It’s that time of year when upcoming University students are finding out whether or not they have a place at their chosen University and for those with a confirmed place, some of them will be thinking about their computing needs. Is it going to be a Windows or a Mac? What will it be used for? How frequent? How much hard drive space will be necessary? And then the most important question, how much is it going o cost?
It is worth knowing what operating system is used at the chosen University before you make the first decision of whether it be a Windows or a Mac, as it’s all very well choosing a nice laptop, but what if you arrive in September and the program’s you’ll use are primarily based upon the other operating system? Of course, some programs will recognise file types from the other, with Microsoft Office included, however some specific programs will not share their file types across systems. This is something you will have to find out independently, as there are so many variations to this, depending on the type of programs and work you will be using the laptop for.
I myself have been shopping around for the best deal on a laptop for University for a couple of months,and have been amazed on the quantity of Window’s laptops are on the market. Everywhere you look, Windows 7 is everywhere. The need for my laptop is to be highly portable, reliable and has a good battery life. Of course, it also needs to be beautiful, because nothing is worse than turning up with something that looks like it’s come out of the scrap.
It was after visiting the University that I found there was no real need to get either Mac or Windows, and it was down to personal preference. Of course, I have always found that Mac’s are much more reliable and responsive than a higher-spec Windows, so it was my first port of call.
Before completely dismissing Windows, I had briefly looked at the Sony VIAO Y-Series laptops and the Dell Inspirion 15R, both between £300-600 rage, however neither of them were right for me. Despite both of these laptops being reliable, their size and weight were questionable. The Sony, despite being much lighter at 1.46kg (including battery), the overall size was much much smaller than I would have liked. I was looking for a 13″ laptop, to help with portability and use in smaller places, but 11″ was just that little bit too small. The Dell however was the opposite, and quite a lot heavier. While it was a 15″ screen, it weighed 2.65kg – without stating if that included the battery. Talking of battery, I couldn’t find anywhere that stated how long the battery could potentially last for. It’s a bit of a disappointment really. I managed to look at both of these in store and to further my disappointment, they were clamped down to the desk and locked with an administrators password. I couldn’t close the lid, pick the laptop up, or have a play with it. How was I able to see for myself how easy it is to use or feel the weight of it? I asked the shop assistant if it was possible to unlock these for me, and it was refused. So I moved on, I walked along the remaining laptops on display, flicking the control pad to move the mouse. They were all locked, except for one. I immediately stopped and turned, it was similar to the Sony I was looking at before.
The task bar was filled with the Windows Update Installer, with seven windows open. I flicked through them, and had no idea why a webcam interface needed installing on a laptop without a webcam. I don’t want this, but before I could escape a forever updating world, the anti-virus pop up stalled the computer and crashed it.
All I did was move the mouse.
I then headed over to the Apple store, to look at overpriced machines. The 13″ MacBook Air sat next to the Pro. There was no question, the Air was too small. The hard drive was only capable of 256GB, for what would be the same processor. Of course, the battery life was the same as the Pro, being seven hours, but this was so much thinner. I knew however, that I would need the extra hard drive, and also a disk drive. Apple sell a disk drive for the Air, however I don’t wish to carry this around with me as it would take away from the portability. I concentrated on the Pro. Weighing 2kg, it was already lighter than the Dell – any other laptops I looked at. It has the 4GB RAM and up to 750GB hard drive. It also has a disk drive and an SD card slot, which could add further storage if needed. It was also beautiful, and a machine to be proud of. It was however, a pound short of a thousand, almost three times the amount of Window’s laptops.
I had to do some research of course, which meant paying a visit to my local retailers.
Throughout my search, I would be looking for the same model. 13″ MacBook Pro (i5), with 500GB hard drive and 4GB RAM. At this stage, I was not going to be looking at additional software or hardware – just the machine.
Starting off in the Apple Store. The table price is £999, but after using the Mac to open up the online store, they offer student discount. This brought the price down to £939.60. I called over for an assistant, and after explaining that it was for University, he explained that there was a higher rate of student discount available, taking the price down to £859. 15% off in store (or online while connected to the University network) with proof of your study. Concrete confirmation is needed to secure this discount, otherwise it is the full amount. This set a benchmark for me to begin my search elsewhere.
A few minutes walk away, was John Lewis. I understood that they had a technology department so headed down there to have a look. On display, was the MacBook Pro I was looking for, listed for the full £999. After spending 10-15 minutes searching for a shop assistant, I discovered that they could not issue any student discount. I asked if they did any offers or deals with buying extras, to which they said no.
The Argos catalogue displayed the MacBook Pro, and again, it was listed for £999. They too don’t offer any student discount. I then had a quick browse through local supermarkets on the way to the retail park. Tesco was first, with the same response from John Lewis. I then headed into Sainsbury’s, to the limited technology department at the back of a crowded store to find nothing. My experience in these two stores was disappointing, but made even more unpleasant by the ensemble of screaming children blocking the exits.
Upon leaving Sainsbury’s, Comet and PC World were just around the corner. These looked most promising as they were specialists in selling computers. I approached the desk in Comet and found the MacBook Pro I was looking for. Again, it was on display for £999. A shop assistant came over, asking me if I needed any help. I explained that I was looking at this specific model and asked about student discount. After much discussion over the price, the man then asked whether the Apple Store was or not, and how much it was. He then walked off, made a phone call and returned. It was an offer for £950, and came with two years free something or another.
I left the store and walked over to PC World. Not the first place you think of when buying a Mac, but after a recent visit for printer ink, I knew it was worth checking out. The store had a small collection of Macs on offer, and very quickly I found the one I was after. I couldn’t however see any prices relating to it, they were all for the MacBook Air, or the iMac, or the cinema display opposite. I called an assistant over, and asked to know the price. It was on sale for £999, so I asked about the student discount. It was explained that Apple do not allow other retailers to discount their products, and it was only going to be £999. I explained that another store offered me £950, to which PC World began selling me a webcam. The assistant explained that he could sell it cheaper, if it was part of a bundle with some additional software, and of course hardware. The MacBook Pro has a built in webcam I said, and being a laptop, you don’t require external keyboard and mouse. Especially not a Windows designed keyboard. As I was looking only for the machine itself, I decided to leave the store.
It concludes that for students, visiting the Apple Store directly with proof of studying offers the best price on Macs, with 15% off any machine. This does not include third party products sold by the store. It pays to be annoying and ask shop assistants on deals, and I imagine it would be the same amongst other laptops too. You can not access the student prices on the Apple Store without being on the establishments network, however codes have been made public so that you can access the page from outside the network. More information can be found through a post on Mike Wilson’s website by clicking here, but it is stressed by both of us that you are a genuine student or have a confirmed place before you start making orders.