Laptop Recommendations

Here are some general laptop criteria recommendations for the incoming college student.

Note: CS IT does not purchase or configure student laptops. We are offering suggestions of what to look for in a laptop.


NOTE: The requirements of the laptop might depend entirely on what the courses will require.

WINDOWS OPERATING SYSTEM (OS): Any flavor of Windows 10. There are higher-cost versions (e.g. Windows 10 Pro) with features not available on lower-cost versions. Windows 10 Pro, for instance, offers extra features including Bitlocker security, as well as other functionality useful in an office setting.

CPU/PROCESSOR: nothing less than an i5 processor, but if funding allows, get an i7.

MEMORY/RAM: Minimum of 8gb, but recommend 16gb or more.


1) We suggest a SSD (Solid State Drive) over a traditional hard drive. Typically *laptop* hard drives spin at 5400 RPM, which is somewhat slow. 7200 RPM is better. But an SSD is much faster (since it's actually a type of memory, and doesn't physically spin.) The disadvantage of SSD is price per gigabyte. A terabyte (1000 gb) is cheap for a hard drive, but pricey for an SSD.
2) How much Hard Drive/Disk size (disk space) you need depends on how much disk space course/office work would require. For cost-saving reasons, we recommend at least 250 GB SSD at a minimum, but a 500gb SSD would be better if you're going to be saving all your data on that drive. If going with a traditional hard drive, start with 500gb or 1tb.

DISPLAY: Video display size and resolution is personal preference. Consider anti-glare (matte) displays to prevent reflections of overhead lights behind you from interfering with your view of the display screen.

TOUCHSCREEN: You will have to decide if a touchscreen is important for a prospective student or not.

VIDEO OUTPUTS: Also, make sure there is some kind of video-out connector (HDMI? Display port? Mini display port?)

BLUETOOTH: Bluetooth would be a good feature to have (helps to sync with phone/tablet.)

WEBCAM: Needed if student will be doing video conferencing. Many laptops can be ordered with a built-in webcam. Make sure the webcam is located at the top of the display. (Several years ago, Dell chose to put their webcam at the bottom of their display. They have since moved the position to the top of the display.) If you choose not to include a webcam, you can always purchase an external USB webcam. For security concerns, you might want to consider covering the lens portion of your webcam with something dark when not in use. A small piece of dark paper taped to cover the lens. If you you plan to cover your webcam's lens with some kind of tape (like electrical or masking tape), be careful to avoid getting tape residue directly on the lens.

BATTERY LIFE: Make sure it gives you at least 5 hours. Of course, longer battery life is better. Also, many of today's smaller laptops might have non-removeable batteries. If that's the case, consider getting a laptop with as long a battery life as you could afford. Maybe at least 8 or more hours? We say this because, for laptops with non-removeable batteries, each year, the life of the battery lessens. So, after 4 years of college, you will have wanted to make sure you started with a long-lasting battery, so that when it weakens over time, it still provides decent enough battery life.

WARRANTY: Consider an extended warranty. There are a various flavors of laptop warranties, including:

  • Sending your laptop to a service center for repair (less costly, but slower)
  • or having a tech come on-site to make repairs (more costly, but quicker.)

When purchasing your extended warranty, consider a Keep-Your-Disk add-on option, if it's available. If, for example, your hard drive goes bad, you might not want to provide the repair company your hard drive (broken or not) that might contain your personal information. Instead, a Keep-Your-Disk add-on to your warranty will allow you to keep your old hard drive, should you need a replacement.

AND FINALLY... "Try Before You Buy"... if possible, check out the laptop at a store. Make sure the keys have the proper feel for you and that the display is easy to see for you. Make sure the laptop is not too heavy. Most laptops are thin nowadays, but, if getting one with a larger (15" or more) screen, it's best to make sure it's not going to be too heavy to lug around campus.

Purchasing Dell Laptops

Dell Laptops are a popular brand of laptops (and desktop computers.) Dell Laptops are primarily Windows-based. The CS Dept staff and computer labs use Dell laptops and computers. If you're interested in purchasing a Dell laptop or computer, you can take advantage of savings offered to JHU affiliates by visiting:

The JHU Tech Store site provides links for personal and departmental Dell computer purchases.

As another option for a personal Dell purchase, if you're shopping at a store or online and you see a Dell Laptop you like, you might get bigger discounts (and better warranties) if you contact Dell directly and get a quote from them for the same item.