For every student, there is a laptop designed to meet your specific needs. Whether that involves gaming between partying or researching during a lecture, today’s laptops offer a pleasant blend of performance and value. But, in a saturated market where we are bombarded by so many different brands and models, finding the device that is right for you has become something of a nightmare.
The fundamental design of the laptop has remained the same for over a decade now, but there has been immense innovation in the field of versatility, power, and efficiency. As any student will be acutely aware, hauling a heavy laptop is a major burden in an education setting.
Thankfully, the laptop’s of today need not sacrifice performance for slimness as manufactures gravitate towards SSD storage and fanless enclosures. Let’s not also forget the death of the DVD drive, which has provided dramatically more space within the laptop for manufacturers to play with. Furthermore, the increasing pervasiveness of cloud storage, supported by the widespread availability of high-speed Internet, means students may not need to seek devices which boast a storage capacity above three figures.
5 The Best MacBook: MacBook Pro 13-inch
MacOS isn’t for everyone, but for those that can afford to pay the Apple tax, the latest MacBook Pro offers a familiar but stunning design that will last for years and fit in your bag without much trouble. Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar is the best laptop from the company for students and also happens to be the least expensive in the lineup of devices, at an eye-watering €1,549.
The 13-inch Retina display is one of the best in the industry thanks to excellent colour accuracy, viewing angles and brightness. Flanking the display are thin bezels which make this device appear more modern than most of its competitors. Of course, the aluminium unibody casing is gorgeous, and so too is the backlit keyboard. However, many may despair at the lack of key travel thanks to the implementation of a butterfly mechanism with the keyboard. Furthermore, the port selection on this device is shockingly poor, with just three USB-C connectors and a 3.5mm headphone jack. This will leave you fumbling for a dongle that supports a USB 3.0 and HDMI port, and Apple will be thrilled to sell you one of them too, at an Apple price of €80.
This particular laptop packs a seventh-generation Intel Core i5 processor, giving you plenty of power to do pretty much anything you like, including some light gaming. The battery life offered by this MacBook Pro will allow you to browse the web for up to 10 hours, and the 128GB SSD makes transferring files a simple task. The MacBook Pro is an excellent all-around laptop, providing you don’t need to take out a loan to purchase it.
4 The Best Student Gamer Laptop: Dell G3 15 3579
Want a laptop that runs your favourite games and boasts a uniquely conspicuous design? Dell’s G3 15 offers an incredible mix of performance, value and sleekness. Few gaming laptops are quite as ambiguous as this, and for all your fellow students know, this is just another ordinary laptop. But, under the hood, Intel’s eight generation Core i5 and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1050 with 4GB GDDR5 Graphics will allow you to game from sunrise to sundown without weighing you down.
A 256GB SSD gives you plenty of storage to work with for your games, and three USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI and Ethernet port flank the slim sides. The inclusion of a USB-C port will leave you future-proofed connectivity wise, and the presence of an SD card slot will please many. Did I forget to mention the beautiful 15.6-inch Full HD display that will soothe your eyes?
The polycarbonate casing is durable and lightweight, enhanced by blue accents which highlight the keyboard and trackpad. Battery life hovers over three hours, so you will need to bring your charger with you on most occasions. At over €800, this is technically considered a “budget” gaming laptop, but the overall build quality and performance will leave you wanting to game, non-stop.
3 The Best Value Laptop: HP 15-bs104na
While its name may be horrible, the value offered by this laptop certainly isn’t. Coming to a cost of over €600, this isn’t a cheap device, but value and price aren’t necessarily directly proportionate to one another. The latest version of Intel’s processor allows this laptop to speed through anything you throw at it, thanks to the eight generation Core i5. Multitasking is a breeze with 8GB of LDDR4X RAM, and you can store years worth of PowerPoint projects with a 1TB hard drive.
The 15.6-inch Full HD display is crisp and bright, catering for your Netflix binge sessions. For the expansive display, it is surprising that HP has managed to incorporate a thin and lightweight body. The body, by the way, is composed of textured polycarbonate, giving you more reassurance for longevity compared to fragile aluminium designs.
HP hasn’t replicated its war on ports with this laptop as there are plenty to choose from including multiple USB 3.0 ports, an ethernet port, HDMI port and the now rare 3.5mm headphone jack. Good battery life performance means you can type for longer, and rapid bootup times will allow you to race past your fellow students. This laptop packs a mighty punch for its price and should easily last you several years with sustained use.
2 The Best Affordable Laptop: Acer Chromebook 14
Google’s ChromeOS has grown rapidly since its introduction just a few years ago, and the use of Chromebooks for education is very prominent. And it’s easy to see why as the simplicity and affordability of these devices remains unmatched in a world dominated by Windows and MacOS. Furthermore, ChromeOS is designed specifically to perform well on low-end chipsets, leading to exceptional battery life. If you use Google’s services such as Drive, Docs, Chrome or Classroom, a Chromebook will be perfect for you.
Acer’s Chromebook 14 is a steal, at just over €220, and has rocketed to become one of the most purchased laptops on Amazon. With a 14-inch HD display, 12-hour battery life and a base SSD capacity of 32GB, the Chromebook 14 provides tremendous bang for your buck. What’s more, a sleek aluminium body that features a brushed finish will leave you wondering why people pay so much for their MacBooks.
As I mentioned, you will spend the vast majority of your time accessing Google services with this device, and of course, they will all require a stable Internet connection. To fulfil that need, Acer has included some impressive WiFi specs that include dual-band MIMO and 802.11ac support. The device includes two USB ports along with an HDMI port and a Kensington Lock port. The Intel Celeron processor certainly won’t win any applause and don’t expect to play even the lightest of games on this laptop. But for browsing the web, interacting with Google Docs and streaming some YouTube, this device performs admirably for its price.
1 The Best Overall Laptop: Microsoft Surface Pro 6
With the Surface Pro, Microsoft has shown the world that it can integrate hardware and software in a way that screams versatility and intuitiveness. From the sturdy design of the aluminium chassis to the ergonomic marvel that is the detachable Alcantara Signature Type cover (additional cost), this hybrid laptop will leave you praying for more documents to type. And don’t take my word for it, the device has won countless awards over the past number of years, and it accounts for a sizeable proportion of Microsoft’s hardware revenues.
As this is a hybrid laptop, the keyboard can be detached for use as a Windows tablet. This is particularly useful for consuming video content and for those who partake in art courses. The touchscreen display, at 12.3 inches, is plenty large to work with and the selection of ports includes several USB connectors, a MiniDisplay port, and 3.5mm headphone jack. Unfortunately, however, the absence of a USB C port will leave you vulnerable to the test of time as the port takes over our smartphones and other devices.
The latest generation from Microsoft, the Surface Pro 6, will set you back more than many will be willing to fork out, at over €900. However, there is the option of purchasing previous generation devices from stores online and in physical retailers across in Ireland. One word of advice, steer clear from the Intel Core M3 version of this laptop as its performance will be insufficient for many. Choosing the Core i5 version will provide you with ample power to browse the web, watch some Netflix on the stunning Full HD display and doodle with the Surface Pen (which is sold separately).