Can you recommend a good Windows laptop for law school?
August 4, 2022 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Can you recommend a good Windows laptop for law school?

My main computer is a MacBook Pro, which I'll be keeping at home. I also need a secondary computer to take to class every day to take notes. It needs to be Windows to play well with law school infrastructure.

I haven't bought a Windows machine in 10 years, and I would appreciate any suggestions for a new laptop.

Some criteria:
* I'll be carrying it to school on the subway every day, so harder/sturdier is better. I won't have much with me, so I'm not super concerned about the weight of the laptop.

* A long battery life is nice, but not essential.

* I'll mostly be working in the cloud, so I'm not too concerned about hard drive size.

* The main tasks will be Word/Microsoft Suite, Dropbox, Google Drive, internet, etc. so it doesn't need to be too powerful.

What might be a good fit for a laptop to bring to school every day?
posted by davidstandaford to Technology (13 answers total)
I think there are a few ways you can take the question. This is a situation in which there's no real shame in cheaping out on a small notebook—you don't need the computer to do much other than Microsoft Office and survive, so more expensive options don't really seem to make sense for you.

The exception, I think, is the Gen 11 Framework, simply because modularity and easy repairs/upgrades will hopefully help you extend its use as a work computer far longer than a cheaper model. But if you're not interested in a long-term secondary computer, I'd say just get a Chromebook or something and call it a day. Battery life is fairly immaterial, since you should have accessible outlets pretty much everywhere, and you can always get a hard shell case or similar product to make your computer sturdier. So price and portability would be my main concerns, at least, and notebooks (or tablets with keyboards, even!) excel at those criteria.
posted by the tartare yolk at 12:07 PM on August 4

Business quality Lenovos are built like tanks and have good keyboard for taking lots of notes so if you want durable I'd look at one of those.

If you want something small and light, the XPS 13 had the best keyboard in its form factor that I've used and mine has been pretty durable.

If cost is a limiting factor, I've had multiple generations of the 15 inch Inspirons from Dell. They have all held up well but are not as nice as the XPS or better Lenovos.
posted by Candleman at 12:19 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]

As far as specs, pretty much anything with an i5 and 8 GB of RAM will be fine, but stepping up to 16GB won't be a ton of money and will make it a little more powerful and futureproof.
posted by Candleman at 12:21 PM on August 4

I do Windows software development so I definitely need a Windows machine, that said I use a MacBook Pro and then VMWare Workstation. Like you I do 90% of my work in the cloud on my Mac and when I absolutely need to dip into Windows I boot up the VM. I'm guessing whatever you're doing will involve downloading something then transferring to the cloud.

I say this staring at a very expensive Windows laptop that I never use. It is a Dell XPS 15 and works fine if you're set on having a separate Windows laptop it is better than paying the Lenovo premium.
posted by geoff. at 12:21 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Cost isn't really a factor, as my student loans are so big I'm not really concerned about the price of the computer with all of that.
posted by davidstandaford at 12:21 PM on August 4

Congratulations on getting into law school!

You didn't say what you're looking to spend, but I'd go with the highest rated laptop from Costco in your price range

90 day return policy FTW
posted by olopua at 12:21 PM on August 4

Oh if you have infrastructure specific things and a Macbook Pro with an M1 or M2 you might have issues with compatibility. I would further recommend Amazon Workspaces and a long lasting Chromebook or Macbrook Air. I have friends who use that daily and it is great, furthermore if you switch between laptops/netbooks it is seamless. And you never have to worry about backups, etc.
posted by geoff. at 12:30 PM on August 4

Last I heard chromebooks were incompatible with the software used to take the bar exam, but that might have changed.
posted by perdhapley at 12:59 PM on August 4

that said I use a MacBook Pro and then VMWare Workstation. Like you I do 90% of my work in the cloud on my Mac and when I absolutely need to dip into Windows I boot up the VM. I'm guessing whatever you're doing will involve downloading something then transferring to the cloud.

Yeah, unfortunately the standard bar exam software is such a clusterfuck (and the stakes are so high) that I would not dare any kind of nonstandard solution, unless you're planning to replace the laptop before graduation. I say this as a dedicated Mac person; I bought the cheapest PC laptop I could find for law school.
posted by praemunire at 1:04 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]

As Candleman said above...the business class laptops of Lenovo, Dell, HP and Microsoft are where you want to be. They aren't the cheapest solution but you don't want to buy cheap consumer grade windows machines. Thankfully it sounds like your needs aren't tremendous so any of the entry level business laptops on offer from the above suppliers should do the trick.
posted by mmascolino at 2:17 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]

It's been a couple of years, but I was a fan of Lenovo's Thinkpad X1 Carbon.

If you plan to continue using the MBP for all your home stuff and you just want something for taking notes, the Microsoft Surface tablets are also a good choice. With that you get the choice of using a keyboard with the type cover or pen input.
posted by wierdo at 3:34 PM on August 4

The Microsoft Surface class devices are all very nice and reliable. They also have student discounts. My partner is an attorney and I got them a machine with 16g ram. It was a very helpful upgrade due to the number of open tabs when they are researching case law.
posted by nickggully at 5:04 PM on August 4

Your question basically boils down to, what weight will you accept (i.e. how easy it is to carry), and what sort of keyboard will you take?

I personally would do a 14-inch or 15-inch. 17 is probably too big, while 13, while light, is a bit too small.

If you are mainly worried about "durability", you MAY want to look into Dell Lattitude 5424 Rugged. Direct price starts at less than $1500, for a 14-in "semi-rugged" notebook. It looks chunky, because it's actually rated for 3-foot drops to the floor. The base model only comes with an i3 and 8 GB RAM, but that should be all you need as you surf the net and process documents. You MAY want to upgrade to 16 GB RAM and NVMe SSD, which will increase the price. It will also survive getting damp with IP52 rating.
posted by kschang at 11:28 AM on August 5

« Older Life skills for high schoolers   |   Would this be a dealbreaker for you? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments