Whether you are still in school, College or heading off to University, a laptop can be every student’s best friend. The laptop is a necessity when it comes to being a student: writing essays, downloading revision material, or even playing video games when you need some ‘you time’. Not only is it useful out of lesson, but because it is easily transportable (unlike a PC), it means that you can bring it into lessons/lectures to be able to take notes or have needed documents, rather than have to transfer files onto a USB stick.
What To Consider:
When it comes to picking the perfect laptop for you, deciding on certain specifications can become confusing. ”What kind of CPU do I need?”, “Do I need a decent graphics card?” Etcetera, etcetera. Well, there is no simple way of putting this, other than the fact that no one can determine what specifications your laptop needs other than you. There are important things to consider when purchasing a laptop, which may help you narrow down your market to find the perfect product for you. Listed below are a few of these factors to consider:
- What am I going to be using this laptop for?
- Coding / writing / downloading programs etc
- Which OS will be best suited to my needs?
- Windows / Linux / Mac
- Am I going to be regularly taking my laptop to places without charging ports?
- Laptop may / may not require long battery life
- What is my ideal price range?
- May affect quality of computer specifications
What To Look Out For:
Before you start looking into any different specs, the first thing you need to consider is the size of your screen. This is due to the fact that, the larger the screen size, the more difficult it can be to transport:
- 11 – 12 inches – The most lightweight laptops available make them very easy to transport from place to place, and usually weigh around 2.5 lbs to 3.5 lbs.
- 13 – 14 inches -Is able to provide a highly intense usability and is easy to move around, especially if around (or below) 4 lbs.
- 15 inches – The most common, in size, these laptops will usually weigh around 5 lbs (give or take). This screen size makes the laptop portable, but may be difficult if you do not have a supportive laptop bag/rucksack, and may not be preferable if transport is an essential.
- 16 – 18 inches – This size of laptop usually also means it has space for a large processor (perfect for high-end video games). So, if you are wanting a laptop that will stay on your desk for a large portion of the time, this one may be ideal for those that need a mix of work and play.
When looking for a laptop, if you are going to be using it for a lot of essays / notes etc, then you’re going to need a good keyboard with it. There are different types of keyboards that come with laptops, and not all of them are great. But, when you find ‘the one’ for you, you’ll be pulling out essays left right and center.
- MacBook Pro (£699 – £2,000) – As it is clearly shown here, the MacBook Pro can vary greatly in prices, depending on which model you buy. However, no matter which one you look at, the keyboard has been greatly recommended by many for being easy to use and is very durable. Backlights on the keyboard also make it easy to work on during the night without having to turn on any surrounding lights.
- Sony Vaio (£600) – The Sony Vaio has a similar keyboard to the MacBook in the fact that the keys type very smoothly and there is a good distance between the keys themselves. While the keyboard does not have a backlight, unlike the MacBook Pro, its keyboard will have you typing from dawn ‘til dusk without even having noticed it has gotten dark around you!
- HP Compaq Mini 110 ( £450) – While this laptop is very small, the actual keyboard has a lot of functionality that larger laptops may not have. The useful keys (such as: shift, backspace etc) are a lot larger, making it easier to type without misclicking.
The processor, or also known as the Central Processing Unit (CPU), acts as the ‘brains’ of the computer. Depending on the Processor that you have, it can vary everything from the speed of your laptop, whether it can be overclocked, and the amount of instructions within the computer itself that it can execute per second. There are many Processors out there to choose from, but in order to get a better understanding of how to tell whether or not a Processor is worth buying, we have compared the specifications of three Intel Processors:
- Intel Core i7:
- Cores – 4
- Clock Speed – 4GHz
- Cache Size – 8MB
- Intel Core i5:
- Cores – 2/4
- Clock Speed – 2.66GHz
- Cache Size – 8MB
- Intel Core i3:
- Cores – 2/4
- Clock Speed – 2.93GHz
- Cache Size – 4MB
Memory, or RAM (Random Access Memory) is a volatile piece of hardware that is used as a temporary storage for data. When you load a program or web page, the faster it loads and works depends vastly on the RAM. So, if you are planning on playing a lot of video games or working with programmes such as Photoshop, then considering a large RAM is a smart move.
The battery life can drastically change how you and your laptop get along…Not to mention how your method of working will go on. If you are planning on taking your laptop into a lot of classes, or other surroundings, where there is not a lot of chance to charge up your laptop, you’re going to want to know that your computer will not die on you.
Know Your Budget (Our Top Picks):
After you finally understand all the complicated specifications when it comes to laptops, it will come down to finally making the big purchase! But, what will all the other students be using this term? Just like you, almost every other student has been scouring the internet in hopes for the best laptop this year, and luckily we at E-Review have found the top laptops that all the students seem to be using:
Asus Zenbook UX305
CPU: 2 GHz
Cache: 4 MB
- Is very durable for those that travel, or are quite clumsy.
- Very lightweight and thin.
- Speakers are quite small.
- Video drivers are wonky.
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Acer Chromebook 15
CPU: 1.5 GHz
Cache: 2 MB
- Very bright display for those that rely on graphics (designers / gamers etc).
- High battery life.
- Speakers are quite small.
- Has been known to crash occasionally.
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Apple MacBook Pro (13.3 inch Retina Display Version)
CPU: 2.7 GHz
Cache: 3 MB
- Retina Display makes for good graphics.
- Faster processor than previous models.
- Force Touch function is underdeveloped.
- The design of the laptop is unchanged to previous models, making price questionable.
