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Computers and/or laptops recommendations for school


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Vadoet
  • Law Student

As I type this post from Linux/Windows on my T430 Thinkpad (2012), it occurred to me that it may not run the school's exam software when I start 1L. I think it's probably time for an upgrade.  I plan to have a secondary monitor and a printer, in addition to a laptop.

What are your recommendations? Should I spring for a top end laptop, go for something more budget friendly, or stick with what I have? I love the keyboard and the Thinkpad cursor button on my current laptop.

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Renerik
  • Applicant

If the laptop works, the laptop works. I'd suggest you wait closer to the start of the school year and check the program's spec requirements. If you decide to buy, your best bet is to look at deals that pop-up during back to school sales. Usually the best deals of the year. I'd spring for portability, durabilty, and battery life. No need to break the bank, but you'll be hard pressed to find something that has those qualities under 500$. I've never found 360 degree screens essential for anything and suspect that they lead to failure faster than regular hinges. I'd recommend you look at the HP Envy line-up or another E/L/T series thinkpad.

RE: second monitor. I like to keep my desk as organized and decluttered as possible so any unnecessary wires have to go. I switched out my hdmi cable to a wireless display adapter for 15$. Don't have to worry about fishing out the HDMI cord and connecting it to and from my laptop anymore. There's some light latency but if you're not gaming you won't notice. 

 

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Toad
  • Law Student
Posted (edited)

I don't know what law school you are going to, but at U of A we use Exam4 for our exams. Exam4 is basically a small software program that damn well near any computer can run.

The summer before I started law school I purchased a decent $750~ laptop. The laptop died almost immediately after the warranty expired. I ended up purchasing a $400 Asus from Staples after it died which lasted me for 2L and 3L without any problems.

I would avoid anything super cheap (Less than $300-400~) because they tend to run poorly regardless of what you are running. Besides that, ideally it would have a decent amount of disc space (around 64-100GB+) simply because I've seen people have issues with laptops that are completely reliant on the Cloud for storage.

You certainly don't need anything high end or fancy unless you are also planning on using your laptop for something outside of law school that requires a stronger computer.

 

 

Edited by Toad
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TobyFlenderson
  • Law Student

Whatever you consider buying, check reviews for screen quality (some screens make text hard to read, not great for taking notes/writing exams). Also check reviews for keyboard quality (I neglected to do this and I can’t stand typing on my laptop keyboard, I make way more errors than at my desktop and I accidentally press keys moving my hands while typing).

And as a small note to the point above, while exam software will probably run on any computer available in a store today, I have heard anecdotally that slower ones take more  time to get in/out of the software’s secured state. I found this as well last year, when I wrote exams in person on my laptop first semester compared to second semester writing at home on my desktop. This doesn’t mean you have to drop a ton of money, just get something with a decent processor/RAM so you’re not waiting anxiously for your computer to reconnect to the internet so you can submit your exam.

Finally, yes, a second monitor is an absolutely huge and worthwhile investment. Highly recommend.

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Vadoet
  • Law Student

Thank you for all your replies. It's heartening to hear that my existing setup might work, as I love it a lot. I will keep my eye out for what the school requires, but in the meantime, I found this from Harvard Law School "Recommended Hardware Specifications for Students".

@TobyFlenderson I can see how that'd be stressful to take longer than usual to connect/re-connect to your exam software. I may end up upgrading my RAM and CPU to get a better value for my dollar than purchasing a new laptop. That should make it zippy!

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Barry
  • Law School Admit

This is why I’m an apple user. No shopping around required. You just take the one choice of laptop they give you, and then hand over your first born. 10/10 recommend.

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Vizslaw
  • Lawyer
32 minutes ago, Barry said:

This is why I’m an apple user. No shopping around required. You just take the one choice of laptop they give you, and then hand over your first born. 10/10 recommend.

I would tend to agree except they changed the Macbook Pro keyboard a few years back and got rid of the soft keys and the keystrokes made loud clickty-clack sounds and it's absolutely awful. I'm hopeful they went back to the soft keys. Either way, gaming laptops are truly the only way to go. You can't crush exams AND monsters unless you're rocking a gaming rig.

