Top Buyer Tips: Student Notebooks

Our advice on how to choose the best notebook to make the most of your education

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Top Buyer Tips: Student Notebooks Check with your university to see if they have specs they'd recommend to complement your course.
By  Vineetha Menon Published  October 6, 2009

There's no better example for preparing for tomorrow today than when you see university and school students shop around for that perfect notebook that'll see them through their higher education.

Though students have pretty much the same demands and expectations of notebooks as other consumers, there are a few extra factors that need to be looked at.

 

Battery life

This is perhaps the most important factor as many students underestimate just how much power their notebook needs. Even if you're going to buy additional battery packs, you don't want to settle for anything less than 4 hours of battery life, which will still come short when trying to complete assignments. Look for models that offer low power settings and offer the best bang for your buck.

 

Weight

As you may already be carrying books, 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 without making your shoulders and back feel sore. Don't go for anything more than 3 kilograms, while up to 2kgs would be ideal.

Health authorities often advise that children should carry a schoolbag that's no more than 10% of his/her body weight.


Software

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.

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


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 easily.

Keeping in mind a student budget, it's probably a good idea to test your notebook's writing capabilities to see if it meets expectations so you won't need to shell out on additional ‘burn' software like Nero.

Memory

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 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 to avoid shelling out more money later to get an upgrade.

Connectivity

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. Some campuses restrict how students can access the network so there's no point in shelling out the big bucks for all the connectivity options when you won't be able to use them adequately.


Keeping it Personal

While looks aren't the most important thing to consider when buying a student laptop, it's a good idea to find one that suits your preferences.

Things like size, design and colours are purely down to personal choice so go for what feels right to you. Aside from that, test to see if the shortcut keys, keyboard spacing and screen size are comfortable to use, especially when you realise that you'll be spending the next four years of your life completing academic assignments on this device.

 

Ultra-portables & Netbooks

Ultra-portable notebooks are, as you can imagine, designed for portability exclusively. This laptop type generally offers the longest amount of battery life though they are normally equipped with slower components, particularly in terms of the processor and hard disk. These notebooks generally weigh under 1.8kg with the lightest models weighing as little as 1k.

Netbooks are the newest member of the portable PC market and are designed to offer budget mobile computing. The focus of these devices is primarily light application use such as word processing, web browsing and e-mail interaction. In terms of size and weight, these laptops mirror ultra-portables though they won't offer as much battery life or performance.

For both ultra-portable notebooks and netbooks, make sure they have atleast 1GB of memory. Check the ‘feel' of the keyboard and trackpad to see if it's comfortable to type on the keys and that they don't require a lot of pressure for them to register.

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