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October 12, 2017

Taryn BitterlyStaff Writer

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By now you’ve settled into the school routine. But has your computer?

Whether you put off getting that new computer all summer or are realizing your old reliable might not be so reliable, there’s always time to upgrade.

The perfect computer looks very different for every student. Some devices fit with specific majors and interests better than others. It can be overwhelming to know where to begin.

We did your homework for you and chatted with Blue Shirt Carl Smith about picking the right computer for your needs. He’s the computing and photography lead at our College Park, Maryland, store and frequently works with university students.

For the techies

It’s important to find a computer that can support your studies and interests. Some majors require software that some laptops can’t handle.

“My most important responsibility is to make sure this is something you’re not going to regret buying,” Carl said. And a big issue he sees is the computer not being able to keep up with the user’s course load, he says.

Let’s use engineering students as an example. “I won’t let an engineering student walk out of here with anything less than an i7 processor and 16 gigs of RAM,” Carl said. That’s because the required software needs a more robust system to help it run.

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“The other day I got to help an animatronics student pick a device, and that was pretty cool,” Carl said.

So, if your major requires lots of screen time —or you’re an avid gamer outside of class — make sure to get a fully loaded laptop to set you up for success. “Look for a strong processor, sufficient RAM, and a graphics card,” Carl said.

Carl’s recommendation: The Yoga 720 15”

For the bookworms

Majors like biology, psychology, kinesiology — and all sorts of -ology’s in between — tend to be more book-heavy than software-heavy. If the biggest test your device will be put to is library all-nighters and Netflix binges, you might not need a super-powered device. Maybe battery life or portability is more important.

“It’s all about knowing what the student is going to use the computer for. A law major, chemistry major and history major might all need the exact same laptop, even though they’re in totally different courses” Carl said. “If you’re doing mostly notetaking, browsing and basic studying, you don’t need the most powerful specs on the market. I would still recommend at least an i5 processor.”

Carl’s recommendation: The HP 2-in1 14”

For the youngsters

Computers aren’t just for college, though. A lot of parents come in looking for a device for their middle school or high school student.

“Many high schoolers come in looking for a device that will get them through senior year and into college, as well,” Carl said. “I usually recommend a college-ready computer for any high school student.”

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However, middle schoolers have more flexibility when it comes to picking a digital study buddy. “Chromebooks and basic tablets work really well for middle schoolers, much better than high schoolers,” Carl said.

Chromebooks are quite different than a standard laptop. They run on Chrome OS, which is great for basic web browsing or Chrome apps (such as Google docs), but not so great if you need non-Chrome apps (such as Photoshop or iTunes).

His biggest advice for parents of younger students looking for a more entry-level device is to remember that a Chromebook or tablet won’t be able to do everything a standard laptop can do, but they still can work great for group projects, online research or taking notes.

“More back-to-school shoppers than ever are seeing tablets as viable alternatives to computers,” said Carl.

Carl’s recommendation: The Samsung Chromebook Plus

For more information on finding that perfect computer, check out BestBuy.com or stop by your local Best Buy and chat with one of our expert Blue Shirts. And for the tech (and money) savvy students, check out our Student Deals for special savings.

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