Hi Lifehacker, I'm returning to study in 2014 and I'm going to need a new notebook computer for study purposes. When is the best time to buy? Should I buy now in the pre-Christmas sales, wait until after Christmas to look for a bargain then, or wait until I've officially started studying and then see if I can score a scholarship or a loan? And what specs and brands should I look for? Thanks, Soon To Be Studious
I wouldn't bother holding out for a scholarship or bursary bestowed laptop, as these are pretty rare and your need isn't unique. Buying now will also give you a chance to get acquainted with your new laptop, remove bloatware and install useful applications prior to returning to school.
While you might be able to land a better deal during the post-Christmas period, don't let this deter you from buying one right now. The fact is, no no matter when you decide to buy your new laptop, it will invariably be offered at a cheaper price at a later date. You can't hold off forever! By waiting for a better deal, you also run the risk of the vendor running out of stock. Our advice is to keep an eye on pre-Christmas sales and snap up a bargain as soon as you see one.
In terms of specific brands and components, you're going to want between 4 and 8GB of memory, a 500GB hard drive (or SSD if you can afford it), a 13/14-inch display and, if you're in the Windows camp, a Core i5 CPU. In addition, you're going to want decent battery life, a reasonably spacious keyboard and reliable hardware that wont conk out mid-semester.
According to this recent SquareTrade study Asus laptops have the lowest failure rates of the major manufacturers, followed by Toshiba, Sony, Apple and Dell.
It might also be worth checking with your university faculty -- some schools provide specific laptop recommendations which can help to narrow the field somewhat.
If any readers want to nominate specific models that would suit a university student, let STBS know in the comments section below.
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