Back to school: how to choose a PC that is both portable and durable?


Ensuring that your new laptop will last over time necessarily involves careful selection before purchase. What are the criteria to pay attention to? Follow the leader.

At a time when consuming in a reasoned and sustainable way is more necessary than ever, and when back to school is sometimes synonymous with computer equipment, it seemed relevant to us to summarize the good questions to ask yourself before choosing a PC. portable, in order to be able to use it as long as possible. A problem that revolves around a now well-known triptych: upgradability, repairability, maintenance.

Take a look at scalability

Whether it’s rejuvenating an old laptop — always a better option for the planet — or buying a new one, paying attention to its upgradability is paramount. For our tests, we systematically open the computers that go to the lab. In particular, we check whether the RAM and storage can be updated in the future, and whether the battery is easily accessible so that one day it can be changed.

With the exception of a few models designed for scalability (such as the amazing Framework), laptops unfortunately do not allow processor changes. Nevertheless, models released 6 or 7 years ago – or even more – can still run Windows and perform a myriad of modern office tasks, especially if you can add a little RAM to them or change their system of storage. There is therefore a real interest in checking these points before selecting your future machine. Too bad, office automation / multimedia computers are generally not the best students in this area. The more spacious chassis and the design of PCs intended for gaming (with a dedicated graphics card) make them more scalable computers most of the time, but they are also more expensive and more massive (therefore less suitable for mobile use). of a student).

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Last point not to be overlooked: the connection. Ensuring that a computer has numerous, varied and modern ports (USB-C, for example) is also a guarantee of durability over time.

Learn about repairability (and reliability)

On the repairability side, the consumer has been given more guidance since the establishment of the repairability index, which has been mandatory since January 1, 2021. A criterion taken into account in the laptop computer tests published by Digital, and which represents 20% of the final mark attributed to each product. Although imperfect (it is only declarative and the scoring grid opens the door to some abuse), this index still has the merit of providing effective information on the level of repairability of a computer thanks to a score out of 10 .

The ease of disassembly and access to parts, the duration of the availability of spare parts by the manufacturer as well as their price or the supply of technical manuals are taken into account in this note. Paying attention to it when choosing your computer, or even making it the judge of the peace in the event that you cannot decide between a handful of models, is therefore a good reflex to take. Note also that all retailers are supposed to display it, while manufacturers must – in complete transparency – provide access to detailed rating sheets for each product.

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Finally, note that some large retailers publish, from time to time, the statistics of their after-sales service, which can give some clues as to the reliability of a particular brand (a significant point when you want to make your laptop last the longest time possible). Thus, according to Fnac-Darty, the three laptop brands that caused the fewest after-sales service returns in 2021 are, in order: Apple, HP and Lenovo. In a less formal way, looking for information on user forums or consulting reviews on a given model can, to some extent, inform about the reliability of a machine in the longer term.

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Maintain, to make it last longer

Charge your laptop before leaving it switched off for a long period, protect it properly when moving it, take care of its charger and cables, check that its ventilation system is not clogged with dust… there is everything a lot of obvious recommendations of this style, which it is however never useless to recall. You should also know that more than half of the passages of laptops in after-sales service are related to software problems. Keep your operating system and applications up to date (which is also a big plus from a security point of view), carry out maintenance checks from time to time with reputable software, do not hesitate to ask for help of a loved one who is more comfortable with computers to maintain his machine, here is also some common sense advice.

The day a breakdown occurs, before planning to change computers in a hurry, it is probably better to approach a specialized repairer (once the warranty period has expired). Those who are not afraid of a motherboard can even find many tutorials and tips online to tackle the problem yourself. It is, for example, the specialty of the iFixit sitewhich has disassembled hundreds of computers, sells toolkits and offers documentation to perform certain repairs accessible yourself.

And if, unfortunately, your computer had to be thrown away, do it with an organization that you are sure will take care of the recycling properly. An important point, insofar as 70% of waste hazardous to health and the environment is of electrical or electronic origin.

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Some tracks

In conclusion, allow us to encourage you, in addition to this article, to read this excellent file from our IT department on things to know and consider before buying a laptop.

It should also be noted that while Apple’s MacBook M1 and M2 are very attractive and have left their mark on the market in recent years, they are particularly closed computers from a hardware point of view. Everything is welded there, up to the SSD, and to change their battery, it is necessary to replace a complete block that also includes the keyboard and the speakers, sold for $500. In terms of scalability and repairability, we have seen better.

Conversely, the Framework – a little bigger and more expensive than an equivalent lambda PC – shows the example of what should be done in terms of scalability and repairability. HP’s EliteBook models, without going that far, also have a good reputation in this area. No need for Windows, the Chromebook C202 from Asus was designed with maintenance and repairability in mind, in addition to being a “ruggedized” model suitable for classroom life.

The turn taken by the market towards eco-designed and eco-responsible products, refurbishment, the circular economy and repairability being irremediable, it is a safe bet that other references will bet on this bet in the months to come ( we call it in any case with our dearest wishes). Our experts will obviously be there to sift through them.

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