7 Best Laptops for Students in South Africa

Are you off to university yourself, or are you shopping around for a soon-to-be student in your life — perhaps your son, daughter, or grandchild? If there’s anything all students have in common in the 21st century, it’s that they all need a very solid laptop. 

What are the best laptops for students in South Africa? Your academic performance might very well depend on knowing the answer to this key question. The best student laptops will seamlessly support you in your studies (and help you stay in touch with your family, as well as relax a grueling night of cramming), after all. If you choose wrong, on the other hand, you might end up with a flimsy build that simply doesn’t perform as well as you need it to.

No matter what you’re studying, this look at the best budget laptops for students, as well as premium options, will help you start your new adventure on the right foot. We’ll look at the factors students need to keep in mind as they shop for a great student laptop… and then, we’ll show you some of the best laptops for students on the market in South Africa at the moment!

How to Choose the Right Student Laptop

For today’s college students, a reliable laptop is as crucial as textbooks — but student life is already notoriously expensive, so you also need that new computer to be affordable. That means, in the modern market, that you need to pick the best student laptop carefully. Nothing’s less affordable than wasting money on a product that doesn’t, in fact, meet your needs, after all.

Just how do you choose the best student laptop, meaning a laptop that will hopefully last you until you graduate?

I’ll take you on a little “tour” of the kinds of specs students will want to look for as they shop around for a (budget) laptop, but before we get there, have a think about all the things you’ll need your laptop for, too. Some of these questions will be easy to answer. Others aren’t, but please do consider them.

  • What are you going to study? Do you already have a set course, or do you think you might switch majors later on? If you already know exactly what classes you’ll be taking, what programs or software are required for your coursework? If you’re not sure yet, ask around.
  • How good are you at looking after your electronic devices? Be honest here. Active students who will always have their student laptop in their backpacks will need a sturdier machine than those who are primarily going to be working on their laptop from home. They’ll also want a lightweight laptop, for that matter.
  • How are you going to keep in touch with your family, chat with friends, or form study groups? Students who are planning on video chatting a lot will need a good webcam, though they’ll likely want to buy a separate microphone and headphones.
  • What “extracurriculars” are you planning on engaging in? I won’t even ask you if you’re a gamer, because you will be gaming. Even if you don’t think you’ll have time right now, trust me, you’ll want to let off some steam. The only question is what games you might want to get into, and how demanding they are. Some students, regardless of their major, might also want to do vlogging, video editing, or make and upload music with the help of their laptops.

Whatever you might want to do as a student, you’ll need your laptop to play a loyal supporting role in your story. As you shop around for the best student laptop in South Africa, you better make sure the machines you’re considering can handle your intense needs!

Having said that, I also know that not all college students have the same needs. Some humanities students might be perfectly happy with a more “basic” laptop, for instance, because they might only need to read and write a bunch of texts while video calling, listening to music, and doing some light gaming in their off-hours. Graphic design students, those studying computer science, or students who’ll need to run demanding simulations or data analyses, on the other hand, will absolutely depend on incredibly powerful student laptops.

That’s why you’ll want to consider what specs you need, too:

  • Processor: Students who’ll essentially use their laptops similarly to office workers might get away with an Intel Core i3 Processor. Those who are going to be gaming or using more demanding programs like Adobe Premiere Pro will need a more powerful Intel Core i5 processor, while the heaviest users are going to want an Intel Core i7. AMD Ryzen 5 or 7 can be good alternatives, too, especially for students who will be gaming a lot.
  • Graphics card: Some of the best student laptops have crazy good graphics cards, including one of the latest RTX 3070 graphic cards! They are practically PCs in a bag! Even some of the lower-end graphic cards are pretty spectacular, like the GTX 1650. Graphics cards are a must have for gaming laptops and graphic designers.
  • RAM: Many budget laptops are equipped with only 4 GB of RAM, but almost all students will benefit from at least 8, and some will need 16 or even more. You can often upgrade the RAM yourself, but this is something to consider.
  • Hard drive: If you’ll be carrying your laptop around on the go, and you want your machine to power up in seconds, you’ll need to go with a Solid State Drive. The good news is that even very cheap laptops now often have them! Pay attention to the size of your hard disc too, but don’t worry too much, as an external drive can take over when your laptop reaches capacity, or you can rely on cloud storage!
  • Keyboard: Some of this comes down to personal preference. Do you want a backlit keyboard? Is a full size keyboard with a number pad important to you? Students will intensively use their keyboards as well though, so they’ll need to be quality builds.
  • Display: Graphic design students and others in the visual arts will want ultra HD displays, while others can get away with lower resolution displays — unless, of course, they’ll be gaming a lot!
  • Battery life: Think about how long you’ll need your battery to last, and what you’ll be doing on your laptop, as well!

Best Laptops for Graphic Design Students

If you’re (going to be) a graphic design student, you’re aiming for much better than “any old laptop”! Graphic design students will be expected to run multiple demanding applications, and let’s be honest, most laptops can’t handle these hardware-intense programs. At the same time, not all graphic design students need an expensive Apple laptop, as there are plenty of other very strong options.

