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 need a laptop, particularly when on-campus teaching is limited.

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 and money.

UWE Bristol runs a Digital Capability scheme (DCS) if you need financial support to buy IT equipment for studying, including internet access.

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.
  • 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 software at UWE Bristol, including specialist software and offers for students, can be found via software on campus and at home.

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 notebooks with Apple's new M1 chip (released in November 2020).

The hardware to run it

Knowing what software and operating system you'll need will help narrow down your search for the right computer.

Some points to check:

  • The operating system will run the software you need. Devices like Chromebooks and tablets can seem more affordable, however, they are often not fit for purpose.
  • It has enough memory and storage space. We would recommend at least 8GB memory and 128GB Solid-State Drive (SSD) storage.
  • It will cope with what you need to do. The minimum recommended processors for courses with basic IT requirements are Intel i3 or AMD Ryzen3. Some specialist software packages have more demanding requirements so you'll need something that will cope easily with this.
  • Screen size - this is personal preference but worth considering as some software packages specify minimum screen resolutions.
  • It's easy to carry around - this depends on what you need to do, and personal preference. Lightweight may be easier but can sometimes cost more or have shorter battery 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.

Accessories

  • 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).

Aftercare

  • 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 you're covered for repairs, loss, or theft.
  • You should always keep your operating system updated to ensure reliability and security.

Internet access

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.

Anti-virus

  • 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.