Back-To-School Buyer’s Guide: Classroom Friendly Laptops

by Reads (10,754)

Classroom friendly notebooks, as the name would suggest, are those which are small enough to easily fit inside your backpack alongside books and paper and lightweight to not throw out your back. This category includes notebooks from 12" up to 14.1", right up to where the desktop replacement category would start. A key advantage of most notebooks in this category is the extraordinarily long battery life that many of these computers have, some coming close to breaking 10 hours. These computers are perfect for carrying into a classroom, fitting on a small desk surface, and above all not having to worry about sitting near a power outlet.

Dell XPS M1330

The Dell XPS M1330 is an attractive 13.3" notebook that comes in multiple stylish colors and brushed aluminum trim around a device worthy of being on display in an art museum. Options include a slot loaded DVD burner, dedicated graphics with HDMI output, and even cellular broadband for internet connectivity anywhere you might venture. With a NotebookReview Editor’s Choice award in July 2007, you can be confident that this notebook is a great choice if you decided to go with it. Prices start at $999 and go up from there depending on configuration.

View review of the XPS M1330

Dell Inspiron 1420

The Dell Inspiron 1420 is a 14.1" entertainment oriented notebook with a small budget price. This Dell notebook starts at $649, and while it might not offer the unique styling of the XPS M1330, it does offer similar performance, but for a much lower price. Users can chose between 8 different color options to give the notebook a personal touch, and for the light gamer in all of us, a dedicated graphics card option.

View review of the Inspiron 1420


Toshiba Satellite U405

This 13.3" Toshiba Satellite notebook is sure to turn some heads with its highly reflective (and durable) Fusion finish. With its great screen, keyboard, touchpad, and winning performance there is little to complain about with this notebook. We felt it was worthy of an Editor’s Choice award in April 2008 and hated to see it leave our office. With close to 4 hours of battery life on the standard 6 cell battery, and an optional 9 cell battery available, this notebook is great for taking notes in the classroom or killing time between classes. With configurations starting as low as $815, it is priced to fit inside most budgets.

View review of the U405

Lenovo ThinkPad X200

The Lenovo ThinkPad X200 is a business quality notebook that can stand up to almost anything students can throw at it, and provide upwards of 10 hours of battery life for those late night study sessions. This lightweight notebook offers many options including extended batteries, cellular broadband, and best of all Intel Montivena performance. Just note that this model doesn’t offer an onboard optical drive, so an external drive through USB or docking station will probably be required. Prices start at $1199 and come in any color you want as long as it’s black.

View review of the X200

Lenovo ThinkPad T61

The 14.1" variant of the T61 offers numerous configurations, spanning from models with Intel integrated graphics all the way up to portable workstations with NVIDIA Quattro dedicated graphics. Those who might be worrying about a paper or 10 will love the comfortable keyboard that is thought to be one of the best on any notebook. With solid performance that not even an elephant could crush, this notebook is a great choice for students who have dropped a notebook or 2 in the past, or just like the black rectangular box design. With configurations currently starting at $772, it might surprise you how little it can cost to get a business quality notebook.

View review of the ThinkPad T61



The VAIO SZ is a feature packed 13.3" notebook from Sony that combines the power sipping features of integrated graphics and the gaming abilities dedicated graphics. It offers a Hybrid graphics setup that lets you disable the power intensive NVIDIA graphics card when you want to save power, but easily switch back if you want to break out WoW in the middle of a boring lecture. Combine this with great styling and optional cellular broadband and you have an awesome classroom warrior notebook. Prices start at $1,479, with the Hybrid graphics included in all configurations.

View review of the VAIO SZ



The 11.1" Sony TZ ultraportable is just slightly below 12" limit for this category, but sticking it with the netbooks would be akin to grouping a Porsche with a Prius. This notebook combines extreme small size and power saving components to give users all day performance from a device that can almost fit in a cargo pocket. Offering a carbon fiber lid and super bright LED backlit display this ultraportable will stun onlookers, and perhaps even your wallet with a starting price of $1,899. For those who can afford this awesome piece of equipment, know that it comes highly recommended, winning our Editor’s Choice award in September 2007.

View review of the VAIO TZ

Apple MacBook

A notebook guide would not be complete with at least mentioning the 13.3" Apple Macbook. Offering compatibility with OSX as well as Windows XP and Vista, it can be an invaluable asset to a student who might need to run software across many platforms. What makes this notebook even sweeter is the current "Buy a Mac for college and get a free iPod" deal that Apple is pushing, as well as standard student pricing. Expect to see this notebook starting from $999 if you qualify for the student discount or $1,099 if you don’t.

View review of the MacBook

HP Pavilion dv2800t

The 14.1" dv2700 and dv2800 notebooks have been popular on our site for a long time, mostly related to the fact they can be purchased at so many retail locations on and offline. These notebooks offer solid build quality and cool case graphics underneath the durable Imprint finish. With both AMD and Intel processor versions available, as well as models with dedicated or integrated graphics, there is a version of this notebook out there for everyone. Prices start as low as $649 after rebate at the time of writing this guide, fitting well with any budget. Buyers should also know that HP is about to start selling the newest revision of this popular notebook, the dv4, which offers a design and platform refresh. Expect it to cost slightly more than the older models which will probably be at a discount to clear out older stock.

View review of thedv2800t


HP Pavilion tx2500z

The tx2500z is the update to the popular tx1000 and tx2000 series convertible notebooks. The term "convertible" means these notebooks have rotating screens that allow you to use the notebook as a "tablet" and write notes directly on the screen.

This tablet features an AMD Turion 64 X2 Ultra Dual-Core Mobile Technology Processor, up to 4GB DDR2 System Memory, ATI Mobile Radeon HD 3200 Graphics, and a 12.1" WXGA High-Definition HP BrightView Widescreen Touch-screen Display – Panel rotates 180° and folds flat.

View review of the HP Pavilion tx2500z


LG P300

While the 13.3" LG P300 is available only in Europe and Canada, it being as close to notebook perfection as you can get was enough to earn it a spot on our list. This notebook packs a massive punch with a NVIDIA 8600M-GS dedicated graphics card, and the highest 3DMark06 score we have ever seen on a notebook of this size. When not picking off enemies in your favorite game, this notebook came 20 minutes shy of 4 hours of battery life. If you’re a US student who is really interested in this notebook, you will have to turn to Canadian vendors like Future Shop to purchase it, and a Canadian buddy to ship it to you from across the border.

View review of the LG P300


Gateway T-series

The 14.1" Gateway T-Series is a budget notebook with good looks and solid performance. Offering great hardware specifications even with "budget" configurations, this series of notebook gives users a great alternative other notebooks from HP or Toshiba, and is available in many retail locations. Styling is bold with glossy solid color plastic on the screen cover and keyboard bezel and brushed aluminum trim. Prices start at $699, easily working with any budget.

View review of the Gateway T-series


Keep in mind this list doesn’t represent every classroom friendly notebook currently on the market. Our back-to-school guides are designed to highlight a few laptops we believe appeal to a wide range of students (and their parents).  

Remember, to get advice on which notebook to buy don’t just go with what’s popular, visit our What Notebook Should I Buy for School forum to ask what everyone else thinks you should buy based on your needs. 



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