Guest Blog: Heading to college? Here’s what you need to know from Jess Kelly, Technology Correspondent, Newstalk

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September is forever twinned with January in my mind. The new academic year brings new routines, new stationery and new technology. If you’re off to college, or just on the lookout for a new device, now is a good time to be shopping.

There’s no shortage of laptops to choose from, so it’s always best to start with a bit of consideration and research. The key questions to ask yourself when on the hunt for a new laptop are: what do I want it to do and how much do I want to spend? You may be surprised to learn that the most expensive laptop are not always the best, so don’t let budget be your first consideration.

If you are heading to college for the first time, check to see if the course you are doing has any particular technological requirements. Will you be using any specific pieces of software – will that software be compatible with every operating system? Ask this question before you buy as it will save you a lot of hassle down the road.

Once you know that piece of information, you can then start looking for a device that meets your personal criteria. Are you planning to use the laptop for anything other than online research and essay typing? Will you want to game on the weekend or watch Netflix between lectures? Taking all of these smaller uses into consideration will help narrow down the list of laptops for you.

We’re almost at the recommendation part! Before we get there, just do one more round of whittling down. If you click through to the selection of ‘laptops running Windows’, you’ll find four sliders, which you can move up and down. They are performance, battery, thickness and weight. Even the least tech-savvy among us can take a stab at what these categories represent and the level of importance each one holds to you.

If you’re going to be on the move quite a lot, chances are you will want a lightweight device that’s not too thick. This will mean you can throw it into a backpack and go about your day with ease. If you’re going to be using a heavy-duty piece of software or gaming between assignments, you’ll want a high-performer. Battery is a key consideration for most of us, but it’s possible to compromise on this one, if you’re going to be in the library, next to a socket.

Now that you have altered the spec to suit your needs, you’ll be met with a list of recommendations. If that’s all just too much like hard work, here are two devices that I’ve tried out and have been impressed by.

Acer Aspire 3 14” Pentium – €479

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This device is proof that you don’t have to spend big money to get a good, solid device. With a 14-inch screen, it’s the ideal size for working away on, but also watching a sneaky episode of ‘Suits’ between classes.

Running Windows 10, the setup is not too arduous at all. Internally, there’s a 128GB SSD, 4GB of RAM and a 4810mAh battery. What does that mean? Well, it has more storage than you’d probably need, enough RAM to multi-task and a decent battery to get you through.

As a brand, I’m rather fond of Acer. In terms of build-quality, you can’t fault them. There’s a nice brushed effect on the shell of the laptop, making it feel more premium than the price would have you believe. The QWERTY keyboard is pleasant to type on and there’s a healthy-sized trackpad too.

At €479, this is ideal for anyone not looking to do anything too demanding with their device, but will see you through your degree.

Lenovo Ideadpad 330S €599 After Cashback

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If you want to move up a gear, the Ideadpad 330S is definitely worth a look.

The 15.6-inch device offers up a full-HD display. Images, documents and films appear crisp on the larger screen.

Once you get over the beauty of the laptop and look under the lid, you find a 3.4GHz AMD Ryzen 3 processor. There’s 256GB of storage built in, alongside 8GB of RAM. It has more ports than you could shake a stick at, including a USB Type-C and HDMI.

The battery-life is somewhat disappointing, considering it is well over the €600. During testing, I got around 5-hours out of the device. If you’re based in a computer lab or next to a socket on campus, however, this is by no means the end of the world.

If performance is what matters, this is most definitely worth considering.

Accessories

My favourite type of tech shopping is for accessories. Few things in life make me as happy as a new mouse or power-bank. This is as exciting as my life gets.

In the last few months alone, I have purchase new accessories to get me through my work day, and they will most certainly help anyone in college.

Logitech K380 Bluetooth Keyboard – €44.90

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I work off a MacBook Pro when I’m in the office and Microsoft Surface Laptop when at home. I love both devices, but sometimes find it easier to hook both up to a large monitor or my TV. When I do this, it’s nice to have an external keyboard to work off. I decided to go for this Logical K380 because it’s compatible with both Mac OS and Windows. It pairs via Bluetooth with very little effort and I can throw it into my back-pack when I’m travelling. I’d highly recommend an external keyboard for those struggling with eye-strain. It’s nice to be able to sit further back from the screen and type comfortably.

Microsoft Designer Bluetooth Mouse €29.99

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I bought this mouse for the very same reasons I bought the Logitech Keyboard. Even though it’s a Microsoft product, it is compatible with my Mac. It’s very sturdy, which I like and appreciate, as it often gets thrown into a bag as I charge around from A to B.

In terms of design, it’s very comfortable to use. The click and wheel functionalities are both very responsive. If you only buy one accessory, make it an external mouse. You can thank me later.