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What Is The Best Laptop For Home Learning Students

In this guide: Which home learning laptops have the best features for students? Which spec is best for your course? What budget do you need?

Home Learning Laptops - The best laptop for home learning students

 

The accessibility of home learning has levelled the playing field for many in recent years. For example, when we consider those classified as ‘mature learners’, this group (254,000 students) made up 37% of all undergraduate entrants to universities across the UK in the 19/20 academic year.

 

Chart showing the avearge age of students is getting lower over the last fifteen years

 

However, one of the main drawbacks for these students is that they have a lot of extra-curricular commitments such as family ties and career obligations. As a result of these challenging schedules, many are now opting for the more flexible and accommodating home learning route.

When studying an undergraduate degree in early years education or psychology, for example, it’s understandable that a significant number of these learners are not completely confident in finding the best laptop for home learning. Moreover, they are unsure which laptop is fit for their specific requirements.

Choosing a laptop for home learning may seem daunting when combined with the overall pressure of what it is actually going to be used for. However, knowing exactly what is required in terms of processing power, installed programs and storage capacity is the best start you can make.

At the end of this article, we have provided a simple table to help make a decision on the best laptop for home learning. You can go straight to this table by clicking here.

Choosing An Operating System

Let us first consider The Open University, one of the largest providers of online higher education for students around the world. To comfortably complete even the first year of an undergraduate degree, a student will need a laptop for home learning that firstly has the current version of 64-bit Windows 10 operating system, as Open University no longer supports Windows 7.

An updated version of Windows 10 will also ensure the laptop is kept secure, and will be protected from most harmful viruses and problematic applications. Windows 10 comes complete with comprehensive privacy and security such as Windows Defender, and free access to OneDrive – a secure online cloud storage solution.

Storage Capacity

In addition to the operating system, storage capacity should be of high importance, due to the amount of MS Word, PowerPoint and Excel spreadsheets students will produce and access throughout a course. A large capacity HDD (Hard Disk Drive) or SSD (Solid State Drive). If students will be accessing large files (HD images, videos etc.), an SSD is highly recommended due to the speed in which files load in applications.

Students may also benefit from a OneDrive subscription, but Microsoft offer a 5GB solution for free. This will enable students to access their files from anywhere (including their smartphone) using the OneDrive cloud-based storage solution. This is especially helpful when on the move or sharing content between groups.

Required Applications

The next consideration for any laptop that is used for home learning is that of the applications required for the course. One of the main applications required for any student is Microsoft Word, or MS Word as it is often called. This application is part of Microsoft Office or Microsoft Office 365. Some traditional and education providers provide free access to Office 365 as part of the course, so you may not have to pay for this yourself.

Whilst there are of course free/open-source alternatives available, MS Word is the recommended application for most home learning universities - The Open University in particular. For instance, when completing one of the twelve (at least!) assignments for a full-time degree first year course, most will require the implementation of graphs or PowerPoint presentations. Including such things can be difficult to master for anyone who has not used the applications before, hence why the university often provides detailed instructions. These instructions are provided in MS Word format, and some of the free or open-source word processing applications may have a problem viewing parts of the content.

Processor Power

The processor in a laptop is denoted as “CPU” in specifications, which stands for Central Processing Unit. This is the ‘brain’ of the laptop, where everything is processed and calculated. Every image on your screen, every audio clip you play, and every video you watch is processed by the CPU and then stored to memory in some way.

A processor is capable of multitasking too, which will not limit your ability to watch a video and take notes for example. The power and speed of a processor will determine how fast you are able to perform tasks as well as how many tasks you can do at the same time without your laptop slowing down. Although your CPU works alongside your laptop’s memory (RAM), the processor is a key component in an uninterrupted workflow.

