Buying a Laptop

If you are starting computer science at UCD in September, you may be wondering if your current laptop is suitable for your coursework or if you should invest in something new.

The first point to make crystal clear here is that any computer bought within the last 2-3 years should be fine for Computer Science.  Please don’t feel pressured to spend money on new equipment.  This guide is for those want to buy a new laptop and need some advice.  Another important point to make is that Computer Science at U.C.D. does not have a preferred supplier or manufacturer of laptops. We will also cover upgrades for those looking to the boost performance and extend the life of their current laptop.

Let’s start...


CPU medium_computer-chip-cpu-512.png

Look for an Intel i5 or i7 or AMD Ryzen equivalent.  Other processors such as Intel i3 and atom are more suitable for low power usage, such a word processing, web browsing. As a rough rule of thumb,  Intel Chips names ending in “U” are low power. Higher power Chips names will end with “H” or “HQ”. You can review CPU benchmarking data online, but it can get a little overwhelming

Upgrade Options:  Some laptops support CPU upgrades however the process of replacing a CPU is quite complicated.  In short, if you have the skill and confidence required to replace a laptop CPU you are most likely not reading this guide. 

 


 

Memory (RAM)

We recommend a minimum of 8GB RAM.   You might get away with 4GB, but your laptop will make hard work of basic tasks and ultimately lead to a frustrating user experience.

Upgrade Option:  Memory is relatively cheap these days with prices around €70 for 8GB. Some laptops have a panel on the base which can be removed to replace or add memory. However, some upgrades require the removal of the keyboard which can be challenging.  In most cases, you can find a guide on youtube specific to your laptop. Take your time and follow the video carefully.

An excellent place to start looking for RAM is http://eu.crucial.com/ .The Crucial website will help you find RAM that is compatible with your laptop, once you have this information you can buy it from crucial or shop around.  

 


 

Hard Drive

The two options here are HDD or SSD. HDDs are fine, but if you have the budget, we recommend a Solid State Drive (SSD).  SSDs are expensive and you are compromising capacity for performance. However, the performance difference between SSD and HDD is significant.  SSD are lighter and consume less power which will help reduce the weight of your laptop and extend battery life.

Upgrade Option:  Replacing your HDD with an SSD is a great way to boost performance. As with memory, some laptops have a panel on the base which can be removed to replace the hard disk. However, some upgrades require the removal of the keyboard which can be challenging.  In most cases, you can find a guide on youtube specific to your laptop. Take your time and follow the video carefully.

Again, the website http://eu.crucial.com/ will help you find an SSD or HDD that is compatible with your laptop, once you have this information you can buy it from crucial or shop around.

 

 


 

Other Feature to Consider

It’s not all about power, here are some other features to consider when buying a laptop.


Operating System

Windows is still the most popular operating system in the world, so this is most likely what you will use. For those who prefer (and can afford!) Apple Macs, you will, of course, be using OSX. The third option is Linux. For a newcomer, Linux may prove challenging when it comes to software installation and configuration. The pro and cons of OSX, Window and Linux are discussed ad nauseam online. Do some research and go with what you are most comfortable.

 

 


Screen Size

Smaller 10-12” screens may not be ideal for coding and managing multiple open windows. Large 17” screens are great for gaming and watching movies but will make the laptop much heavier. We would recommend 13”-15” screens. Screen size is a personal choice to go with whatever you are most comfortable.

 

 

 


Weight

You are going to have this laptop and books in your backpack all day so give some consideration to weight. Laptops with Large 17” screens or high-performance gaming laptops, e.g. Alienware can be quite cumbersome. Around 3-5lbs should be manageable for most.

 

 


Battery Life

Short battery life can kill laptop mobility.  In most cases, a full laptop charge should get you through a full day at college.   Some laptops manufacturers will claim 10-12 hours battery life however these claims tended     exaggerated and based on unrealistic conditions, with the realistic battery life being around 75% of that stated.

 Upgrade: removable batteries that slot into the back of the laptop are easy to replace.  Integrated batteries are more difficult to replace. The process is somewhat similar to replacing RAM or a Hard drive.  You can   find  a guide on youtube specific to your laptop. Take your time and follow the video carefully.

In general buying a new battery direct from the manufacturer can be expensive so shop around, e.g. eBay, Amazon.

 


Warranty and Insurance

Consider good warranty cover in your budget for a laptop. A 2-3 warranty should see you through most of your college life. Keep in mind that the warranty will not cover accidental damage, such as damage caused by dropping, coffee spills, etc. If you are accident prone, consider insurance for such incidents.

 

 

 


Tablets 

Lightweight, long battery life and great for reading and taking notes, however, you will not be able to do practical assignment work on a tablet, e.g. programming. This makes them inadequate for studying Computer Science.

 

 


 

Special Offers for Students

UCD IT Services has partnered with a number of IT providers to offer the best value for staff and students on software and hardware. If you are thinking of buying a mobile broadband contract, MS Office and other software or a new computer - take a look at the deals on offer here first [more info]

HEAnet store for Students and Staff

Visit www.heanet.ie/store to view offers from  Apple, DELL and CompuB. You can also avail of bundles from Eir and broadband offers from Meteor.

More offers are coming in the very near future so make sure to visit this page again.

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office 365 is available free for current students of UCD. For more information click here.

Members of staff are also entitled to download Microsoft Office 365 for free from the Office 365 channel in UCD Connect. If you are interested in purchasing other software check out our software purchasing webpage

Apple

Staff and students are entitled to a 8-10% educational discount on personal purchases of Apple products through the Apple Store. To purchase, just click on the link below. Then click on 'Go to store', choose UCD and verify whether you are staff or student by authenticating with your UCD credentials (your college Username and Password) in the pop up window. http://campus.ie/apple

Dell

10% discount to students on purchases over 499 euro.

Contact the UCD Dell account manager to arrange for a voucher.

UCD Dell account manager details:

Arlene McGovern

Email: Arlene.McGovern@Dell.com

Tel: 353-1-279-4171


 

Hopefully, this guide helps and if you have any queries please don’t hesitate to contact us at cstech@ucd.ie.