The Student Room Group

Student Laptop Guide (Early 2023)

As the year goes on, and prospective students start planning for their next stage of education, a lot of people will be looking into getting a new laptop for their studies. This guide covers five main options for people to consider and who they’re best for. This guide is primarily aimed at prospective university students based on my personal experience of finding one to use, but current university students, and to a lesser extent, A-Level students, will also likely benefit from this guide as well.

This guide goes into a lot of depth and covers different scenarios, each one will be broken up into different spoiler-based sections. Feel free to skip to the one that applies to you the most. Usual disclaimer that this is my opinion based on my experience.
General Advice


Most Students


Premium Laptops


Budget Laptops


High-Performance Laptops


2-in-1 laptops & Tablets


Where to buy a laptop
Once you have a rough idea of what you want, it’s time to look for the right device. Generally, you’ll want to make sure that you’re buying from a solid site with a decent return policy. The following places are generally where I’d recommend buying from based on my personal experience and that of others I know.


Conclusion & Further Advice


(edited 1 year ago)
A few additional comments:

The most important question to ask when buying IT equipment including laptops is: what will it be used for?
For the majority of students it will be used for MS Office, email, Internet, watching videos, video conferencing. Which means that for the majority of students, all they need for a lightning fast laptop is an SSD as opposed to a mechanical hard drive.
Far too many buyers think that they need the latest CPU when they don't.

If you will be doing 4k video editing with plenty of added in effects, or playing games like Cyberpunk 2077 consider getting a desktop PC as well as a laptop.

15.6" laptops aren't really "LAP" tops. They are mobile workstations. Fine if the laptop will be moved from home to a car in your drive and from a car park to an adjacent building. Otherwise they are big and slabby things to carry around.
14" laptops are fine.
13.3" laptops are fine too. Bit smaller screen than 14" but more easily portable. Which is great if you will walk, cycle, get the bus to campus.
Your laptop is a tool for you. You shouldn't be a slave for your laptop.

Too many people send their existing laptops to landfill when they could still get several more years out of the thing. By eg buying a replacement battery (they are semi consumable items on any laptop), buying an SSD, rebuilding (software rebuild) the laptop etc.

If you've used Macs before and like the Mac environment, buy a Mac (if you don't already have one).
If you've used Windows, stick to Windows, or migrate to Linux.
If you're a techie or will be studying computer science, get a Windows laptop and run Linux on it.

You can get laptops for free, by tapping up IT Departments and begging / scrounging for any old laptops they're willing to give you. EG by writing to the IT Depts of all the large companies in your area and telling them about the charity work you'll do on the laptop and asking if they have any spare laptops they can give you.

If you don't have any IT contacts and can't be bothered writing begging letters, buy from ebay or facebook marketplace.

The effective warranty in used laptops comes in the low low prices when buying used.
When you first get a used laptop, run the built in diagnostics (google how to do this or ask on this section of the forum). Physically inspect the laptop, to check it's as described. Boot and use the laptop. You'll soon know if there's an issue with it - for the vast majority of possible faults. When buying from ebay you can return the laptop for a full refund if it's not as good as described in the listing. Or negotiate with the seller for a discount for any faults you can fix yourself, such as replacing a hard drive that diagnostics indicates is coming to end of life.

In the unlikely event that your used laptop fails within 3 weeks to 1 year (IE too late to return for a full refund and within the timeframe that a brand new laptop would have been under warranty) either fix the fault by replacing the faulty component eg hard drive, battery, or buy another used laptop.
If you buy a used premium business laptop for £190 and 6 months down the line the motherboard fails and you buy the same model of used laptop for £170, that's a total of £360 that you've spent - which is still peanuts when compared to brand new laptops.

The volatility of the used market is great for buyers. Because the trend is for prices to come down for any given model as time passes. Covid as a one-off lifetime event caused used laptop prices to rise, but even at the height of the market shortage, buying used laptops was still the way to go.

There are loads of overpriced used laptops on ebay. Don't buy them. Buy properly priced used (fully working premium business) laptops.

Consumer grade laptops tend to be plasticky junk. Premium business laptops are where the engineering quality is at. Depreciation on used business IT equipment is a wonderful thing for the buyer. Dell, HP and Lenovo are the big sellers in corporate laptops. Lenovo have great keyboards (for a laptop) but tend to be plasticky. HP 840 and 830 series have lovely aluminium chassis and lids. Dell 73X0 and 74X0 series have great coated magnesium alloy chassis and lids. Given a choice between a used HP and Dell premium business laptop from the same model year, I'd go for whichever I could get cheaper. Which pretty much equals Dell then.

If I were to buy a laptop for myself now I'd buy either a used Dell Latitude 7390 or 7490 for under £200 from ebay. With me aiming to get a fully working one for £150 to £160. With a 1920 (FHD) screen resolution.
These models are the sweet spot in laptop BUYING now (as opposed to getting one for free).
In August 2023, the sweet spot might have moved on to Dell Latitude 7300 or 7400 or 7310 or 7410...
For the majority of student users, it makes no sense at all to spend more than £200 on a laptop (with £200 kept in the bank as your "warranty" cover in the unlikely event that you need to buy another).

And BTW bluedipstick, well done for mentioning that used laptops exist. I see far too many laptop buying guides where the authors pretend that used laptops don't exist. We can all speculate as to why there are so many rubbish buying guides out there that promote buying the latest brand new product.

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