So you’re off to college or university – you’re going to need a laptop to help you with your studies. Which means you’ll need to answer one question before you do any shopping around: do you go for an Apple machine or a PC?
A good place to start your shopping (window or otherwise!) is www.ebay.co.uk where there is a huge range of laptops on offer. But before you do that, here are some pointers to help you jump one way or the other.
What tools does your course require?
One of the key influences on your decision is the kind of software you’ll be using throughout your course. The Guardian’s Ask Jack Blog suggests speaking with college or university staff to find out which software they recommend.
Apple MacBooks support a particularly strong suite of graphics and video editing software. Studying business? Then perhaps a PC laptop would be a better bet thanks to being a good platform for Microsoft Office. Having said that, it’s perfectly possible to run applications such as Microsoft Excel on Macs, but you’d need to get used to the different shortcuts and hotkeys.
Do you need to get hands on?
Allow yourself a buffer period before the hard work starts so that you can get used to your new laptop. If you’ve used PCs in the main, you’ll need to find your way around a Mac, and vice versa. The Windows operating system is very different from Mac OS X. It’s a matter of preference as to which is better for you, so it’s a good idea to try both if you’re undecided. See if your friends will let you try their machines out for size.
Where will you do your work?
The build quality of your laptop is important, and here Macs often have the upper hand. Solidly built and with an aluminium casing, they’re designed to both look good and withstand the rigours of being thrown into a bag and bumped around during a last-minute dash to a lecture. High-end Acer laptops also feature metal bodies.
Make sure you try out the keyboards on different devices. Macs feature island-style keyboards, where each key is clearly separated from the next. Sony Vaio laptops also feature this. If you’re going to be typing in a darkened hall, think about backlit keyboards – another feature of both Macs and Vaios.
Need for speed?
Although it’s a good idea to choose a Mac or PC laptop with as fast a processor as possible – especially if you’re creating visual content – there does come a point when speed ceases to be so useful. Macs and PC laptops with Intel Core i5 processors are very nearly as capable as Core i7 versions, but cost much less.
What’s your budget?
Macs are traditionally much more expensive than PC laptops, thanks to their superior build quality and often more feature-packed, inbuilt software. However, PC laptops with similar features can be just as much. Portability, battery life, hard drive space, processor speed; all of these features and more will push up the price of your laptop. The advantage of a PC device is you have much more control over what features you include and pay for.