If you are matriculating into university this year, your laptop is something you interact with on a daily basis. You carry it around between classes, using it to type reports, read extensively and sometimes use it to complete your assignments. Thus, it is critical that you choose the right laptop that best suits your needs.
With so many brands and models available, it can be challenging for you to narrow down your options right away. Here’s our guide to help you make an informed laptop purchasing decision.
When To Buy?
Some universities partner with outside vendors that sell laptops compatible with the university’s IT environment. For example, SMU is currently organising its annual Notebook/Macbook Tender for SMU students, where laptops ordered will be delivered to your address. Look out for brochures and e-mail blasts from your school.
You can also purchase laptops from consumer electronics retailers like Challenger and Courts all year round. With dozens of retail outlets located island-wide, students can conveniently try out different laptop models before making a purchase. Additionally, Challenger is currently offering 3-month complimentary student membership to all students, which can be used to accumulate coupons and vouchers so your new laptop costs less.
Finally, if you don’t need a new laptop immediately, you could wait for September’s COMEX show, where you might compare laptop deals across hundreds of different exhibitors.
Conducting Needs Analysis
First and foremost, your university course plays a huge role in the type of laptop you should get.
For most students who use their laptops mostly for typing reports and internet browsing, most laptop models can suffice. However, the laptop you need will be very different if you are an Architecture or Media student, as it will require good processing power to handle the demands of your course.
While most laptops can meet the basic needs of your course, a good laptop can greatly enhance your quality of life in university.
One of your top concerns should be battery power, as your laptop needs to last through multi-hour lectures and digital examinations. Charging points can be hard to locate at times and a laptop constantly running low on battery life is a burden you can do without.
You will also be shuffling between lectures and project meetings, so the size and weight of your laptop should also be important considerations.
Your user experience is also an important factor, even for features like the keyboard and the screen which typically get overlooked, because you will be using your laptop heavily during your university days.
Lastly, all these features come at a price. Depending on your budget, you must carefully weigh how much each feature means to you before deciding to pay more.
If your course only requires your laptop to handle light browsing and normal assignments, it may be alright for you to make do with a cheaper laptop with decent performance.
Models To Consider: Acer Swift 1 SF114-32 ($898); Lenovo Ideapad 330S ($949); Dell Inspiron 15 5000 (5570) ($899)
If you don’t mind spending more for additional comfort, you can consider going for a mid-ranged laptop which provides faster speed and more battery life.
Models To Consider: Microsoft Surface Pro, ($1,288); ASUS ZenBook UX430UA ($1,298); Aftershock P-13 ($1,399)
If you’re looking for a laptop which will best enhance your university life, look no further. Ultrabooks pack high performance and computing power into thin lightweight laptops. However, high performance laptops usually come with a higher price tag.
Models To Consider: Lenovo T480 ($1,605); Dell XPS 13 (9360) ($1,899); Aftershock MX-15 Pro ($1,899)
Graphics Intensive Laptops
For students who regularly use their laptop graphic-intensive tasks, like video editing and graphics design, they should opt for laptops with a dedicated, high-performance graphics processor.
Models To Consider: Apple Macbook Pro ($2,399); MSI GP62 MVR 7X Leopard Pro ($1,999)
For all the laptops listed above, most come with the manufacturer’s warranty attached, which covers any manufacturing defects within a certain time frame. We wrote previously that extended warranty is unnecessary for most consumer electronics.
However, since most laptop warranties do not cover accidental damage (e.g. liquid spills/ cracked screens), so it may be a good idea to pay slightly more for accidental damage protection. A liquid spill can brick your laptop and without accidental damage coverage, the cost of repairing the motherboard can exceed hundreds of dollars, or at worst, require you to replace your laptop altogether.
You might need to cater some budget for purchasing additional specialised software that you might need in your course of study, especially for media, architecture, or engineering courses.
Most local universities provide students with complimentary copies of Office 365 ProPlus software, which provides all the essentials: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher and Access. If your university happens not to provide this software for free, you can opt for Google’s free suite of apps, like Google Docs and Google Slides, which can perform similar functions.
If you need to get additional software such as the Adobe Creative Cloud apps, which includes Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign, you can first download a free trial. If you need the software on a long-term basis, you can purchase the Creative Cloud All Apps student edition at a 60% discount.
Consult Your Seniors Before Buying
Before buying, it is always a good idea to consult your seniors about the actual laptop requirements needed in your course, and their actual real life experience with the laptops they are currently using.
If you are experiencing financial difficulties when it comes to buying a computer for school, you can try apply to the Info-Communications Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) NEU PC Plus Programme. The programme helps students from lower-income families get brand-new laptops and computers at a lower price. For successful applicants that cannot afford the co-payment, they can render community service to get a new fully-paid laptop.