What Mac Computer Is Best For A College Freshman

Posted By admin On 16.02.22

But deciding which Mac is the best for students can be tricky. Some of this depends on what type of student you are, and of course your budgetary arrangements will be a significant factor.

The Microsoft Surface Go, then, isn’t just one of the best Windows tablets, but it’s one of the best laptops for college students, period. Don’t be fooled by the low-power processor, either. Younger son (CS major) has a Mac Book Pro. Works for him but any heavy programming projects are done in the utilizing the school computer system. Older son has an older HP envy which has lasted from Senior year HS to Senior year college. A student who’s accustomed to taking notes on an iPad Pro with a Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil might be able to use that along with a desktop Mac like an iMac or a Mac mini, but most people should focus on Apple’s laptops.

Most students looking for a new MacBook should pick up the MacBook Air. It's less expensive than other MacBooks, more powerful, and has a bigger display than the 12-inch MacBook while remaining lightweight. And though it might not be as powerful as the MacBook Pro, it should provide enough power for the average student to get through their day.

Our pick

MacBook Air (2018)

Hits the sweet spot of power, portability, and price.

More powerful than the 12-inch MacBook and more mobile than the MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air sits in the Goldilocks zone of Apple's portable Mac lineup, offering enough power for most everything you'll want it to do without the bulk of a MacBook Pro. Features Touch ID for easy, yet secure, authentication.

Who should buy this computer?

College students who want a Mac for writing papers, doing research, surfing the web, light photo editing and just entertaining themselves should get the MacBook Air. It should also be a great computer for you when your academic career is over and you're headed out into the world.

Is it a good time to buy this computer?

The current MacBook Air came out in October 2018, so now is a great time to buy this Mac. Some solid discounts are popping up at retailers like Amazon, and we're likely many months away from a potential refresh. It's been a while since Apple refreshed any of its Macs in less than a year.

Reasons to buy

  • Great balance of price and power
  • Light and portable
  • Retina display
  • Touch ID

Reasons not to buy

  • Limited customization
  • Butterfly keyboard may irk some
Freshman

The MacBook Air is a great Mac for students, successfully riding the line between power and portability

For students, portability is a chief concern when it comes to buying a computer. Whether you're walking through your high school's hallways to your history class or sprinting across a college campus to make it your next lecture on time, you don't want to be lugging around a heavy computer. You want something fairly light. At the same time, you don't want a computer that's underpowered. The MacBook Air occupies the happy medium of that ideal. It's more powerful than the MacBook and thinner and lighter than the MacBook Pro.

For the longest time, the MacBook Air was Apple's thin-and-light computer. Many credit MacBook Air with paving the way for the 'ultrabook' genre of computers that gained prominence in the early part of this decade. But Apple has since introduced the 12-inch MacBook, which debuted with a Retina display and was even thinner and lighter than the Air. Surely, if portability is your main concern, you should get the MacBook, right?

The MacBook Air sits in the happy medium between the portability of the MacBook and the power of the MacBook Pro.

Well, let's take a look at the modern MacBook Air. It now also (some would say 'finally') has a Retina display, without adding any bulk. And no, it's not as small as the MacBook, but it's almost as light. The MacBook Air comes in at 2.75 lbs, less than a pound heavier than the MacBook's 2.03. You're not making much of a sacrifice on weight. If the footprint of the computer is a concern, check out the MacBook, but you're gaining only about half-an-inch each on width and depth, so maybe the larger Air won't present much of a size problem.

The other consideration the MacBook versus the MacBook Air is power. While the MacBook Air's eighth-generation Intel processor won't really keep up with those found in the current generation of MacBook Pro, it's more than a match for the 7th-generation processors found in the MacBook. For everything from web browsing to photo editing, the MacBook will find itself outmatched by the Air, all while the MacBook Air is priced at least $100 under the current MacBook.

Speaking of power, the MacBook Pro is probably overkill for most students. Sure, some will be able to take advantage of its more powerful processors available to it, but if most of what you're doing is writing papers, putting together presentations, or doing research on the web, you probably don't need the level of power a MacBook Pro offers. And again, you'll be saving a bit of money if you get the MacBook Air, which is always something to consider.

Ultimately, when looking at the current MacBook lineup through the lens of a student, the MacBook Air successfully rides the line between the thin-and-light MacBook and the powerful MacBook Pro. It will meet the needs of most students, and should still be a great Mac to have when you're ready to leave academics behind and head off into the world.

