Back to School: Alternative Laptops You Should Seriously Consider

Holidays are out, and school is back in: the life of a student begins again. And if you’re studying in a polytechnic or university, a laptop is one of, if not the most essential part of that lifestyle. It encompasses almost every aspect of a student’s life — both during and after lessons.

Given its significance, it is important to choose a laptop that fits the nature of your work. But there are so many laptops available, and they also come in many different forms and features that it can be difficult to pick out one from the crowd. Hence, it just seems easier to pick the popular option (cough Apple), but that may not necessarily be the best fit for you.

Studying already takes up a lot of attention for a student, and picking out a new laptop for school shouldn’t be an additional headache to navigate through. That’s why we have taken the task to look at some alternative laptop models that may have evaded your attention which could be the perfect choice for your lifestyle as a student. Let’s take a look!

Before You Dive In

If you’re not well versed in tech lingo, here’s a summary of the important parts of a laptop that you should be paying attention to!

Starting with the CPU, it’s the component that interacts with all of the installed programs and applications. It works in tandem with Memory, which is the place where the application stores and accesses data temporarily. Having a good CPU and lots of memory allows the laptop to work fast when using programs or when you have multiple in the background.

Then there’s the GPU. The common assumption is that it’s for gaming performance, but it also handles the performance of graphic-intensive software; the better it is, the quicker your software will work.

Finally, Storage is the place where all your stuff is stored and the more you have, the more you can keep within the system. Do keep an eye out on whether it is an SSD as well. SSDs work faster than normal HDDs and allows the transfer of data to happen more quickly (i.e faster boot times).

As a general rule of thumb, i7 CPU processors from Intel are a good indicator that your computer will be able to run almost anything you throw at it. 16GB of RAM Memory should also be the minimum to get for future-proofing the use of your laptops. If you aren’t a massive gamer or do much computationally heavy work, the latest Intel Xe Graphics are more than sufficient.

Best Multitasking Laptop: LG Gram 17

Back to School Laptop Guide: LG gram 17
LG gram 17

Quick Specs

  • Display: 17-inch IPS screen, 2560 x 1600 resolution
  • CPU: 11th Gen Intel i7-1165G7 (tested), 11th Gen Intel i5-1135G7
  • Memory: 16GB
  • GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • Ports/I/O: USB A 3.2 (x2), Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, HDMI, SD card reader, Audio jack
  • Storage: NVMe SSD Up to 1TB (tested), 512GB
  • Battery: 80Whr 
  • Weight: 1.35kg

Ultrabooks’ popularity has generally stemmed from it being a powerful device housed in a thin and lightweight package. But it is not without its caveats, with port variety and screen size being the usual sacrificial lambs to obtain that slim design. The LG gram 17 however, does not have those compromises.

The LG gram 17 pretty much has the whole lot. It has a massive 17-inch display that appears even larger with its 16:10 aspect ratio, powerful CPU for its internals and ample port selection. But the real star of the show is the slim and featherlight build of the laptop. To put things into perspective, it only weighs 50g more than a MacBook Air, and despite being the largest device we have, it feels like the lightest laptop out of the bunch.

Back to School Laptop Guide: LG gram 17 Display
The LG gram 17 boasts a big screen and big performance!

The 11th Gen Intel CPU that it comes with provides outstanding performance, not as much as specialised laptops perhaps but still very capable for light to medium workloads (productivity, occasional video-editing).

Its battery life is also very respectable, running for approximately 8 hours with a mix of web browsing and video streaming. And lastly, using the laptop for long periods has largely been a very satisfying experience due in part to the large screen (which is fantastic for having separate windows up) and tactile keyboard.

Admittedly, it isn’t without its caveats. The gloss finish on the display can be quite a distraction under environments with lots of lights. In addition to that, for a device that looks perfect for sharing a screen with a friend, the experience is somewhat lacking due to the underwhelming speakers.

Who is it for: Students who desire a big-screen laptop that allows them to multitask without having to lug around a heavy device. 

Price: Starting from S$2,199 (S$2,699 for version tested)

You can find more information about the LG gram 17 on LG’s official website. Those interested in purchasing it can find it on external retailers (Best Denki, Harvey Norman) or their official online stores on Lazada or Shopee.

Best Apple Alternative: Huawei MateBook X Pro

Back to School Laptop Guide: Huawei Matebook X Pro
Huawei MateBook X Pro

Quick Specs

  • Display: 13.9-inch LTPS screen, 3000 x 2000 resolution
  • CPU: 11th Gen Intel i7-1165G7 
  • Memory: 16GB 
  • GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • Ports/I/O: USB A 3.2, Thunderbolt 4 USB-C (x2)
  • Storage: 1TB NVMe SSD
  • Battery: 56Whr 
  • Weight: 1.33kg

Apple’s MacBooks are very popular for their reliability and also their aesthetics. However, Apple’s macOS isn’t fully compatible with some applications needed by students for their studies. One solution is Parallels Desktop, which runs Windows virtually and enables you to run those programs. But that brings additional cost and might not get you the full power that your MacBook has.

