Gamers are generally considered the highest level of PC users in terms of technical requirements. Running modern HD games properly requires some pretty solid hardware, and most of the time you can expect to pay well over £1000 for the best gaming computers. However, it’s possible to find models that can play games comfortably for half that price, if you look out for the best bargains. Here are some of our favourite choices.
This modified gaming PC includes a performance-boosted Intel Core i5 processor, allowing it to produce even better results when running HD games. Nvidia GeForce dedicated graphics support the 8GB of built-in RAM to make video rendering easy. This PC offers some of the best graphics and performance stats you’re likely to find on a model below £1000, and yet it only costs £600!
It’s no longer necessary to go for a laptop if you want your computer to be compact and good value. Lots of people are finding that desktop PCs are far from redundant, especially with newer and more creative models being released every year by all the major manufacturers. In fact, there’s a growing new trend for small form-factor PCs at the bargain end of the market, especially among users with relatively simple requirements. Here are some of our top budget-friendly picks from the likes of Acer, Dell and Asus.
This miniature PC really is tiny, and it looks great despite being a little limited by its size. With a basic dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM and a total of 32GB storage, this Windows PC is entry-level in terms of performance by 2016 standards. That makes it ideal for someone who only needs entry-level, since simple tasks like browsing the internet are easy for this Dell, and it’s very affordable.
If you’re looking to replace your laptop or PC this year, and you’re sticking with the most popular operating system out there (Windows, of course), then you’ll want to find a machine that’s optimised for running Windows 10. Whatever your thoughts are on the latest Microsoft OS (which was first released a year ago now), most new computers will either come with it pre-installed or prompt you to upgrade to it immediately. Here’s your ultimate guide for what to consider when buying a new laptop or PC to run Windows 10.
Every single task your computer completes will require processing power. A good processor will make your experience feel more lightweight and quick, which is vital for anyone trying to complete serious work, and highly desirable for any user. The standard benchmark is now quad-core, so look for that as a minimum. Windows 10, when configured correctly, can run perfectly well at this level.
Integrated graphics are still common in laptops, but full graphics cards are vastly superior on the whole. This is most relevant for gaming and other high-end visual software. A good mid-range Nvidia or AMD dedicated graphics card should be enough for most intermediate users on Windows 10.
Converting webpages to a portable and useful format can be extremely useful, and one of the easiest solutions is often to create a PDF. The benefit of this is you’re left with a single secure document containing all the necessary files and displaying the webpage exactly as you see it in your browser. There are many useful applications for this, especially for collaborative work which requires sharing designs, notes and other information that can be saved in a PDF.
For many users, a comprehensive piece of software that covers all their PDF needs will be a suitable option to help achieve this. Many leading programs incorporate the ability to download a website’s pages and convert them to PDF format with one click, although this software is usually paid. Sometimes this software may be a download that is installed and run on your own PC, and in other cases you may choose to use a web browser extension or even a fully online tool. As an alternative, a webpage to PDF API, which allows you to save a webpage as PDF or website for offline viewing, may be used by businesses and advanced users who want to incorporate this function into an external platform or a piece of their own software.
Suffering with wireless internet connection woes? Wi-Fi is notoriously unreliable on Windows PCs and laptops, and even the best machines can struggle to communicate on your home network properly if your configuration isn’t perfect from the outset. Here are a few tools that might help you get your issues under control.
This is the only tool on our list which isn’t exactly free, although you can try it for 30 days before buying it for a one-off price. It’s an excellent tool for setting up your internet connection properly, allowing you to easily create a profile and adjust the necessary settings, which means you can get online quickly and without hassle.
This program scans your immediate area for available wireless networks and provides you with a wealth of information about each one, allowing you to diagnose connectivity problems more quickly. For example, you can compare the strength of different nearby networks using the same channel as your router, and change your settings if it looks like this could be an issue. It’s also great for identifying areas in your home where the Wi-Fi signal is blocked or weak.
When we’re thinking about choosing a new laptop, most of us look at balancing price and performance. However, it’s important not to forget that software can have a great overall effect on both of these, once you actually start using your new PC.