Alternatives to the MacBook Air

The MacBook Air might be the best MacBook for most students, but different people have different needs. If you're looking for more power, then check out the MacBook Pro. It'll be a more capable machine for almost everything you want to do, with more expensive models offering an ever-increasing amount of power for tasks like photo and video editing, app development, scientific programs, illustration, and music production. It will last longer than the MacBook Air and perform at higher levels the entire time.

If you're looking for more of a budget option, unfortunately, you're going to have to settle for something older from Apple. It's still a MacBook Air, but it lacks the Retina display of the newer model, and its processors are older. But, it still has all-solid-state storage, which means a lot when it comes to boot times. If budget is your chief concern and you still want a Mac, the older MacBook Air that Apple still sells should work just fine, if not quite as well as the new model.

More power

MacBook Pro

More power for whatever you need to do.

More powerful and versatile than the MacBook Air, the Pro lineup offers more customization options so you get the exact machine you need for photo and video work, scientific programs, music production, or other intensive tasks.

The MacBook Pro offers a lot of customization options that allow you to create the computer you need. Offers everything from a seventh-generation dual-core Intel processor to an ninth-generation, eight-core i9 beast, configurable up to 32GB of memory with AMD Radeon graphics for the most intensive tasks. If power is what you want, that's what you'll get with the MacBook Pro.

Value pick

MacBook Air (2017)

A capable computer for the money.

While it hasn't seen anything other than a spec bump in the last couple of years, the 2017 revision of the MacBook Air is still a capable machine. It may lack Thunderbolt and a Retina display, but it'll still get you through most of your tasks without hassle.

Apple quietly bumped the specs on the MacBook Air in 2017, introducing a couple of new processors to choose from. Despite its lack of Thunderbolt 3 ports or a Retina display, the older MacBook Air should still be able to meet most of your needs. It even still has an SD card reader, something many Mac owners thought was lost to the ages (or at least the Mac).

Bottom line

If you want an excellent 'medium' Mac laptop, get the MacBook Air. Offering enough power to meet most of the needs of student life while being almost as portable as a MacBook, the Air strikes a great balance between the other offerings in Apple's laptop lineup.

It's also among the most affordable of the portable Macs, especially when you start getting into the upper echelons of what that MacBook Pro has to offer and even compared to the 12-inch MacBook.

Our pick

MacBook Air (2018)

Hits the sweet spot of power, portability, and price.

More powerful than the 12-inch MacBook and more mobile than the MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air sits in the Goldilocks zone of Apple's portable Mac lineup, offering enough power for most everything you'll want it to do without the bulk of a MacBook Pro. Features Touch ID for easy, yet secure, authentication.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Joseph Keller is a senior writer at iMore. An Apple user for more than a decade and a half, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Rene Ritchie has been covering the personal technology industry for a decade. An outspoken analyst and critic, he writes at iMore.com/vector, podcasts at applepodcasts.com/vector, and you can find his show at youtube.com/vector. Follow him @reneritchie on Twitter and Instagram

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Second screen time

Take a monitor on the go with one of these options for your Mac

For work or play, consider one of these portal solutions for your favorite Mac.

Picking the best laptop for college can make all the difference. Take a look at some of our favorites, and why you may consider picking one up for your next semester.

Which Mac Computer Is Best For Photo Editing

Most individual computing tasks don’t require a specific operating system or brand anymore. With many tasks becoming browser-based and the line between Windows and OS X becoming less relevant every day, the lines in the sand about what computer you should take to school have been significantly diminished. Instead, the challenge in deciding what laptop would serve you best now depends more on hardware. Battery life, whether or not you need touch, and screen size and quality now have a much greater influence in the decision. With that in mind, we’ve put together a quick list of which laptops would be best for your day-to-day needs based on those categories. (Note: we didn’t factor in specific school requirements, these are the general, all-around best laptops for college students that we could think of.)

The secret weapon: Chrome OS

Maybe you’ve got a powerful desktop that you built yourself, and so don’t need a laptop to handle every single task in your world. Maybe your school is super cool and lets you write everything in Google Drive instead of requiring Microsoft Office, so you can use a browser-based OS that lets you move every aspect of your schoolwork to the cloud. Or maybe you’re just not attached to any one particular OS, and do everything in the browser already anyway. Chrome OS is a good all-around idea for school, as most of the hardware running this lightweight OS can be picked up for about $300.

