Windows and Apple laptops suited to student life
Starting university soon and want a laptop that´s powerful, ultra slim and boasts plenty of battery? Take a look at Apple´s MacBook Air and the latest Windows Ultrabooks in 13inch sizes...
30 Jul 2013
You've just started university and the first few weeks have left you in a spin.
You've been flitting from student digs, to classes, to the library, to study groups, to the union bar and finally back home - it's been a social and academic whirl. You're exhilarated, but knackered.
But through all the liberated traffic cones, the 'iconic' Doors and Bob Marley posters, and the meaningful 'new best friends' you'll spend the next three years avoiding, it didn't take long to work out that if you were ever going to do any work you'd need to go mobile.
A laptop that's light and slender enough to carry around in your satchel without giving you shoulder ache, while being powerful enough to breeze through your university work, web browsing, video streaming, Facebooking and tweeting.
As well as form and features, you want a laptop that suits your style and taste; which looks good and feels as comfortable to use as your favourite pair of trainers or jacket is to wear: A laptop which feels like an extension of your personality.
Sounds impossible? It's not, actually.
A new generation of 13-inch ultraportable laptops boast the battery power to go where you go, the components to make them silent and slinky, and enough power to process whatever you throw at them.
What's more, they're ready to work when you are - with just a few seconds needed to fire them up, and they are wrapped in materials such as aluminium and carbon fibre which make them as eye-catching as your latest pair of designer skinny jeans while also being as tough as old boots.
A survey by Endsleigh and the NUS found 96% of students own a laptop or notebook - and a 13-inch MacBook Air or Windows ultrabook is a pretty fine place to start.
13-inch portable - ultrabook or MacBook?
Ultrabooks are made by most major PC manufacturers, while the MacBook is made by Apple. Ultrabooks run on Windows 8, while MacBook's run on Apple's OSX Mountain Lion.
Designed for people who want be portable without compromising on power, these laptops are light and slim enough to be slid inside your bag, and boast plenty of battery power should you find yourself finishing an assignment in a café or the student union (again).
The screens are big enough for you to comfortably write essays without squinting and getting too close, yet they don't carry the kind of bulk that makes bigger laptops a no-no for posturing your way around campus.
The MacBook Air
Everyone knows how cool Apple is, but opt for the latest instalment of its 13.3inch MacBook Air and you'll be getting kudos for more than its catwalk looks and hipster credentials.
The new MacBook weighs very little, starts up very quickly and will turn plenty of heads when you whip out it out of your bag in the student café with a 'what? This old thing' look on your face.
It features flash storage, so unlike most students, it wakes from sleep in seconds, while its components stay cooler than its drop-dead-gorgeous exterior.
It's built for life out and about on campus - light, thin and loaded up on battery power.
Reviewers at Cnet called it a "truly all-day laptop" - and when you consider it can last for around 12 hours on one battery charge you'd have to agree.
Its battery boost comes courtesy of Intel's new fourth-generation processors, but it's not just that which makes it good on the go.
The use of flash storage means it's light and portable enough to slide easily inside your bag - just 4.86mm thin.
But that doesn't mean flimsy - flash storage contains no moving parts, making the laptop sturdier, It's also wrapped in a aluminium body, so is tough enough to keep you from fretting as your day progresses from home, to the packed bus, to the not-so-packed library to the totally rammed union bar.
With Intel's latest fourth-generation Core i5 processor you'll find plenty of power for browsing the web, checking out Facebook and streaming HD video, while those who enjoy a bit of gaming in their downtime or who are on design courses can expect 40% faster graphics.
If you've been watching videos on YouTube or browsing the web for longer than you should have been and you end up having to work while your mates are at play, a backlit keyboard which adjusts itself to your surroundings automatically should ease the pain.
Whether in the dark or daylight, working your way around applications and programmes is smoother than smooth peanut butter thanks to a trackpad which allows you to pinch, scroll and swipe your way around applications and the web.
Apple's current operating system for Macs, MacBooks and MacBook Pros is OS X Mountain Lion. OS X is known for its user-friendly controls, while the laptop and software is made by the same firm too so you get what Apple calls a "fully integrated system".
Mountain Lion is also designed to work well alongside iPhone and iPad, using iCloud to sync content across devices - something worth considering if you're already an Apple devotee. Apple will release the next version of its OS in the autumn, named OS X Mavericks.
Opt for an equally alluring ultrabook
PC makers such as Lenovo, HP, Samsung and Sony make laptops which are marketed as Ultrabooks, and they're equally slim, light and sexy for showing off on campus with.
Intel created the Ultrabook term and sets the rules which decide what makes a laptop 'ultra'.
We won't go in to each point here, but if you're opting for a 13.3inch ultrabook you can expect a laptop no thicker than 18mm which offers as much as nine hours' battery life.
So, whether working in the library, at home or on the train you should be covered.
It'll also boot and wake from sleep in a few seconds and be quieter and cooler (temperature) thanks to solid state drive (SSD) storage, similar to but not the same as Apple's flash storage.
If you're getting flustered about a rapidly impending deadline, at least your ultrabook will stay cool and be ready to work when you are.
Ultrabooks are Windows laptops, so it's only natural they run on Windows 8 - the recently overhaul Microsoft operating system.
Windows 8 was designed with touchscreen tablets and laptops in mind and combines a Start Screen interface where you access your applications by tapping colourful tiles with regular mouse-and-keyboard computing. Because of this many of the ultrabooks you'll be choosing from will feature a swanky touchscreen.
Many also convert between tablet and laptop, but we'll be looking at those in another blog.
Ultrabooks are also fitted with a minimum of Intel's Core i5 series processors, with a number already available with the latest fourth-generation one we talked about with the MacBook Air.
Those with fourth-generation processors, known as Haswell, will boast the longest battery life.
Touch and type in ultrabook style with Sony VAIO Pro 13
One ultrabook which features the Haswell processor is the Sony VAIO Pro 13.
It's ultra-light for carrying around campus, weighing just 1.06kg and measuring 17mm thin. If you're mooching from home to library and back again you'll find eight hours' battery on a single charge, while a tough carbon fibre shell will give you peace of mind if your student house is the kind that embraces rough and tumble.
Plan on watching movies and TV shows when you finally finish that essay? The VAIO Pro boasts a 1080p screen that packs the technology used in Sony's top-end LCD TVs. The screen is touch-enabled too, so you can get the best from Windows 8's world of touchscreen tiles.
If you've had a hard afternoon of typing up essays your fingers will no doubt be tired - use the touchscreen to browse the web and organise files with nothing more strenuous than the flick of a finger.
But when you're typing, the VAIO ensures it's a luxury ride.
The typing is comfy thanks to the laptop lifting slightly when the lid is opened up. The keys are backlit and a decent size with ample space between them - if you find yourself on the wrong end of a 12-hour library session this should keep miss-hit typos to a minimum (unless you've also been in the union bar).
If you're an impulsive type who likes to work as and when inspiration strikes, you'll be pleased to hear the laptop wakes from sleep in less than three seconds.
Whether opting for the MacBook Air or a Haswell-packing ultrabook, you're going to get a laptop which is super light, super slender and super big on battery life.
Each option offers its own pluses and minuses, and they of course run different operating systems - Microsoft Windows to Apple's OS X so take a closer look and work out which fits best.
While we're taking about the best fit, remember buying a new laptop is much like finding the right jacket these days.
As you flit around campus it'll go everywhere with you, so choosing one that suits your style and tastes is almost as important as getting the right spec.