Choosing a new laptop for your College Student (or for Real Estate)

Services for Real Estate Pros with The Real Estate Tech Desk

Choosing a new laptop for your College Student (or yourself)


     First I want to Thank Margaret Woda for this blog idea, I was talking with her a few days ago, about a few of her computer issues, and told her how I've been dry with blog idea's.   She came up with a few ideas for me, this being one of them...  I don't know why I didn't think of this one myself, since I've spent a few days with my younger brother who starts college next week, searching a new laptop for him!


     This might be coming late to some people, whom already sent off the students to college with a new computer, but to those who have not, or for those agents who are looking for a new laptop for themselves, this post will have a lot of information for you!

     Laptop's have really come down in price since you probably have last looked.  Just take a look at Best Buy's, Staples, Lenovo's, or Dell's selections.  Laptops starting at $300-400.  There are several items you REALLY need to look at before making your purchase for your student... Those are all outlined below.  Remember, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at "The Real Estate Tech Desk".


•        Brand:  Tend to stay with a trusted brand such as: HP/Compaq, Dell, Toshiba, and Sony.

•        Processor Type:  I ran into this issue the other day with a client, who bought a new laptop, it had a 64 BIT processor.  UNLESS you or your student HAS A NEED for a PC with a 64 BIT processor, stick with a 32 BIT processor.... Applications and Devices such as printers, scanners and phones that work with 64 BIT PC's are VERY limited.  My client cannot print to ANY machine in his office because none of the printers (10 different printers) support 64 BIT.

•        Memory:  Since almost EVERY computer now comes with Windows VISTA  you NEED a MINIMUM of 2 Gigabytes of memory.  I would recommend 3 Gig's, since your student will more than likely be running music or video programs, while running interactive internet programs, games, and of course doing studies ---usually multitasking the entire time.   This also applies to you agents out there looking for a new laptop.

•        Hard Drive:  Minimum of 120 Gigabytes of storage is needed, again for all of the music files, videos, applications, and documents.  Laptop hard drives come in sizes from about 120 Gigs to about 450 Gigs.

•        Video Card:  If you student is a GAMER, I  would choose something that does NOT have BUILT IN Graphics, I would choose something that has a NVIDIA or a INTEL  graphics chip in it.   This will give you optimum performance for games.  If you student (or yourself) is not a gamer, I wouldn't really worry about this too much, as all laptops now come standard with a pretty hefty video processor, that can handle your needs, and intermediate gaming support.

•        Built In Web Cam:  If you want to keep in touch with your student (or with clients)  This is a nice option that comes with a lot of different model laptops.  Another option is to get a external web cam, but then that is something else your student (or yourself) that has to be lugged around.

•        Bluetooth:  Most every laptop has this feature, but make sure you get one that has it.  This is for syncing phones/PDA's with phones, Wireless headphones, Wireless Mice (most people prefer to use a mouse instead of the touchpad, Bluetooth mice eliminate the need for a plug in device in your USB port.

•        Wireless:  You don't need to worry about this anymore, every new laptop has wireless built in.

•        CD/DVD Burner:  Your student (or yourself) with absolutely need this feature, for school reports (some schools allow students to email the reports, but there are times when making a CD is necessary.  Most laptops come with CD Burners and or DVD burners.  But you want to buy a laptop that has a CD & DVD burner built in.

•         Screen Size:  I would go with a 14.1 Standard or a 15.4" Widescreen laptop, you REALLY don't want a 17" Laptop is way too big to carry around (I call 17" laptops, desktop replacements)  When you go to the store, you will see the size of the 15.4 is pretty reasonable.

•        Weight:  Obviously the lighter the better.  You or your student will be doing a lot of walking and carrying.  If you go to Best Buy, Staples, Fry's or a store of the similar type, ask an associate to unlock the laptop you are interested in so that you can pick it up and feel the size and weight.

•        Windows Version:  If you are buying for a student, I recommend Windows Vista Home Premium or Basic. If you are buying for you or your office, I recommend Windows Vista Business or Ultimate.

•        Price/Budget:  This is something you really have to set.  BUT  As I said before, laptop prices have dropped.  Here is an example:  Best Buy currently has a Compaq Presario Laptop, with 3 Gigs of Memory, CD/DVD Burner, AMD Dual Core Processor, 15.4" Widescreen, 5 in 1 Card Reader, 200 Gigs of Storage and Vista Home Premium. Now it doesn't have Blue Tooth, but that shows you what a deal you can get for $650.


      I hope this helps you choose a laptop for your college student or for yourself.  If you are looking for a new laptop for your business, please look at our Agent Resources page on our website for a list of must haves for agents.


Best of luck to you and your student!


David Fox, Owner
The Real Estate Tech Desk
A Division of DEF PC Services



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Dean Moss
Dean's Team - Keller Williams Realty Partners Chicago IL - Chicago, IL
Dean's Team Chicago IL Real Estate Team

David -

Thanks for the advice!

These days, I avoid buying a replacement laptop for business unless I have to.  I would be hesitant to throw a lot of dough for a student's laptop, because changing technology will make it obsolete for him a lot quicker than for us!

A question, however - AMD versus Intel Processors.  Any issues here, for the normal user.  I've always been confused by this, and never have gotten a straight answer.

Please let us know!


Aug 17, 2008 07:49 AM #1
Susan Emo
Sotheby's International Realty Canada - Brokerage - Kingston, ON
Kingston and the 1000 Islands Area

Personally, I would like to see all webcams outlawed.  The stories we're hearing these days about child porn is shocking.  Thousands of children are being manipulated by pros online and they're using the webcams in ways you don't want to know about.   When you go into a computer shop and ask what they're used for, the clerk ( a kid) will tell you straight out, 'porn"!   Just my opinion but better to be safe than sorry.

Aug 17, 2008 07:53 AM #2
David Fox
The Real Estate Tech Desk - Crofton, MD
Real Estate Technology Specialist

Hi Dean!

A Few years ago I would always recommend AMD over Intel, just as a personal preference and I liked the performance of the AMD processors.   Now-a-days for everyday uses, and such it doesn't matter what the processor brand is.   My Lenovo Thinkpad (Lenovo is what formally was IBM)  has a Intel Centrino Processor....It works great, plays games well (my brother used it on a road trip to play Grand Theft Auto, and the built in Graphics Card played the game REALLY well)  

So no issues for the normal-intermediate user....its more of personal preference, they are both excellent processors.  As for students laptops...they are pretty much required for school now.  Luckily you can get a laptop for a student for $650 that is perfect for more are the days of dropping $1500-$2500 on a laptop!

Aug 17, 2008 08:06 AM #3
Roger Billeci
Real Estate Investments - - Alamo, CA

For our company operations, we purchased Lenovo's ThinkPad T61 (previously IBM's ThinkPad).  To this point, we have had good success with these machines now having had them for roughly three months.

From searching on the Internet to light development work, these laptops have performed well.  We were initially drawn to Lenovo because you a had a good degree of flexibility in configuring the units to your necessary specifications (on-line at and then could work with their representatives to negotiate a stronger deal/purchase price.  At the time, they offered very competitive pricing on their base products as well.

With our laptops, we were able to save money by not purchasing a lot of the multimedia products, redirecting those funds to obtaining more memory, disk space, and higher processing speeds - resources that worked better for us.

Disclosure:  I'm not an employee for Lenovo ... Our company is (a residential real estate investment company)!


Aug 17, 2008 08:10 AM #4
Susan K. Hendrixson
Hendrixson Real Estate - Wallace, ID

Thanks for the information David.  My daughter will be starting college a week from tomorrow, and we will be looking for a laptop and printer for her this week.  Seems a little overwhelming, but this helped.


