Back to school season is here and, while the concept of returning to class might not be all that exciting, shopping for new gadgets is always fun. For the students in need of a new laptop for the coming year and beyond, here are a few tips from us here at RedFlagDeals.com.
Determine the primary use. If you're in the market for a laptop primarily for school, you can definitely find one that fits almost any budget between $350-$400. It might not be the latest and greatest but it'll probably have an i3 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive; enough for getting down to work, putting together presentations and more. Gaming laptops with lots more hard drive space, RAM and a graphics card will cost hundreds more so you'll want to spend some time looking at what you actually need your laptop for.
Shop around. This can be said with anything, really, but you want to give yourself as many options as possible to find the best deal available. Once you figure out what kind of laptop you want, check out every possible retailer to compare prices, warranties, features, return policies and anything else you deem important. A laptop is an investment for most and you don't want to spend hundreds of dollars without first doing your due diligence. And don't forget, if you're part of the RedFlagDeals.com community, we offer 2.25% cash back on purchases from Dell, 1.25% cash back from Apple, 3% cash back from Lenovo and 2.5% cash back from Tiger Direct.
Keep in mind: the right Refurbished model isn't a bad idea! While the 'used' label that often comes with refurbished laptops is a legitimate concern, there are also very good deals to be had if you buy from a reputable retailer. Right now, brand new third-generation i3, i5 and i7 laptops can cost anywhere between $450, $550 and $650 with a decent amount of hard drive space and RAM. Refurbished models, on the other hand, will probably cost you around $100 less, at the very least. They're not for everyone but every bit of saving helps during this time of the year. Check out the latest deals on refurbished electronics here.
Size: Supersize your RAM and hard drive space. Most notebooks now will come with a standard of 4GB of RAM and around 500GB of free space which is good but certainly not great. While that might be enough for the casual laptop user, we'd definitely recommend upsizing to at least 8GB of RAM and 750GB of space if possible. If you have room in the budget, both are worthwhile upgrades to make. And in purely physical terms, size really does matter. All jokes aside, technology has come a long way in a few years where the advent of ultrabooks and the Macbook Air has allowed for some lightweight and very compact computers. If you must travel light, remember you're paying a premium for size and weight when it comes to ultrabooks. Yes, they're just a few centimeters thick and under two pounds but those specs can get a little heavy on the wallet.
Accessorize: Now that you have some new hardware in hand, here are some common post-laptop purchases to help you get the most out of it. For those of you living abroad, a laptop lock ($40) is an absolute must, an external monitor ($130) gives you some more screen space and a carrying case ($30) is pretty much a no-brainer. An external hard drive ($50-$100) is also recommended as a way to maximize storage space.
Explore Alternatives. Remember way back when people used to take notes with pencil and paper? Yeah, neither do we. If a laptop is a little out of your budget, you can probably get by with a tablet and a Bluetooth keyboard. If you can afford it, though, a laptop offers much more in terms of productivity potential so you might be better off buying a low-end laptop over a high-end tablet which might cost you just as much.
Following these tips will undoubtedly make laptop purchasing a lot more fun and less of a financial burden. Remember, by doing your homework, there's no reason you can't pick up a laptop that suits your needs and won't add to your student debt.