Buying a laptop for school or Uni can at first seem like an expensive minefield of techie twaddle. To help you on your way, we've written a simple three step starter guide. And here it is...
Step one: what's your budget?
3 steps to getting a laptop discount with Apple
Step 1: have proof ready that you are a student, e.g. NUS card, or your Uni offer letter
Step 2: if you have no proof Apple has a contact centre for student customers 0800 072 1154
Step 3: to get started or for more info visit the Apple student store
Are you scrimping pennies or splashing out? The size of your budget will determine what manufacturers and technology are open to you. Decide what your top end is upfront and be strict to stay within your limits. As a student you may well be entitled to discounting on top of the published asking price, so ask. Apple offers a chunky student discount on their laptops of up to 15% if you are in Higher Education. Plus, if you buy a laptop from them before 21st September, you receive an extra £70 gift voucher.
Step two: what are you really going to be using the laptop for?
It can be tempting to go bananas with your budget but think carefully what you'll be using your laptop for over the next few years. In our tech forum TSR members have split laptop usage and prices into three loose brackets:
• Light use: £400 or less will get you a basic notebook or cheaper laptop for things like the internet, writing essays and spreadsheets. This could be for you if you only plan to write documents and visit The Student Room on a daily basis (hint hint ;) Consider how durable the model is though – will it last a number of years?
• Medium use: £400 - £800 will bag you a decent, powerful laptop to last. This will generally cover the needs of most students. If you do plan to edit photos, videos, play some video games and use your laptop every day, it's probably worth making the leap to spend that little bit more.
• Heavy use: £800 or more and you're looking at a quality, top end laptop for working, editing big files and running more powerful packages. Consider this if your courses or lessons depend on using a computer heavily everyday for editing professional video footage, if you use Photoshop a lot, programming or serious gaming.
Step three: where will you be using your laptop?
OK, hopefully now you have a rough idea of the amount of money you'll need to spend. One last consideration is a practical one: location! Or we should say multiple locations. Is your laptop for carrying around? Leaving at home on a desk? It makes a difference. The last thing you want at Uni is to be lugging a heavy brick around for three years. At the same time, you don't want a mini screen if the laptop's stuck permanently in your room on your desk. Consider how and where you want to use your new machine.
A few final thoughts
Think about paying slightly more for a solid state hard drive (no moving parts!) because they tend to have better battery life, they're quieter and sometimes last longer. Aim for a modern processor like an Intel i5 or i7. For holding your assignments and photos you'll really need over 120GB of storage, although external and online storage is super cheap these days if you need more or want to protect your work with backups.
You'll need software to get things done. A word processing package for writing assignments, spreadsheets for keeping track of your personal finances and presentation software - these are all pretty vital. But before you splash out on a software package with your laptop consider cheap or free alternatives like Open Office and the cloud based Google applications.
Research things like the warranty and support you'll get from the manufacturer. Always buy from a trusted source and don't forget to try it out your laptop first if you can.
For more information about buying a laptop visit the Laptops, Netbooks and Tablets subforum of the Technology forum here on The Student Room.