Buying a computer

When buying a computer, there are a few things to consider, such as what you will be using it for, how much you wish to spend and whether you require a desktop or a laptop.

Mac or PC?

The first thing to consider is whether to buy a Mac or a PC. Your decision may depend on what you have used in the past, or what you will use most during the course of your studies.

Most software will have versions compatible with both Operating Systems and most La Trobe systems support both Mac and PC.

Fundamentally, this choice comes down to personal preference but if you're the only one in your class with a different OS it can be difficult to get help from others.

Desktop or laptop?

Another thing to consider is how you will use your computer. Desktops are usually cheaper to buy and to upgrade but a laptop will allow you to use it in multiple places.

You can also configure a laptop to connect to the University's wireless network while you're on campus.

RAM, HDD, GHz - What do all those acronyms mean?

Rich Brown from has put together a useful and in-depth (but still straightforward!) guide to computer hardware.

You can find it at:

The three basic types of laptops

For simplicity, we’ve broken down typical student laptops into three, easy to understand categories. This may help you determine what you need.


The all-rounder is general in nature, and will allow you to use a word processor, conduct research, watch media content and browse the web with no issues.

Most will come with at least 500gb of storage, possibly a CD/DVD drive and plenty of connectivity ports.

Suitable for

Most Students

Estimated Price

$500 - $1500

Approximate Battery Life

3-5 Hours

Screen Size




Comparable Apple (Mac OS) model

MacBook Air

Ultra-portable, mobility friendly

When form factor (size) and mobility (light, ease of transport) are your key features.

Ultra-portable laptops will typically range in size from 10-13” and will be significantly thinner and lighter than most other computers. In order to do this, most sacrifice a CD/DVD drive and have fewer connectivity ports on the side.

Due to their smaller nature, most will have significantly improved battery lives and will last almost a whole day with light-medium usage.

Suitable for

Most Students - primarily word processing and internet based research

Estimated Price

$500 - $2000

Approximate Battery Life

5-8 Hours

Screen Size




Comparable Apple (Mac OS) model


Power user

This category of computer packs more processing power and will be able to run highly demanding programs in the fields of photo/video processing, design, mathematics, physics and science.

Most will come with 8+ Gb of ram, a dedicated graphics card and at least 1TB of storage. They are generally full-sized 15” or 17” laptops with DVD drives and many connectivity ports.

Please note however that most of these computers are heavy, making them more difficult to carry around and have a shorter battery life due to their power-hungry nature.

Suitable for

Arts and graphic design, Scientific calculations, power-Users, gaming, media creation

Estimated Price

$1000 - $3000

Approximate Battery Life

3-4 hours

Screen Size




Comparable Apple (Mac OS) model

MacBook Pro

Student Discounts


La Trobe Students are entitled to discounts from our Enterprise partner, Dell. The percentage discount is dependent on the value of the computer purchased.

  • $0 - $899 = 5%
  • $900 - $1699 = 8%
  • $1700+ = 12%

To take advantage of these discounts, go to, create an account using your Latrobe email address, and follow the prompts to get a discount coupon.


Apple provides student discounts for varied amounts depending on the product. They also offer device financing options. For further information, please see the following link:

Last but not least

Where to buy

Be sure to buy from a respected and trusted retailer that would be well placed to assist with hardware support in the future. Student IT Support will assist you with study-related computer issues/enquiries but are unable to assist with repairs or hardware failures.

Included Software

Also consider additional software that may come with a computer. In most cases, software such as Microsoft Office or Antivirus software will cost extra.

However, as a student of La Trobe University you can install Microsoft Office Pro for free through your Office 365 subscription.

There are also a number of great free antivirus solutions, so be weary of paying for something you don't necessarily need. See our antivirus page for more information.


You may also like to consider the warranty period – extending the warranty period can cost more, but may save you money in the future if something goes wrong. Also keep in mind that as general rule of thumb, you do get what you pay for in terms of quality, performance and support.

Didn't find what you were looking for?

If you’re still unsure or have questions, consider talking to peers or staff in your specific course as they may have further advice and can tell you what has worked for them.

You can also call Student IT Support on 1300 LATROBE (Option 3) or visit us in person at either the Bendigo or Bundoora library. We'll do our best to point you in the right direction.