Choosing the right IT equipment for university
We want you to enjoy your learning and digital experience at UWE Bristol. To help you along your journey this guide covers some of the things to think about and questions to ask that will help you choose the right IT equipment for your studies.
All UWE Bristol campuses have bookable open-access computers, but most students will benefit from a laptop, as online learning plays a vital role in your time at university.
We know that personal preference and budget play a large part in choosing equipment, however, buying something that is fit for purpose right from the start will save valuable time, money, and ensure you are well prepared for the software you are likely to use in your future career.
The software you'll need to use
Understanding the software requirements for your course is the first place to start, as this will decide the operating system and hardware choices.
- Find out what software applications you'll be using. Your 'Preparing to Study' communications may include this information or ask your programme leader.
- You will have access to many university-licensed applications, and free applications for your course, on and off campus.
- Some software will need installing - many applications are available as both web apps (hosted and used in the cloud) and desktop apps (physically installed so they are on the computer and can be used offline) - you do need both.
More information about using the software at UWE Bristol, including specialist software and offers for students, can be found in Software via AppsAnywhere.
An operating system to support the software
The operating system will be decided by what software you'll be running. Will you need to look for a computer with Windows, macOS or something different?
Some points to bear in mind with the software provided by UWE Bristol:
- You will need the latest version of your operating system.
- Most applications will run on Windows.
- Some applications will run on macOS.
- A lot of big specialist software packages will only run on Windows 10 or later.
- Chromebooks and iOS/Android tablets won't run most specialist applications.
- It's not possible to install Windows on Mac devices with Apple's ARM processor (released in November 2020), such as the M1 chip.
- Some software may not be compatible on Mac devices with Apple's ARM processor.
The hardware to run it
The specifications of the laptop that you will need depends on the software packages you will use and the complexity of the tasks you will need to do. Your programme leader will advise of specific course requirements. As a guide:
Core specification - to access the University's core digital learning systems (Microsoft 365, Blackboard, Collaborate, Panopto, Pebblepad) and light use of specialist apps like SPSS or NVivo:
- i3 (9th generation) or Ryzen 3 (3rd generation) processor
- 8GB memory
- 128GB solid-state storage
Enhanced specification - for more advanced data processing, image editing or basic video editing, application development:
- i5 (9th generation) or Ryzen 5 (3rd generation) processor
- 8GB memory
- 256GB solid-state storage
Intensive specification - for intensive data processing, video editing, rendering, visualisation, small-scale AR/VR, complex application development:
- i7 (9th generation) or Ryzen 7 (3rd generation) processor
- 16GB memory
- 512GB solid state-storage
Choosing the right device for your studies
Thinking about these questions will help you to choose the right device you'll need to complete your studies.
- Will the operating system run the software you need?
Devices like Chromebooks and tablets can seem more affordable, however, they are not usually able to run any specialist software required by your course.
- Does it have enough memory and storage space?
- Will the processor cope with what you need to do?
- Does it have a microphone and camera?
These are essential for engaging with online learning.
- Does it have enough USB sockets?
To plug in things like webcams, headsets, and other peripheral devices.
- Is the screen size big enough?
Some software packages specify minimum screen resolutions.
- Is it easy to carry around?
Lightweight devices are great for commuting, but they might cost more or have shorter battery life.
- Do you need a new device?
Some basic maintenance tasks or a simple hardware upgrade might boost performance and give an old device new life.
Please note: the University does not endorse any scheme or supplier. This guide is to help you so you can make the best-informed choice you can when buying IT equipment for your studies.
Other things to consider
The software, operating system and hardware are the three main areas to focus on. Below are some other things you may be thinking about and some useful tips to bear in mind.
- Make sure specific accessories are compatible with the computer (for example, an ergonomic mouse, specific language keyboard, etc).
- Check that removable media are compatible with the ports on your computer and they're big enough for what you need to put on them (for example, external hard drives, etc). To follow best practice, you should encrypt these using our guidance.
- Sustainability is embedded in UWE Bristol's culture. If you're thinking about buying a personal printer, we would encourage you to question whether you really need one or if there is an alternative option (for example, printing on campus).
- Make sure you know who you can contact or where you can go in case something goes wrong with your equipment.
- If you are considering insurance and after-sales support packages for peace of mind, you should understand this can be an added cost.
- UWE Bristol IT Services can offer limited advice for personal devices and accessories, so it's important that you're covered for repairs, loss, or theft.
- You should always keep your operating system updated to ensure reliability and security.
There are all sorts of broadband deals around and it's worth checking the guidance from Ofcom about connections and what will be suitable depending on your accommodation and requirements.
- Online gaming, streaming movies, and downloading large files will have an impact on what you use and what's left for teaching and learning activities.
- For advice on how to improve your broadband speed, we recommend reading Ofcom's broadband speed guidance.
- You could also consider using mobile broadband (over 4G/5G networks).
- Be sure to check network coverage, usage limits, and minimum contract period before taking out any service.
- The recommended browsers for using most things, including Blackboard, Collaborate and AppsAnywhere, is Chrome or Edge.
- It is strongly recommended that you have an anti-virus software package installed, regardless of the operating system you are running on your computer. Mobile devices normally include built-in protection.
- Make sure you restart or shut down your computer regularly to ensure it receives vital security and software updates that will help keep your information safe.
- Shutting down will save a bit of energy, too. Good for the environment, good for you.
- More information can be found in our dedicated guidance on protecting data and devices.