Calling any residence hall “the best” is an impossible choice to make. Depending on your lifestyle, you may prefer one hall over another. For starters, athletes tend to live in BARH, as it’s close to ECAV and the dining hall is open until 8:30pm. That being said, if you want to live in BARH and you’re not athletic, you can still fit in.
The Quad is often considered quieter because there are no hallways. This is where I live, and there is still plenty of social life. Also, BARH and the Quad hves upperclassmen living on the third floor; it can be nice to know older students. Quad is also really close to classes, especially compared to BARH. Quad residents typically eat at Sage.
Barton and the Freshmen Five are essentially equal in distance to ECAV, Commons, and the academic part of campus. Barton is just nicer and sometimes called “Hotel Barton.” These dorms overall are the most social because of their hallways and openness. Really though, everyone makes friends.
The laptop situation: RPI offers a Lenovo laptop for about $1800. The laptop comes ‘imaged’ with most of the software you need for classes and a four year service plan. This year, we got W500s. Some students complain about the quality of the laptop, but I’ve found them to be pretty high speed and the service plan is nice. Laptops with any problems can be taken to the Help Desk at the VCC and they will try to fix the problem or lend you a loaner laptop while they work on yours, if need be. If you don’t have the RPI laptop, the Help Desk can help you, but you won’t get full replacement parts and you have to chase down (and sometimes pay for) the software. You can find more information here: http://www.rpi.edu/laptops/