Shopper Buyer's Guide: Student Notebooks

Visiting Gitex Computer Shopper looking for a deal on notebook for a student? Check out our guide to what you need to consider before you buy

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By  Vineetha Menon Published  September 21, 2008

While the needs and expectations of high school and university students don’t differ too much from other consumers, there are some important factors to consider.

For example, imagine walking around campus carrying not only your books, but a heavy laptop as well. Or what about one that doesn’t run the software you need for class projects?

Sometimes it’s not about having the latest and best, but more about what’s the right laptop for you.

Here are some top tips to consider:


As you may already be carrying books, gym kit, snacks and other essentials in your bag, it’s important that you choose a laptop that’s going to be light enough to carry around all day. We’d advise to look for one less than 2 kilograms, and definitely not more than 3 kilograms.

Parents should also be aware that health authorities believe that growing children should carry a schoolbag that’s no more than 10% of his/her body weight to prevent shoulder and back injury.

Battery life

This is important as many students underestimate just how much power their notebook needs. Trust us; you don’t want to settle for anything less than 4 hours of battery life. It will save you the hassle of being constantly plugged in at school or at home just to get your assignments done.

If you do settle on a laptop that has a low battery life, purchase an additional battery to give you that extra freedom.


Make sure your laptop comes with the software essential to your academic life. It’s usually best to check with your school or college if they any specific requirements for software, so that your laptop is compatible with any e-learning applications that the school might be running, or that you have the right applications for specific courses.

If you need to buy software, don’t forget that Microsoft offers cheaper student versions of its main products, or if you want an even more economical option, try the free software like or even Google Docs for web-based word processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications.

Warranty & Service

Mistakes happen all the time. Even in the classroom. Make sure the laptop you purchase has a hardware warranty with flexible service options. This way, you’ll be covered when you accidentally spill juice on your keyboard or it falls from your desk.

Do some research to find out if your university has any special deals with any particular notebook vendor, as they might be offering laptops at a cheaper price than in the shops, or they may have a deal to offer service on campus or to provide temporary replacements if your notebook needs repairs.

CD/DVD burner

While the CD burner option is a standard on most laptops, consider one with a DVD burner as well to help you back-up data and make copies of your class projects and presentations.

It’s probably a good idea to test your notebook’s writing capabilities to see if it meets your expectations before purchasing separate ‘burn’ softwares, like Nero.


Another thing to consider is if you are going away from home for college or university, then your laptop can double up as a hi-fi, with some add on speakers, or even as a TV with a TV tuner attachment.
An external hard drive might also be a good investment, to store music and video without taking up too much space on your laptop’s main drive.


Depending on your major – business, arts, media, technology, etc. - you’ll be performing different tasks using applications on your laptop. Anything less than 2 GB is not even worth considering regardless, as you’ll spend ages trying to complete the most basic of tasks.

Check with your university to see if they have a recommended memory specification for your course studies to avoid shelling out more money later to get an upgrade.


Talk to your institution to find out if they provide internet access for students wirelessly through WiFi or through a dedicated LAN. This is vital as although most notebooks come with wireless capabilities nowadays, not all of the budget or netbook models do, and some campuses restrict how students can access the network.

‘I’ factor

While looks can’t really compare to performance when it comes to laptops, it’s a good idea to find one that suits your preferences. Aside from obvious size and design choices, test to see if the shortcut keys, keyboard spacing and screen size are comfortable - you’ll be spending the next four years of your life completing academic assignments on this device.

And because its not all about specs and tools, some laptops also come with the option of clip-on covers with different colors and designs to help you really make a statement.

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