Many virtual lessons are delivered online through education providers such as The Open University. Any laptop for home learning will need to have the processing power required to access online tutorials. These tutorials are most often accessed via the Adobe Connect application for Windows or Mac OS. For those using Windows, an Intel Core 2 or faster is recommended by Adobe in order to access any tutorials on their platform, in addition to at least 2GB of RAM. In addition to these virtual lessons/tutorials, there will be many interactive quizzes available to students, alongside potential Microsoft Teams meetings for collaborative group work between peers.

Naturally, depending on the course you are studying, processing power will be a major factor. For example, if you are studying a video editing course, and you are going to be using applications such as Adobe Premiere Pro, then your processor, memory and graphics card will all need to be pretty powerful. Compare this with a student who will only ever use their laptop for internet browsing, MS Office and watching lectures online, and you will see a vast difference in both price point and power.

Memory (RAM)

With a powerful processor, the next consideration is the laptop’s memory or ‘RAM’ (Random Access Memory). When a processor has finished processing a command, it needs somewhere to temporarily store the result or action. This is where RAM comes into play.

For example, if you are creating a very detailed PowerPoint slideshow, and you begin adding high quality images or animations, the processor will perform the action and store the resulting images etc. in the RAM. Once you save the slideshow, it is then committed to the hard drive’s storage.

What Is The Best Laptop For Home Learning Students?

This table highlights the system requirements depending on a home learning student’s needs.

 

Usage OS Storage CPU RAM Recommended Laptop
Light Use such as MS Office, Internet Browsing, Online Video Windows 10 128GB SSD AMD Ryzen 3 4GB Lenovo V15 15.6" 4GB Ryzen 3 Laptop
Medium Use, as above plus use of processor intensive apps such as Adobe Photoshop Windows 10 256GB SSD AMD Ryzen 3 8GB Lenovo V14 14" 8GB 256GB Ryzen 3 Laptop
Heavy Use, all the above plus CAD / graphics / video / audio creation applications Windows 10 512GB SSD Ryzen 9 / Intel Core i7 16GB Dell XPS 15 9500 15.6" 16GB Core i7 Laptop

 

Summary

Though selecting a laptop for home learning may seem like there are many gaps in requirements versus features, this is mainly because there are so many options available in the marketplace.

Once you find out which applications you will be required to use throughout your course, you can then compare with the specifications of various laptops. For example, every software application provides a list of recommended computer specifications for optimum use:

Adobe Photoshop

 

  Minimum Recommended
Processor ARM processor
Operating System Windows 10 ARM device running Windows 10 64-bit v19041.488.0 (Win10 20H2)
RAM 8GB 16GB or more
Graphics Card 4GB of GPU memory
All the other aspects for ARM are the same as Intel

 

Adobe Premiere Pro

 

  Minimum Recommended
Processor Intel 6th Gen or newer CPU or AMD Ryzen 1000 Series or newer CPU Intel 7th Gen or newer CPU or AMD Ryzen 3000 Series or newer CPU
Operating System Microsoft Windows 10 (64-bit) version 2004 or later
RAM 8GB 16GB for HD media
32GB for 4K media or higher
Graphics Card 2GB of GPU VRAM

For a list of recommended graphic cards, see Recommended graphics cards for Adobe Premiere Pro.
4GB of GPU VRAM

For a list of recommended graphic cards, see Recommended graphics cards for Adobe Premiere Pro.
Hard Disk Space 8GB of available hard-disk space for installation; additional free space required during installation (will not install on removable flash storage)

Additional high-speed drive for media
Fast internal SSD for app installation and cache

Additional high-speed drive(s) for media
Monitor Resolution 1280 x 800 1920 x 1080 or greater
Sound Card ASIO compatible or Microsoft Windows Driver Model
Network Connection 1 Gigabit Ethernet (HD only) 10 Gigabit ethernet for 4K shared network workflow

 

As we can see from the two applications above, the requirements of a photo editing application are less demanding than a video editing application.

Of course, it is also advisable to discuss laptop requirements with your course tutor, as they may be able to recommend a specification to suit the applications throughout your course.