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Vizslaw
  • Lawyer
1 hour ago, Vadoet said:

Thank you for all your replies. It's heartening to hear that my existing setup might work, as I love it a lot. I will keep my eye out for what the school requires, but in the meantime, I found this from Harvard Law School "Recommended Hardware Specifications for Students".

@TobyFlenderson I can see how that'd be stressful to take longer than usual to connect/re-connect to your exam software. I may end up upgrading my RAM and CPU to get a better value for my dollar than purchasing a new laptop. That should make it zippy!

Also - how does Harvard not recommend that your laptop have an SSD hard drive?! Being able to start your computer in 2-3 seconds is worth having the SSD alone. That'll make it zippy. 🙂

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Forever Curious
  • Law Student
10 hours ago, Vizslaw said:

I would tend to agree except they changed the Macbook Pro keyboard a few years back and got rid of the soft keys and the keystrokes made loud clickty-clack sounds and it's absolutely awful. I'm hopeful they went back to the soft keys. Either way, gaming laptops are truly the only way to go. You can't crush exams AND monsters unless you're rocking a gaming rig.

Although I still wouldn't recommend them, Apple did change the keyboards back btw. 

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Forever Curious
  • Law Student

As for recommendations, Id go with the HP Specter X360 14 or the Dell XPS 13. Depending on what Microsoft releases in the coming months, the Surface Pro or Laptop are worth a look as well.  

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Rearden
  • Lawyer

For what it's worth, I've had 2 Apple laptops in my lifetime and I never had any problems with either of them (well, the first one crapped out on me, but that was after 8 years of heavy use). They last forever. They do cost an arm and a leg though.

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Barry
  • Law School Admit
18 hours ago, Vizslaw said:

and the keystrokes made loud clickty-clack sounds

Those are called iTaps, you can get a USB muffler now for for $39.99. 

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Ryn
  • Lawyer
18 hours ago, Barry said:

Those are called iTaps, you can get a USB muffler now for for $39.99. 

 

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Liavas

I use a Surface Book 2 that I've had for 3-4 years. This line is usually pricey, but I got a "damaged" one so the cost was heavily reduced. The hard keyboard is a lot comfier than the Surface Pros, but there's still the option of using it tablet or foldable laptop style. Most of the time I just use it like a regular laptop, but the option of being able to easily sign or make handwritten notes on documents every so often is handy. Caveat that I have the dual-core, no dedicated GPU version, but it's served me just fine and shows no signs of giving out. Will definitely want another one whenever this one goes. 

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Vadoet
  • Law Student
On 6/8/2021 at 8:22 PM, Barry said:

This is why I’m an apple user. No shopping around required. You just take the one choice of laptop they give you, and then hand over your first born. 10/10 recommend.

I know, right? I've learned so much about the latest laptop things in the past few days, just to potentially make an informed purchase. 

 

On 6/9/2021 at 1:48 PM, Rearden said:

For what it's worth, I've had 2 Apple laptops in my lifetime and I never had any problems with either of them (well, the first one crapped out on me, but that was after 8 years of heavy use). They last forever. They do cost an arm and a leg though.

I've heard that from other people too. Thankfully, I have two arms and legs to work with still, in case I do purchase a Mac ;) 

 

On 6/10/2021 at 1:10 PM, Liavas said:

I use a Surface Book 2 that I've had for 3-4 years. This line is usually pricey, but I got a "damaged" one so the cost was heavily reduced. The hard keyboard is a lot comfier than the Surface Pros, but there's still the option of using it tablet or foldable laptop style. Most of the time I just use it like a regular laptop, but the option of being able to easily sign or make handwritten notes on documents every so often is handy. Caveat that I have the dual-core, no dedicated GPU version, but it's served me just fine and shows no signs of giving out. Will definitely want another one whenever this one goes. 

Thanks, I'll look into this too. The last time I looked into computing stuff, the Surfaces were just coming into existence! 

 

By the way, anyone into Lenovo stuff? I've been scoping out the new T14 AMD Gen 1/Gen 2, and they look pretty sweet. 

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