In this article, I go over all the questions I asked myself when I had to buy a computer for my university studies. Whatever your computer skills and your budget, I share with you everything you absolutely need to know to intelligently choose your computer to support you during your studies.
Before continuing, let us specify that this article is not sponsored and that the recommendations which appear there were freely chosen.
Who am I to advise you on the choice of your computer?
I am the author of the site taimurkazmi.com and I gave computer lessons during all my compulsory and university studies. During my studies, I had the opportunity to test a lot of computers and note-taking techniques, so I have a good idea of what it is essential to take into account when choosing a suitable computer for intensive note-taking.
Mac, PC, iPad, Chromebook?
In the audiences, we see three types of computers:
- Laptops with Windows (Surface, Surface Book, Surface Pro, Thinkpad, Matebook, etc.)
- Laptops with macOS (MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro)
- For tablets (iPad, Galaxy Tab) and Google Chromebooks
For your choice, keep in mind that:
- Tablets are less ergonomic than a real laptop and you risk being quickly limited when you have to use certain software like R or Stata. Anyway, I don’t recommend going on this or a Google Chromebook. You will be limited too quickly.
- You can do the same things with a Mac as a PC with Windows. If you are hesitant between these two operating systems, choose what you find most comfortable to use. Nowadays, you have to know how to use both.
What should you watch out for?
Here are the elements that I really advise you to take into account when choosing the computer that will accompany you during your studies:
- Real battery life: choose a computer that will last at least 8 hours, because you may not always have a socket next to you during your lessons.
- The weight: you’ll be carrying your computer around every day, so think about your back and your comfort. I advise you to choose a computer that weighs between 800g and 2kg at most.
- Keyboard comfort: you’ll be typing a lot for several years, so choose a keyboard that you find enjoyable and that feels solid.
- Screen size and quality: think about your eyes and choose a computer that features a bright screen with good contrast. Also check that the text on the screen is crisp, not too large or too small and that the visibility of the screen does not vary too much depending on the angle from which you are viewing it. If so, the screen is of poor quality. For the size of the screen, I advise you to take a 13 inches. A 15 inch will increase the weight of your computer to around 2kg and having tested both sizes during my studies, this does not add much.
- The processor: simply checks that the computer has an Intel brand processor on board. Favor the i5 and i7 models and avoid the entry-level i3. For this point, you just have to look at the technical sheet of the computer you want.
- Memory: 8 GB is a minimum, I recommend 16 GB. Again, this information can be found on the technical sheet of the computer you want.
- Storage space: 256 GB is the minimum, I recommend 512 GB if you do photography or have a lot of data (music, video, etc.).
Finally, try to stay in well-known brands like Apple, Microsoft, Lenovo, HP, DELL, and at the limit Huawei, Asus, and Acer if your budget is tighter.
Good plans to save money
Universities often have partnerships that allow them to offer very advantageous conditions to students. For the University of Lausanne (UNIL) and EPFL in Switzerland, there are for example the Neptun and Poseidon projects which are particularly interesting. So check with your school to find out if such a program exists.
You will also be able to make substantial savings if you do not buy your computer in supermarkets. Prices are generally more interesting on sites like digitec.ch, microspot.ch, ldlc.com or even amazon.fr However, this does not prevent you from going to see and test the computer that interests you in a store. .
Finally, beware of promotions … because they are used in most cases to sell outdated computers that are equipped with old processors. In IT, cheap is often very expensive, because it has to be replaced quickly (too slow, unstable, poor quality, etc.).
My recommendations: the MacBook Pro or the Surface Book
If your budget allows it, I would definitely recommend you opt for a 13- inch MacBook Pro. This computer fulfills all the criteria you need and it’s no coincidence that this is what you see the most in universities.
If you are allergic to Apple and your budget allows it, I definitely recommend you choose a Surface Book or Surface Laptop from Microsoft. It is the equivalent of Apple in terms of quality in the world of Windows.
If your budget is more limited, here are some good options:
To conclude, I advise you to always read a test of the specific model that you will remember before proceeding to the checkout. This will allow you to checkpoints that are not obvious to grasp when reading the technical sheet of a computer. such as the actual autonomy, the quality of the screen, or the comfort of typing the keyboard.