Laptop for Uni (around $1200)

My step daughter wants to get a new laptop for uni (laboratory medicine) next year. She's has been using a cheap Chromebook at high school.

Size/weight & battery life is the main priority, but would like something 'decent' to last a few years with decent onboard storage. No gaming.

What would you recommend for around $1200?

Thanks for your suggestions!


  • +1

    I would recommend a MacBook, Perfect for uni. Maybe MacBook Pro second hand or near new 2020 MacBook air for $1100

    • seconding this. MacBook Air, currently on sale for 10% off at JB - base model with 256gb is $1439. a bit over your budget but can easily last many years

      • +1

        Actually… I know I also made my own comment about why a Macbook is a good option, but I was just thinking about it and remembered, aren't the Intel Macbooks going to receive less support now that the new Apple Silicon chips are going to be introduced soon??

        It might actually not be a good idea to buy a Macbook at this time right now

        • No not necessarily, apple recently even released a 10th gen processor iMac, so chances are since this is a 2020 model it will last long and apple has brilliant software support

      • Yep exactly, recommend that for uni students. especially it being brand new with 2 year warranty and no more butterfly keyboard, It shall serve OPs step daughter very well in her studies and be very reliable with solid build quality

    • Thanks, definitely something I was considering. The lack of a regular USB port is a concern though.

      • +1

        Just get a $5 dongle, problem solved. Macs are the best for uni, You cannot get a operating system that is better for productivity, and the build quality of it makes it a solid reliable laptop.
        And there are rugged cases available for MacBooks which are amazing and not something that many Windows laptops have. and the aluminium body makes it a very very solid chassis

      • Also with Macs you can install windows next to Mac so if your step daughter needs windows app then it is natively supported and you can switch to Mac, Its not a hack, its super easy and apple has a built in app to do that so won't even void warranty or anything!
        But if you get a windows laptop then you cannot install Mac OS with it.

  • +1

    Honestly, a Macbook provides good build quality, decent performance, excellent battery life and a really pleasant screen to top it all off

    I would usually not recommend a Macbook since you can get much more powerful specs for the same price, however, in this situation your budget is pretty decent, and the Macbook would also fit the "No gaming" pretty well

  • Ive had a macbook air since early 2014 which i purchased for uni and im still using it to this day and its running as fast as it did back then. only thing damaged is the charger cord but thats my own fault (bent and frayed from my weird bed and powerpoint angle). i recommend it!

  • +3

    If you are interested in a Windows machine and you are able to get access to the Education Store at Lenovo, which I believe you can because of your daughter is a student, I recommend a Lenovo T14 AMD at $1,179. A brighter touchscreen upgrade is $110 extra which I recommend also. AMD Ryzen 5 PRO 4650U blows anything in the price range and the build quality of the T series is well respected. These will definitely last three to fives years easily and then some more. If you prefer something lighter X13 with AMD Ryzen 5 PRO 4650U. It comes with the brighter 300 nits screen. Screen is definitely nicer with the Macs, however. My X230 is 8 years old and it is still going strong. In terms of build quality and performance the AMD variants of the T series and X series are hard to beat. However it is at these prices only if you have access to the Education Store at Lenovo.

    • If you are doing a STEM course you might have to install MATLAB and other data crunching programs. Might also run a virtual machine so a performance is quite essential. AMD Ryzen 5 PRO 4650U is an absolute beast for what it is.

    • Excellent, I will find out whether she wants Windows or Mac. I have a ThinkPad E595 actually like the rugged look of it.

      Durability is definitely a concern with her. The cheap Chromebook she has been using in year 12 is still working which is somewhat surprising!

  • +1

    Does she want a touchscreen? Microsoft surface devices are pretty popular with students.

    • +1

      This right here.
      A touchscreen with the surface pen for writing down lecture material and doing problem sets is so convenient. If you can get your textbooks electronically you have everything you need in an easy to carry package.
      The Microsoft store offers a 10% discount (on surface or any computer) with a valid higher education email address or show your student id/ email address in store.

      • Also don't forgot a lot of unis will get you office for cheap/free 👍

        • Yup, that's correct… I can at least back that up with proof that you are provided free Office and almost the complete Adobe Suite for free when in high-school…

          I'm hoping that University will provide the same

  • Xps 13 or 15

  • +2

    Remember Amazon Prime Day is on the 13th October, some deals may also pop up from there… who knows?

    Another one to maybe consider for Uni students would be the Samsung Tab S6 or the newer Tab S7 with Tab Type Cover and S-Pen. Type cover is a must typing out assignments and taking notes. S-Pen is also useful in combination with that touch screen for marking notes and powerpoints, handwriting notes etc. Dex is also a useful feature. Samsung also offer the Samsung Education Store for any discounts for students if you want to purchase directly from them.

    For a more traditional laptop/ultrabook definitely look into the Asus Zenbook UM425 with the Ryzen 4500U processor (only 8gb RAM unfortunately). It is around $1200-1300. Portable, decent battery, decent screen with good colours n brightness (matte) 14" screen in a small form factor (small bezels), performance is good, very light & portable, decent typing experience. I use one and it is going well so far, excellent device apart from the soldered on RAM….

    Also a 2-in-1 Ultrabook might also be something to consider as I would see a benefit for using a touchscreen n stylus in making and marking notes etc.

  • +2

    Get Latitude 7xxx series if budget allows, they have a sale on atm.

    Business grade laptop with the connectivity you need (USB ports, etc)
    3 years NBD warranty with business grade (you can change it to 3 years basic onsite after remote diagnosis for a ~$150 discount)

    $1259 (sale price) -165.11 (warranty "downgrade", still 3 years onsite though) = $1093.89
    +$149~ for 1TB SSD upgrade (Kingston 1TB A2000).

    i5-8th gen, 16GB RAM, touch screen, even has LTE built in, business class laptop (the laptop will be fine from a few small knocks and drops)

    Touch screen is a luxury but unless you have a desktop, it's quite intuitive for windows 10 now and would highly recommend

    Hope that helps

  • Just an update. She's decided on the base model MacBook Air for $1439 (next time it's on sale).

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