Depending on what you plan to do with it, you will need different software, and perhaps you’ll need to invest in some premium tools to get the job done, but there are some amazing free options out there for all your basic work and entertainment needs. Here are some of the best free software choices available in 2016.
For an all-round player that can open most playable media files, including almost all common audio and video formats, VLC is an excellent, lightweight option. Its interface is basic and never really gets an update, but by stripping away any unnecessary styling features, you’re left with a very fast and reliable player that we recommend using as a default on most PCs.
Apple’s software rarely runs perfectly on a Windows PC, but iTunes has gone through so many iterations now that its performance has finally been improved enough to make it run fairly seamlessly on mid-high end PCs. It’s the most intuitive music library software, in our opinion, plus since many of us use iPhones or iPods you can easily sync your music to those devices.
All PC users, whether advanced or beginner, need to sort out their antivirus and security software as a matter of urgency. Browsing online leads to malware attacks quite quickly if you leave yourself vulnerable, and you can’t use the excuse of software being expensive, because all these free options are excellent choices that cost nothing at all to download and install.
A sturdy firewall is your first defence against viruses and malware attacks on your PC. A firewall is essential, but paying for one is far from it. pfSense is our favourite free option because its open-source, lightweight coding makes it highly efficient. It’s flexible and suitable for pretty much everyone.
Most VPN software involves having some form of paid subscription to protect your identity and security when browsing online, as well as accessing content that’s only available in certain countries. CyberGhost is a rare example of a free service that’s actually effective and straightforward, so for most intermediate users we would recommend trying it.
If you’re a MacBook owner, regardless of whether you go for the entry level model or the highest spec MacBook Pro, your laptop will almost certainly set you back a fair amount of money. Apple’s current range offers some great value for money options, but they’re all at the higher end of the market so as a MacBook user you really need to make sure you’re getting all the value you can out of your device. That’s where the accessories come in, since there are plenty of amazingly useful products on the market that can make your MacBook user experience even better. Here are some of our favourites for 2016.
Even the best trackpads equipped with new technologies like Force Touch can be limiting to users when it comes to certain tasks. Apple’s own Magic Mouse 2 is an excellent substitute for the built-in trackpad on any MacBook, featuring a seamless multi-touch surface that allows you to click, tap, scroll and swipe through your tasks with ease. It charges quickly so you can use it wirelessly for hours at a time.
This super-compact and lightweight scanner can be tucked out of sight on your desk or carried around as you work in different places. It’s the ultimate portable scanning device for documents, receipts and cards, images of which are captured and stored on a MicroSD card, plus you can send them straight to your MacBook over Wi-Fi.
For the majority of PC users, most laptops on the market right now are massively overpowered. The cutting edge features and high-performance components included in many mid-range and high-end laptops are simply overkill for what the average user wants, and although we appreciate most of the more advanced models and understand their purpose, you just don’t need them for day-to-day browsing and working.
It’s possible to pick up an absolute bargain if you’re looking for a simple, family-friendly laptop that gets the job done without a fuss, you just need to know which models offer the best value. Not every cheap laptop is up to scratch, and you might find some of them surprisingly lacklustre, but we know for a fact there are plenty of models on the market right now that offer superb value for money at a rock bottom price point.
For example, Lenovo’s Yoga 300 2-in-1 is currently available for about £200, an absolute bargain that kills two birds with one stone by functioning as both a laptop and a touchscreen tablet. It features an impressive five-hour battery life, over 11 inches of screen space and plenty of processor power and RAM to cope with everyday media use like streaming HD films. For an entry level model this one really offers great value, as the higher end Yoga models are a little on the pricey side. Another offering from Lenovo is the G50 15.6-inch Notebook, which comes in just under £300. This one is great if you’re keen on a traditional laptop design and want your device to handle a slightly more demanding workload than the Yoga 300 is comfortable with.
