Back to School ’13: Notebooks

Back to School ’13: Notebooks

Notebooks Cover

The Post-PC era may be upon us but the fact is that behind every tablet is a PC.   Whether it’s in your bag or on your desk your notebook is what you use to get things done and if it isn’t up to if it isn’t up to scratch chances are your work won’t be either.

While some of you might use a tower PC at home I’m working under the assumption that a student will prefer to have one PC both for home and school use.  Under that assumption a notebook is the logical choice.   My choice of notebooks for the ’13/’14 scholastic year are broken down into three categories: Ultraportables, Notebooks, and Powerhouses.  Here goes!


You want a computer you can carry around all day like you would an ordinary paper notebook.  Endurance is a must, but portability is the priority.  You want more freedom than you’d get with a tablet, but don’t want to carry 3kgs worth of computer around with you all the time.

Chromebook 303“The Accessory” – Samsung Series 303 Chromebook

The cheapest entry in this guide, the Chromebook 303 is a bit of an oddity.  It doesn’t run native apps per se – everything runs in the Chrome browser, using Chrome webapps.

The student will find almost anything he or she could need.  Google Drive is an excellent cloud sync/online office suite solution, there are Twitter apps, some HTML 5 games, image editors, and much more.

I want to make it clear that it is not meant to be used as your primary PC, hence the nickname I gave it.  Firstly, the 11.6″ screen is fine in short bursts but just isn’t practical when writing up an assignment and doing research. Heck, sometimes I think my 15.6″ notebook isn’t good enough.   Ultimately it works best when you have another PC that you’d rather not carry around with you.  The Chromebook’s been designed to work in an “always connected” world, but many services do offer an offline mode, so if the lecture hall doesn’t have wifi you can still take notes.

Best Price: €314.99* | 

Timeline U“The Featherweight” – Acer Timeline U

The Timeline U is a beast of an ultraportable.  You should have no qualms about using this as your main laptop both at home, at work, or at school.  With a Core i3 Ivy Bridge CPU and 4GB of RAM the Timeline U should handle almost any task you throw at it.  It comes with Windows 8 out of the box and the 15.6″ multi-touch display is both a joy to look at and to use.

Everything up to moderate programming should be fine on this machine but gaming and resource-intensive apps like Photoshop or Sony Vegas Pro will make it stutter and freeze, so be warned!

Best Price: €795.60 |

Vivobook S200E“The Concentrate” –    Asus Vivobook S200E

You want something a little larger than a netbook, smaller than an an ordinary ultraportable – but not short on power.

The 11.6″ display is bigger than the average notebook and makes for improved ergonomics, albeit the keyboard is still a little on the cramped side.

I won’t recommend it as your primary PC but if you’re going down that road it should be just fine.  Do get a nice monitor though!

Best Price: €559 |

Asus X101“The Netbook” –             Asus EEE PC X101

No, the netbook isn’t dead yet!  If you really want a cheap notebook that runs Windows look no further.

The dual core Atom processor will be fine for light use and some mild programming – but not much else.  All the caveats of using a small screen apply here, so be warned.

Best Price: €289.00


These laptops aren’t particularly portable, nor are they particularly powerful.  They’re just normal laptops meant for light usage and are perfect for the average student.  Big screens, good battery life, and reliable performance is what these machines are about  and they don’t disappoint.  The upside to their “normality” is the price – it’s pretty damn good!

Asus X501A“The Everyman” –    Asus X501A

What this notebook lacks in ultraportability or raw power is makes up for with an attractive design, reputable brand, and affordable price.  The low power CPU is a Sandy Bridge Core i3 so it’s no slouch and will give you decent battery life.

The chassis is all plastic and will hold up well over the laptop’s life time, and is available from Asus is a variety of colours.  I can’t guarantee that you’ll find any of them in Malta, unfortunately.

Best Price: €359.00

Asus X550CA“The Office Workhorse” – Asus X550CA

The X550CA is a fanastic low-power desktop replacement.  The Core i3 CPU will make sure things run smoothly and the large 15.6″ display is a joy to work with when writing assignments and the such.

Battery life is pretty average at 4 hours but should be enough for a regular school day.  Do have your notebooks and charger handy though, just in case!

Best Price: €525.00


These laptops are all about power with a modicum of portability.  Some of them will (just barely) fit in your messenger bag while others need a case of their own, but the sacrifice is worth it.  You need the power and just can’t do without it.

 Asus n56VZ“The Beautiful Beast” – Asus N56VZ

Most powerful laptops are either very bulky, extremely gaudy, or both.  The N56VZ is neither.  It is an elegant machine that, while not supermodel-slim, is still slimmer than a number of mainstream laptops while packing a FullHD display, a quad core Core i7 processor and the potent Nvidea GT650M.

I recommend this laptop from experience, as it is currently my personal machine.  Taking it to school everyday is doable, but battery life tops out at a maximum of 4 hours and the charging cable and brick are big and heavy.  I don’t carry it around with me unless I plan on working on some kind of programming assignment or research intensive write up.  The display is beautiful – it’s matte and very high resolution and fit to work on whether you’re in your room, in the library, or outside in the sun.

Best Price: €1299.00


Asus G750JX“The Hammer of the Gods” – Asus G750JX

Have you ever wanted to run your own mini PRISM spy network?  Design complex computational models of the solar system and/or the rest of the galaxy?  Create beautiful, resource-intensive animations?  Or maybe you want a PC that will load Facebook 1/100th of a second faster than the rest?  This powerhouse and handle anything and everything you throw at it – and them some.

The Quad Core i7 Haswell CPU, 3GB GT770M graphics, 3D screen, SSD, and Leap Motion optimisation make this G750 the ultimate media machine.  This isn’t a laptop I’d recommend carrying around – but if you want to carry 4.8kgs worth of badass computing then be my guest!

Best Price: €1999.00 |

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Disclaimer:  All prices correct at the time publication.

* Price does not include Postage and Packaging and Import Fees. does not charge import fees, however, and delivery is always by DHL (very quick, couple of days at the most) and costs around €11, but the price varies from device to device.

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