Budget Laptop for Computer Science Major

Sep 15, 2018
I am here to inquire about what I should be looking for in a laptop, and suggestions of which laptop to purchase, for a Computer Science college student with a low budget. Currently don't have a laptop more modern than a molasses-slow 2010 Dell Inspiron, and would like an upgrade for usability purposes. A Pentium isn't enough anymore, even with an upgrade from an HDD to an SSD.

I plan on using programs like Microsoft Office, LaTeX, Notepad++, proprietary software for programming languages like Python and Ruby, and other programs in that vein. I don't know if I'll be using any additional programs I'm not aware of while pursuing a hardware focus for my Computer Science degree, I'm still getting prerequisite classes out of the way and haven't gotten into the meat of the major yet. I may also learn to do basic computer repair in an attempt to supplement my meager income by offering my services to fellow classmates, so additional programs may be needed to accomplish that, but I'll see how that actually goes. Gaming and video streaming will be done to fill in any free time I might have, but I don't want to waste money focusing on graphical fidelity with my limited budget, I already have a PC geared towards that.

My budget is $400. I have my sights set on a Lenovo Thinkpad X250, which I can purchase refurbished for within my budget easily. I know to look out for things like a good CPU (at least i5, can even get i7 within my budget), good RAM (every one I've looked at has 8GB, so that should be fine), plenty of modern ports (I think two USB 3.0s is enough, in addition to the SD card slot and the others), a good keyboard (it's a Thinkpad, that won't be a problem), and good battery life (again, it's a Thinkpad, not a problem). I know to avoid a touch screen and a GPU. I've kind of fixated on Thinkpad because the joystick mouse just seems like the most convenient thing ever, but if that's not the best choice for my situation, please let me know.

I do have a couple questions, though. Question one: is it necessary that I seek a 1920x1080 model, even if it means extra costs? The laptop comes in 1366x768 or 1920x1080 models, and the laptops I have bookmarked do not list the screen resolution in their specification lists. I've heard that higher resolution gives you more desktop space, and can even reduce eye fatigue and raise productivity, but I'm not sure how objective the latter claims are, nor how valuable the increased desktop space is for my situation.

Question two: is the Thinkpad even the best laptop for my situation? I haven't spent much time looking at other lines of computers, I just saw all the benefits of the Thinkpad and felt like they fit my situation near perfectly, but I could easily be wrong. It's best to have a second opinion, and none of my friends or family know enough about computers to give input.

TL;DR: My budget is $400. Planning on purchasing a Thinkpad X250, but don't know if it's the best budget laptop for a computer science major. If it is, should I make sure I find a 1920x1080 model rather than a 1366x768 model? If it isn't, what is, and is the resolution still important?

Thank you for taking the time to read this! I'm highly anticipating your answers.
For hardware specs, the X250 is fine, I would get a 1080 screen if possible. Keep in mind the X models are the smaller ones so screen will be smaller. You may want to look at the T line instead.