Very few laptops will offer large amounts of storage, almost necessitating the use of an external hard drive or a DVD burner. As for buying a laptop, go with what will offer you the best long- and short-term benefits. Read up on reviews, shop around, and ultimately go with what you think will serve you the best.
But don't go in knowing "practically nothing." That's like buying a car with your checkbook opened at the start.
go with mac for sure! they have great new laptops out. there r a million reasons to go with mac but it will take too much space to list them just go to apple.com and click 'get a mac' and see how great they r!
Don't be too biased by students recommending Apples since that's been the market of focus by Apple for a long time and many are drawn to its sleek looks (which is just packaging but Apple does do a very good job of making them look good). Over 90% of the business world uses PCs for desktops/laptops rather than Apples or Unix-based systems. They do this based on sound business reasons that include productivity and value. In reality, either the Apple or the PC can probably do anything you're likely to want to do with a computer but the PC can run more business applications (largely Microsoft) and may be able to run more specialized apps like Microsoft VisualDev if you're into programming. The newer Apples can do this as well since they're now Intel based and can be dual-booted but it'll cost you more to actually use it since you'd have to buy Windows and additional disk capacity in addition.
Regarding hard drives, few people use external hard drives with their laptops. You can order very large hard drives nowadays. I just purchased a Dell 1505 laptop with a 100G drive for my daughter. They also have a 120G available but I doubt she'll ever come close to using much of the 100G.
I suggest starting at the bookstore and seeing what deals they have since they sometimes can offer good discounts (Dells are about 12% off the price you can buy it from Dell for, I also heard Apple makes some good deals through colleges as do others). Compare features for the price. Understand that the looks of the computer is less important than its utility (except for some people - okay, especially for students). Remember that the bookstore salesperson (or any saleperson) isn't necessarily an expert and probably is biased in some way.
Apples are usually 10 percent off and you don't even have to do it through the college. If you go to the apple store with your BruinCard, they'll discount it. The dell one you have to go through this 3rd party site that sponsors UCLA. Here's the link:
We purchased the Dell by going through the link on UCLA's store site and it goes straight to Dell: http://www.dell.com/ucla
dragon: That's my point - you can get quite large disk drives with laptops now so there's little to no need for external drives.
If you're going to lug the laptop around a lot, I'd go for the smaller (12"), lighter ones and Sony makes some nice ones (as do others). If, like many people, you'll mostly use the laptop in your room and transport it home on visits, a larger laptop (14"-15") s/b okay and the screen size is more liveable. Some of the very large laptops (17") could become more cumbersome but I suppose movies would look nicer on it.
Make sure you get a laptop cable lock to secure the laptop in the dorm. It's not foolproof but it makes other people's laptops easier to steal than yours.
You keep harping on business software, but you're ignoring an important factor: These are college freshman.
The newer Apples can do this as well since they're now Intel based and can be dual-booted but it'll cost you more to actually use it since you'd have to buy Windows and additional disk capacity in addition.
Yes, you need to purchase Windows. That can be done OEM, and quite cheaply, however. Also, you don't need additional disk capacity [in addition]. All you need to do is set up a Windows partition with Boot Camp on your existing HD.
They do this based on sound business reasons that include productivity and value.
Productivity for the BUSINESS END. Again, I sincerely doubt that too many 18-year-old college freshmen are going to be concerned with running VisualDev, or any of the biz-end software beyond Office (which is readily available for the Mac.) By the way, there's Visual SlickEdit, which is Mac OS X friendly anyway, much like OpenOffice.org.
I'm not saying that the Mac is for everyone, but I have to admit that I'm far more productive in Mac OS X than I was in any MS OS, starting from DOS 5.0, all the way up to Vista Beta. And I'm not some "noob," either.
I personally don't get the enmity directed at Macs...
If you're going to lug the laptop around a lot, I'd go for the smaller (12"), lighter ones and Sony makes some nice ones (as do others).
Be careful with the smaller systems, though. Not everyone can handle small keyboards well, and I personally know at least one person who has complained that the cramped conditions have made worse a case of CTS.
I just purchased a Dell 1505 laptop with a 100G drive for my daughter. They also have a 120G available but I doubt she'll ever come close to using much of the 100G.
100Gs is very easy to fill. Keep in mind that NTFS is going to take up at least 5 gigs or so just to format, then you lost another 2-3 gigs for XP, I think 3-5 for Vista, another gig for a productivity suite, usually around 5-10 gigs of music for the average young person, and then consider the amount of downloading that goes on on college campuses, and 100 gigs is actually fairly small. Consider that most midline desktops today come with far more than that (usually 150-240 or so). I mean, most high-end systems are packing 1 TB today...
Understand that the looks of the computer is less important than its utility (except for some people - okay, especially for students).
Get off it. Looks count. You think that men buy Ferraris because they can drive 180 mph around their neighborhoods? Besides, all the major manufacturers spend a fair amount on making their systems "look good." I mean, Dell put neon lights in some of their high-end systems. How does that have more utility than sleek lines?
I just replaced my old-ish laptop, which had absolutely no battery and was about 7 lbs. Couldn't take it anywhere. New computer is about 4 lbs and has battery and oh god. Has made finals so much easier (though im an upper-div comm major so i dont have to worry about the math/science thing). Started bringing it to class as soon as I got it and yeah. I ended up taking way more notes and its made it easier to go through them. I also can barely read my own writing (especially when professors speak really quickly and i have to resort to bad short hand) so yeah. Definitely suggest taking the laptop to class if possible.
I can't imagine carrying 10 lbs of computer around campus though. Remember- lots of hills, stairs, people, etc.