Depending on the subject, a laptop for students must meet different needs. A computer scientist wants Linux with decent performance, graphic designers want a fine display, and humanities graduates want it to be light and inexpensive. How to find the right model.

Whether law, computer science or sports – every student needs a laptop, but not every student needs the same notebook. While graphic designers and computer scientists fiddle around in Photoshop or virtual machines, historians or sociologists tend to delve into writing programs and research. Because Photoshop and virtual machines use a lot of power, the processors and graphics cards in laptops for design and computer science students are naturally a bit more expensive. Otherwise, the notebooks for students have the following specifications:

Laptop for Students: The Humanities Scholars

For aspiring lawyers and historians who want to work with Windows, the Samsung Galaxy Book is a formidable laptop. The fast SSD hard drive holds 512 gigabytes of data, which is sufficient for PDF and Word documents. At 15.6 inches (39.92 centimeters), the display has a pleasant mix of handiness without being too small. The full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels) is suitable for work as well as for the series marathon. The processor is an Intel Core i5 1135G7 with four cores that work at 2.4 gigahertz in normal mode and 4.2 gigahertz in turbo mode. The RAM is standard at eight gigabytes, but could be a bit larger. Nevertheless, it should be sufficient to work on the device up to the master’s degree or exam (within the standard period of study).

If you value a higher resolution with a smaller display, you’d better use the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3. Its 13.5 inch (34 centimeters) display has a resolution of 2256 x 1504 pixels. At 256 gigabytes, the SSD storage is the same size as the Galaxy Book, as is the working memory at 8 gigabytes. The only drawback: The installed Intel Core i5-1035G7 processor comes from the previous generation of Intel chips. But that doesn’t matter, because the processors of the Galaxy Book and Surface Laptop 3 are comparable in terms of performance.

Humanities scholars who prefer to work with MacOS should go for the MacBook Air with the M2 chip. It is expected to be available from July 15, 2022. If you can’t wait that long, you’ll have to make do with the MacBook Air M1. Why not a MacBook Pro? For one, the MacBook Air M2 is 160 grams lighter. In terms of performance and connections, the MacBook Air and Pro unite. Both have an M2 chip with four efficiency and four performance cores. This is then joined by a graphics unit with eight or, for an additional charge, ten cores. The graphics unit of the M1-Air was slightly weaker than the Pro version with the M1 chip. Curious: The display of the MacBook Air M2 is slightly larger than that of the MacBook Pro M2 and the front camera also has a Full HD resolution. Incomprehensible why Apple uses 720p for the camera on the Pro with M2. However, there is a fundamental difference in the keyboard: Apple has given the MacBook Pro a touch bar instead of the special keys “Esc”, “F1” and so on. The Touch Bar is not available for the Air, here the keys remain keys.

Design and video: MacBook Pro is the laptop of the hour

The MacBook Pro is a great laptop for creative people. There are several reasons for this: Design students benefit from an excellent display that shows colors true to the original, so that photos and films look the same when printed or on the screen as they do on the display. The high display resolution is also beneficial for designers when zooming in closely on an image or video to make fine adjustments.

A lot of power is also important because the programs that students use to create their digital artwork need a lot of power. Final Cut, Adobe Premiere and Photoshop use up not only the processor, but also the working memory and graphics card. A graphics card integrated into the processor is usually too weak here – with the exception of Apple’s M2 chip.

Only the top models from Apple, Dell and HP combine all of these properties. In terms of price, however, they are all so close together that the main argument against Apple (the high price) does not play a role in the decision.

Whether Windows or MacOS is the right operating system depends on which programs the students use. If the university teaches with Final Cut and Apple Motion, students can’t avoid MacOS. The Adobe Suite, on the other hand, runs on both platforms – an advantage for Apple. Is the Pro version from Apple worth the extra cost of around 350 euros compared to the Air?

Not for everyone: In terms of performance, the MacBook Air M2 and MacBook Pro M2 are pretty much on par. Logically, because the same chip works in both with the same amount of RAM. However, in addition to the touch bar, the main difference between the Pro version and the Air is an active cooling system with fans. If the MacBook Air M2 overheats, it throttles the performance. The Pro version is spared this scenario thanks to the fans, which is why it is better suited for long and computationally intensive work.

