How To Pick And Save On Your Mac For University

If you’re heading back to school, college or university in these upcoming weeks and you’re looking for a new laptop or computer to aid your studies, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog we breakdown everything you need to know about buying a new Mac in preparation for your university studies.

MacBook Air

The MacBook Air is the cheapest Mac notebook in Apple’s lineup. The Air starts at £999 but can often be found for much cheaper if you know where to look. The MacBook Air is a great option for students, as you might be able to tell from the name, the Air is not only the most affordable but it’s also the lightest and most portable model in Apple’s lineup. This, therefore, makes it a great option if you need a device that you can carry around in a backpack all day without any discomfort. The Air also happens to have the best battery life of the Mac notebook lineup and you should be able to see a full day of lectures or lessons through with just one full charge no problem.

The MacBook Air is going to be perfectly capable of handling everyday tasks but is particularly ideal for any written or journalistic type courses, due to its iconic “wedge” shaped design. When compared to the MacBook Pro, the Air’s shape ensures that long periods of typing will be much more comfortable and minimises the amount of strain on your wrists. The MacBook Air is also capable of handling slightly more intensive tasks such as light photo or video editing. Apps such as the Adobe Creative Suite will run, for the most part, fairly well but with heavier, more intensive tasks the MacBook Air will struggle slightly. The Air only features a dual-core CPU and with limited thermal headroom, you are somewhat limited to the tasks you can perform. This is where the MacBook Pro comes in.

MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro is still a very portable option due to its small form factor and much like the MacBook Air will fit snugly inside a backpack for you to get your work done on the go. The Pro does weigh slightly more than the Air, but the weight difference is not too significant, to be perfectly honest you probably won’t be able to tell the difference.

In terms of performance, the MacBook Pro will be able to handle everything the Air can, and then some. The base model features at the very least a quad-core i5 processor that’s going to provide you with quite a bit more power than the dual-core found inside the MacBook Air. The Pro will therefore be able to handle most tasks that your studies demand of it. Photo editing, video editing, development work, the MacBook Pro will be able to handle these tasks with ease.

It is clear to see that the MacBook Pro outperforms the Air in most aspects, it, therefore, begs the question as to why you wouldn’t just buy the Pro. Well for one, the price. Even with discounts applied or even buying refurbished, the Air is going to be quite a bit cheaper than the Pro. So if you are working on a budget, the Air will probably be your best bet. Although the MacBook Pro is clearly more powerful, do you actually need all that power? If you’re struggling to justify the need for that extra power, you may be better off sticking with the Air, as it will be perfectly suitable for the majority of students. For a more in-depth breakdown of the differences between the MacBook Air and the Pro, why not check out our comparison blog here.


Mac Mini

The Mac Mini is the budget option of the two desktop offerings that we are taking a look at here. But keep in mind that you will need peripherals to get you up and running, which will, of course, add a bit extra onto the overall price. The Mac Mini, unfortunately, doesn’t come with a keyboard, mouse or monitor but if you already have all three lying around then you’re in business.

While a traditional desktop is not very portable at all, you could argue that the Mac Mini breaks the mould here. The device itself is actually a very portable size and could easily be slipped into a backpack without much trouble. Making the Mac Mini a great option for you to bring back home during extended holidays. Don’t forget, however, that you will either need to bring your peripherals with you or make sure that you have some setup, wherever you are travelling to.

In terms of performance, for the majority of students, you’re not going to need much more power than what the Mini has to offer. Even the entry-level Mac Mini offers some great specs for the price. With a quad-core processor and 8GBs of memory, the Mac Mini will certainly be able to handle most tasks you throw at it.


If you’re dead set on picking up a desktop Mac for your studies then the 21.5-inch iMac is another great option. While Apple does offer a more powerful (and more expensive) 27-inch version, we feel that the power offered by this machine vastly exceeds the level that the average student will need, so we think you’ll be better off sticking with the more than capable 21.5-inch version.

While the iMac is the least portable of the two desktop Macs we are looking at, it does come with peripherals and obviously has its built-in display, making it a bit more tricky to transport around. If a permanent workstation is more your thing then we would recommend going with the iMac.

The iMac is perhaps the best option in terms of price per performance. There are currently three options if you’re looking at buying a brand new iMac in 2020; the dual-core, quad-core and 6-core options. The lowest end dual-core option does not, however, feature a 4K display. While this is certainly not a deal-breaker, we think that the middle, quad-core option is the best deal for students. In terms of features, performance and price, the quad-core iMac has it all and will be more than capable of handling fairly intensive tasks for years to come. And following an update during August of this year, all new iMacs now ship with at least a 256GB SSD, a much-needed upgrade from the slower hard drives.


If you’re like most students, you’re probably going to be working to a fairly strict budget, so a good way to save some money is opting for a device with a slightly smaller hard drive or SSD out of the box. As previously mentioned, Apple has updated its Mac line to include an SSD with a minimum capacity of 256GB which is very much welcomed because a 128GB SSD in 2020 is just not going to cut it. Despite this, Apple storage upgrades are pretty pricey, so for students, we recommend opting for the lowest capacity available and looking elsewhere for an upgrade.

Cloud storage, an external hard drive or SSD or even network storage are all great options if you’re looking to save a bit of cash by opting for a device with a smaller amount of base storage. Now, of course, the obvious choice, if you’re looking for a cloud-based storage option, would be Apple’s own iCloud storage. 50GB of storage will set you back £0.79 a month, 200GB for £2.49 a month and then a massive 2TB for £6.99 a month. If you’re on an Apple device, iCloud’s user experience is second to none. It seamlessly integrates with all aspects of the Apple ecosystem and is, therefore, a great option for you to store your photos, videos, music, documents and even backing up your mobile devices.

For a detailed breakdown of alternative storage options for your Mac device, our ultimate guide to backing up your Mac can be found here.


How To Save Money

Right off the bat, Apple themselves do a pretty great job at offering you a student discount. Simply head over to the Apple Education Store to verify your student status and you will then be able to browse Macs, iPads and accessories at a discounted price. And right now, they’re even throwing in free AirPods with every Mac and iPad purchase too!

Apple’s own Refurbished Store is also a good place to pick up like-new, refurbished Macs. But keep in mind that Apple still applies a premium to their prices here so their Refurbished Store is probably not going to be the most budget-friendly option.

That’s where we come in. For obvious reasons, we’re a big fan of buying refurbished. It’s a great way of saving quite a bit of money when looking to buy a Mac. All of our refurbished Macs are comprehensively tested by Apple-certified technicians and are supplied with a one year, extendable warranty for your peace of mind. If, for any reason you are slightly apprehensive about buying from a third-party reseller, our helpful guide should put any worries to rest.

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