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How To Choose A Laptop For University

These days it’s nigh impossible to get anything done without some kind of digital device, especially if you’re a uni student who is required to do their work online all the time. Seeing as how being online is the norm these days, you might as well do it in the best way possible without breaking the bank.

And that’s where we come in. There are several laptops on the market these days, but here’s the big question: Which one of these laptops is best suited for a uni student?

So without further ado, we’re going to dive into what kind of laptop you should be looking at and what options are out there.

What kind of laptop do you need?

Now this is the all important, million dollar question: what kind of laptop should I get that’s best suited for my needs?

It’s a simple but important question that doesn’t have a straightforward answer because there are several factors to consider when looking for a laptop, such as:

  • Battery life
  • Cost
  • Amount of features and extras
  • Graphical power
  • Build quality

Speaking in general terms, the type of course you’re enrolled in also plays a part in the type of laptop to get. A film, graphic design or IT student will need far more powerful laptops to do their work compared to journalism or law students. This in turn will affect the cost of a laptop.

So, to sum up how to choose a laptop that’s best suited for your needs, you want a laptop that has enough power to handle apps and tasks like programming, software, and document creation, has enough battery power to last the whole day so you won’t have to park yourself next to a power socket, and should be affordable for those with a student budget.

Okay, so what are the best laptops to get?

After going through a heap of laptops that have been released in the last year or so, we’ve managed to cobble together something of a recommendations list on the best laptops for students. So without further ado, here are the best bang-for-your-buck devices for students that strike the right balance between the demands of your studies and your bank account.

1. Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review | TechRadar

Fast, nimble, not too heavy, looks good on the eye, and packs a good punch in terms of power, Apple have built a winning student laptop that does whatever you need it to without breaking the bank too much.

Specifications:

  • CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8‑core CPU
  • Graphics: Integrated 7-core – 8-core GPU
  • RAM: 8GB – 16GB unified memory
  • Screen: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 Retina display
  • Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD

Cost: AUD$1,499

Pros:

  • Lots of power, which means it’s fast and responsive
  • Great battery life
  • Quiet as a mouse

Cons:

  • Keyboard quality could be better
  • No touch bar

2. Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020) | TechRadar

One of the most powerful and gorgeous laptops out there at the moment, the Dell XPS 13 has a lot going for it beneath its beautiful exterior. With a lot of processing and graphical power under the hood, it’s the ideal laptop for students who need the extra oomph to complete their work.

Specifications:

  • CPU: 11th generation Intel Core i5 – i7
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Xe
  • RAM: 8GB – 32GB
  • Screen: 13.4-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – 4K (3840 x 2160)
  • Storage: 512GB – 1TB SSD

Cost: AUD$1,759 – $2,999

Pros:

  • Powerful CPU and GPU
  • Great battery life
  • Beautiful design and build quality

Cons:

  • Expensive

3. Microsoft Surface Laptop Go

Surface Laptop Go: Our Lightest Business Laptop – Microsoft Surface for  Business

Portable, beautiful, lightweight, and packing a surprising amount of power, the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go is a mid-ranged laptop that’s not only well priced but also incredibly versatile.

Specifications:

  • CPU: 10th-generation Intel Core i5-1035G1
  • Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics
  • RAM: 4 – 8GB unified memory
  • Screen: 12.45-inch (1,536 x 1,024; touch)
  • Storage: 64 – 256GB SSD

Cost: AUD$999 – $1,549

Pros:

  • Great bang-for-your-buck in terms of value
  • Light and very portable
  • Looks great

Cons:

  • Entry model is a bit low on RAM and storage

4. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

Buy Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch i5/8GB/256GB Laptop SSD -  Sandstone | Harvey Norman AU

Building on some solid foundations, Microsoft’s latest Surface Laptop 3 model is better in almost every way compared to its predecessors. A very good laptop choice for students.

