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Device Recommendation

Over the last few years, the College has increasingly seen the value for students whose devices support touch and a stylus. We urge parents and caregivers to consider this when they are looking to purchase a new device for their child.

Research has indicated that the creation of more diagrams, symbols and numbers when using pen (stylus) interfaces has the potential to stimulate ideation, problem solving, and inferential reasoning when compared to keyboard/mouse-based interfaces. These are key skills we seek to encourage from our students as they lead to deeper understandings. A laptop device with inking capability gives students the best of both worlds – when they need to type, it functions as a standard laptop, when they need to ideate, draw and annotate, they can use the stylus – and all of this is recorded and able to be accessed again at any time. The stylus does not replace pen and paper, but enhances the capability of students to record, share and develop ideas in a way that pen and paper does and typing does not.

Accordingly, we have for a few years now highly recommended that any student-owned device in the Secondary School also is touchscreen and has a stylus. Our recommended device range reflects this.

New from 2020

From 2020 onwards, we require that any newly purchased student-owned device for a student in Year 8 and below is touchscreen and has a stylus. This requirement is a change from previous years when the College has only highly recommended such devices.

Transitioning with an existing device

We recognise that a student device is not only used for school purposes, and that often students either transition from a previous school with a Macbook or inherit one from a family member. As such, we do support Macbooks, but ask that parents and caregivers adhere to the requirements outlined above when the time comes to purchase a new device for their child’s education at St Andrew’s College.

This Year's Recommended Devices

For 2021, St Andrew's College has three recommended devices (one with two configuration options). Each have been trialled by the ICT team and have their own particular selling points. Please refer to the short summary below that briefly outlines what the team found that might help you make your decision on a new device to help support learning at St Andrew's College.

Acer Spin 3 Convertible

i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB solid state drive with stylus, 3 year warranty.

$1,429.98 incl gst

We really liked the fact that the stylus is docked within the laptop itself and charges (very quickly) when it is in there. While this is the cheapest laptop in the recommended device range, it's specifications meet the demands of a standard class, but may struggle a little in resource heavy programs such as those used in Arts and Music (used in NCEA Year levels particularly). Overall it performed well in our testing. We did find it a little heavy to use – particularly noticeable in tablet mode when digital inking.

HP Probook X360 435 G7

Ryzen 5 4500U processor, 8GB RAM , 256GB solid state drive with stylus, Radeon Graphics, 3 year warranty.

$1,799.98 incl gst

A step up in performance and build quality versus the Acer Spin 3, which might be advantageous for students that want that extra power for specialist subjects. We weren’t so keen on the tethering for the stylus and can see them potentially being lost or damaged if the owner doesn’t take good care of it. As per the Acer, a little heavy to use in tablet mode but that said we were impressed with how well the laptop performed during testing.

MS Surface Pro 7

i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 128GB solid state drive with stylus, 3 year warranty.

$1,999.99 incl gst

The Surface Pro has formed the backbone of our recommended device lists for a number of years now and is still used extensively by our staff. However due to various influences this year, Microsoft has not announced, nor released, a 2020 model.

This means that while it’s build quality and screen/inking ability surpass the competition, the newer devices on this list have more than caught up when considering performance in graphically intense applications, storage space (the Surface at this price point has half what the others do, which may become an issue if non-school related applications are installed) and general cost-effectiveness.

It is the only device on this list with a removable keyboard (rather than a full laptop), giving it a form factor that we feel is best suited for inking or moving around a classroom environment. Helped further by the fact it is much lighter than the Acer and HP.

Finally, Surface comes with the 'Microsoft Surface Pro Hardware Only Service Plan', meaning each Surface not only has a total of 3 Years Warranty like those above, but also includes Next Business Day Replacement.

MS Surface Pro 7

i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB solid state drive with stylus, 3 year warranty.

$2,499.99 incl gst

As per the above description of the Surface Pro 7, but with a 256GB solid state drive. A 128GB drive is typically sufficient for school purposes, but if the laptop is also used for non-school related applications then doubling the drive size would be of benefit.

Minimum Device Specifications

We have some minimum requirements, and that is for a “full” operating system. This means Windows 10 or Apple’s MacOS (the latter only applicable for those students transitioning with an existing device).

By inference, this excludes Operating Systems such as Apples’ iOS (commonly found on iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches) and Google’s Android or Chrome OS (commonly found on various tablets, smart phones and Chromebooks).

If a student has a full operating system then generally they can overcome most compatibility issues that may present themselves.

It also means that our teachers can plan with confidence that the student devices will support certain applications or file formats they choose to use. Additionally, students of St Andrew's College qualify for a free copy of MS Office 2016 (desktop version and online version).

Further minimum device requirements are as follows:


  • Solid State Disk (SSD) instead of traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD);
  • SSD are much faster and provide longer battery life;
  • 128GB minimum.

Memory / RAM:

  • 4GB minimum, 8GB or equivalent.

Processor CPU:

  • Intel i5.

Screen Size:

  • 11” minimum;
  • 15” maximum.


  • wireless 802.11n/ac;
  • laptop must support 5Ghz WiFi.

Battery Life:

  • ideally six+ hours on a single charge.

Preferred Supply Partner

Cyclone Computers is a New Zealand owned company with head offices in Christchurch. We recommend them as a great company to work with, however there is no requirement for you to purchase from them and we do not profit from purchases of devices through this channel.

  • both devices have a three-year warranty in the buy price;
  • both models have a Solid-State Disk (SSD) for storage. This results in faster speeds, lower failure rates and better battery life;
  • the recommended devices, the Surface Pro and the Acer Aspire Spin 5, are both of a sufficient specification to last for at least three years;
  • repair options in Christchurch.

To avoid disappointment when preparing for a new school year, we strongly encourage parents to place an order with Cyclone Computers before the end of December. Due to high demand and supply levels, some models may not be available at short notice if ordering is left until mid-to-late January.

To purchase please click here.