A colleague of mine brought up a great argument for why 500 GB Hard Disk Drives can remain the storage device of choice for most college students. In essence, it’s not the student’s choice, but rather the parent’s choice. Let’s think this through for a moment….

As students get ready to go back to school, and look at new PC’s to bring with them to help them get through their college career  – they will most definitely want (or need) a new PC to take with them. We all know gone are the days of paperbound notebooks and fancy pens for taking notes in lecture halls. Which means, the $1.99 notebooks are not the top sellers at Walgreens or CVS anymore. Spiral notebooks have been replaced by laptop computers, there is no denying this. Unfortunately, these new notebooks are not $1.99.

Approximately 2/3 all notebook PC’s sold today are under $700, with the vast majority of those under $400 ASP. With pricing of a 500 GB HDD under $40, you can be sure that most all of these lower priced notebooks utilize a hard disk drive. If they did utilize an SSD, even with a lower capacity one, say 128 GB or 256 GB, the features and complementary hardware incorporated with them in the system would also be enhanced ($$$) – to utilize the much faster performance of the SSD.  Not to mention the price of a 128 GB or 256 GB SSD is still higher than a 500 GB HDD. These enhancements and added features are how many of the notebook PC manufacturers market and sell the various price bands of their PC portfolio. For the vast majority of notebook systems, lower priced systems have an HDD, higher priced systems have an SSD.

Now back to the college student. Of course, the college student is probably going to want a notebook with a 512 GB SSD, low z-height, screaming performance, with all the bells and whistles included. You can walk into an Apple store and find such a system for over $1500 (and some over $2000). Or, you can find another notebook system with less ‘bells and whistles’ for $400 or less.  Regardless of the system chosen, I am pretty sure mom and/or dad will be paying for the system (in most households). Now the parent should ask some key questions – Is this PC going to last 4+ years? Is this system going to fall off a desk (or table, or balcony, etc…) 1, 2 or 50 times and break? Is my child going to leave (and many time lose or have stolen) the PC in a Starbucks, Peet’s Coffee, fraternity or sorority house, 1, 2, or 10 times? Am I willing to replace this high end PC multiple times over the next four years knowing all these factors exist for a replacement situation? Or, do I want to pay for a notebook PC at around $400, knowing there is a high probability my child will lose, break, or outlive (‘outlive’ will be a good debate between parent and student) the usefulness of the PC? If I were a betting man, I would say the PC will need to be replaced at some point over the next four years. I’m also willing to commit a $1600 budget over the next four years knowing that this allows me to provide my college student with four, very capable, very high capacity, notebook PCs (which also includes a couple external hard drives for backing up data, movies, music, pictures, and occasional term paper).  And if I don’t burn through the $400/year budget item for ‘replacement PC’, then I can use the money to take my newly graduated college student out for a nice dinner to celebrate, with a lot of money left over. Or, go buy yourself a high-end notebook PC today for your own use, with a high capacity SSD, with all the bells and whistles. I’m sure you will not leave it in your neighbor’s dorm room or local fraternity house after ‘studying for six hours’. It will most likely remain in your office (home or business), or safely packed in your laptop bag until you need to use it again.

Again, I want to thank my colleague (Thanks John Kim!) for sharing his opinion with me. I am definitely a believer of this argument.