The guide intends to support third sector organisations in making this vital hardware choice. The views we express may not be shared by any potential funders of capital items. However, we believe it is useful to inform the sector and provide evidence of what good options look like when making important hardware choices.
The need to purchase the right laptop
For most third sector organisations the answer to the question:
‘Which laptop should my charity get?’
Mostly, ends up being:
There are lots of valid reasons for this, including a lack of funding and organisations having to make tough calls while balancing various important needs. Sometimes choosing the cheapest laptop is the only option. However, from our Discovery work in establishing Newid, we also heard about the need for information to make a case for buying a good laptop.
“Everybody gets a laptop. We never budget enough for a reasonable laptop.”
“What is a reasonable laptop and who can we ask about this?”
We were told that buying the cheapest laptops also comes with hidden costs such as:
- Having to be replaced early due to them becoming slow, difficult to use or just breaking
- Difficulty connecting laptops to other equipment
- Not being able to upgrade the laptop's hardware
What does good look like for a laptop?
Organisations told us that they didn’t have all the information about which laptops were of a good quality that could be used as evidence when applying for funding. So as a first step, we’ve created a list of good laptops.
We mean the following when we say ‘good’:
- The item is of sufficient build quality for everyday common tasks
- The laptop can be easily upgraded and repaired or will have a significant lifetime based on good existing specifications
- The manufacturer shows a commitment to meeting environmental standards
If your current laptop is slowing down and can easily be repaired or upgraded at a reasonable cost, then that may be your best option.
In the article, we have included links to buy new laptops. For cost effectiveness and environmental concerns, it is also worth considering buying refurbished laptops.
We’ve kept this list deliberately short so it is easier to update. It is not intended to be definitive. We have chosen laptops that are able to run at least one of these major operating systems (OS): Windows, MacOS, Linux, ChromeOS.
We’ve provided links to the retailers' websites, but a quick online search could result in you finding the laptop cheaper somewhere else.
Acer Aspire Vero 3 15.6" Laptop - Intel® Core™ i7, 512 GB SSD
The Acer Aspire Vero is worth considering, offering a blend of performance, usability, and sustainability.
Sustainability: The Acer Aspire Vero is made from post-consumer recycled plastic, with 30% of the body and 50% of the keycaps made from this material. The packaging is 100% recyclable and made with nearly 100% recycled materials.
Performance: The laptop has a decently powered processor that ensures smooth operation for general office tasks.
Eco-mode: Offering four performance modes to balance energy use and performance.
Display and audio: The laptop has a good screen and speakers, which are useful for virtual meetings and presentations. The device’s overall design is robust yet attractive.
- Eco-friendly: Made with recycled materials and features energy-saving software
- Audio and visual: Offers excellent audio and video quality (great for presentations)
Upgradeable: Allowing hardware upgrades and repairs to extend the laptop’s lifespan
- The fan can be loud and potentially distracting
- The laptop’s large size may be a consideration for those seeking portability
For third sector organisations looking to invest in a laptop that aligns with their goals, the Acer Aspire Vero is a viable option. Its eco-friendly construction, performance features, and the manufacturer’s commitment to sustainability make it a choice worth considering. However, the weight and fan noise should be considered.
Framework Laptop 13
The Framework Laptop 13 is relatively unique as it prioritises long term upgradeability and sustainability while being a good performance option.
Future proof: The Framework Laptop 13 is designed for easy upgrades and repairs, ensuring a longer lifespan and adaptability to evolving technological needs.
Easy to update hardware: The Framework allows users to easily change the hardware in the laptop based on their needs. It provides simple and clear videos on how to do this.
Enhanced performance: The laptop is equipped with one of the latest processors, which makes it capable of handling demanding tasks.
- Customisation: The easy-to-update hardware allows you to tailor the laptop to your specific needs, ensuring versatility
- Sustainability: Made of recycled aluminium and plastic, the laptop is eco-friendly. It's simple to upgrade
- Battery life: The battery life could be better, but it is generally acceptable
The Framework Laptops’ upgradeable design ensures it can evolve with organisations' needs, reducing the frequency of replacements and contributing to sustainability. While it has areas for improvement, such as battery life, it is unique in how easy it is to upgrade and repair, making it a valuable investment for those looking to balance performance, adaptability, and eco-friendliness.
Acer Chromebook Plus 515
The Acer Chromebook Plus 515 is a cost effective Chromebook that can effectively deliver on day to day office tasks.
Performance: Equipped with an Intel Core i3 processor, it balances performance and power efficiency
Display: A 15.6-inch, full HD non-touch screen provides clear and sharp visuals for various tasks
Storage: 128GB of storage is suitable for most day-to-day office needs
- Durability: The spill-resistant keyboard and tough laptop body means it can withstand the rigours of daily use- Connectivity: With Wi-Fi 6E and a range of ports including USB-C and HDMI, connectivity options are robust
Webcam quality: A 1080p webcam results in clear video
- Brightness: The display's brightness is adequate but may be difficult for some in well-lit environments
The Acer Chromebook Plus 515 is a contender for the most cost effective, mid quality Chromebook. For those who already have experience with ChromeOS or who work heavily in Google Workspace it is a good option.
Apple MacBook Air M1 (2020)
Apple products are not generally the cheapest options when it comes to the initial purchase. However, the reliability, long-term updates and general build quality can mean that laptops like the Apple MacBook Air M1 can be very cost-effective when compared to Windows laptops over their operational lifespan.
It’s worth remembering that being an effective third sector organisation does not rely solely on staff or volunteers but also on the tools at their disposal. In this context, the Apple MacBook Air M1 (2020) stands out as a beacon of performance, affordability, and efficiency.
Processor: The M1 whilst a few years old is still extremely capable of running day to day office tasks with ease
Display: A 13.3-inch display, with vibrant colors and excellent visuals
Battery life: With ample 18 hours of battery life, it’s designed for extended use
- Performance: Powered by the M1 chip, it handles a variety of tasks with ease
- Build quality: Its robust metal build ensures durability- Silent operation: The fanless design ensures silent operation, promoting a quiet working environment
- Webcam quality: The 720p webcam might be a limitation for some
Port selection: Limited to two Type-C ports and a headphone jack, might require additional adapters for extended connectivity
The Apple MacBook Air M1 (2020) is a solid choice for charities seeking a blend of performance and affordability, especially compared with the more recent and expensive M2 and M3 models. While it has minor limitations, its strengths in performance, build quality, and battery life are undeniable. For third-sector organisations who are used to working with a MacOS the MacBook Air M1 is highly recommended.