SSD vs HDD
SSD became popular for consumer hardware in the late 00's as an alternative to mechanical HDDs. They provided significant benefits over mechanical HDDs, but at significant cost. Today, SSDs are becoming much more mainstream, but are generally only available on mid-high level devices which have significantly higher costs than entry level devices.
Why get a SSD?
After starting a new computer, you will find that the device is usually quite speedy. As the device gets used over time, system memory files, fragmentation and mechanical wear begin to play a factor in how quickly a computer can recall written memory. SSDs alleviate this problem as there are no moving physical parts. In essence, the computer will 'never' slow down as the SSD memory has the following benefits over conventional mechanical HDDs:
Tablets with a Stylus
There are many company's now offering 2-in-1 devices that are both a tablet and a functional laptop. We fully support and recommend these devices. When used appropriately, they can be a powerful productivity device allowing students to hand-write notes using Microsoft OneNote, to annotate PDFs using software such as DrawBoard, or to draw and conceptualise art projects in Photoshop or alternative drawing programs.
Generally these products are Mid-High tier devices that can have high costs. They are more prone to breaking/accidental damage to the screen, with the stylus accessory being lost or damaged.
Remember, when looking at these devices we still recommend that these devices meet our minimum specifications with a i3 (m3) processor and 4GBs of RAM.
As a minimum, we recommend 4GB of memory. If there is a significant price difference between a 4GB BYO device vs a 8GB device with generally the same specifications, it is recommended that the 4GB model will be sufficient enough to not justify the additional cost.
4GB of memory is plenty for basic educational use, reasons to have anything higher is if your student is undertaking a Media course using Adobe products, or Graphics using AutoDesk products (see dedicated graphics card)
Intel offer various ranges of CPU for consumers, these include the standard Core iX range, pentium and celeron processors.
We recommend a i3 (m3) minimum, which offers better multi-threaded processing, faster processing of webpages, media and files. The following breaks down the iX CPU products explaining their benefits:
Does CPU Speed Matter?
No, the processing speed, or the GHz race no longer is relevant in a Multi-Core world. While frequency (speed) still plays a factor in how quick a CPU processes information, there are additional considerations such as onboard cache sizes and Instruction Set Extentions which optimise how information is processed. Pentium and Celeron CPUs do not include these important extensions, therefore, by comparison, a dual-core i3 is twice as powerful as a quad-core pentium due to the instruction set benefits (click here for an example)
Should I get a pentium or celeron?
Officially, we will support these processors at school as they are able to do basic tasks, albeit slower. Generally speaking, computers that offer these ranges of CPUs are very cheap, which makes the overall device experience measurably slower. We recommend a i3 (m3) as a minimum.
AMD is a competitor to Intel in CPU manufacturing. AMD offers cheaper SKU prices to manufacturers, which allows manufacturers to pass on the savings to consumers. Generally speaking, a AMD CPU computer will be cheaper than a Intel alternative. As a minimum, we recommend that A8 processors are installed in a BYO device. AMD do offer benefits over Intel, with their integrated GPU performance (graphics processor) rated higher than Intel, however, there are disadvantages to AMD products. Disadvantages include lower general performance, generally on-par with Intels cheaper Pentium and Celeron processors. The overall performance of current A-series products is below Intel in many benchmarks.
Click here for an example, the A10 series performs lower than a Intel i5 processor in many application benchmarks.
We do support AMD products, but recommend the A8 processor as a bare minimum (the near equivilent to a Intel i3).
Dedicated (Discrete) Graphics Cards
Some Mid-High tier products will offer dedicated video cards, generally produced by a company called Nvidia, however, AMD also produce dedicated video cards for both AMD and Intel CPUs.
A dedicated video card is valuable for students who enjoy playing games on their laptop. There are varying qualities of dedicated cards, many of which will advertise the Memory size (2GB of dedicated memory) rather than talk about the processing power of the GPU.
If you are in search of a laptop with a dedicated video card, try and target Nvidia GPUs with branding in the 1060-1080 range. These video cards are new generation processors that are more energy efficient and provide powerful gaming/rendering performance above older generation GPUs.