Choosing a PC for Your College Student: Tablets, Laptops, and Desktops


Choosing the right computer for your child is a decision that will potentially affect him each day for the next several years. Whether your student is finishing homework, researching a paper, sending e-mails, or playing games, the importance of choosing the right type of computer cannot be understated. Three main options exist in the way of personal computers – tablets, laptops, and desktops. Each has its benefits and drawbacks, and which type you choose will depend on individual needs.

Tablet PCs

Most people recognize tablets for their small size and touch screen. Depending on the model, the computer may have a physical keyboard with a rotating screen, or there may be an onscreen keyboard. Compared to laptops and desktops, tablet PCs offer maximum portability: They often weigh less than two pounds. The touchscreen and small size makes tablet PCs ideal for taking notes.

Most machines running a Windows operating system will also come equipped with Microsoft OneNote. This program utilizes the touchscreen like a piece of paper allowing students to take notes quickly and easily without worrying about notebooks and folders. While tablets are still relatively rare on college campuses, recent studies suggest that tablet PCs will play a much larger role in the future as more textbooks come out in electronic format.

Tablets are often the least expensive PC types, so students using their computers to take notes, surf the internet, and write papers should be fine with this type. In cases where students need more computing power however, it’s time to look toward laptops and desktops.


Also called notebook PCs, laptops typically differ from tablets by having a larger screen without touch capabilities. Increased screen size and more internal components means laptops can weigh up to ten pounds. Laptops offer the potential for a significantly higher amount of computing ability compared to tablets, and laptops today can perform as well as most desktop PCs.

For students in science, engineering, or other majors where special software is used, a laptop would be highly recommended over a tablet. While laptops afford portability, they are often more expensive than desktop PCs with similar computing power, and upgrading components is difficult or impossible in many cases.

Desktop PCs

Desktop PCs are the computer type commonly seen in homes or offices in which the screen and computing unit are separate. This type of computer can perform all of the same functions as a laptop. While desktops are rare among college students, this may be the best option for students who are not concerned with portability. The fact that desktop components are easy to upgrade makes them a favorite choice among gamers.

The task of choosing the right type of computer for your student can be a daunting one. Before making a decision, be sure to talk with your student about their needs and expectations. Current students and employees at your local electronics store can also provide more information to make the best decision possible.

About: Jessica Bosari manages the money-saving website, Billeater. Stop by for more advice on spending wisely and how to save money.

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