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What is the best PC for students?

Find a style to suit your studies.

Student working in Library on laptop.

Choosing the best PC for University or College

For most students a laptop or desktop PC is an essential piece of kit. From research and essay writing to binge watching and computer gaming, they wear a lot of hats, so it's worth researching to find the right match. We'll run your through the key considerations.

    Things to consider

    Young girl on tablet device.

    Note down your priorities

    Write down your answers to the following questions to help define your priorities and narrow down your search:

    • What's your budget? This is an important bit of kit, so it may be worth investing more to get something that really complements your time at university.
    • Is portability important? If your course has lots of seminars and lectures, you might want to take electronic notes on your device.
    • What will you use the device for? Note down the types of tasks, and programs you'll be using during your course, and also what you'll use the device for in your free time. Are gaming or watching films likely, for example, and are there any specific ports you'll need to set these up?
    • Do you have any course requirements? Read through your department's course notes to see if there are any technology requirements or programs that you'll need to install. If in doubt consider emailing the department.

      Laptop vs desktop

      Choosing a laptop over a desktop PC used to mean you were sacrificing performance for portability, but with big advances in technology, that's no longer necessarily the case. However there are some distinctions worth considering if you're not sure which is best for you.

      Student standing against wall holding laptop.

      Why you'd choose a laptop

      The big pro for laptops is their portability. Generally lightweight and slimline, they also won't take up too much space at your digs. Advances in tech mean that, for higher budgets, you can get models that rival the power and performance of desktop PCs, so don't rule a laptop out if your course demands lots of storage, or if you're into gaming. For the ultimate flexibility out and about on campus, compact 2-in-1 laptops convert from the traditional clam-style function to a standalone tablet.

      Work area set up with desktop.

      Why you'd choose a desktop PC

      Typically you can get more power in a desktop for a cheaper price than the equivalent spec laptop. If your course requires you to run heavy programs, and portability isn't a priority, a desktop might be a more affordable solution. It's easier to customise and up-spec a desktop PC too, so PC gamers often opt for desktops. Another benefit is that the larger screen, keyboard and mouse can be more comfortable to work for long periods at. However, it is possible to achieve this with a laptop PC too, by simply plugging into a separate monitor.

      2 of Argos best student laptops.

      Best student laptops

      You want something lightweight for on-the-go working and fast to keep up with your social and studying needs. To point you in the right direction, here are our highest rated and reviewed customer picks.

      2 of Argos best student desktops.

      Best student desktop PCs

      From all in ones to stand alone desktops, these machines are designed for optimal at-home studying. See what other customers are loving with our best rated, reviewed and recommended desktop PCs.

      A group of three students using a Chromebook on a group project.

      Are netbooks an option?

      A netbook has the same look and feel as a laptop, but differs in that any software you use is accessed via the web browser. You'll still be able to create and read documents, spreadsheets and presentations using web apps like Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides (if you choose a Chromebook). More functionality can be download via apps from the Google Play store, just as you would on an android smartphone.  

      One big tick for netbooks is the amount of storage space you get via services like Google Drive. Everything you create will be saved here (and therefore backed up in the 'cloud') so you don't have to worry about losing that essay draft. These speedy devices also won't slow down for any updates or security scans, as no files or software are stored in the device.

      While these aren't going to give you the performance or ability to run software that some courses will require, they are an affordable and efficient option if your main use is writing notes and essays, or browsing online.

      Choosing the right PC for your course

      Some subjects will require more from a PC, so it's important to consider your course type when choosing a compatible device. It might be worth contacting your uni or college to check what the requirements are, and what they use in the department before you buy.

      Young female student study in the school library. She using laptop and learning online.

      For most courses

      Generally your PC will need to cope with researching online and creating reports, essays and presentations. Some will also require a level of data analysis, for example presenting findings or statistics in graphs.

      For these uses, you don't need the latest and greatest processors, RAM or graphics hardware. An Intel Core i5 process and 8GB of RAM (or 4GB if you're on a budget) will give you enough power to get through your course.

      A mid-range Chromebook, laptop or 2-in-1 device are usually the most convenient choices for this, as they give you the freedom of using on the go. It's worth looking for a lightweight, compact model with a long battery life (8h+) if you're likely to be carrying it around campus.

