Last Updated on July 3, 2022 by David Shaw
Settling in and getting ready for college? Well, you’re probably stumbling across the laptop market for your new daily machine for college. Yeah, choosing laptops can be overwhelming due to the infinite number of choices, and besides the burning question of choosing a Mac or Windows laptop, another question that might leave tech newbies scratching their heads is how much RAM do you need in your laptop for college?
As a rule of thumb, 8GB of RAM is enough for daily light usage, but many STEM majors generally will require students to use GPU-intensive software which may require 16GB of RAM. With an extra couple hundred bucks, upgrading to 16GBS in 2022 should be more than enough for overall-general college use.
When choosing laptops, other than the design of its battery life, aesthetics, and price, there will certainly be grey areas on the topic of choosing the right RAM. So without further explanation, let’s get into action.
A Simple Explanation for What a RAM Is
If you don’t know what’s Random Access Memory (RAM), in a nutshell, RAM in computers functions like our brain, where its only job is to store and retrieve information. RAM is just another form of storage for memory, like SSDs or HDDs, but why do computers need RAM if they have a huge SSD or HDD storage?
Let’s start with an analogy, think of RAM as the pocket in your pants, and SSD/HDD as the backpack you carry. If you are handed some candies, you will likely put them in your pocket first (saving you time), and only in your backpack if your pockets are full (costing you time). Similarly, just as you would intuitively utilize your pockets before your backpack for storing and accessing the candies, computers are designed to prioritize utilizing their RAM before the HDDs or SDDs. The main purpose of this design is to optimize for speed of computers.
If this analogy is making sense so far, then let’s further assume the pants are made of higher quality leather, whereas the backpack is made of a cheaper synthetic fiber. Therefore, it would then costs more to produce high-quality pants and less for a backpack made of cheap synthetic fiber, hence the reason why a RAM chip is significantly more expensive compared to HDD and SSDs.
– How Does More RAM Benefit College Students?
In most cases, a realistic scenario of getting more RAM in your college laptop is being able to open multiple browser tabs for Youtube, Facebook, Gmail, your school portal website, Microsoft Word, and something like Adobe Photoshop, all at the same time without noticing a drop in your computer’s speed performance.
Unfortunately, even if you’re looking to use a laptop for intensive web surfing activities(keeping many tabs open simultaneously), especially with Google Chrome, 8GBs of RAM won’t likely be enough to let you surf the web in peace without noticing a drop in performance. If the above behaviors mentioned are relatable to you, then it’s probably a better idea and a safer often to opt for 16GBs of RAM or more.
– Does More RAM Mean More Speed in My Laptop?
Theoretically, that is true but only to a certain extent. For college usage laptops, students will only do tasks that will require a certain amount of RAMs at maximum. Stepping up from 8GBs to 16GBs of RAM simply provides bigger ‘room’ for your computer to handle more tasks simultaneously. And if you ever need more than 32GBs of RAM in a laptop, you probably looking at the wrong place.
Think of getting more RAM like replacing a Toyota Prius’s engine with a 4×4 Ford Raptor engine. It is simply not practical as you will also likely damage other parts of the car due to the strain outputted from a stronger engine that is not designed to support the vehicle’s usage application. Another reason why you shouldn’t or realistically won’t spend more money for 32 or 64GBs of RAM in a computer is because it is costly, with no visible improvement to your computer’s speed.
What Other Features to Look For in Laptops
Besides deciding how much RAM you would want in your laptop for college, there are certainly other features besides RAM you should be looking for in laptops in college. Look no further, because here are some other minor but useful specifications that might better serve your needs throughout your college years.
- Battery life
Strong battery life is definitely something important to consider in laptops. An ideal laptop with strong battery life should last you at least half or a full day without recharging. That way, you simply save energy and time from carrying a brick of charger with you everywhere you go or finding yourself having to constantly look for power outlets everywhere you are on campus which is really inconvenient.
- CPU power
Different models of Central Processing Units (CPU) draw in different amounts of power from your battery. Computing power mainly comes from the CPU, and it will greatly affect your battery life depending on your application of usage. Some laptops with higher performance chips give users a fast computing speed at the expense of draining more battery juice. Sometimes, a computer with a high-performance chip handles light computing tasks ineffectively due to the high amount of power they consume in order to maintain upkeep with the software.
