The Best Portable Gaming Systems for Students

3 male students laughing over a gaming laptop in a library.

 

Students have particular requirements that their gaming systems need to meet. Obviously, they should be able to run games, but they might also need to serve more practical functions. As a student, you might be using your system for work that could drastically alter your career prospects, so ideally it’ll need to be reliable. For example, if you’re doing a course in audio production, graphic design, or VFX, you’ll want a machine that’s beefy enough to run specific and often demanding programs.

Portability might also be a concern. A machine that can be easily transported will allow for more social forms of gaming, and it’ll prevent you from being trapped in your accommodation every evening. If you’re venturing home every now and then, you might not want to have to take your desktop machine with you. Especially if you’re taking the train!

Fortunately, there are plenty of options when it comes to portable gaming systems for students. Let’s assess a few of them.

Laptops

For years, a laptop was almost an obligatory purchase for anyone who took out a student loan. They can be carried to lectures, they can perform word processing, and so why shouldn’t they allow you to play the latest Triple AAA games?

A gaming laptop for students can be acquired for a relatively modest fee but, as we’ve discussed in a recent blog, there are a lot of options to think about. Generally speaking, the size of your display will have a considerable impact on the amount that you ultimately spend. A seventeen-inch screen will require a higher resolution to maintain the same level of perceived sharpness, and it’ll require more powerful components to push those extra pixels.

Naturally, a larger machine also requires more raw materials, providing an inherently superior experience in many ways, not least of which is heat distribution. If you’re looking for something light, you might be able to shave off a few £100s by picking a smaller machine, but only if you’re prepared to suffer the knock-on effects to the performance that come with a smaller package.

Laptops are like other machines in that they can be opened up and upgraded. Some even come with desktop-equivalent components. However, you might find that your options are limited and that making the upgrades yourself isn’t as easy as it might be on a desktop machine.

We sell scores of laptops in a range of configurations, many of which offer the sort of cutting-edge gaming hardware you’d expect from a premium desktop machine. Our gaming laptops for students are more modestly priced — but they still deliver respectable performance in popular games.

AIO PCs

An All-in-One PC is one that has the computer built into the monitor, making things exceptionally convenient for those with smaller work environments where space is at a premium. If you’ve ever seen an iMac then you know what we’re talking about. However, if you buy an AIO PC, you’re going to be spending far less.

If you find that your laptop spends 100% of its time parked on your desk, you might as well get an AIO instead. Bear in mind that our AIO machines start with 23in screens, and go up to 27in. That’s a lot more than you’d get from a laptop, and at a fraction of the cost!

All-in-One machines are very affordable and, as the name might suggest, they’re also convenient because you get everything you need. So you won’t pay the premium that you do when buying an equivalently ‘specced’ laptop, but you will get the same performance. AOCs are particularly recommended for cosier work environments where the occasional spot of gaming is anticipated.

Intel NUC

Intel’s Next Unit of Computing (or NUC) strikes a compromise between the laptop machine and desktop. It arguably has more in common with a standard desktop machine, given that it does not feature a built-in display and peripherals. Intel has been selling these miniaturised machines since 2013, but it’s only recently that they’ve been able to deliver excellent performance in popular games.

An Intel NUC for gaming is a great solution for students. It is small and inexpensive, coming with a pair of USB ports, a slot for an SD card, and a 3.5mm headphone port on the front. The small form factor is a considerable advantage for many; a NUC is smaller than a games console and can be easily slung into a backpack.

While a few performance compromises have been made in order to shrink the package down to this size, performance hasn’t been hamstrung, and you can still get excellent output from a NUC, even in modern games.

NUCs have the considerable advantage of being more easily upgradable than laptops or AIOs — open it up and you’ll find a separate all-in-one ‘compute element’, which is a bit like a detachable motherboard with a CPU and ram all built-in for easy upgrades later on — and there’s space for a discrete graphics card, too. You can take a look at one being taken apart here. It’s a lot more straightforward than upgrading a laptop!

Finally, we should mention that many NUC machines can be mounted to the back of a VESA-compatible monitor. As such, you can create an AIO-style machine whose cabling is entirely hidden.

As a Student, the best Gaming System for me?

Your machine of choice is going to depend on your preferences and circumstances. The most fundamental question to ask yourself is: what am I going to be doing with this machine? If you’re going to be playing non-raytraced Minecraft, Mini Motorways, or the original Quake then it doesn’t make sense to spend too much. If you’re going to be running Ableton Live with dozens of simultaneous plugins during the day, and then switch to Flight Simulator at night-time, then it might make sense to put your hand in your pocket.

As ever, we have a ready-made solution for every circumstance, so be sure to take a look around!

 

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