      Student working on a graphics tablet.

      For design heavy subjects

      Subjects like graphic design or architectural courses will usually require you to use specialist software such as Adobe Creative Suite or AutoCAD. To run these smoothly you should look for a laptop or desktop PC with 16GB of RAM, an Intel Core i7 (or newer processors) and separate GPU, plus a minimum storage capacity of 512GB. Many departments also favour Apple products, but it's worth checking your specific course requirements. You might choose a laptop with a touchscreen interface, or accompany your computer with a graphics tablet.

      Engineering students working in the lab.

      For maths, science and engineering subjects

      You're likely to be handling large amounts of data and may even need to have specific statistical software. A powerful processor is therefore important - look for Intel Core i5 as a minimum. For maths and science you should prioritise power over graphics, however certain engineering subjects may require an element of design work. If this is the case for your course (check with your department), choose a PC with a separate GPU and at least 8GB of RAM. Screen size can also be important for these subjects, as it helps to have a larger screen when handling lots of data.

      Features to look out for

      We'll help you navigate some of the jargon to help you identify the features that are really important;

      Screen size

      For laptops, screen size is really a compromise between usability (working off a tiny screen is not particularly comfortable for long periods of time) and the practicality of carrying a laptop around. As a guide, most laptop bags cater for a screen size of up to 15.6". If you want a larger screen for your laptop, you could purchase a separate monitor.

      Processor

      The CPU (central processing unit) executes commands within your programs - some refer to it as the 'brain' of the machine. In short, the faster your CPU is, the faster your applications will run. Most modern machines have dual core processors in them, with Intel and AMD the two main manufacturers, but higher end models may have quad core CPUs, or even higher. An important part of gaming PCs, or devices that will be used for design-based courses, is the GPU (graphics processing unit). The main producers of these are AMD and Nvidia.

        Operating system

        The operating system  you choose largely comes down to personal preference. Are you used to macOS? Already have other Apple products? You may choose a MacBook to keep your devices synchronised. If you prefer Windows operating systems, you'll have more choice of PCs as this is the most widely supported by brands. Google's Chrome OS is only supported in Chromebooks.

        Battery life

        Your device should be able to keep up with you, so battery life is an important  feature to consider if you're choosing a laptop, netbook or tablet. Look for models that have at least 8 hours of life for use out and about or on campus.

        Ports

        Think about what you'll want to connect your device too. An extra screen, wireless mouse, headphones, ethernet cable, SD card...these all require separate ports, and not all devices have them. If this is the case, adaptors are readily available and affordable, so don't worry too much if the one you choose doesn't cover everything.

        Disk drive

        If you're going to want to play DVDs, or load CDs or games onto your laptop, you need to check that the device comes with a disk drive. To save space, many laptops don't come with this feature, however you can buy an external CD, DVD or Blu-ray reader/writer. These usually connect via a USB 2.0 port, and give you access to the content from your device.

        Accessories

        Decided on the perfect laptop or desktop? Get the most out of your tech with these handy add-ons.

        Argos desktop and laptop bundles.

        Bundles

        These computer starter kits can be an easy and cost effective way of getting all your tech set up. Whether you're opting for a laptop or desktop PC, you'll find bundles that give you the coordinating accessories or software to get you up and running quickly.

        BT Whole Home Wi-Fi AC2600 Add-On Disc.

        Wi-Fi & networking

        You may find the Wi-Fi connection in your home or student house needs a boost, especially if there are a number of students living together. Find out more about networking here.

        Epson Expression Home XP-2105 Wireless Inkjet Printer.

        Printers

        While your university or college library will have printers you can use, it can be handy to have one of your own in your at-home study for printing out papers, notes and essays.

        Office 365 (Now Microsoft 365) Home & McAfee 6 Devices.

        Software

        Check if your laptop or desktop comes with any software included. If they don't, you'll need to purchase Microsoft Office and anti-virus protection separately.

        PC monitor, keyboard and mouse.

        Monitors, keyboards & mice

        If you're buying a desktop PC, these are essential - but they'll improve the experience of using a laptop too, and not just when working. Many like to have a second screen at home for gaming or movie watching.

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