- External Ports (I/O)
When it comes to external ports in a computer, choosing the right laptop with proper ports will save you a lot of trouble and some money. If you’re a student working a lot with presentations, you will likely want laptops that have external ports to support HDMI, USB-C, USB3, audio input, and WLAN (getting less practical) which gives you a lot of conveniences. When it comes to Apple’s laptops, their baseline models are notoriously known to be not I/O friendly, so this is just a reminder to choose laptops carefully according to your application of usage for I/O reasons.
- Color Accuracy
If you’re a digital creator, or maybe someone who does photography projects as a hobby, you will most likely want laptops that have great color accuracy capabilities on their display monitors. Color accuracy is a big deal for this industry when it comes to the quality that an individual can produce. I would suggest looking into laptops that have OLED, and XDR technologies, which many laptop companies do a good job at nowadays, unlike 5 to 8 years ago.
- Graphics Card
Many people get confused between graphical-intensive and computing-intensive performance, which can lead them to spend unnecessary money on laptops. Although their minor difference could provide for different usage applications, GPU performance is necessary if you use software that renders and processes models that are 3-dimensional. For example, students pursuing fields like architecture, and game design which deal with rendering 3D images will require laptops with good GPU, better known as a graphic card. On the other hand, engineering-related fields that use software like AutoCAD or calculation-intensive software will need a computer with a good CPU.
Get a Laptop With Upgradable RAM Slots
If you’ve made it so far and are still unsure between getting 8GB or 16GBs of RAM, fear not, because the good news is that many laptops in the market today come with custom upgradable RAM slots out of the box!
What that means is that if you ever want to add the amount of RAM from 8GBs to 16GBS (or more), all you have to do is buy an external RAM unit on the internet or elsewhere, simply pop open the back cover on the back of your laptop, insert them and you bam! You would’ve easily upgraded or doubled the RAM on your computer in under 10 minutes. Nowadays, laptop companies do a really good job at designing laptops where RAM and HDD/SDDs are easily upgradable, here’s a quick and easy tutorial as a reference.
Before you wish to upgrade or add the RAM of your laptops, make sure to check if it has an empty RAM slot, and get the right RAM specifications for your laptop according to its compability!
Consult an IT Salesperson at a Tech Store
If the thought or the effort of virtually researching laptops still won’t give you the final assurance compared to physically inspecting a laptop, by all means, head to an IT store and consult an employee. I am sure you will learn a lot of new information and narrow down on a few laptop models that can fit your budget and application for college and your hobbies.
As a friendly tip, you can often get freebies and deals from IT stores like offers on the last few units, or display units which can potentially save you quite a bit of money. One caution is to always opt for a warranty for any expensive technology purchases because they can never be a guarantee of how when or how easily electronic hardware will break or malfunction.
– Ask for student discounts and free software
Before you forget, you might be entitled to student discounts or benefits from IT stores when you purchase an expensive laptop. So make sure to ask, because not everyone working at an IT store will be kind enough you tell you before closing the deal on the purchase.
Almost all the time, big laptop manufacturing companies like Lenovo, Samsung, Apple, Asus and many more will same some sort of a deal with big tech companies. If you ask, you’ve probably entitled to coupons, discounts, or free access to software or services like Microsoft Office, Adobe, Amazon Priem, Music streaming platforms, and many more.
– Avoid buying laptops for third-party listings
Buying expensive tech like laptops on third-party listings can be very risky if you don’t understand where you’re buying from. Your seller might do all kinds of sketchy stuff to the hardware or software of their items. Overall, I would definitely avoid buying from places like Craigslist, Facebook marketplace, or some untrusted website will poor credibility. What you want in a third-party laptop purchase is warranty assurances and a good track record of the seller. Be smart about purchasing goods from a credible source, look over at Amazon’s or Ebay’s used products section sometime, and don’t a stingy and impulsive decision hook you on a scam deal from third-party marketplaces!