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Note, though, that some of the new features of Windows 10 – namely Windows Hello and Continuum – are hardware-specific and, as such, won’t be available on older handsets.At first glance, you’d be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about. The lockscreen and homescreen look largely as they did in Windows Phone 8.1, and that’s a good thing. After all, Windows Phone’s biggest strength, and what sets it apart from Android and iOS, has always been its vertically scrolling, data-rich Live Tiles.It doesn’t take much digging before the changes begin to emerge, however, and the most obvious are to be found closest to hand in the Action Center notifications menu.The first time you look, you’ll see the same four toggle buttons along the top of the menu, with notifications lined up beneath. Look closer, though, and you’ll see a number of subtle alterations.Windows 10 Mobile review: Notifications menu
The “All settings” shortcut has disappeared, to be replaced by Expand. Tap this and the single row of shortcut buttons expands to four, allowing quick access to all 16 of Windows 10’s available shortcuts. It’s still possible to customise the four that appear by default, but you can’t currently remove or add items to the expanded list.

Below the shortcut buttons, notifications have also received an upgrade. To the right of each notification now sits a small down arrow, which, when tapped, expands items, allowing you to either read more or even interact with them. Currently, however, the range of apps that hook into this capability is limited: you can respond directly to text messages, but not emails or Slack messages.Tuck the notifications menu away for a moment, and you may also notice a tweak or two to the look of the homescreen. Background wallpapers, which were previously displayed, rather oddly, through the tiles – as if they were windows onto an image behind – now fill the entire screen behind those tiles for a much more modern look. And some tiles, such as those for Outlook and Microsoft Edge, are now translucent, showing up like squares of frosted glass.

Hard disk space isn’t as all-important as it used to be, and some student laptops now ship with 16GB or 32GB SSDs (solid-state drives rather than hard disks; SSDs are less susceptible to damage but offer less storage space), with students storing files on school or college servers or on cloud-storage services such as Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. It’s still worth having the space, however, if only because it gives you the flexibility to store and work with large files locally, opening up a wider range of photo-editing and video-editing applications.Laptops now come in many shapes and sizes, from large desktop-replacement systems to slim, lightweight Ultrabooks and convertible devices, which can switch between tablet and laptop styles to cater for different needs. The trick is to decide which one is right for your requirements.

Devices of 13.3in and 14in offer a great halfway house, and could be a good choice for school or college workIf students are going to work with graphics or video applications, then a 15.6in to 17.3in desktop-replacement model might make sense, but what you gain in screen size you lose in portability. Similarly, an 11.6in model will be super-light, but not as versatile. Devices of 13.3in and 14in offer a great halfway house, and could be a good choice for school or college work.Convertibles, meanwhile, make sense if schools are investing in touch-friendly apps, are keen to embrace more field work, or need a laptop for primary school use or SEN (Special Educational Needs) support. Working outside can be easier with a touchscreen than a model relying on a mouse and keyboard, and younger children and SEN students can both benefit from the immediacy of touch.

Most 11.6in to 15.6in laptops will have a basic 1,366 x 768 resolution, which is fine for general purposes. However, a higher-resolution screen is worth paying for, particularly if you’re buying a desktop-replacement model. With a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution images will look crisper and cleaner, and you’ll be able to fit more application windows on the screen; a real plus if you’re working on complex projects.Whatever model you opt for, think carefully about the touchpad and keyboard. Secondary and college studies still require that students produce substantial quantities of text, and a laptop with a good, well-spaced keyboard and a large, smooth trackpad will be far more comfortable to use over long periods. Read reviews and, where possible, try before you buy.

Some budget laptops compromise on connectivity, doing without faster USB 3 ports, Ethernet network connections or HDMI video outputs, but consider the primary use of your laptop.You should pay a little extra for a laptop with at least one USB 3 port, as opposed to the older USB 2 type, if you need to work with high-speed external hard disks. The most obvious example of this is video editing, where the massive project files may need to be stored on such a disk.HDMI video outputs are becoming increasingly common on laptops and displays – whether TVs, monitors or projectors – and offer an easy way to share your laptop’s screen for, say, a presentation.Ethernet connectivity, meanwhile, means you’re not entirely reliant on the laptop’s Wi-Fi connection, and may help management and troubleshooting on the school network. As far as wireless connections go, 802.11n connectivity is great for most school purposes, with dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz support a bonus. Some laptops now support the new 802.11ac standard, but unless your school is investing in new wireless networks to support it, it isn’t worth the extra outlay.

Good build quality is always worth paying for. School and college environments aren’t kind to laptops, so any kind of ruggedisation will help them survive. Where that’s not possible, the more solid the materials used in the lid and chassis, the more likely they are to get through two or three years of daily use intact.To help, hold some budget back for a good sleeve, backpack or bag. Sleeves are the cheapest option, costing roughly £15 to £25, and give your laptop lightweight weather resistance on the outside and a soft, protective layer on the inside, safeguarding it from minor knocks and scratches. You can find them in a variety of designs and colours, making them a great way to personalise a student laptop too. Bags and satchels provide a little more padding, storage pockets for the power supply and accessories, plus hand and shoulder straps for easy carrying. Good options are available for £20 to £35.

For school and college use, however, nothing beats a good, solid backpack, complete with water-resistant exterior, ample compartments for books, stationery and other necessary items, plus a solid, well-padded interior compartment for the laptop itself. Some, like HP’s 15.6in Premier 3 Blue Backpack, even cram in an extra padded pocket for a tablet or ebook reader. Meanwhile, adjustable shoulder straps and ventilation systems can be a real plus when students need to carry a laptop around campus for a working day. Stylish, tough and practical, a laptop backpack might cost you as little as £20 to £40, and that’s a price well worth paying to protect your hardware.

Management features aren’t a must for individual laptops, but if you’re a school deploying a fleet then they’ll save your IT team time and – long-term – money too. Intel Active Management Technology and the ability to work with management and configuration tools will help you cut back on the burden of management.Similarly, bundled anti-theft software, internet security software and a built-in Kensington lock can help you secure your laptop(s) against threats both digital and physical. On the latter front, some schools swear by anti-theft marker pens, RFID asset-management tags or custom-lid transfers.Finally, if you’re purchasing a laptop for a student son or daughter, don’t forget about insuranceFinally, if you’re purchasing a laptop for a student son or daughter, don’t forget about insurance. While the device may be covered by your existing home policy under a personal items provision, you may want to cover it for accidental damage and theft under a separate laptop or gadgets policy.

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