So, you’re off to university. You’re about to embark on the most exciting three years of your life – a time of discovery and surprises, and stories you certainly won’t tell your mum. In between the pasta bakes and late nights at the union, there will also be the odd bit of work to get done and it helps to have your own computer. In fact, getting your hands on a few gadgets can make life at uni a whole lot easier.
Burning the midnight oil on that crucial essay is a lot more palatable if you can hole up with your own PC, rather than vying for space in the university computer room. Laptops are popular as their portability means you can work wherever you fancy – and the ultra-portable Advent Tacto offers some serious value. Packing an 11.6-inch touchscreen, Intel Celeron processor , 4GB of RAM and 500GB of storage, it’s the perfect choice for students on the move.
If mobility isn’t essential, a desktop PC is ideal. Your money will stretch to a more powerful system and it’s easier to keep it upgraded. An entry-level desktop will easily handle everyday tasks such as email, word processing and surfing the web. But if you plan to push your new purchase a little harder – for photo or video editing (or even a spot of gaming) – you’ll want some extra oomph. Have a look in the Advent Desktops section for a couple of new Advent desktops launching soon that will cover both bases.
If you can stretch to adding a tablet computer to your tech haul then you’ll have a brilliantly portable option for working on the move. For the best blend of value, portability and power, look at an Android-powered tablet. Choose a model with a seven-inch screen with decent resolution (1,280 x 768) and a quad-core processor for nippy performance. If you plan to take photos using your tablet, look out for a decent sized camera – 5 megapixels at a minimum.
Having chosen your computer, you’ll need to install some software. Office 365 is the latest version of Microsoft’s excellent package of easy-to-use work programs. Office includes Word, which enables you to quickly produce professional-looking documents, and PowerPoint, which is essential for creating eye-catching presentations. Best of all, this latest version of Office automatically stores your documents in the Cloud, so there’s no chance of losing that assignment you’ve spent all night slaving over. The University edition offers all the functionality you need for not much money. Even more affordable is Kingsoft Office 2013, which is packed with features and is available for desktop, tablet and mobile. And don’t forget a good security product such as Norton 360 to keep your system safe from viruses and malicious websites.
Storage is another important consideration. Modern PCs come with large hard drives, but a portable drive means you can take your work with you and have a backup in case of any deletion disasters. The Seagate Expansion SGR39211 is an external hard drive that features super fast USB 3.0 connectivity and a mighty 2TB of storage space. If you don’t need quite that much room, a USB pen drive is a pocket – and wallet – friendly solution. The Sandisk Cruzer Edge offers 32GB of portable storage for less than 20 quid.
Take it online
A further alternative is online storage. This option is growing in popularity as it enables you to access your data anywhere. The KNOWHOW backup service costs from just £30 a year. It offers 500GB of storage and makes it possible to access your files from any computer, tablet or smartphone.
Even if your concentration wanders during a lecture, you needn’t miss a thing. A voice recorder such as the Olympus VN7600 will record every word. This budget-friendly model includes 1GB of storage – enough for 550 hours of recording (which we reckon should easily cover every lecture in your first year at uni).
If your study area is a little chaotic, noise-cancelling headphones such as the Sennheiser PXC 250-II can offer an oasis of calm by blocking out external racket. And while we’re looking at added extras, don’t forget a printer. Advent’s Touch Wireless all-in-one printer will not only churn out your finely crafted essays but also scan and photocopy documents. And, as it’s wireless, it can be placed anywhere in your student house for everyone to print from!
Stay in touch
You’ll want to stay in touch while you’re at uni, but mobile phone contracts can be expensive, as can running up a large bill on your landline. All Advent PCs come with Skype pre-installed. This software enables you to make phone and video calls for free over the internet (check out our step-by-step guide). All you need is a webcam . If your PC doesn’t come with one as standard then the Advent AWC113 HD offers 720p HD resolution at an excellent price.
Before packing up and heading off for your first term, make sure you’ve remembered the small things too. If you’ve bought a laptop, a decent case is a must. And for the printer you’ll need a good stock of printer paper and ink. Excusing a late essay with the words ‘my printer ran out of ink’ cuts as little ice these days as ‘the dog ate my homework’ once did.
You’ll spend plenty of time working on your new PC but it’s also likely to become the hub of your social life. A web connection is essential, not only for research but also for getting onto Facebook and Twitter during your downtime. You’ll also be able to use it to watch TV and movies online and to listen to music from Spotify and other online music stores.
If your budget will stretch, a decent set of PC speakers will help bring your music and movies to life. The Logitech Z323 set-up adds a subwoofer to stereo speakers for room-filling sound. A decent MP3 player doesn’t have to cost a fortune either. Something like the Sony Walkman NWZE474B.9CEW will ensure you can take your music wherever you go.