You might be familiar with Huawei regarding their phone products, but they also sell other types of tech devices — one of them being laptops. Out of their laptop lineup, the Huawei MateBook X Pro is the top of the line.

Huawei isn’t shy about showing off what the MateBook X Pro is influenced by. From the name down to the design of the laptop, it’s very reminiscent of a MacBook Air. 

Back to School Laptop Guide: Huawei Matebook X Pro Design
The Apple-like aesthetics of the Huawei MateBook X Pro is made better with enhancements like the 3:2 display

It does have some things going for it that are different from Apple’s system. It’s one of few laptops to have a 3:2 aspect ratio for its display, which is great for photo/video editing and web browsing due to the increased vertical space. Combined with the 2000 pixel resolution, it makes for a great screen to view media. The laptop also has touchscreen capabilities for easy navigation in a pinch, and it also has an extra USB-A port for wireless mouse users. 

Most importantly though, the Huawei MateBook X Pro is a powerful laptop. Equipped with the latest 11th generation CPU, it runs programs effortlessly and lasts pretty long considering how bright the screen can be; running for around seven and a half hours with web browsing and watching videos.

Unfortunately, although it has a webcam, its poor location at the bottom gives an angle that offers others an unflattering peek into your nasal crevices. It’s also just a bad 720p camera in general.

Who is it for: Students who want a Windows MacBook alternative with similar aesthetics without compromising performance.

Price: S$2,598

You can find more information about the Huawei MateBook X Pro on Huawei’s official website. Those interested in purchasing it can find it on external retailers (Best Denki, Challenger, COURTS, Gain City) or their official online stores on Lazada or Shopee.

Best Reliable Tablet-Hybrid: Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1

Back to School Laptop Guide: Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1
Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1

Quick Specs

  • Display: 14-inch screen, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • CPU: 11th Gen Intel i7-1165G7 (tested), 11th Gen Intel i5-1135G7, 
  • Memory: 16GB (tested), 8GB 
  • GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics (tested), NVIDIA GeForce MX350
  • Ports/I/O: USB A 3.2 (x2), Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, HDMI, SD card reader, Audio jack
  • Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD
  • Battery: 41Whr 
  • Weight: 1.65kg

For those unfamiliar with 2-in-1 laptops, they fulfil the role of a system that offers tablet functionality while still retaining laptop capabilities. As 2-in-1 computers also have stylus compatibility, they are particularly great for those who require that extra bit of precision (art design, hand-written notes).

Given its growing popularity, there are several 2-in-1 laptop options you can find from various manufacturers. The Inspiron 14 2-in-1 from Dell offers great reliability and value in a package. 

Dell is noted for their quality craftsmanship on its laptop systems, and the Inspiron 14 2-in-1 is no different. It comes with a metal build that is rock solid, with no worrying aspects like creaking hinges or flex on the chassis; it feels like a premium product.

Ports are also fairly generous, which is good for portability for travel-heavy students who use accessories. There’s of course the whole 2-in-1 aspect, which works great and is responsible whether you’re using your fingers or a stylus.

Back to School Laptop Guide: Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 Tablet Mode
Whether it’s in laptop mode or tablet mode, the Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 is a reliable performer

The performance also doesn’t suffer despite being a 2-in-1 laptop. It has the latest 11th generation processors, which can run most programs without any visible issue. If you do need more horsepower for certain types of work, you can also opt for the discrete GPU option, which offers better performance. Finally, the Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 rounds everything off with excellent battery life, running for around eight and a half hours of use on our tests.

Perhaps the best thing about the laptop is how affordable it is. For the price, you’re getting something that works great now and will continue to be good for a number of years — it’s quite the value for money. 

Who is it for: Students who require the extra precision or flexibility from a tablet but still want a proper Windows OS system.

Price: Starting from S$1,249 (S$1,499 for version tested) 

More information about the Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 can be found in Dell’s official online store, where you can also purchase it. If you’d like to try out the laptop before purchasing, you can also head on over to Dell’s physical stores located islandwide.

So that concludes our look at alternative laptops to use for student life! We hope that these laptop suggestions have aided you in finding a new one for school, or at the very least helped give a clearer picture of what type of device you need for the student journey ahead. 

If you are curious about other types of laptops, we also have several reviews on our site where we go in-depth about our experiences with the devices. 

Photos by Darren Chiong of the DANAMIC Team.

Russell Matthew Loh

Watcher of films and player of games. Dabble with writing in between.

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