Looking for a Laptop for Uni

Going to be starting a computer science degree, majoring in software engineering, next month so I'm looking at getting (and even questioning the need for) a new laptop to replace my ancient Acer.

Priorities for me are being lightweight, a decent screen, and battery life.
I'm pretty lost with regards to specs since I don't really know what the course is going to throw at me. I'd guess just compiling small programs and maybe running some VMs. There's always the uni computers if I need anything more.

So at this point I'm wondering whether I should go lower spec for note taking in lectures and not much more, or get something with a bit more oomph. Either way, I'm not looking at chunky beasts with GTX 1060s and such.

Anyway, any suggestions and advice either way will be greatly appreciated. :)

Edit: Budget is sub $2k


Ended up getting a Spectre x360 13" with the eBay Plus discount. i7 8550U, 16GB RAM, and a 512GB NVMe SSD for $1600. Thanks for everyone's help. :)


  • macbook air or surface book or dell xps

  • Might be worth contacting the program coordinator for your degree and just double checking what they’d recommend? They might suggest something basic would be okay.

    Also, congrats on getting into the course :) Best of British with your studies!

    • Might be worth contacting the program coordinator for your degree and just double checking what they’d recommend? They might suggest something basic would be okay.

      That's a really good idea and I feel stupid for not having thought of it, lol.

      Also, congrats on getting into the course :) Best of British with your studies!


  • If you fancy an Apple Macbook Air, this looks like a good deal for OzBargainers;
    I have a refurbed Air as my 'work' laptop, after nearly 2 years it runs like a champ, never had any problems with it.

    • I was a bit nervous about getting a refurb from one of these places as opposed to places like the official Dell outlet and Apple refurb place, but hearing good things, I'll have another look.

  • Buy a Windows Laptop. You can find powerful ones without raping your bank account.
    Windows laptops is easy maintenance, easy upgrade, and most of them (Lenovo as example) are coming with SSD NVMe which is so damn fast.
    Apple is just status, if you need to do any maintenance on it, you are fu*ked.

    • Look for Intel i7, or i5 if you don't want to spend too much
    • At least 8GB of memory, 16GB recommended
    • SSD or SSD NVMe if possible. Keep away from HDD coz they are slower and make the laptop heavier.

    On top of that (above), you see the ones with graphic cards, etc.
    Before being anything, even mobile, I check reviews first all over the internet so go to a JB-Hifi to see the models, how they look like.
    Once you find your love, note its model and check for reviews :)

    • +1

      Yeah I was leaning away from Macs despite their reputation as being solid, I doubt I'll need to boot Mac OS and pay extra for the privilege of doing so.

  • OP what's your budget?

    • Oh, I can't believe I forgot to mention that. Budget is sub $2k, but of course lower is better. :)

      • I'd be looking at Lenovo's website. Some excellent models 13-14" for ~$1k on special right now.

        • +1

          In my job I buy Lenovo laptops to the users. They work great, very light, and some model are coming with SSD NVMe.
          Screen has to be at least 1080p (1920x1080). Don't buy 720p (1360x768).

          • +1

            @ratoloko: I am liking the look of the T480. Seems reasonably speced.

            • @Diji: Great specs too. Ticks pretty much everything.

  • +1

    Size: 14'
    CPU/GPU: i7-8565U - UHD Graphics 620
    Ram: 16GB
    Storage: PCIEG3x2 NVME 512G M.2 SSD
    Battery: 8:37 hr web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits.
    Weight: 1.09 KG
    Price:$1,699 https://www.centrecom.com.au/asus-ux433fa-a5089r-14-fhd-i7-8...
    Review: https://www.laptopmag.com/reviews/laptops/asus-zenbook-14-ux...
    Asus Website: https://www.asus.com/au/Laptops/ASUS-ZenBook-14-UX433FN/

    • Oh those look nice, $100 cash back as well. I can probably save an extra couple hundred and get the i5 as well.

      • As you mentioned you may run VMs, be aware Core i7 model comes with 16GB DRAM, while Core i5 model comes with 8GB DRAM. And the DRAM is not upgradable.

  • I'm doing CS and bought a second-hand 13" Retina MBP (Late-2013). Could run any of the stuff we've done in CS on a potato tbh - an Atom and 2GB of RAM would be plenty. Was handy to have a Mac for one of the units I did (Systems programming - the project was marked on a Mac and programs were affected differently than on Linux/Win) but we had a Mac lab at Uni. Depends on what's involved in the course at Melb though. Was a diehard Windows fan before my Mac (using a Surface), but that was giving me a bit of trouble.

    As you said, if you need to do more intensive work (e.g. working with very large datasets), you can always use the uni computers.

    • How much did that run you? If the requirements aren't high I suppose I'll just look for something light and that can take some punishment being put into a bag, with a screen that's not too bad.

      • Bought almost 2 years ago so pricing will obviously be different now. Was ~$1000 (battery, entire bottom casing and keyboard was replaced by Apple straight before buying) - 8/512GB and it's replaced my PC. Screen, keyboard, trackpad and battery is still amazing, but I'd definitely be wary buying an almost 6-year old machine.

        I just have mine in a sleeve which goes inside a bag.

        • Ah, cool. The refurbed Airs I was seeing were like $1500 so I didn't bother looking any further at them. Probably looking in the wrong places.

          • @Diji: Yeah, if you're reasonably lucky, you could probably find an Air (~2014, 8GB RAM, 128-256GB SSD) for around $500-600. Retina Pro's can also be found near that price though, and the screen resolution makes a huge difference when reading code/allows you to fit a lot more on the screen.

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