Notebook Buyer’s Guide: Back to School 2009

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Once again the summer season draws to a close and your school bus is getting ready to resume its daily route. It’s back to school shopping season, and this year we’re here to help you find the perfect notebook.

Back to school

Our comprehensive buying guides help you narrow down the selection of hundreds of laptops to just a few select notebooks and netbooks that meet your needs. We’ve broken our picks down by price and within each price range we’ve provided a few suggestions so you can find the perfect laptop for school.

Keep reading, and let’s see if we can help you find your next notebook.

If you don’t see the perfect gift in our list, be sure to seek out buying advice in our “What Notebook Should I Buy?” discussion forum, and our forum members, moderators, and staff will graciously offer their insight in helping you pick the best laptop for your family.

Under $500 | $500-$1,000 | Over $1,000

arrow Under $500

Dell Latitude 2100

Dell Latitude 2100


The Dell Latitude 2100 is a netbook designed to survive use and abuse in the classroom. It features a 10.1 inch LED-backlit display with optional touch interface, Intel Atom N270 processor, up to 1GB DDR2 system memory, 1.3 megapixel webcam and up to 250GB hard drive or 16GB SSD. We gave this school-ready netbook our Editor’s Choice award for its durable construction, smart design elements, and reasonable price.

ASUS Eee PC 1000HE

ASUS Eee PC 1000HE


The ASUS 1000HE made our back to school in front ofseveral newer models thanks to its low price and improved battery life over other netbooks. This netbook stayed powered for 7 hours and 36 minutes during our testing, which is a huge plus for mobile users. Power efficiency which equates to long battery life is something all consumers can enjoy. Likewise, the small size makes this netbook perfect for students or moms who need to stay connected on the go.

arrow Integrated or discrete graphics?

Graphics

When it comes to buying a laptop for your child’s back-to-school needs, at some point you’ll have to make a decision about graphics. Sure, no parent wants to spend extra cash on a laptop that their kid will just use to play video games, but notebook graphics are used for more than just games. Integrated graphics can generally handle any school work, but it’s important to consider what your child will be using the laptop to do. If your student will be editing video for a broadcast journalism or theater class, then discrete graphics are a good idea. If your kid doesn’t want to clutter her dorm room with a bulky TV and wants to use the laptop to watch HDTV then once again discrete graphics may be essential.


Lenovo G530

Lenovo G530


The Lenovo G530 and its sibling the G550 are the surprise hits of 2009 when it comes to budget notebooks. For less than $500 you can buy a well built 15-inch notebook with a comfortable keyboard and all the features you need for school. Compared to most 15-inch notebooks in this price range that have sub-par build quality, the G530 and G550 should last you from freshman enrollment through to your college graduation.

Asus Eee PC 1005HA

ASUS Eee PC 1005HA


The ASUS Eee PC 1005HA is an Intel Atom N280 powered netbook featuring 1GB DDR2 system memory, integrated WLAN and Bluetooth 2.1 connectivity, and a 6-cell lithium ion battery boasting up to 10 hours of battery life. This “seashell” style netbook isn’t as thin as the Eee PC 1008HA, but what it lacks in thinness it more than makes up for with all-day battery life.

arrow $500-$1,000

HP Pavilion dv2

HP Pavilion dv2


The newest 12-inch notebook from HP is no ordinary ultra-portable laptop. Featuring the new AMD Athlon Neo processor, the HP Pavilion dv2 promises to bridge the gap between low-performance netbooks and higher-priced ultra-portable notebooks. This thin and light laptop can handle 1080p Blu-ray movies or even get you to the next level of your favorite video game. The HP Pavilion dv2 is thin and light enough that it can replace a netbook, and it has enough performance to replace a full-size notebook. The only people who might need more performance are extreme gamers and people who need extreme processor speed and multiple cores for multitasking work like encoding two or more video formats simultaneously.

HP TouchSmart tx2

HP Touchsmart tx2


With a convertible, swiveling 12.1-inch touchscreen display, the Touchsmart tx2z functions as a notebook or a tablet PC. Digital pen is included and stored in the notebook’s base for note-taking and slate functions. The base model is equipped with 3GB memory and can be customized up to 8GB. The tx2 also features webcam, AMD dual-core processor, wireless internet card and DVD burner. This is a great laptop that doubles as a digital notepad for $800.

arrow Do you need a netbook?

