5 questions to ask before buying a laptop for school and uni
What’s important and what’s not when buying a laptop for uni?
1. ‘Do I want to take my laptop to uni every day?’
Yes. Then portability should be a big deal. Laptops are generally much thinner and lighter than they once were. What makes a great portable laptop?
- Thin and light: you can now find laptops as thin as 13mm and around the weight of a bag of sugar.
- Satchel-sized: get a laptop that slides easily into your bag by opting for a 13inch model.
- Tough and cool: many of these laptops are made from metals like aluminium – perfect for being slung in your bag.
- Battery life: go from bed to lecture to library to pub with as much as 15 hours' battery life with the latest Intel processors.
How can these laptops be so thin? They sacrifice a DVD drive and use SSD storage (more on that later)
An ultraportable laptop we love: super slim, satchel-sized design, rugged aluminium casing make the MacBook Air a great ultraportable.
Using your laptop mainly in your student halls? Portability isn’t as big a deal. There are some great budget 14-15inch laptops that’ll give you a:
Larger screen for watching movies and films
DVD drive for burning your CDs into iTunes
Large traditional hard drive (not SSD) for storing your music files and movies
A 15inch laptop we love: large hard drive for music, DVD drive for watching movies and powerful processor for working on essays – the HP Pavilion is a great budget laptop. Check out the HP Pavilion 15
2. ‘Will I be using demanding software and multitasking all the time?’
Yes. Then you’re going to need a laptop with the oomph to handle it smoothly. This is mainly down to the processor (your computer’s brain) and its RAM (its memory).
- Intel Core i3: writing essays, compiling spreadsheets in Office. Browsing the web, streaming Netflix
- Intel Core i5: watch Netflix and edit photos at the same time while also running Office. Programs run smoothly simultaneously
- Intel Core i7: video production and architecture students, this is the one for you. 3D modelling, and advanced video editing.
3. ‘Do I get annoyed by slow computers?’
Yes. Then look at laptops with solid state drive (SSD) storage. These replace the traditional hard drive. They bring loads of benefits, including:
- Fast boot. When you switch on your laptop it comes on in seconds.
- Quick-running programs. Your programs and applications will load quickly.
- Smooth running. Because everything’s a bit faster, things run more smoothly.
- Difficult to break. A traditional hard drive is made up of spinning parts. An SSD has no moving parts.
- Small and light: Because there are no moving parts, an SSD drive is small and thin.
- Quiet: A noisy laptop can be pretty annoying. Most of this whirring comes from your hard drive. But an SSD is almost silent.
Laptops with SSD storage we love: The HP Spectre x360 is less than 16mm thick and super-fast thanks to its SSD storage. Check out the HP Spectre x360
4. ‘Which operating system is right for me?
Are you Apple, Microsoft or Google? Find out…
Microsoft Windows: the computer that’s taken you right through school. Programs like Word and Excel are as familiar as well-worn slippers. The controls and layout are easy to understand and use. It runs on laptops made by everyone from Acer to HP. Windows 10 is designed to work on tablets and phones too.
Check out our Windows laptops
Mac OS X: This only runs on Apple computers. The laptop of choice for creatives and hipsters. It’s as enjoyable to use as the MacBook is to look at. You can share files, calendars, music and videos between your Mac and your iPhone or iPad. While the Pages app is great for writing essays. It can run Microsoft Office too. If you’re studying graphics, illustration, video production or photography you’re going to want a Mac.
Check out our Apple MacBook laptops
Chrome: Designed to get the best from Google services and apps. It runs on lightweight Chromebook laptops. You work online rather than on software downloaded to your laptop. There are online apps for writing essays and compiling spreadsheets. And online storage to save your work.
Check out our Chromebooks
5. ‘Will I be using it as a TV?’
Yes. Then you’ll probably benefit from a high-quality screen. Laptops are becoming substitutes for TVs for many people, with the rise of streaming services like Netflix and catch-up sites like BBC iPlayer and All 4.
A higher resolution screen will give you a sharper, punchier and more detailed picture. Likewise if you’re working up close on creative projects you want the clarity to edit your work pixel by pixel.
Talking about a resolution: This tells you how many pixels make up the screen. Full HD TVs have 1920x1080 pixels. You can get laptops with Full HD resolution and higher.
A sharp-screened laptop we love: Enjoy rich detail and bright colours with the MacBook Pro with Retina. The 15inch model has 3million more pixels than a HD TV. Check out the MacBook Pro