Help Me, LAPTOP: I Need A Powerful Portable for IT Grad School

We just couldn’t resist answering this latest question, because it comes from a reader named Avram (no, it’s not a relative), who is entering a graduate program in IT this fall and needs something powerful enough for programming, but portable enough to carry around campus without recharging it constantly.

Avram, who also told us that he does not play games, writes:

I will be entering into a Masters program in Information Systems in the fall. I need a machine that has raw power, lots of memory, durable, a battery life with longevity (my last two laptops burned through their batteries in a matter of months) in as compact and portable form as possible. Also I am really into music so I have about 20 gigs of music (and growing) that should probably be accounted for.

In order the things most important to me are:

Battery life
processing power
wireless range
memory space
business compatibility

Things I willing to give up:

Size of screen
Price (my price range will be about 600-950)

Clearly, you need something with decent power, but not necessarily gaming-level graphics. More importantly, you should be getting at least 5 or 6 hours of battery life and the screen size should be 14-inches or less. A good keyboard for typing all those notes or maybe writing code and scripts could help too. Obviously, you’ll need the added networking features of Windows 7 Professional too.

For your budget and needs, our first choice is the Lenovo Thinkpad T410, because you can configure it with a powerful processor, an extended battery, and a hi-res screen. Though Lenovo is currently selling a base config of the T410 for under $800 (with a coupon you can find at LogicBUY), you may need to up your budget a bit to get all the best options. If you can squeeze in the extra funds, we recommend you buy the T410 with the 9-cell battery (which should give you about 6 hours of endurance), a Core i5 CPU, a 7,200-rpm hard drive, and the 1440×900 screen in that order of importance. On a side note, we noticed that doesn’t seem to be stocking the 1440×900 screen right now, but some third party vendors are selling a configuration called the ThinkPad T410-2518JU which has pretty much everything we just mentioned, but is a couple hundred above your budget.

In addition to the T410, we also like the HP EliteBook 8440p, which costs around $900 these days and lasts about 4 hours and 41 minutes. The13-inch Toshiba Portege R700 is a good, lightweight choice that lasts over 6 hours on a charge.

Each week, we answers questions from readers in our Help Me LAPTOP section. If you need help buying or making the most of a notebook, smart phone, or other mobile gadget, e-mail us at We’ll use the most interesting questions in a future Help ME LAPTOP post.

Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch on
Facebook Twitter Google+
Email* (will not be published)
*Indicates required field
Submit Comments

  1. green_on_green Says:

    hi, i am eying the sony z series… the best out there… powerful, portable, well built & good battery life… great screen 2…

    hope the reference helps

  2. Dvora Says:

    How about the new Asus Bamboo models — the U43jc-x1 14″ comes with a 14″ screen, an i5 processor, 4 GB RAM and Nvidia G310M Graphics Engine with 1 GB DDR3 Dedicated VRAM and Optimus switching technology — and a claimed 10hrs battery life!
    The cheaper x1 model (500 vs 640 GB HD, 1 vs 2 yr warranty) is available now for a limited time at Amazon for $999 — but you get a free $150 Amazon gift card with it, so — if you ever plan to buy something from Amazon — it’s essentially $850!

    I just ordered one for my son, who has pretty much identical requirements to Avram, as he’s planning to study engineering, doesn’t game but needs lots of processing and some graphics power, plus as much battery life as possible.

    There’s also a 13.3″ model — the U33jc — but it only comes with an i3 processor, plus my son preferred the slightly bigger 14″ screen on the U43jc.

    Good luck, in any event.

  3. ensekofti Says:

    I am in exactly the same situation, and have the same needs… but… I love watching movies too! and, although I have never been a gamer, I am worried that during my studies I may need “gamer’s graphics” on my notebook because it is a part of the course… (I am studying computer science)

    well if I am mistaken about the gaming part, I can buy the T410 and buy an extra 24″ display and good speakers for the movies…

    or you can help me find an ideal solution…. :) thx

  4. ensekofti Says:

    oh! It’s my first course (not a master) so I dont know what to expect…
    And, as I am studying abroad, I need a mediocre to good quality webcam, to talk with friends and family…

  5. iExD Says:

    Programming? Isn’t that just typing? I doubt that he/she will be having to require using big powerful performance for programming.. but I would recommend Asus UL series. Light+good price+LONG hours+portability all in one. They say it’s 10 hours but it’s probably really just 8 hours. So yea.. Asus ultralight series.

All Product Types Accessories Cars Digital Camcorders Digital Cameras eReaders GPS Laptops MP3 & Video Players Projectors Smartphones Software Storage Tablets / MIDs VoIP Wi-Fi
All Subcategories
All Subcategories All-Purpose Budget Business Desktop Replacement Gaming Multimedia Netbook Nettop Rugged Student Tablet PCs Ultraportable
Acer Alienware Apple Archos ASUS Averatec BenQ CTL Corp. Dell Digital Storm eMachines Emtec Everex Fujitsu GammaTech Gateway General Dynamics Getac Gigabyte Hercules HP HTC iBuyPower Intel Lenovo MSI Nokia Nvidia OCZ OLPC OQO Origin Panasonic Sager Samsung Sony Sylvania Systemax TabletKiosk Toshiba Verizon Viewsonic Viliv VooDoo Workhorse PC ZT Systems
Minimum Rating
Any Rating 4.5 Stars 4.0 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.0 Stars
Screen Size
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 4 5 6 7 8 9
1024x576 1024x600 1024x768 1200X800 1280 x 720 1280x1024 1280x768 1280x800 1366x678 1366x768 1440x1050 1440x900 1600x768 1600x900 1680x1050 1680x945 1920x1080 1920x1200 800x400 800x480
Weight Range
10.1 - 12.0 pounds 12.1 - 14.0 pounds 14.1 - 16.0 pounds 2 lbs 2 pounds and under 2+ lbs 2.1 - 4.0 pounds 4.1 - 6.0 pounds 6.1 - 8.0 pounds 8.1 - 10.0 pounds Over 16 pounds Under 2 pounds
more options