A laptop with integrated graphics may serve you well if you’re only writing essays, but it certainly won’t be good enough for graphics design students. That’s why you’ll need a top-quality laptop with a great graphics card, a powerful processor like an Intel Core i7, and plenty of RAM to last you. Unfortunately, most laptops with the latest graphics cards are also really expensive — the sort of money most students won’t be able to afford. How do you know which laptops have really good specs while not being too expensive? No need to worry! I’ve made a list of the three best laptops for graphic designers in a range of budgets.

1. MSI GF63

Looking for a great student laptop that’s not overly expensive but that does offer the quality to get you through your graphic design course? Look no further than the MSI GF63! This awesome laptop has everything you need — a solid Intel Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and of course the best part, a GTX 1650 graphics card! Need more RAM? No problem. If you’re willing to spend a little extra, you can buy this laptop with up to 64GB of RAM! The basic one, which comes with 8 GB of RAM, is a great deal coming in at only R16,145 with a truly epic graphics card. 

2. Acer Aspire Nitro

The Acer Aspire Nitro is another great laptop for graphic design students. Unlike the MSI laptop, this one comes with an Intel Core i7 for those who want a better processor. This handsome laptop is also shipped with a GTX 1660 graphics card. This college laptop does cost slightly more than the last one, but if you’re looking for quality, it’s a great deal for R24,291.

3. Gigabyte Aero 15

Now, if you are looking for that truly premium experience and have the budget for it, I’d definitely suggest going for the Gigabyte Aero 15. This monster of a laptop comes with one of the best graphics cards on the market today, the RTX 3070! It also features a mighty Intel Core i7 processor. Did I mention that the Gigabyte Aero 15 has a really cool full-sized keyboard and a longer battery life? I have, now. 

These laptops aren’t just good for graphic design, obviously, these laptops double as amazing gaming laptops, too. The superior graphics cards allow you to play games on the highest setting with no lag! 

Best Laptops for Computer Science Students

Besides a powerful processor that can handle anything you’ll throw at it — at the very minimum an i5, but ideally an i7 or even i9, computer science students will depend on loads of RAM to run virtual machines! You’ll want a large SSD, too! A great keyboard is super important for computer science students because they’ll be coding until they practically drop. 

1. Lenovo ThinkPad E14 G2

There’s a reason Lenovo’s ThinkPad series is so popular in the computer science community, and the E14 G2 is one of the very best laptops for students studying computer science or related fields who do need a more affordable price point. Intel Core i5 and a generous 512GB SSD Solid State Hard Drive? Check! Nice light and portable 14″ format? Check! Today’s best deals also include this ThinkPad because it’s got a full HD display with anti-glare (really a necessity if you’re going to spend all day on it). It’s even got a Kensington lock slot. I’m writing this from a very similar ThinkPad, and I can tell you from experience that the keyboard lasts. This ThinkPad has a rather reasonable price of R16,099.

2. ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo 15

Computer science students who simply need an Intel Core i7 should definitely consider this ASUS Zenbook Pro, also packed full of other very useful features that include a 1 TB SSD (!!!), multiple USB ports, a Glossy Type OLED Backlit Display, and even an nVidia Geforce RTX 3070 graphics card that’s gonna be perfect if you want to play demanding modern games or run complex simulations. If you like the sound of this laptop, you could pick it up for R52,038!

Best Laptops for PhD Students, Law School Students, and Other Majors

As students in once “paper-heavy” fields — like law, literature, and psychology, whether at the undergraduate or postgraduate level — are increasingly expected to complete assignments and even take exams entirely online, they, too, need powerful student laptops. Your demands will be similar to those of very intense business users (basically intense word processing and spreadsheets), with the addition that you’ll want to be able to take notes on the go. That requires a great battery life, and a touchscreen can help you out a lot, too. Here are some of my top picks for you!

1. Lenovo Yoga C740 

This premium laptop will allow most students to do everything they need — and then some. It’s got an Intel Core i5 processor, a 512 GB SSD, 8 GB of RAM, and Intel UHD Graphics. Two of the features that make this one of the best laptops for law students are its fingerprint reader and its backlit keyboard. In addition, for easy note-taking, the Lenovo Yoga C740 is even equipped with a touch screen! Take this student laptop home for R19,319.00, and enjoy it for years to come!

2. Acer Swift 3

If you’re looking for more affordable price specifications, I’d highly recommend this Acer Swift 3 laptop, which can be yours today for R14,939.00. What do you need to know? This is the best laptop for you if you’re after an affordable workhorse with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 512 GB SSD, and Intel Iris Xe Graphics. At only 1.2 kilos, it’s also one of the best lightweight laptop options for students on the go.

A Quick Note Before You Shop for Your Student Laptop

We’ve had the chance to see all these machines in action, and each has the potential to be the very best student laptop for someone, depending on their needs and budget. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that there’s no such thing as the “best student laptop” — there’s only the best college laptop for your particular needs! 

With that in mind, if you’re erring on the side of “more powerful is best”, almost no student can go wrong with the Gigabyte Aero 15 or the ASUS Zenbook Pro Duo 15, for the simple reason that these machines combine powerful Intel Core processors with the some best graphics cards on the laptop market today.

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