Netbook

The “netbook” form factor offers consumers a low-cost ultraportable notebook in a market segment where notebooks used to cost $1,500 and up. With most netbooks costing less than $500, they are cheap enough to buy one in addition to your full-size notebook. With the vast majority offering Intel Atom processors, these portable computers can handle most daily tasks with ease. Buying the perfect netbook is easier than you think since currently the netbook standard is one of the easiest computers for consumers to purchase. Most models on the market offer the same Intel Atom processor and Intel integrated graphics. The only thing that really separates netbook models is the type of Storage medium they use, the screen size, and the size of the battery. If you need more advice, check out our Netbook Buyer’s Guide.


Dell Studio 15

Dell Studio 15


The Dell Studio 15 (1555) is a 15-inch multimedia laptop with a cinematic 16:9 ratio widescreen display and is offered in multiple colors and configurations. The Studio 15 can be equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo and dedicated ATI graphics. It comes with a slot-loading DVD drive or Blu-ray player, backlit keyboard, sleek drop-hinge design, and impressive speakers. Software wise the Dell Studio 15 also includes a unique “Dell Dock” that is similar to the Apple Mac OS X launch dock for easy access to your favorite applications and easy control over various notebook settings. This laptop offers a lot of customizable options starting at just $599.

HP Pavilion dv6

HP Pavilion dv6z and dv6t


The newest 16-inch notebook from HP delivers great performance at a low price and should be very popular in 2009. The HP Pavilion dv6z features the latest AMD dual-core processors, while the dv6t uses Intel processors. Both systems come with your choice of integrated or discrete graphics, and all the ports and features you need. At a starting price of just $579.99 it might just be the most competitive desktop replacement notebook on the market.

Dell Studio 17

Dell Studio 17


Starting at around $650, this massive multimedia 17-inch notebook makes a solid desktop replacement for an office or dorm. This laptop offered in multiple colors and configurations. The Studio 17 can be equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo and dedicated ATI graphics as well as massive hard drives with tons of storage.. It comes with a slot-loading DVD or Blu-ray drive, backlit keyboard, sleek drop-hinge design, and widescreen glossy display.

arrow Over $1,000

HP EliteBook 2530p

HP EliteBook 2530p


The EliteBook 2530p is a 12.1-inch portable business-class laptop with an attractive yet rugged build as well as an EPEAT Gold rating and an Energy Star certification. This system earned an Editor’s Choice award for having excellent performance, great battery life, and very good build quality. If you’re looking for something slightly larger and more powerful, the 15″ EliteBook 8530w with DreamColor display also carries the EPEAT Gold rating.

Apple MacBook

Apple MacBook Pro


Apple has gone a long way in making one of the most recognizable eco-friendly new notebooks with the latest 13-inch, 15-inch, and 17-inch MacBook Pro series. The notebooks share a design that is carved out of a solid piece of aluminum to increase strength, decrease weight, and reduce waste by reclaiming all of the unused material. Harmful chemicals like mercury are also eliminated by moving to a LED-backlight system instead using cathodes as a light source. Materials used for packaging have been reduced through better shipping box designs, creating smaller boxes. These are convenient for the customer as well as Apple, since they fit more notebooks onto a shipping pallet, reducing the transportation costs. Battery life has been improved over past models by using the LED-backlit system and more efficient components.

Lenovo ThinkPad T400

Lenovo ThinkPad T400


The Lenovo T400 is a 14.1-inch business notebook offering hybrid graphics technology that let the user switch graphic card modes depending on the situation at hand. This model offers a very efficient LED-backlit display which when combined with other power friendly components allows this notebook to have almost 10 hours of runtime on battery. That time tops the charts for any other notebook in its class, making it a clear winner when it comes to power efficiency.

Dell Studio XPS 16

Dell Studio XPS 16


Blending high performance with style, the Studio XPS 16 is designed to deliver a solid multimedia laptop experience. The Studio XPS 16 features genuine leather accents, anodized aluminum, an edge-to-edge display and backlit keyboard Let’s not forget the 16″ ultrawide display with 16:9 aspect ratio and 1080p HD support with optional RGB-LED for brighter and more vivid colors. You can equip the Studio XPS 16 with the latest Intel Centrino 2 platform for fast performance, amazing battery life and go anywhere wireless connectivity and premium ATI 512MB graphics delivers incredibly lifelike videos, movies and gaming.

arrow Looking for more?

Moms, Dads, and Grads

Whether you’re shopping for your student or just looking to land a great deal, back to school season is a great time to check out what’s next in tech. Let the editors of the TechnologyGuide.com network help you pick the right camera, smartphone, printer, desktop, or notebook, with our Back to School Buyer’s Guide.

To see our top tech picks in all categories visit our main buyer’s guide page on TechnologyGuide.com.

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