2019 guide to the best computers for students

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Introduction

With the incredibly high number of choices and options available on the market today, choosing a computer to be your constant companion can be more than a little daunting, especially when you’re a student going back to, or joining university for the first time.

The chances are that you have been putting some serious thought into the kind of PC you will require, and so this guide is here to provide you with the perfect starting point and highlight what is and is’’t important when choosing a computer.

If your pushed for time however, the short answer to the most suitable option and specification is the HP PAVILION 14 and the

Best computers for students

HP Pavilion 14" HD Notebook

Screen Size: 14-inch (1,920 x 1,080) | Processor: 3.1 GHz Core i3-4160T | Ram: 8 GB SDRAM | Hard Drive/Storage: 1 TB 5400 rpm SATA | Graphics Card: Intel HD Graphics 620 | Average Battery Life: 7.75 hours | Weight: 4.85 pounds | Dimensions:
13.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches

Best Mac computer for students

Apple MacBook Air 13"

Screen Size: 13.3-inch (1440 x 900) | Processor: 1.8 GHz Dual-core Intel Core i5 processor | Ram: 8GB memory | Hard Drive/Storage: 128gb SSD | Graphics Card: Intel HD Graphics 6000 | Average Battery Life: 12 hours | Weight: 2.96 pounds | Dimensions: 12.8 inches (32.5 cm) x 8.94 inches (22.7 cm)

…How to choose the best student computer

Before we move on, there are a variety of factors that you need to take into consideration as a student shopping for a computer.

The first one is the nature of the activities that you will be using the computer for. This is where the kind of course you are taking comes into play. If you are taking a course that requires graphic intensive software, for example Architecture or 3D Animation, it is a good idea to go for a computer with a more powerful processor.

…and in which case we recommend that you visit the below buyers guide:

If you plan to do the majority of work via programmes such as Microsoft Word for example, and watching the occasional movie, an averagely spec’d computer will comfortably serve all your purposes.

Secondly, besides your course, your hobbies as a student should also come into play. Are you an avid gamer? What sort of games do you play? Do you make YouTube videos for fun? Some hobbies will guide you on the kind of computer to lean towards, so keep this in mind.

Another very important factor that you need to consider is your budget!

Most students have very limited cash flow, and unless you can get help from elsewhere (parents!?!), it is likely that you will not be able to afford a high end computer.

So have a specific budget in mind as you look through the various specifications, because this will ultimately determine the kind of computer you will end up buying. We all want the best, most powerful, flashiest computer with all the bells and whistles, but not all of us can afford one.

That being said, no one likes settling for less. There is no point in buying a machine that you don’t like in the first place. If it does not serve your purposes, don’t buy it.

…But how can you tell whether or not a computer will suit your needs? That is where this guide comes in. Here is the ultimate computer buying guide for students:

Laptops vs Desktops vs All-in-ones

Before we get to any specifics, the absolute first thing you need to have is a clear understanding of what is the difference between these three terms.

So what are the differences between laptops, desktops and all-in-one computers?

Well, all three categories of computer have their own uniqueness in terms of their conveniences and inconveniences. This is why it is necessary to carefully analyze each one of them before making a choice.

Laptops

Laptops are hugely popular among students, and although we do not think it is necessary to explain what a laptop is, we will still do exactly that, just in case there is someone out there who has never seen one.

A laptop is a type of portable personal computer that is designed to be used by being placed on laps. Hence its name. A laptop’s screen and keyboard area are roughly 90 degrees apart, and can be folded shut when not in use.

Laptops are popular because they are light and portable, allowing the user to continue working with them on the go. Most laptops have a battery life of at least 6 to 7 hours, and come with an accompanying charger for the battery.

A laptop is a good idea for a student for one main reason: portability. They are very easy to carry around and to use whenever and wherever you want. Plus, with laptops only getting smaller and lighter, they just keep getting more and more convenient to carry around in a backpack.

Laptops are also getting more and more powerful, and as a student your laptop’s processing power can be very important, especially if pursuing courses such as engineering and design.

Powerful laptops are also great for gaming. If you are studying digital game design and/or if you are an avid gamer or into online esports, you will need a powerful machine. A good processor and graphics card are an absolute must.

In this way, laptops have evolved into something more than just all business and studies. Today, they can be anything you want them to be.

Laptops come in all shapes and sizes. They also come in many different price ranges. There are high end laptops that cost thousands of dollars, mid-range laptops that are between $500 to $1000, and cheap laptops that cost less than $500.

There is also another category here that we’ll mention although we strongly advice against; and that is cheap second hand laptops.

If you are on a tight budget, then you may be considering a refurbished or second hand laptop. Second hand laptops are used laptops while refurbished laptops are laptops that have been assembled from a variety of different parts from other laptops of the same model.

However, be warned, if you opt to buy one of these, the quality is never guaranteed, but that said it can be a cost effect way to but a mac, and there are several very good apple refurbishment companies out there.

