. Instead of raising his hand and asking a question out loud at the risk of being ridiculous and embarrassing, he would have the students tweet the class Twitter account and answer the students’ questions that way. I have never seen such a useful and extensive class discussion as in that class, even if it was partially digital! Anyway, let’s get to the tips!

Tip No. 1 – Choose your size carefully!

While laptops over 16 “are easy to see and very comfortable to use, they are actually not that practical for a student who intends to use them in class. Here’s why: many lecture rooms and classrooms try pack as many desks and students as possible. As a result, personal space is not as abundant. Some classes have long tables with chairs that can accommodate a large laptop, but they definitely don’t. Most conference rooms have chairs with an attached surface that is sometimes as small as 12 “wide! They were built with sheets of paper and clipboards in mind, not 16 “super laptops. So, be wary of larger” entertainment “laptops and always keep in mind what you are actually buying this laptop for. I recommend not to exceed 15.1 “and even then they can be a hassle at times. Try to go as small as you can tolerate.

Tip No. 2: battery life

For most students, a day at school can be 6 hours or more. While much of your time is spent running from class to class or having lunch or coffee, the rest is spent sitting in class probably using your new laptop. This is where having a laptop with excellent battery life really pays off. If you’re shopping at an electronics store, ask the seller how long you can expect a full charge to last on average. Try to find a laptop that has a battery with a capacity of at least 2 hours. Apple laptops are famous for their long battery life that often lasts 4 hours or more, but they are also famous for being quite expensive and probably won’t be an option for anyone choosing a budget laptop. If you’ve found a laptop you like, but the battery is short, buying a replacement battery is always an option. If your salesperson is working on commission, see if they offer you one for free. If all else fails, tuck the power cord into your backpack and keep your laptop charged during breaks between classes.

Tip # 3 – Memory

There are two types of memory in a computer, RAM and storage memory (hard drive).

  • RAM is what your computer uses to load programs, play videos, music, etc. Think of it as a handyman workbench. The more space you have, the more projects you can work on simultaneously and the faster you can access each of them. More is always better when it comes to RAM, so don’t try to cut costs on this feature, but don’t break the bank with large amounts either. 4GB should be sufficient.
  • Storage memory is what your hard drive is. It’s where all the things you install and save are stored. If you plan to use your laptop for music, video, games, etc. you’ll want as big a hard drive as you can get. If your laptop is to be used only for casual web browsing, email, instant messaging, essay writing, etc. so this is definitely a feature that you can minimize to save money. I would advise getting at least a 100GB hard drive, as Windows, Microsoft Office, and other essential programs can really increase memory usage over time.

Tip No. 4: processor speed

Again, this depends on your planned use. If you want to play movies and games, you will need a processor that is robust enough to handle it. But if you only do casual tasks like surfing the web, sending emails, etc. So this is another feature where you can cut costs to save a lot of money. Don’t drop below 1.6 GHz though, this should be your bare minimum.

Tip No. 5: sound and video on board

Don’t let a salesperson convince you to buy a laptop that has separate video and sound adapters, as these greatly add to the overall cost of a laptop. A sound card and video card can often DOUBLE the price of a proper laptop. Again, unless you are doing heavy gaming or video editing these are not necessary and you will never fully use them. It’s like buying an automatic machine gun when all you need is a slingshot.

Tip No. # 6: pre-installed software

Make sure your new laptop has at least Windows 7 and some productivity software. If you don’t have Windows 7 or Microsoft Office, you’ll probably want to try negotiating it with your vendor. If you are trying to sell them to them at full price or even at a small discount, don’t do it, DO NOT buy it from them. Students get deep discounts through their computers and software programs on campus, often in the 80% discount range. For example, I can get a full version of MS Office Home and Student Edition for $ 60 and Windows 7 Professional for $ 99. They are regularly priced at $ 160 for Office and $ 329 for Windows 7 Pro, both from Future Shop. (Date written: July 12, 2010) This is another great area to save a lot of money on a student’s laptop.

Tip No. 7: everything else is just extra

As for all the features I haven’t covered, consider them little or nothing else. Digital card readers, fingerprint scanners, built-in webcams, auxiliary ports, etc. they are all things you really don’t need to consider. If the model you choose has them and they don’t contribute much to the final result, great. If a salesperson tries to convince you that you will be struck by lightning if you don’t have them, walk away. Never forget what you are buying this laptop for and don’t let words like “premium extras”, “limited edition model” or “media compatible” fool you into opening your wallet more than necessary. Over the life of your laptop, you can use those features once or twice, so they are definitely not worth the $ 100 or $ 200 they will add to the price.

Tip No. 8: compare prices!

Don’t let commission sellers manipulate you into buying right away. “This sale ends tomorrow …” is the oldest line in the book. What they aren’t telling you is that this sale ends, but a newer, even better one starts right after it. Never feel pressured to cash in on what seems like an amazing deal. If they can afford to sell you that laptop at that price today, they can do it again tomorrow, or even next week. Be sure to compare prices with other stores like Future Shop, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Costco, London Drugs, and Staples. Then check online at the Canadian sites and to compare how good the deals are. You’ll often find better deals online as you check the price of deals you found in the store, so keep an eye out for those “online-only deals.”

Tip # 9 – Accessories

The only accessories I would recommend are a small mouse and a laptop sleeve. Note: It is not a laptop bag, but a zippered rubber sleeve, they are much cheaper. It’s like a wetsuit for your laptop. That’s all you need to keep it safe from bumps and scratches and it fits perfectly in your backpack. I also recommend a mouse for those times when you’re in the library or at home and have some room to spread out. The touch pads are great for portability and convenience, but nothing beats navigating with a real mouse that you can hold in your hand. Look for the small wireless mice specifically designed for laptops. Some of the good ones combine a data storage key along with the wireless mouse’s USB connection component, giving you a great place to store documents, resumes, and whatever else you might need quick access to from any computer.

Tip No. 10: guarantees

Many electronics stores and computer outlets offer their own store warranties on the sale of an item. For computers, this can be a good thing if the price is right. They will often tell you how any big or small problem will be fixed for free if you purchase a warranty. What they don’t tell you is that there is almost no limit to how long they can keep their laptop for a repair. Canada’s major electronics stores have central service offices to which they submit their warranty claims for repair. In simple terms, you are stuck without a laptop for the time it takes for your computer to be shipped, repaired, and returned to the store where you left it. Depending on repair and parts availability, this can take up to 6 months in some cases! Personally, I think warranties are a waste of money, as I have never encountered a problem so serious that I cannot fix it myself. But I’m sure you’ve all heard the story of someone who bought a computer only to die the next day, so it really comes down to budget and personal choice. For me, I’d rather save the $ 50- $ 100 and pay a local repair shop for faster service if something goes wrong.


I hope these tips have been helpful to you! I write them from experience as a Canadian University student who owns a Hewlett-Packard G10 laptop that I bought with the Future Shop gift cards I received last Christmas. I managed to get it $ 200 cheaper using the tips above, so they definitely work! If you think I have missed something or if you have any comments, please let me know in the forum or comment below. Happy laptop shopping!

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