Choosing the right laptops for uni can be difficult decisions… It’s going to be your go-to machine for the next three years, at least. How can you accurately determine your personal, must-have credentials ahead of time?
To help you surmount the seemingly endless barrage of technical jargon, here are some key, real-life considerations to keep in mind when choosing a back-to-school laptop from Ebuyer.
Portability is obviously the biggest distinction between a conventional desktop and a laptop. Desktops are tied-down machines, perpetually chained to your desk by an inescapable power cable. They are not a particularly viable option for an on-the-go student lifestyle.
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Laptops are delightfully freed-up in comparison. Jotting down notes in lectures, effective collaboration on group projects or a distraction-free library study session are achievable with a laptop. A laptop comfortability facilitates and encourages productive behaviour at university, wherever you are.
You’ll want an easily manageable laptop for regular campus excursions, something compact and lightweight. The temptation to focus solely on bang-for-buck specifications is too strong, only for you to be left with an unwieldy, hulking beast to tirelessly drag about day in, day out. When you’ve already got weighty books taking up precious back-pack space, an additional burden is the last thing needed.
Fortunately, many modern laptops are built to ridiculously razor-thin margins, thinner than a pencil. These laptops effortlessly slide in and out of your backpack’s laptop compartment, and can be rapidly drawn at a moment’s notice for almost instantaneous notetaking. Their weight is meticulously counted down to the gram, shaving off any deemed unnecessary. Lightweight laptops are barely noticeable when hanging from your back. Always having so much computational power on you is very beneficial.
Compact form factor laptops are also great for space constraint set-ups in your halls. With pieces of paper randomly scattered across your limited desk space, a laptop folds up neatly for tidying away. When a well-deserve breaks eventually rolls around and its time to head home, your laptop can come too. It’s much simpler than awkwardly strapping a desktop into a passenger seat and praying an untimely pothole doesn’t dislodge any internals on your return journey.
Speaking of, make sure the laptop can withstand a battering. In an ideal world, you’ll keep a watchful eye on your brand-new laptop, with methodical check-ups keeping it in tip-top condition. However, university is a lengthy endeavour and it’s practically an inevitability that your laptop’s going to face some challenging circumstances. Whether they’re by your hand or not.
Rushing to a lecture at the last minute and unintentionally dropping your laptop down too quickly is an all too common occurrence. Another student tripping over and yanking out the charging cable, or haphazardly spilling coffee on the laptop’s keyboard is infuriating. Thankfully, there are robust laptops constructed from metal materials which don’t compromise on portability, with spill-resistant keyboards and similar student-proof features.
Battery life should sit comfortably near the top of a student laptop buying guide. For a fresher, university can be a confounding juggling act of multiple priorities. Why introduce laptop charging as another unnecessary consideration lurking in the back of your mind? You don’t want to be constantly on edge, watching your battery indicator dwindle rapidly as you hastily scout for a power socket.
Many laptops nowadays have all-day batteries, which last eight hours or more. If you forgot your charger, don’t worry, these should easily see you through lectures, study sessions and more on a single, continuous charge. Instead of frequently topping up the charge throughout the day, you could potentially forego a charger altogether, lightening the load even further. One less item to worry about and accidentally misplace.
A reliable, long-lasting battery should actively motivate you to get out of your room to study. Collaborate with friends for an impromptu study session, pop out to the café or find some peace and quiet at the library. Changing up your surrounding environments, rather than being confined to the same, distraction prone room works wonders for building better mental health and well-being.
Of course, we’ve got to talk about specifications. This is going to be heavily dependent on your chosen degree. For the vast majority of students, a laptop functions primarily as an elaborate note taking machine and not much else.
As such, raw processing performance isn’t strictly necessary, especially for browser-based applications like Google Docs. Chromebooks are ideally suited for this intended use. Even lower-tier laptops with integrated graphics should handily manage basic word processing and day-to-day tasks. Both AMD and Intel provide great all-round processor choices.
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However, the more pressing concerns are memory and storage. If you regularly switch between multiple applications simultaneously, then you need enough RAM to keep the system operating smoothly.
8GB of RAM is perfectly adequate for normal usage. You could technically use less RAM, but we wouldn’t recommend it. As time goes on, you’re likely to install more and more background processes, hogging and slowing down system resources.
The less technically inclined may not feel entirely comfortable upgrading their RAM. That’s if the system is even upgradeable in the first place. The main disadvantage of thin and light laptops is they regularly solder components like RAM directly to the main board for maximum space efficiency, making user upgrades impossible. This is equally true for storage, like SSDs. So make sure you’ve got enough before pulling the trigger.
Regarding storage, it’s a tricky conundrum. How much is enough varies wildly on a user-by-user basis. If you mainly browse social media, stream content and don’t download loads of files locally, then you don’t need an unnecessarily large amount. For those who derive great pleasure from painstakingly organising their libraries worth of files and work on sizeable creative projects, you’ll need all you can get.
However, the most important consideration is pre-installed software like the operating system, it’s respective updates and your must-have applications. Essentially subtract 30-40GB from the advertised storage space for modern iterations of Windows 10 alone. Once you’ve factored these in, will you actually have enough storage left over?
If you’re enrolled in a specialised course which requires more powerful components, like design or media, there are plenty of laptops featuring the latest and greatest dedicated graphics cards from AMD and NVIDIA. These substantially decrease rendering times and accelerate workloads so you can turn in assignments faster, instead of nervously watching a sweat-inducing progress bar tediously tick up.
Peripherals and accessories
The keyboard, touchpad and webcam also hugely influence a student’s purchasing decision. These are the principal methods for interfacing with your laptop, for potentially thousands of hours. You’ll want a keyboard to become quickly accustomed to. With a functional layout, satisfying keys, convenient shortcuts and LED backlighting for illumination in dimmed environments.
Overly cramped touchpads can be infuriating, interfering with your ability to simply reposition and resize applications. A smooth, sizable touchpad is a much-welcomed addition for effectively using the laptop, unless you’re committed to carrying around a dedicated mouse.
No one wants to be ‘that guy’ with the dreadfully poor webcam-microphone combination, bursting everyone’s eardrums at the slightest screen adjustment. With remote learning becoming increasingly common, a high-quality webcam and accompanying microphone is basically a necessity.
Plugging in peripherals like a keyboard and mice, hooking up to an external monitor or loading additional storage from an external drive or SD card? Always take into account the number of ports you need. These can always be augmented after the fact with a dongle or docking station, however.
Finally, a laptop isn’t exclusively assigned to university-related activities. Endlessly working is a sure-fire way to burn yourself out, quickly. In the evenings, give yourself a well-deserved break and kick back with your laptop.
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For film or TV fanatics, a high-quality screen is a must. Thin bezels minimise intrusions and offer up immersive viewing experiences in a compact form factor. If you’re a regular viewer of TV and film, any video content, really, you’ll ideally want at least 1080p, full HD resolution display and an IPS panel for brilliantly vivid colours and wide viewing angles.
The built-in speakers must also be up to the task. If you’re a gamer, you’d be pleasantly surprised at how capable integrated graphics are. We’ve covered what type of experiences to expect here.