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Specs to look out for (or avoid) when shopping for a laptop for University

CoolEng
Go to solution Solved by RabbidEwok,

Depends on your budget. Easiest answer is just get a MBA 

Hi everyone!

I haven't had a laptop since I converted to a full desktop pre-built to which I upgraded last year.


What are important specs to look out for/seek (or avoid) for shopping for laptops for university use? This is graduate level in business major.


Intel or AMD? How many cores? Is 8GB enough ? Storage isn't a big deal here. Are on-board graphic decent? Any brands to avoid or stay away from due to popular reputation (iirc HP was known for bad battery).


No gaming. Mostly for general web browsing, some apps open while in class or doing group work and to use laptop on a full day's battery (7-8hrs).

I thought about this post after asking couple of sales reps in different stores (I am in Canada) and they advised to not get some laptops as some specs aren't enough for MS as an OS. This was in passing on a Black Friday.

Any suggestions or tips are greatly appreciated! 

P.S Some context of my little knowledge: I had two Dell XPSs laptops before. One in high-school and one in my undergraduate. And I was told Asus laptops are a good way to go these days, by a sales manager at a major PC store who admitted was an Asus fanboy lol.

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I got a fairly cheap laptop myself (Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15IRU8), and the only thing I would for sure avoid are laptops with 8GB of RAM, at this point you really should be shooting for 16GB (12GB is fine but you’ll be leaving performance on the table since it’ll be running in single channel). Other than that my only personal rule is to avoid HP, I work with them all the time ranging from their obscenely cheap ones all the way up to Spectres, and none of them have impressed me with how they behave or wear over time. Integrated graphics are also probably fine, they’ve gotten surprisingly competent with time so unless you’re doing some pretty hardcore shit you’ll likely be fine.

 

Aside from that the only other thing I’ll say is you might end up needing to familiarize yourself with ThrottleStop, I know on my laptop they followed the Intel spec religiously and it was super sluggish. I threw TS on there with a profile for both battery and wall power, so now it is significantly faster in both modes and hasn’t lost enough battery life to be a concern for me (and if it is I have a third profile that gimps it just as hard if not harder than stock).

Main rig on profile

VAULT - File Server

Spoiler

Intel Core i5 11400 w/ Shadow Rock LP, 2x16GB SP GAMING 3200MHz CL16, ASUS PRIME Z590-A, 2x LSI 9211-8i, Fractal Define 7, 256GB Team MP33, 3x 6TB WD Red Pro (general storage), 3x 1TB Seagate Barracuda (dumping ground), 3x 8TB WD White-Label (Plex) (all 3 arrays in their respective Windows Parity storage spaces), Corsair RM750x, Windows 11 Education

Sleeper HP Pavilion A6137C

Spoiler

Intel Core i7 6700K @ 4.4GHz, 4x8GB G.SKILL Ares 1800MHz CL10, ASUS Z170M-E D3, 128GB Team MP33, 1TB Seagate Barracuda, 320GB Samsung Spinpoint (for video capture), MSI GTX 970 100ME, EVGA 650G1, Windows 10 Pro

Mac Mini (Late 2020)

Spoiler

Apple M1, 8GB RAM, 256GB, macOS Sonoma

Consoles: Softmodded 1.4 Xbox w/ 500GB HDD, Xbox 360 Elite 120GB Falcon, XB1X w/2TB MX500, Xbox Series X, PS1 1001, PS2 Slim 70000 w/ FreeMcBoot, PS4 Pro 7015B 1TB (retired), PS5 Digital, Nintendo Switch OLED, Nintendo Wii RVL-001 (black)

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I’m doing my MBA at a Canadian school. At this point, Office 365 weirdness has caused enough issues during group work that the most reliable option for using it is within the browser. So, something with 16gb of memory for running a ton of browser tabs for Office/Teams/research items. Other than that, you’re golden. 

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13 hours ago, flibberdipper said:

I got a fairly cheap laptop myself (Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15IRU8), and the only thing I would for sure avoid are laptops with 8GB of RAM, at this point you really should be shooting for 16GB (12GB is fine but you’ll be leaving performance on the table since it’ll be running in single channel). Other than that my only personal rule is to avoid HP, I work with them all the time ranging from their obscenely cheap ones all the way up to Spectres, and none of them have impressed me with how they behave or wear over time. Integrated graphics are also probably fine, they’ve gotten surprisingly competent with time so unless you’re doing some pretty hardcore shit you’ll likely be fine.

 

Aside from that the only other thing I’ll say is you might end up needing to familiarize yourself with ThrottleStop, I know on my laptop they followed the Intel spec religiously and it was super sluggish. I threw TS on there with a profile for both battery and wall power, so now it is significantly faster in both modes and hasn’t lost enough battery life to be a concern for me (and if it is I have a third profile that gimps it just as hard if not harder than stock).

Thank you for the tips! Interesting to learn 8GB isn't good enough. I did a quick check and there are some decently specced AMD laptops with 16GB of RAM in my price range. Good to know about ThrottleStop! 

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12 hours ago, seanondemand said:

I’m doing my MBA at a Canadian school. At this point, Office 365 weirdness has caused enough issues during group work that the most reliable option for using it is within the browser. So, something with 16gb of memory for running a ton of browser tabs for Office/Teams/research items. Other than that, you’re golden. 

Second person with 16GB recommendation, noted! And that's the major I will be doing (studying for GMAT test) next year. I don't think I'll be using MS office as much as I remember Google docs being quite friendly for collaborative work and it's free! 

Thanks for the tip! 

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7 hours ago, RabbidEwok said:

Depends on your budget. Easiest answer is just get a MBA 

My budget is between $400-500. I'll push to $550 if the laptop I'm getting is worth it.

I have a gaming desktop with two monitors and recently upgraded specs so this is just for while I'm on campus and during group projects.

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13 minutes ago, CoolEng said:

My budget is between $400-500. I'll push to $550 if the laptop I'm getting is worth it.

I have a gaming desktop with two monitors and recently upgraded specs so this is just for while I'm on campus and during group projects.

Easiest answer again is a MacBook, the M1 is cable used for around 500-600 on eBay. Might be worth a look. Other than that you’re looking at a mid range laptop where you’ll be compromising size and battery life. Though I would look at AMD over Intel 

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Pro tip: getting a laptop with 8 GB RAM and upgrading yourself is always much MUCH cheaper than buying it with 16 GB outright

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