Aug 17, 2008 09:12 AM #5
David Fox
The Real Estate Tech Desk - Crofton, MD
Real Estate Technology Specialist

Susan E,

     Unfortunately someone can take virtually anything and use it for deeds that are unlawful and against every moral belief.  but there are also SO many legal, legit needs for webcams, for reports, communicating with family & friends, communcating with clients, making video emails, and all sorts of business uses.  You just really have to trust your kids to use the device in a manner that is legal, and within the moral boundaries set by you.  Thats the speach my brother got from my mother, last week, when he requested he have one.   I definitely see your point of view though...

Roger, Good choice on the T61 Lenovo's.  That is what I am running, and it is honestly the best laptop I have ever owned, and is so superior to so many on the market now!  I opted for the extended battery since I am on the road, and fly ALOT.   I just got back from a trip to California, I was able to work on the laptop before departing, watch 2 movies, and then listen to music and get some work done on the flight, and still had battery power left when I landed.   It worked great oin both flights from Baltimore to SFO and LAX back to Baltimore.

Aug 17, 2008 10:05 AM #6
Konnie Mac McCarthy
McLean, VA
Associate Broker - VA & MD doesn't help :)  I just want someone to tell me what laptop I should get :) I am a technological nitwit...

Aug 17, 2008 02:23 PM #7
David Fox
The Real Estate Tech Desk - Crofton, MD
Real Estate Technology Specialist

Susan K.

If you have any questions regarding your laptop choices, feel free to carry my phone number with you when you go shopping, I'll be glad to answer any questions.  (Also, if you go to best buy, staples, or circuit city, the instore tech company--geek squad or firedog, will try to offer a pay service for them to set up the computer and try to sell you software.)

Take this advice, buy the laptop, buy an extended warranty if you wish, and buy Microsoft Office Student and Teacher Edition.  Don't buy antivirus software (there are free softwares available that are AWESOME), don't have them "set up" your computer.... this literally takes minutes once you are home.   Just buy the laptop and maybe the warranty and MS Office S&T Edition, and head on out the store, no need to waste money on anything else.   For the anti virus software try  or  and download their free version--it's the best around!


Thanks, David

Aug 17, 2008 02:37 PM #8
Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

David, thanks for the mention - you didn't need to do that.  See, I knew you'd be great with this advice.  Think of all the moms, dads and students out there who are out there lost in the woods.  If only they had you for a helpful resource!

Aug 17, 2008 03:51 PM #9
Gregory Lohr
Freedom Foreclosure Prevention Services - West Columbia, SC

One thing I haven't seen mentioned is service.  I last bought a computer in 1991 and still have it.  Before I made the purchase ($2500) I asked everyone within 1/4 mile of me their opinions about computers.  Almost everyone I asked told me the same thing...go with Dell, they have the best service out there.  Guess what...Dell has proven them correct in my opinion. 

Yes, I've had a few problems.  While in warranty, we had a major problem, and they had trouble finding out what was wrong.  We wound up replacing almost every part, and I basically had a new computer 3 years after purchase.  Just last week, CheckDisk ran a check on its own, and deleted my registry, crashing my computer.  I won't go into ALL of the details, but suffice it to say that we formatted and reloaded the hard drive 3 times before we could fix this problem.  All total, I probably had Dell on the phone for an entire day if not more.  Way out of warranty and they still help for free when the hard drive crashes and you need a reload.  I've heard many a horror story of people having problems and not being able to get good service for their compute in the future, I will stick with Dell.  For me...service comes first!

Aug 17, 2008 04:16 PM #10
David Fox
The Real Estate Tech Desk - Crofton, MD
Real Estate Technology Specialist


Should you need any help choosing a laptop, or if you would like us to choose a laptop for you, just give me a call, we will be glad to help.

Aug 18, 2008 01:23 AM #11
Joanna Quan
Keller Williams Realty - Alamo, CA
Realtor, SRES, Notary

Roger.  I have a IBM ThinkPad for 3.5 years now and it's the strongest laptop I've had.  I tend to really abuse my computers and this one has stood up to the test.

Aug 18, 2008 06:09 PM #12
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