Back to School: Study Justifies Nvidia’s Drive to Equip Students with Deep Learning Laptops

As we approach that time of year again, students are preparing to resume (or begin) their studies, which means that sales of best student laptops are about to climb once again. I recently attended Nvidia’s “Back to School” hardware showcase, and Team Green had some pretty interesting opinions on how these laptops should be used – and the stats to back them up.

With more than 85 million college students worldwide, nearly half of whom are studying engineering or the physical sciences, tapping into the student market has never been more important for manufacturers. Owning a laptop has never been more vital for students themselves; with the rise of distance learning, it has practically become a necessity for getting an average college degree.

During the showcase, Nvidia was keen to highlight some findings from a study conducted by UK university admissions body UCAS, which had expected results and surprising results. The average university student in the UK spends around 40 hours a week using their laptop – and up to 70% of that time isn’t even study-related. These laptops are frequently used for media streaming, gaming, and casual content creation.

29% of 18-24 year olds surveyed bought a laptop based on their course requirements, but somewhat surprisingly more than a third of respondents admitted to regretting their choice of laptop. “I should have done more research” was a common theme; many students have found that the laptop they purchased was not powerful or fast enough, or did not have sufficient battery life.

Get the right hardware

The UCAS study also found that exactly half of UK students bought a new laptop for their first year at university. Nvidia’s new marketing goals take this into account; the goal is to equip new college students with a laptop that will last three to four years, the average length of a degree.

But it’s not just about giving students laptops that will last for the duration of their studies; Nvidia believes the AI-powered deep learning capabilities of its new graphics cards will be an integral part of how students use their laptops for years to come.

Students are creating far more content (casual, if not for study) than 10 years ago, and the use of GPU-accelerated deep learning features is becoming more common among students – software such as ‘AutoCAD are used more than ever, with students needing to render 2D and 3D models as well as run demanding scientific modeling programs.

This is of course where Nvidia says ‘allow us to introduce ourselves’. RTX GPUs are well suited for GPU-accelerated tasks, leveraging their AI functionality to deliver massively superior performance. Over 75 of the most popular content creation applications can now be accelerated by RTX.

Windows 11 running on laptop

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Not just for ray tracing

Any gamer will look at the RTX line of graphics cards and think “oh yeah, they make ray-traced games”. But ray tracing is only one of the abilities of these cards; Compared to older GPUs or CPUs running integrated graphics – two common sights in the average student laptop – these GPUs are ideal for tasks like rendering and predictive modeling.

This is also true for low-end RTX cards. While gamers may scoff at the lowly RTX 3050, having a discrete GPU with low power consumption and deep learning features can be a huge boon for a student laptop – and without raising the price too much. . The UCAS study showed that students spend an average of £799 when buying a laptop for college; not enough to give you a powerful gaming machine, but enough for a versatile laptop with a 3050 Ti.

Nvidia considers the Macbook Pro be his main point of comparison here. MacBooks are extremely popular among students, but they still run on integrated graphics via Apple’s M1 and M2 chips. The focus on both the AI ​​capabilities of RTX GPUs and the wider range of choices available with Windows laptops is paramount here, and Nvidia is confident it can deliver the performance that students need. need without breaking the bank.

RTX 3050 graphics card next to 3080 and 3090

(Image credit: Nvidia)

Which laptop is the best?

If you’re a prospective student (or the parent of a student), the dizzying array of options available when it comes to buying a new laptop can be quite daunting. Knowing what you need is essential; if you’re taking an English literature course and know you won’t want to do anything more than web browsing and word processing, one of best chromebooks or a lightweight Windows laptop will probably suffice.

If you are going to use creative or scientific software, however, the best laptop probably going to be one with a dedicated GPU. Nvidia strongly recommends a specific set of reasonably priced laptops with low-end RTX cards; the Acer Swift X, the Lenovo IdeaPad 5 Pro and the excellent Asus TUF Dash F15 are some examples.

With students relying on AI tech more than ever – RTX GPUs can even clean up video call performance with Nvidia Broadcast – it looks like Team Green might be right; deep learning is clearly a useful tool, and the proper implementation of this technology will likely prove indispensable in its ongoing battle against Apple for market supremacy in laptops.