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Asus ROG GL551
CPU: 2.5 GHz
Cache: 6 MB
- Impressive performance, no crashes or slow loading.
- Has a very solid build and is very durable.
- Due to its solid build, it is rather bulky.
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Acer Aspire V7
CPU: 1.6 GHz
Cache: 3 MB
- Highly impressive and sleek design.
- Screen shows impressive quality.
- Trackpad can, at times, be difficult to navigate with.
- Battery life is quite short.
Which OS Should You Get?
An Operating System (or OS for short) can, and will, play a great role in how effectively you may be able to work, depending on what your laptop will be used for. Below are a list of the three main operating systems, what they may be targeted towards, and the positives and negatives of each:
Within the Microsoft community, there is a lot of debate over which Windows OS is the best. The fight is mainly between Windows 7 and the new Windows 10. While Windows 10 is supposed to be the new and improved Windows 8, a lot of users never make the jump from Windows 7 as it is able to run video games at a high speed, and looks more like a desktop, whereas Windows 8 and 10 appear to have a tablet vibe to them. Not only this, but Windows 10 is constantly being upgraded, due to it being released early, meaning there were many things unfinished at first. However, since the initial release, Windows 10 seems to have improved vastly.
- First of all, more than 80% of computers worldwide run a Windows OS, meaning it is debatebly the most popular OS out there.
- Due to its popularity, it is unlikely that you will ever find difficulty in looking for any drivers or hardware.
- Support lines / pages are very popular for Windows.
- There is also a very large shareware and freeware application library.
- Again, due to its popularity, it also means this OS is very prone to spyware and viruses.
- You only have a limited amount of access to the library of free open source software.
When using a Mac product, the OS you will be using will be OSX. When it comes to coding/programming/developing, this OS is primarily used when doing any cross platform mobile development (especially if it is to develop Apple products). This is due to the fact that that OSX is supported by most tooling/frameworks, whereas, if you used any other OS, it is highly likely that all you will do is run into problems.
- Easy to use for those that are non-technical.
- Due to the OS being based on UNIX, it makes the OSX more secure than Windows.
- Known for little to no spyware or viruses.
- Because of its UNIX base, the OS is more powerful than Windows.
- Almost complete access to the library of free open source applications.
- Is more expensive than other OS. However, this can be shadowed by the minimal maintenance that is required after purchase.
- There is a lot less support than other OS. You will have to contact Apple for any needed support.
- The OS is more complicated than Windows, due to the fact that it has a UNIX base. Although, this complexity is hidden easily from those that do not wish to enter such areas.
Over the years, Linux has begun to gain more and more popularity. Not only is this due to the use of Dell releasing a line of Linux laptops, but the use of the command language, Shell, that the OS uses in order to execute commands that the user inputs, or that are taken from a file. This OS is definitely more suited to users that wish to learn more about commands, how computers actually work, or who wish to prioritise programming.
- More options are available with this OS. If you are wanting to change anything particularly within the Linux OS, you are able to (if you can figure out how).
- The OS and everything with it is free. However, it is recommended that you donate a little to the cause.
- The OS is definitely more secure than both Windows and OSX.
- The user has full access to the library of free open source software.
- New hardware is generally slower to reach Linux than other OS.
- If you are a non-technical user, the vast number of options can actually scare you off.
- Also, in order to optimise your experience on this OS, you will need to learn new things to be able to do / command the OS to do certain things.
How To Maintain Your Laptop:
Laptop maintenance is something that not a lot of people actually do, leading to premature failure of the computer itself. Listed below are a few easy steps to prevent any common sort of failure to your laptop:
Because your laptop has a fan inside it, which keeps the laptop from overheating, it is likely that, over time, there will be a bit of a dust pile growing inside your laptop, making it more difficult for the laptop’s fan to do a decent job. So, every now and then, it is a great idea to use air to blow it out:
- DO – Use a compressed air can to blow out any dust from the fan, ports, speakers and anywhere else your laptop may be harboring dust.
- DO – Turn your laptop off before you clean it out, so that no damage may occur to your fan or other areas.
- DO NOT – Blow into the fan or ports. Small particles of spit are released from your mouth when you blow air into the laptop, and the spit can rust/cause damage to the parts of the computer.
- DO NOT – Shake your computer to see if any dust is inside your laptop. Excessive shaking may damage internal parts of the laptop.
While some charging cables may look more durable than others, it is easier than it appears to damage your wires. Not only does this go for charging cables, but for mice, headphones and any other accessories you may purchase with your laptop. Why risk paying for new wires when the proper precautions could have been carried out to maintain the strength of your wires:
- DO – Ensure that you carefully wrap the cable without pulling on the internal cable, damaging it.
- DO NOT – Stuff the cables into a bag without wrapping them. This will damage them and make them easier to tangle.
- DO NOT – Pack your laptop into its bag without removing any cables from it. This makes it easier for the wire to bend within the laptop, making it damaged and unable to work within the laptop again.
The quality of the fan in a laptop may vary, depending on how much you are willing to pay. If your laptop is prone to loudness and making the rest of your laptop hot, you may want to think about changing the speed of your fan through your computer settings (methods vary on OS). However, if your laptop still seems to be overheating, it may be best to purchase a new cooling assembly, or cooling fan.
When buying a laptop, there are many routes that you can go down, depending on what it is that you will be using it for. For instance, if you are a programmer, the main factor that could influence you may be the operating system. As well, if you are a designer or gamer, what may influence you is the graphics card and processing speed.
All in all, when it comes to finding what’s right for you, what is best is to have a look around, rather than just pick one that may not even be suited to your personal needs.