Our tech editor ADRIAN WECKLER tackles your trickiest technology problems
QMy daughter is going to college and I want to get her a laptop. She won’t need it for anything intensive, just projects, writing and research. Is there one you can recommend?
AThere are plenty of laptops around that will do a decent job for her. For college, I think that two factors are important: weight and battery life. This is assuming that she might be taking it around with her on campus or into the library.
You don’t mention budget, so I’m going to give you a range, starting at premium level and finishing off at a budget model.
(I’m also going to assume that this is for general college study, not an especially heavy duty technical or specialist course — if this is wrong, email me back and I will adjust the recommendation.)
At the top, the two I’d recommend are Apple’s MacBook Air (€1,129 from various retailers) and Dell’s
XPS 13 ‘2-in-1’ (€1,300 from Dell.ie). Both are top-of-the-line machines that will last years, are relatively light to carry and have great features and specifications. They’re both 13-inch laptops, have a great battery and are a pleasure to use. The prices I’m quoting include the basic storage memory allocation (128GB); this is enough for anyone who won’t be loading movies or thousands of photos on to it. However, if you want more storage (256GB or 512GB), you’ll end up paying around €200 (and upwards) more.
The advantage to the Dell is that its highdefinition touchscreen flips right over so that it can also be used as a presentation tool or a great screen to watch Netflix in your daughter’s downtime.
The MacBook’s strength is that Apple’s operating system is still a bit friendlier and easier to use than Windows, and increasingly synchronises with iPhones. For example, it can make or take FaceTime calls or iMessages.
If that seems a bit pricey, there are several decent models around the €700 to €800 mark.
For example, HP’s 14inch Intel Core i5 laptop (€780 from Currys) is completely solid with a very good battery life. It’s not quite as sleek as the premium machines but it will definitely do the job.
At a cheaper level, you’re looking at HP’s Pavilion 14-bk070 (€539 from PC World) or Lenovo’s Ideapad 320 (€449 from Harvey Norman). The HP is slightly faster and more powerful and has better battery life, while the cheaper Lenovo offers more storage but is significantly heavier.
In case you’re wondering about an iPad or ‘work’ tablet, the good ones cost almost as much as premium laptops. The best model, the iPad Pro, costs €930 including the Smart Keyboard cover. It’s a brilliant, powerful, light machine (which I personally use a lot) but students often look for something more traditionally in a laptop form function. So while I generally recommend it, I can’t thoroughly say it’ll work for your daughter better than other laptops.
One last thing: try to avoid ultrabudget laptops that cost under €300. By and large, they’re junk. (An exception is a Chromebook, which works off web apps and is relatively stable, despite typically costing only €299.)
RECOMMENDATION: Apple MacBook Air (left, €1,129)