Estimated reading time 5 minutes
Whenever the summer starts, you start to see adverts for the latest sale on laptops. While most students use PCs, most do not know what they really need to look for when buying. You do not want to end up with a £800 laptop when you only needed a £400 one, but which £400 one is best. And what about if you did need the £800 laptop?
Laptops have come down in price over the years, but the quality can vary. I’m sure you know someone who has bought a laptop and been hurling abuse at it ever since. To be fair, a lot of this is down to the user, but if you go into your nearest big retail outlet you more than likely will be presented with a huge array of laptops which confuse. Do I need a Core i3 laptop or a Core i7? 13.3 inch or 15.6? Is 6GB of RAM enough?
This guide is written for a typical student doing a non IT related course. e.g. They want a laptop which they can do all their essays, watch films on, and have their entire music and photo collection.
I will use general terms to help get through the minefield and offer up some suggestions based on the current market. Links are provided at the bottom. If you decide to buy a laptop based off the information given in this article, if you use the links at the bottom we get some commission. You do not pay any more to the price for this. Think of it as a way of saying “thanks that was helpful!”
General rules of thumb:
- Ignore RAM Size. Yes more RAM is better but what what you need 3GB (which any laptop nowadays has) will be enough.
- Best bang for buck is a 15.6 inch screen. You pay more for portability, so to get similar performance you will have to pay out roughly £50 more to go for a same specification 13.3 inch screen.
- The prices in this article are the minimum you have to pay. Obviously you can pick a more expensive laptop because you like the look etc. but this guide is designed so you known a baseline price.
Here are some student laptop scenarios with what to look for if they describe you…
I want a laptop that can hold all my photos and music
Look for a laptop with a 500GB hard drive or higher. That way you will have plenty of room for even the most photo happy student. If you need more you can always add a USB flash drive (16GB £8) or external hard drive (500GB £35) to back up all your data.
Recommendation: Any laptop with an Intel Core i3 processor is fast for everyday computing.
Lower price: AMD C Series (e.g. C-50) processors are slow but are ample if you will only casually use your computer. If you can afford the extra £50 to get a Pentium Dual Core or a Core i3 processor on offer then it would be worth the upgrade.
A good price to pay £280 for C50 or £300-350 for a second generation Core i3.
I like to watch films:
Make sure the laptop has a DVD drive (or Blu Ray drive if you have the collection). Look out for the words HD graphics in the specification e.g. Intel HD Graphics, nVidia HD, Radeon HD. This will mean it can play 1080p HD video, so it will play any film or YouTube/Facebook/Smartphone video in HD.
Recommendation: Any laptop with Intel/nVidia/Radeon HD graphics.
Expect to pay £320-350
I want a portable laptop to take around with me most of the time to lectures/the library etc. :
Most laptop are light nowadays. However there are a new breed of laptops called Ultrabooks which are exceptionally light and thin. The Macbook Air being the most popular. However even “normal” laptops are lightweight, but battery life is the key thing to look for here. If you have a day of classes and you live off campus it is nice to not have to carry a heavy charger around. Look for a laptop with at least a 6 cell battery which should give you 5 hours battery life if you turn down the brightness.
Recommendation: Any laptop with claimed battery life of 5 hours or more. If you can afford it, get an ultrabook.
What to possibly avoid: Any 10inch netbook or laptop with an Intel Atom processor. These are fine for web browsing but to use as a main laptop, they can be frustratingly slow. The latest breed are a bit better with dual core processors, but expect a slow time at some point. However the battery life can be up to 12 hours, so this is a huge advantage.
Expect to pay £400 for a laptop with a long life battery. Remember to drain your laptop battery and then plug in. Do not leave them on charge all the time or it will kill the battery far quicker than you can imagine.
Want power and portability? Check Out ULTRABOOKS
Ultrabooks are a advertising name for powerful, thin, lightweight laptops. They are super slim, and offer 6 hour battery life but are combined with powerful Core i5 or even Core i7 processors. Problem is they cost £700 upwards. But you do get what you pay for, they look superb. They also have Solid State Drives which are ultrafast hard drives. They are lightning quick and don’t use up hardly any power, but the downside is they are expensive for the size, so you will need an external hard drive if you have a serious amount of picture or music.
In general any laptop on sale today will do you fine. However I recommend getting an Intel Core i3 processor or the AMD equivalent A6 Series powered laptop if you can afford it over the cheaper Intel Celeron or AMD C Series. It will be frustration free for longer. Ignore RAM, and just think about how many pictures or movies you really have. Do you need a 750GB hard drive or higher? Probably not.
If you want style and speed and you have the money, then Ultrabooks are as good as they sound. Any questions, just post in the comments.
Here are some links for some laptops for the categories mentioned above:
Core i3 laptops on Amazon UK
Core i3 laptops on Currys
Laptops from John Lewis – 2yr guarantee
Ultrabooks on Amazon UK – Portable and Powerful