The market for laptops has arguably reached something of a saturation point, and innovation in the field is becoming more subtle. This actually isn’t a bad thing by any means. For too long, new models with fancy and futuristic features struggled to actually meet the needs of users, sacrificing slick overall performance and solid reliability in favour of half-baked gimmicks and new solutions for problems that nobody ever really had in the first place. In recent years, the best laptops have focused on doing what we always needed laptops to do, but better. For example, last year the highly popular Dell XPS 13 showed everyone how to make an excellent laptop that does exactly what it’s designed to do.
It is strange that in today’s modern world that there is still a stigma attached to buying refurbished laptops. Why is this? Many individuals turn their noses up at them, simply because they are not new, but we need to get past this.
Refurbished laptops need to be embraced and accepted within the technological world, as they are cheaper and have a purpose to serve.
What is really important to note is that refurbished and ‘used’ are two totally different things. ‘Used’ means that the laptop will have been used for a considerable length of time. Refurbished however means that for one reason or another, the laptop was returned to the seller and can no longer be sold as ‘new.
Below we will list the many advantages of buying refurbished laptops and why everyone should consider doing so.
A wider choice
Refurbished laptops are widely available from a variety of different sources. The likes of Amazon, and technology websites such as ITC Sales (a registered Dell Premier partner) have a range of factory refurbished laptops for sale. Therefore there is a wide variety of makes and models to choose from, at a price to suit everyone.
Refurbished laptops are practically new and cheaper.
As already stated refurbished laptops are not old or used, in fact in most cases they are practically new. Therefore you get a practically new laptop at a much discounted price. In most cases you can save up to 30 percent of the equivelent new price tag. This is simply because it cannot be sold as a ‘new’ product.
Of the many unique perks that come from being a student, perhaps none is better than the deep discounts on student software which many manufacturers are more than willing to offer to college, graduate-level, and professional students. From productivity suites to major-specific software tools that most students will find are a requirement, these applications are a great way to get a good deal on everything that’s needed for a good grade.
Student Software: Best Bets for Every Kind of Student
From productivity suites to virtual machines, graphic design software to virtual intelligence applications, the options for student software discounts are increasingly broad. These are some of the best applications (at the best discounts) that students will find anywhere.
Microsoft Office Academic
Microsoft has long been known for the significant discount it offers students on its suite of productivity applications. The company not only offers a savings of more than 80 per cent on its Microsoft Office Professional suite for Windows users but also offers its Microsoft Office for Mac suite at a similar deep discount. In a world where more and more students are choosing to leave Windows PCs behind in favour of Apple’s desktops and laptops, it’s important that companies offer discounts on both the PC and Mac versions of their software — and Microsoft is one of the few who do.
Adobe Creative Suite Teacher and Student Edition
Graphic design is one of the fastest-growing majors in colleges around the country, and most of those colleges require their students to be able to use the Adobe Creative Suite line of software applications with proficiency. In light of this common requirement, Adobe has initiated a student and teacher discount on its CS5 line of design products. Students and teachers can purchase the software at a savings of more than 70% over the retail price. The Adobe Creative Suite is one of the most expensive consumer software packages on the market, so this is an excellent way to save.
TinMan Systems AI Builder Pro
Artificial intelligence is one of the leading ways that universities are teaching students about real-world, major-relevant scenarios in the classroom. It foregoes the necessity of an internship and instead uses electronic tools to help students work through common scenarios and problems. One of the leading ways to do this is with AI Builder Pro, an artificial intelligence application used by many leading universities. Students in majors as diverse as law enforcement and mechanical engineering are often encouraged to have access to this software outside the classroom. And, because the available student discount cuts the suite’s price down by more than 20%, it’s more attainable than ever for a vast majority of students.
VMWare Fusion 4
There seems to be a divergence on campus regarding recent trends: while students are increasingly choosing Apple’s line of desktop and laptop computers, textbook creators and software manufacturers are still creating much of their software exclusively for Windows users. VMWare Fusion 4 run-on the Mac OS desktop and allows users to run Windows-based applications on their Mac using what is known as a “virtual machine.” This avoids the larger expense of installing Windows on the Mac itself, or the timely routine of trekking to the university’s library to view a simple video or document on a textbook’s included multimedia CD.