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Work Hard, Play Hard - Your Laptop Buying Guide

For the budget-conscious student, a gaming laptop needs to multi-task work and play without compromise.

 

Work Hard, Play Hard - Your Laptop Buying Guide

 

If you're a student at college or university, you are not short of options when it comes to laptops that will give you the portable performance you need for study and entertainment. Laptops need to tick many boxes for students, and manufacturers now understand that student laptops need to be equipped with the kind of hardware that is an all in one solution, capable of delivering a raft of features students need as a priority, but with practicality in mind. Essentially, the ability to multi-task a number of work and leisure activities are at the top of the list.

With all these features in mind, we've put together a checklist for choosing the ideal student laptop for your requirements - with a focus on budget and getting as much bang for your buck as possible. The two aspects we're looking at is performance and practicality.

Why Students Choose Gaming Laptops

When we recommend a gaming laptop to students, we're - very seldom - met with the response: "But I don't play games?". Even though that may be the case, we still need to factor in the many needs of a modern student, and a gaming laptop is actually more suited to this than any other spec.

 

Student playing a game on a gaming laptop

 

Certainly, there's evidence to suggest the number of students who are avid gamers is very high. Statista.com states "An October 2020 to January 2021 survey of UK adults aged 16 years and older found that 92%of respondents aged between 16 and 24 years had ever played video games, up from a 73% gaming penetration among the same age group in the previous year. Overall, gaming uptake increased in 2020 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic."

With statistics like this, it's clear why manufacturers like Dell, Lenovo, ASUS, Gigabyte and co are all very focused on making laptops available to this demographic, with specifications based on the performance and practicality students need.

Performance

Students no longer need an excuse to purchase a gaming laptop, in all honesty, because it makes perfect sense to choose one over a specification designed just for Office 365 and internet browsing. Although the needs of a human science student are vastly different from the needs of a computer science student, there is a crossover between a lot of areas of study when it comes to laptop specification. A gaming laptop (in terms of specification) is capable of meeting the needs of most types of student, because the features are focused on performance.

A gaming laptop usually offers: -

  • Extended battery life
  • Decent storage
  • Substantial memory
  • Powerful processing

These are the kind of features that lend themselves to a number of areas of study, and will be sufficient to meet the demands of most types of student.

Whether you are studying computer science or pursuing an academic career in multimedia editing, a gaming laptop has you covered for any kind of workload in school hours, but also gives you the ability to watch your favourite streaming TV shows, play games and enjoy extra-curricular activities without worrying about performance.

The priorities are: -

  • Reliable Wi-Fi and fast ethernet for working on the move
  • Multi-tasking processing power
  • Full HD for streaming services (Netflix, Prime Video etc.)
  • Mid-level to high gaming performance for the gamers

So, to ensure you are covering both work and play, a gaming laptop is your best bet.

Practicality

In terms of looks, we've definitely moved on from the boring, grey slabs of plastic, with some gaming laptops looking like Ferrari's designers had a hand in their production. This might put off those who really do need to work a laptop hard, and could be misconstrued as style over substance. This is not the case, thankfully. When it comes to practicality, gaming laptops have the specification and feature-set that can meet the requirements of any pragmatic student: -

  • Lightweight portability
  • Responsive and tactile keyboard
  • Reliable storage

It makes sense that you want a laptop that is light enough to be carried from class to class, a keyboard that feels comfortable when writing those mammoth dissertations, and a storage drive that won't lose your work. Again, gaming laptops have practicality at the top of the list, because these are the kind of features you need - however you choose to save the world.

 

Gigabyte gaming laptop - low profile

Gigabyte low profile laptop (G5)

 

Specifications

The specification of a student laptop does have some minimums. This will tick all of the boxes above, and also ensure budget is kept quite low, which we'll cover in the next section.

Processor

Ideally, you will need a 10th-Gen/11th-Gen Intel or Ryzen 7 processor at a minimum, but if you have the budget for a new Intel 12th-Gen in 2022, then you are absolutely going to get performance that rivals a desktop machine.

Processors such as the Intel Core i5 10300H are popular in gaming laptops, and are usually paired with a GTX or RTX graphics card. Similarly, you will see the 11th-Gen Intel Core i5 11400H in many specifications that are geared towards portable gaming. Both of these processors are hard working, multi-tasking chips that are comfortable under pressure when it comes to tough jobs.

From AMD, we see a lot of laptops with the Ryzen 7 4800H and Ryzen 7 5800H/U. Again, a solid choice in a gaming laptop, and actually benchmarking higher than Intel's comparable CPUs.

From a budget standpoint, you can pick up laptops with these processors for under £1000.

Memory

8GB and 16GB options are preferable, allowing for smooth multi-tasking and no slowing down under pressure. Gaming will require a decent amount of memory, but so will day to day workloads. If you are editing and rendering videos, for example, this is a perfect example of needing to get the processor, RAM and graphics card just right so you don't experience any sluggishness while you're working away.

Storage

SSD is a must when it comes to storage, as this allows for fast transfers of data, and the least likelihood of data being lost/corrupt. An external hard drive is always good, but you'll want to be using at least 512GB of internal SSD at a minimum.

Budget Gaming Laptops

Naturally, cost is a factor for students. Whilst there is the availability of grants and bursaries for purchasing IT equipment, keeping the budget low is preferable, and - notably with some brands - does not always mean scrimping on features and specification.

Best Brands For Budget Gaming Laptops

MSI, Gigabyte, ASUS and Lenovo all have winners in the budget gaming arena, and with their innovations in mobile gaming, they are a solid choice for work and play.

 

MSI Gaming Laptops for Students

 

MSI laptops are renowned for their ability to handle AAA titles on a budget, with their Katana and Stealth ranges. Most of the Katana range is sub-£1000, and for those who want a little more punch, the Stealth range offer RTX graphics cards that perform extremely well despite the low profile of the laptop itself, thanks to excellent cooling and reduced power consumption.

ASUS and Gigabyte have a lot of skin in the game, and have dedicated a lot of R&D to mobile gaming - cooling and power management being the priorities. ASUS offer their TUF range, and Strix laptops for the mobile gamer on a budget, whereas Gigabyte are best known for their G5 and G7 laptops in this price range.

Lenovo have tried to shed their "bargain basement" image, and both their Ideapad and V15 range have performance and price for the student contingent. That said, they are less able to compete with the aforementioned brands when it comes to offering dedicated graphics as well as processor & memory specifications.

Last Word

For students, a gaming laptop offers the ability to enjoy some well-earned downtime, with the power to deliver the required performance when needed in a classroom. Choosing a laptop that meets our above criteria means you have the best of both worlds, without breaking the bank. From watching Netflix to writing a ten-thousand word essay, you can find a laptop brand that meets your needs, and when you want to jump on a quick multiplayer Battle Royale - you'll have the hardware to compete.