To conclude, buying a laptop always comes down to how much you want to spend on a computer and what your own personal tastes are. The mind-boggling variety of options you have when buying a laptop is really what makes them great. However, this is also what makes it hard to find what you really want.

Desktops

Desktop PCs are the pioneers of personal computers. They are bulkier and heavier than laptops, and definitely a lot less portable. They also pack a lot more power than the average laptop, but are completely reliable on an external power source, and if without one, are rendered useless.

Desktop PCs have gradually decreased in size over the years, and do not occupy as much space as they used to. In fact, there are desktops that can occupy less space than some laptops.

The typical desktop is a two-unit system, the screen and the tower. The tower houses all the important parts that make it a computer, such as the CPU and the hard drive.

Although you won’t be able to move around with a desktop, they provide you with a much more powerful workstation for your work. So if you are a design, architecture, or engineering student, or another computer graphics-intensive course, a powerful desktop will suit you perfectly.

Another great feature of desktops or PCs is the fact that they are customizable. This means that you can tweak your computer’s hardware, adding more powerful components as you go. For example, you could increase the RAM (memory) to enable your desktop to run more memory hungry programs, and/or more programs at once. This feature is essential especially if you want to future-proof your machine.

With a desktop, you can buy once and then upgrade as and when required.

Laptops lack in this aspect. They are rigid and therefore you cannot add much to them. Often, the only aspect of the laptop you can tinker with is its storage. However, for some laptops, even this is impossible, as access to the computer’s internals is blocked by design.

Another great feature with PCs is the storage. By default, PCs have much more storage space than other computers. You can also add several hard drives to the computer without compromising its performance.

All-in-one computers

All-in-one computers are a bit different from the other two categories. An all-in-one computer typically features a stand-alone screen unit that houses all the computer components in the back.

Some variants are touchscreen while others aren’t. A keyboard and mouse come as standard input devices for this category.

All-in-one computers bridge the gap between laptops and desktops. The features they have is a mix of the other two categories.

When choosing between these three types of computers, you need to be sure to get one that suits your daily needs near-perfectly. So before going out shopping, do your homework until you get the best idea of what you want.

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Storage options

When it comes to storage options, you need to think about your overall needs and requirements. What will you be storing on your computer? Will you have some additional external storage? Will you be storing your files on the cloud?

Generally speaking, however, bigger is better when it comes to storage. So go for the largest storage space for your device, within reason. Everyday files today are gradually getting better with added quality and features, and this only means larger file sizes.

There are two storage options available for computers. These are the HDD, or the hard disk drive, and the SSD, or the solid state drive. These two do pretty much the same thing, but they do it very differently.

The HDD is basically the older version of storage options. You will find the HDD mostly in older generation devices. The newer SSD is slowly replacing the HDD, and most computers in production will come with the SSD as standard.

However an HDD is the cheaper of the two especially for drives over 1TB, with many drives of a larger capacity available for reasonable prices.

Why choose an SSD over the HDD?

  • An SSD has faster access times of 35 to 100 microseconds meaning it is nearly 100 times faster than the HDD. Programs will, therefore, run more smoothly on this option.

  • It is more reliable of the two because it has no moving parts. It uses flash memory to store data which provides better performance.

  • It uses less power than the HDD meaning a lower energy bill.

  • It makes less noise compared to the HDD because it has no moving parts.

  • SSDs come in smaller sizes. Available in 1.0, 1.8, 2.5 inches which are way less than the 3.5 and 2.5 inches that the HDDs come in.

  • SSDs produce less heat because they lack moving parts.

The Operating system

The operating system is another factor that should definitely be taken into consideration when shopping for your computer as a student. There are hundreds of computer systems out there, but Microsoft Windows and Mac OS are the main ones that will probably cross your mind when you think of operating systems.

Therefore, we will focus on these two. However, keep in mind that there are computers that come with other operating systems by default. For example, there are Linux computers and computers that run on Google’s Chrome OS.

When compared to Windows, Mac computers are easier and probably the most secure to use. You can also easily synchronize all your devices using Mac OS. Windows computers can do this but you will have to use specific apps.

On the other hand, Windows is the most common operating system in the world. Almost all software is created first for Windows then for Mac OS. Therefore, as a Mac user, you will probably run into some compatibility issues at some point when dealing with software.

Also, with Windows, you have a wider variety of computer options and brands to choose from. With Mac OS, you will be tied down to one brand and their products, so you have to consciously decide whether this is something you want.

All in all, although Windows OS is more widespread, Mac OS supporters are much more vocal and will eagerly let you know that Mac OS is the better operating system.

How true is this? That answer is the subject of an age-old debate that we wouldn’t want to get into here. Ultimately, it is all a matter of personal choice. So before you choose one, do your own personal analysis and decide for yourself.

Choosing a graphics card

Graphics cards are particularly important for students in design and engineering fields. Some of the programs and software that these courses need are very demanding on the computer’s Graphics Processing Unit(GPU), so if you do not want to risk crashing your computer entirely, get one that can handle intense processing tasks.

