Buying a New Laptop: A Guide for Neuroscience Graduate Students

AUTHOR: John Krzeczkowski 

Shopping for a new laptop? Keep reading to learn what is important when purchasing a laptop and how to get the biggest bang for your buck. 


Many graduate students would probably list their laptop as one of, if not the most important, tools in their research arsenal. Recently, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m due for an upgrade of my 2012 Macbook; however, I quickly found that searching through the swath of laptop options can be overwhelming. If you’ve ever been in the market for a laptop, you’ve probably asked yourself; ‘Should I target one with the newest generation Intel processor? How much RAM do I need? What about graphics, or hard drive storage capacity?’ Given the importance of a good laptop, and, of course, keeping the graduate student budget in mind, I’ve enlisted the help of computer savvy Saurabh Shaw, MiNDS NSERC Doctoral Scholarship winner, to give neuroscience graduate students some pointers on what to consider in order to find the laptop they need without breaking the bank! 


1) CPU (Central Processing Unit):  

What is this and why is it important? 

The CPU is the computer’s brain, it is responsible for executing all of the computer’s tasks.  

What to consider: An i5 processor is the best bang for your buck. It has the performance you’ll need, and it won’t hit your wallet as hard as the newer i7 processor would.  


2) RAM (random access memory) 

What is it and why is it important? 

Think of the RAM like your desk, the bigger the desk, the more papers you can have out to work on at once. However, if you’re not working on many tasks at once, you don’t need a huge desk.  

What to consider: 8GB of RAM will do the trick, 4GB might be a bit low for data processing and 16GB is overkill.  

3) Storage:  

What is it and why is it important? 

This is the space that stores all your programs and files.  

What to consider: Generally this is your preference. You might also see SSD (or solid state drive) in the storage specs, all this does is opens and closes files faster, so it is not a must-have. If you have a lot of files and programs, you’ll want more space (but you will pay for it!). Remember, you can always purchase an external hard-drive to store more documents (and back up your data!).  



4) Graphics/display:  

What to consider: The display choice is a personal preference, you’ll pay a lot for the new ultra 4k screen, but if you are typing files and analyzing data it’s not necessary.  

We hope these tips are helpful for those in the market for a new laptop! Happy shopping!