What to consider before buying a laptop as a graduation gift

Graduates have overcome the stress of achieving high marks and an academic degree, but that's just the beginning. The next step involves deciding on what career they wish to enter, (hopefully) taking advantage of their newly-acquired qualifications. Whatever the case, they may need a new laptop to help with post-grad studies, search for work online and perform a whole range of tasks.

A laptop also makes for an excellent graduation gift, but here's what you should bear in mind when looking to purchase one.

Ultimate power

HP Omen 15

The laptop in question is going to need to sport some horsepower. It won't necessarily need the best processor available for mobile platforms, but at least an Intel Core i5. Not only will a graduate need a capable machine for work, but also for projects on the side and general use. Something that can run Office 365, Adobe creative apps and other software without issue will make their lives easier.

The only downside to more powerful components is the fact they usually increase the dimensions of the laptop or the price for a sleek-looking notebook.

Take it anywhere

Dell XPS 13

Best Accessories for Dell XPS 13 of 2018

Portability is what a laptop is all about. It's why they exist. The beauty of being able to take a capable PC around with you makes the extra price worth it in the end. Ideally, the lighter the notebook, the easier it is to use outside (and more comfortable on your lap), but it's becoming less important as notebooks in general have become vastly more portable.

Going with the thinnest laptops (like the gorgeous HP Spectre can come with a few drawbacks, including heat dissipation (especially with more powerful components) and durability. Thick laptops — think more expensive gaming notebooks — are on the other side of the scale by packing a lot inside a massive chassis that can take a slight beating but they are heavy beasts.

A little downtime

Razer Blade

What's a life full of work if you don't have time for a little downtime? Gaming is a perfect medium to lose yourself in a virtual world, removing oneself from the troubles of real life. To enjoy a few titles here and there, you're going to need to aim for NVIDIA's GTX line of mobile GPUs. Anything from the GTX 1050 upwards in a laptop will be enough power.

The higher spec you go, the costlier the notebook becomes. It's possible to go all-out and configure a gaming laptop with two GTX 1080 GPUs, but you really won't need all that performance in a portable PC — not unless the graduate plans to enter game development.

Make it your own (or rather, their own)


It's possible to customize laptops by going to vendors directly. Dell is a big brand that has offered personalization options for years. This makes it easy to build a laptop that suits the need of any graduate, but you may find yourself paying out a little more for the privilege. It's also possible to add a few personal touches to a laptop you can pick up off the shelf, like the Surface Laptop in the above photo.

Ready to shop around

Now that you have some idea as to what will be required by a graduate in a laptop, check out our roundup of excellent gift ideas.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.