Specifications:

  • CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 / AMD Ryzen 5 / AMD Ryzen 7
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics / AMD Radeon Vega 9 / AMD Radeon RX Vega 11
  • RAM: 8GB – 16GB
  • Screen: 13.5-inch PixelSense (2,256 x 1,504) / 15-inch PixelSense (2,496 x 1,664)
  • Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD

Cost: AUD$1,299 – $2,639

Pros:

  • Display is stunning
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Aluminium design is fantastic
  • Great battery life
  • Choice of Intel or AMD CPU is welcome

Cons:

  • Can get quite expensive if you want a model with more storage

5. Dell XPS 15

Dell XPS 15 9500 FHD+ vs. UHD+: Which should you buy? | Windows Central

Think of this as the bigger, more powerful brother of the Dell XPS 13. Packing some staggering processing and graphical powering into a styling design, the XPS 15 is a laptop powerhouse for students who need the extra oomph.

Specifications:

  • CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i5 – i7
  • Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti
  • RAM: 8GB – 64GB
  • Screen: 15.6″ FHD+ (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge Non-Touch Anti-Glare 500-Nit – 15.6″ UHD+ (3840 x 2400) InfinityEdge Touch Anti-Reflective 500-Nit Display
  • Storage : 256GB – 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe

Cost: AUD$2023.99 – $5,498.99

Pros:

  • Packs a lot of power, making it perfect for students in a creative field
  • Gorgeous design
  • Fantastic display
  • Build quality is top notch

Cons:

  • Ranges from quite expensive to ridiculously expensive

What about laptops for those on a tighter student budget?

1. Microsoft Surface Go 2

Microsoft Surface Go 2 review - SlashGear

A lightweight 2-in-1 package that’s perfect for those students who don’t need anything special, the Microsoft Surface Go 2 is a great go-to budget option.

Specifications:

  • CPU: 8th Gen Intel Core m3 – Intel Pentium Gold Processor 4425Y
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615
  • RAM: 4GB – 8GB
  • Screen: 10.5” 1920 x 1280 (220 PPI) PixelSense Display
  • Storage: 64GB eMMC – 128GB SSD
  • Connectivity: IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax, Bluetooth 5.0, Qualcomm Snapdragon X16 LTE Modem

Cost: AUD$629 – $1,199

Pros:

  • Redefines portability
  • Incredibly versatile due to its 2-in-1 laptop/tablet design
  • Design and build quality is top notch

Cons:

  • No stylus
  • A little underpowered

2. Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

Lenovo Chromebook Duet - Review 2020 - PCMag Australia

If you want something that’s cheap and does the job, and you don’t care too much in terms of specs or fancy extras, the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook is the perfect 2-in-1 laptop/tablet for you.

Specifications:

  • CPU: MediaTek P60T
  • Graphics: Mali-G72
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Screen: 10.1-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,200; touch) 240PPI
  • Storage: 128GB eMMC

Cost: AUD$399

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Good battery life
  • Chrome OS works like a charm, especially compared to Windows 10

Cons:

  • Keyboard is a bit dodgy
  • Underpowered with somewhat low RAM and storage
  • Build quality could be better

3. HP Chromebook 14

Amazon.com: HP Chromebook 14-inch Laptop AMD Dual-Core A4-9120C Processor,  4 GB SDRAM, 32 GB eMMC Storage, Chrome OS (Gray): Computers & Accessories

If you want something a little bit more solid than a laptop/tablet combo that still has a lot to offer for its low price, check out the HP Chromebook 14.

Specifications:

  • CPU: AMD A4 – A6, Intel Celeron N3350 – N3450
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon R4 – R5, Intel HD Graphics 500
  • RAM: 4GB – 8GB
  • Screen: 14-inch diagonal HD (1366×768) SVA anti-glare – FHD (1920×1080) IPS BrightView
  • Storage: 16GB – 64GB eMMC

Cost: AUD$398

Pros:

  • Build quality is impressive
  • Chrome OS is lovely to use
  • Screen is crisp and easy on the eyes

Cons:

  • Battery life isn’t the best
  • Don’t expect cutting edge specs or a lot of storage
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