Chrome OS puts everything in the browser, so as long as you’re connected to the internet you’ve got access to the same web experience found on any other computer. The advantage here is the inexpensive parts used to drive most of these laptops. While you could go all out and drop $1500 on the Chromebook Pixel, the most common versions of Chrome OS hardware exist in the much cheaper Samsung and Acer Chromebooks. These cheaper experiences offer 6-8 hours of battery life and are quite light. You also never have to worry about anything happening to your data of your Chrome OS laptop gets in an accident, which could be the most important feature for the forgetful student.

Today the best-selling Chromebook is Samsung’s 11.6-inchExynos 5000-powered system ($249) and the Acer C7, while the newest, best performing models should be the new Haswell systems. These Chromebooks, which were just announced last week, include the Acer Chromebook and the HP Chromebook14. More details on them should be available soon.

The standard: Windows ultrabooks and convertibles

Windows has, and for a long time will likely remain, an OS with many different kinds of hardware. Right now in particular, with Microsoft shaking things up a bit through Windows 8, there’s a lot of different kinds of hardware to choose from when it comes to picking a Windows machine. Sorting through all of these odd looking machines in search for a winner can be a challenge unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. For most people, it comes down to battery life and the weight of the device itself.

Intel’s massive push into what they call “ultrabooks” has created a surplus of thin and light laptops that are perfect for school. Unfortunately the thinner you make a computer the more you sacrifice, and a lot of the early Ultrabooks took a hit when it came to battery life or screen quality. Fortunately, we now live in the wonderful world of Haswell, and those problems are slowly going away. Ultrabooks with a Haswell-based Intel processor are going to offer much better battery life than their predecessors, and still be able to deliver a great computing experience. Currently the Asus Zenbook UX 301 and 302 ultrabooks are some of the best on the shelf, offering a high quality display and a great overall experience.

The addition of touch is one of the most interesting changes to Windows 8. The ability to reach right out and touch your screen feels a lot more natural now in such a smartphone saturated world, and the latest version of Windows really gives you a reason to consider making it your default input mechanism. There are some laptops that now focus directly on touch, with the added flexibility of using them as a traditional laptop if you need to. These machines are commonly known as “ultrabook convertibles”, because they either are able to bend all the way back on themselves (to use as a tablet) or the screen can detach from the keyboard to use as a tablet. Many of these machines come with a Wacom stylus, which when combined with the handwriting recognition of Windows 8 turns them into fantastic note taking machines. Chief among these machines is the Lenovo Yoga 2, a Haswell-powered convertible ultrabook, that can fold back on itself as well as function as a regular laptop.

The student’s choice: Macbooks

What Mac Computer Is Best For A College Freshman Take

Of course if you’d rather avoid confusing version names and really have no love of touch on your laptop yet, you could just get a Macbook. Apple’s laptop line is very straightforward, and there’s some clear benefits and drawbacks to each of their models for students.

If you’re looking for battery life, you couldn’t ask for much better than the 2013 Macbook Air. This incredibly thin machine will get you through a whole day of classes without needing to bring out the power cable, and it’s light enough that you can sling it in your backpack when you’re rushing out the door with no problems. The display on this Air is the lowest quality of all the Macbooks as a trade-off, but it’s decent enough to get things done.

The Retina Macbook Pro is a great all-around machine, striking a decent balance between display quality and battery performance. You won’t get a whole day out of either the 13-inch or 15-inch version of this laptop, but the display is one of the best in current generation laptops. It’s heavier than the Macbook Air, and nearly twice as thick, but in exchange you get the ability to add more RAM, more storage options, and an overall more powerful computer. If you’re looking for one machine to handle all of your needs, including maybe a little casual gaming, this could easily be the machine for you. The 13-inch MacBook Pro is a top pick for college students because of its excellent cross of price, performance, battery life, features, and support.

The best laptop for your student

Picking the best computer for college is a as simple as knowing what all the best options are, and what kind of user you are buying for. Your portable computer needs could be minimal, or you could want to make your laptop the only computer you need. You may be interested in touch, or you may just want the longest battery life you can get without sacrificing too much else. Either way, there’s at least one great option out there for you.