02.What to look for
Laptop spec list
Check with the school, but this is likely what you'll need on your shopping list.
- Device type: Windows/Mac laptop/tablet
- Operating system: Windows 7/ 8, Mac OS X 10.7 or higher, iOS 7 or higher
- Up-to-date antivirus software
- Wireless: Check with the school for Wi-Fi network such as 2.5GHz or 5GHz
- Min screen size: 7"
- Min storage capacity: 64GB
- RAM: Minimum 4GB
- Max device age: Two years
- Minimum battery life: Four hours
- Accessories: Protective case/cover, headphones, security lock/cable, portable or cloud storage
What about OS and productivity software?
Often you'll find that the Microsoft Office Home and Student productivity package comes bundled with a new Windows computer. This includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote programs, along with 15GB of SkyDrive cloud storage. If it's not included with the computer and you want it, you can add it for $169.
Alternatively, you can usually save some money by buying your computer without included productivity software and simply download a free, open source productivity suite such as LibreOffice or OpenOffice. These provide programs with functionality similar to Microsoft Office, including the ability to open and save the standard Microsoft Office file formats, but at no charge. You can install them on as many computers as you want. Versions are available for Windows, OS X and Linux.
If your school uses Apple laptops, you'll still need productivity software and can either buy Microsoft Office for Mac Home and Student 2011 for $169, or again, download the OS X versions of the free productivity suites LibreOffice or OpenOffice.
Some schools have opted for iPads, which come with Apple's own productivity software iWork (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) and iLife (iPhoto, iMovie, Garageband).
Like the Surface tablet, an iPad can be made more functional with the addition of a physical keyboard, such as those from Logitech.