It’s back to school and college season around the country this week and inevitably many students will be looking at trading up and investing in some new tech. But what kind of laptop do you need for your studies? Answer these five questions to find out.
Q1. Will you need to bring your laptop to campus with you every day?
If the answer is ‘yes’, then portability and weight should be a big deal. Laptops are generally much thinner and lighter than they once were. But 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. You might ask how a laptop can be so thin, and the answer is most of the super-slim models sacrifice a DVD drive and use SSD storage.
- Satchel-sized: Get a laptop that slides easily into your bag by opting for a max 13-inch model.
- Tough and cool: Many laptops are made from metals like aluminium – perfect for being slung in your bag.
- Battery life: What if you forget your charger in the middle of a lecture? You’re going to need a laptop that can handle going from bed to lecture to library to pub with as much as 15 hours' battery life with the latest Intel processors.
The MacBook Air
– the super slim, satchel-sized design and rugged aluminium casing make it extra portable.
If however your answer is ‘no’ then portability isn’t such a big deal and there are plenty of good 15-inch laptops that will allow you to watch movies on a larger screen; burn CDs with a DVD drive and offer large traditional hard drives (so not SSD) for you to store your music and files.
The 15.6-inch HP Pavilion
– plenty of room for all your files and a powerful processor for working on essays, all for just €549.99*.
Q2. Will you be using demanding software and multitasking?
Yes? Then you’re going to need a laptop with the oomph to handle it smoothly. This will mainly be down to the processor (your computer’s brain) and its RAM (its memory).
- Intel Core i3: Good for writing essays, compiling spreadsheets in Office. Browsing the web, streaming Netflix.
- Intel Core i5: Good for watching Netflix and editing photos at the same time while also running Office. Programs run smoothly simultaneously.
- Intel Core i7: Suitable for video production and architecture students – powerful enough to handle 3D modelling and advanced video editing.
Q3. Do you get annoyed by slow computers?
Yes – who doesn’t? Then you’ll need to look at laptops with solid state drive (SSD) storage. These replace the traditional hard drive and 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.
The HP Spectre x 360
– less than 16mm thick and super-fast thanks to its SSD storage.
Q4. What operating system is right for you?
Should you buy an Apple, Microsoft or Google device? Here’s our advice.
- Microsoft Windows: The computer that’s taken you right through school. The programs –like Word and Excel – will be familiar as will the controls and layout. Windows will run on laptops made by everyone from Acer to HP, while Windows 10 is designed to work on tablets and phones too.
- Mac OS X: This only runs on Apple computers – the laptops of choice for creatives. OS X is 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, it’s highly likely you’ll need to invest in a Mac.
- Chrome: Designed to get the best from Google services and apps, this operating system runs on lightweight Chromebook laptops. This means that you work online rather than on software downloaded to your laptop. There are plenty of online apps for writing essays and compiling spreadsheets, and you can also use online storage to save your work.
Q5. Will you be using the laptop as a TV?
If you answered ‘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 RTE Player and All 4.
A higher resolution screen will obviously give you a sharper and more detailed picture. Likewise if you’re working up close on creative projects you’ll 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 now get laptops with Full HD resolution and higher.
Enjoy rich detail and bright colours with the MacBook Pro with Retina
. The 15-inch model has three million more pixels than a HD TV.