The Graphics card you have installed on your device will heavily impact your device’s performance. It is also what determines the overall visual experience you will have.

If you are considering getting a gaming machine, the graphics card still comes into play. Get a powerful graphics processor for the best experience. Luckily, variety in this aspect is available with many options to choose from.

How to choose one

To help you pick one we will quickly explain how to choose the right graphics card.

When choosing your GPU, it is important to really know what kind of programs and tasks that you will be running.

When running light tasks like browsing, sending and receiving mail and the occasional light game, then you will not really need to invest in a dedicated graphics card. You will only need to make sure that the normal specs like the RAM, storage and CPU are in check.

CPUs have an integrated GPU that will be enough for light tasks. For the best experience, you will still need to choose a processor like Intel’s core range like the i5, i7 or the i9.

For intense tasks like running specialty programs and gaming, you will need a discrete, standalone GPU. This is a dedicated graphics processor that will push more advanced functions, such as the bleeding-edge Ray Tracing technology or 4K resolution.

In the market today, there are two players in the graphics card game; NVIDIA and AMD. These two companies produce top of the range graphics processors that will support all standard functions, so it is a good idea to start your search with these.

Other players on the market include Gigabyte, ASUS and MSI who put their own spins on the core hardware developed by the industry leaders.

When looking for flexibility and portability, be on the lookout for laptops and notebooks with special graphics card logos.

Memory

RAM, or Random Access Memory, is what determines performance speed. The more RAM you have, the better your computer will handle most tasks.

Here is how it works: As a computer performs its tasks, it stores bits of information for faster retrieval so it doesn’t have to redo everything next time.

Here is a good analogy: if you load a site with lots of images, it might take a while for everything to appear on screen. If you close the page and try loading it up again, it will load up a lot faster the second time because bits of information had been backed up in your browser, these are called the cache files.

RAM works in the same way. As the computer runs its processes, it stores bits and pieces of information in the RAM memory, to be accessed randomly as needed.

Therefore, the more RAM you have, the more your computer can store, and the faster it will be. More complex processes have a lot more data to be stored, so they may require your computer to have a particular minimum RAM limit.

Basically that’s how RAM works in oversimplified terms. It fetches all your data, so the more RAM you have in your computer, the faster it handles its tasks.

Computers today have RAM ranging from 3GB to 64GB with the most common being 8GB and 16GB.

Processor

All the basic instructions of a computer go through the processor, and for this reason the size of the processor is what you should always check first. A 2.7GHz works great but a 3.6GHz processor is even better.

Also, check the speed of the Front Side Bus(FSB). A front side bus of 800 MHz or more is what you need as a student.

The processor’s cache should be at least 1MB for average requirements but for extreme users and those of you who run larger or more powerful programs for a considerable amount of time, get the largest cache you can afford.

Intel and AMD are the most common manufacturers of processors. Intel’s processors are among the best in the world, Intel’s Core i9 being the latest of intel’s series after i3, i5 and i7. AMD has the Ryzen series, with their latest being the AMD Ryzen 7.

Choosing a monitor/laptop screen size

When choosing a screen size, several factors come into play. As a student, portability should be your number one consideration. However, if you are getting a desktop PC, go for the biggest, richest display you can afford.

For laptops, the story is a little different. You want to be able to carry your computer around without having to deal with excessive bulkiness and weight. Therefore, if you plan on carrying your laptop often, get a laptop with 11 to 14 inches of screen.

15-inch laptops are the most popular laptop size. They can be quite heavy though, so consider this if you plan on carrying your laptop often.

Laptops with a screen size of 17 to 18 inches are best if you plan on leaving your laptop on the desk most of the time.

4K and HDR

4k resolution is four times the pixel resolution or twice the line resolution. It provides more detailed images even for larger screens. This means smoother edges and depths. With HDR there’s more contrast and detail in color, creating deeper difference than we can see with standard resolution.

Resolution

The resolution of the screen determines the clarity of images and texts. A resolution of at least 800 by 600 pixels is recommended. You can always change it in the settings to be up to 1920 by 1080 pixels, depending on how much your monitor can support.

Display ratio and brightness

The display ratio goes in hand with the resolution to determine clarity. Most computers now come with a ratio of up to 16:9. You can always change the settings to suit your needs.

Your main consideration for brightness should be whether or not you are going to be using the laptop indoors or outdoors, and whether or not you are going to be working near large light sources, for example, next to a window. Most laptops today can be easily readjusted to suit the lighting conditions they are being used in, though.

Final thoughts

With these pointers, you should now be able to quickly figure out exactly what you need in a computer and to have a great launching point for your search.

Just remember, patience is key when searching for the perfect computer. It will be a huge part of at least the next three years of your life, so take your time and consider all your options well.

As this is the only way you will avoid the common pitfall of buying the wrong machine. So take your time and you will be just fine. Good luck!

 

 

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Computers for students discount

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