Gaming laptop for students

Yes, studying is for studying and for partying with friends. But if first one thing and then the other is done, there is absolutely nothing wrong with indulging in your favorite hobby in a hungover discord. A MacBook is just as unsuitable for this as a laptop without a dedicated graphics card. That’s why gamers during their studies need a gaming laptop that has them installed. Plus point: It doesn’t matter what gamers study, because gaming laptops usually offer enough power for computing-intensive tasks such as video or image editing. And, of course, you can type homework just as well as on any other laptop. But there is one downside: Gaming laptops are usually heavy and louder because the fans have to dissipate a lot of heat.

An ideal gaming laptop for students is the MSI Katana GF66 11UG-809. With a screen diagonal of 15.6 inches (39.6 centimetres), it just about fits in your pocket. Gamers don’t have to do without performance: 16 gigabytes of RAM, an RTX 3070 and the Intel Core i7-11800H processor ensure massive performance. But it has its weight: Students at the university carry 2.3 kilograms with them when they decide for this laptop. Beautiful: The laptop screen offers a refresh rate of 144 Hertz. Unfortunately, it only resolves in Full HD. That could be a spark too little for video or image editing. Attention: An operating system is not installed on the laptop. You need a bootable USB stick!

Price tip around 500 euros for all students

The Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15ALC (82KU00PBGE) is a real price-performance hit and that across disciplines. Why? With the new AMD Ryzen 5-5500U processor, Lenovo has installed a quite powerful six-core CPU. Sure, it doesn’t quite match the top models and is about 25 percent below the performance of Apple’s M1 chip. But the laptop costs less than half of Apple’s top model. A good compromise. Of course, the screen isn’t as color-accurate and the battery life isn’t as long as Apple’s.

Nevertheless, no entry-level model comes as close to the luxury class as this one. Computer scientists are happy that Alternate sells the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 15ALC (82KU00PBGE) without an operating system. You can set up a fresh Linux distribution on the notebook. Humanities scholars, on the other hand, have to look for a Windows 10 key and create a USB stick from which they can install the Microsoft operating system.

Special case for computer scientists: The Linux lovers

The most special special cases among students are computer scientists. This is because the computer specialists of tomorrow (or even today) are already familiar with programming languages ​​such as Python, Pascal, Swift, R

However, a MacBook should not necessarily be the first choice because the price-performance ratio is not right for computer scientists. For example, Apple attaches great importance to a great display for its mobile computers, which is always nice – but anyone who develops a program for machine learning benefits from a powerful processor during its test runs far more than their concoction when working in true-to-the-original colors to see high resolution.

Computer science students are therefore a bit pinched, because manufacturers of Linux laptops are rare. Worth mentioning in this country is the German manufacturer Tuxedo-Computers, where buyers can even choose between high-end AMD and Intel processors. Nice: many models also offer the option of adding an LTE module. Handy for anyone who travels a lot.

Buying tips for the student laptop

Humanities scholars are in the most comfortable position when it comes to choosing a laptop. Usually they only work with a few programs at the same time, i.e. they have PDF documents, Word and the browser open with several tabs. These are all easy tasks for a computer. Nevertheless, you should also make sure that your laptop has at least one quad-core processor. Computer scientists and graphic designers need a stronger arithmetic servant because of their area of ​​application.

With a device with only two cores, the laptop could hiccup despite simple tasks, which spoils smooth work. The main memory is also important. Especially those who tend to open ten or more tabs in the browser benefit from the fact that the processor has enough space to store its tasks in the main memory so that they can be accessed again quickly. 8 gigabytes is currently the standard. But more RAM never hurts.

Humanities scholars can neglect the system memory because Word and PDF documents are relatively small. If no photos or videos are stored on the laptop, 256 gigabytes should be sufficient. Photo and video college students need the most internal storage because photo and video documents are getting larger with higher resolutions. At least 512 gigabytes and external storage media are recommended for data management. Computer scientists should also be aware of 512 gigabytes or more memory in the laptop because they may need it for their virtual machines.

When choosing an operating system, humanities scholars and design students should steer clear of Linux because hardly anyone will help them if LibreOffice, GIMP

A look over the shoulder is not only helpful during the exam: most students work with the Microsoft Office Suite, i.e. Word, Excel and PowerPoint. For a more pleasant work in the group it is an advantage if everyone works with the same programs. And the popular office software only runs on MacOS and Windows. Ultimately, every student here has to ask themselves the question of faith.

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