Tuesday, 10 March 2020

What Kind of Laptop Should Our Students Buy?

"What kind of laptop should I buy?" is a question that we are often asked at Bucks New University, both by our undergraduate students who want the flexibility to be able to work from home and - of course - by our online students, who will need a laptop of their own to complete the course.

It's a tricky question to answer, because computer specifications change all the time and - of course - it all depends on exactly what you want to use your laptop for.

But, let's say you want to buy a decent laptop capable of running Autodesk Maya, for computer animation and to render out your shots.  What sort of laptop should you buy, and how much do you need to spend? MA Animation student Amedeo Beretta offers some advice to other students at Bucks.

Suggested computer specifications for all-purpose CG work, including 3D CG:
Amedeo Beretta
    • HDD: at least 500gb or, (better) 1tb SSD drive as your main drive 
    • Processor: CPU Intel Core i7 9th/10th generation or similar
    • RAM: 16GB of ram is the recommended minimum. 32GB would be ideal. If you decide to buy 16GB and plan to update in a few year's time, check that the machine you are buying supports at least 32GB of ram memory.
    • Graphics Card: NvidiaGeForce GTX 1080 or similar. If buying an AMD card (some Apple laptops come with it), double check for compatibility with the software you plan to employ (e.g. Redshift renderer might have issues running on some AMD graphic cards).
    • Screen: you won't have much choice when it comes to laptops, without breaking the bank. Make sure the resolution is at least HD (1920*1080). Compare reviews, and prefer models that put less strain on your eyes.
    What will it cost?
    You can expect to buy a Laptop with these specifications for about £1,300 (excluding secondary monitor and secondary hard drive, which are not essential).

    General considerations
    • Value for Money: you will get better value for money if you buy technology which is not top of the range, but one or two steps immediately below.
    • Battery: always check the battery life - how long can the machine survive without external power?
    • Reviews: check real users online reviews to see how happy or unhappy they are. Check to see if the particular model you are interested in has experienced problems encountered by a significant amount of users (such as flimsy screen hinges, overheating issues, meltdown issues, screen breaks easily).
    • Warranty: check the warranty: what does it cover, and for how long?
    Useful sites for Laptops, CPU and GPU comparison:
    Of course, you can spend less, and remember that if you're just using a laptop for animation, you can get away with a lower spec. If you want to do sophisticated lighting and rendering on your machine, you will likely want to spend a little more.

    For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK.