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.

Macintosh or Windows?

The first thing to consider is whether to buy a Macintosh (Mac) or a Windows machine. 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 (OS) and most La Trobe systems support both Mac and Windows.

Fundamentally, this choice comes down to personal preference. There is a wealth of information online about the advantages and disadvantages of both Mac and Windows PCs which students should consider before purchasing a computer.

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 has the advantage of portability.

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

Below are two separate guides that we think offer a lot of accurate information for buying either a laptop or a desktop computer.

Buying a Laptop -

Buying a Desktop-

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. There is also a good chance that it will be able to run most required software that you will encounter during your degree.

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

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.

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 16+ 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.

Laptop Type


Ultra-portable, mobility friendly

Power User

Suitable For

Most Students

Most Students - primarily word processing and internet based research

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

Estimated Price

$500 - $1500

$500 - $2000

$1000 - $3000

Approx. Battery Life

3-5 Hours

5-8 Hours

3-4 hours

Screen Size








Comparable Apple (Mac OS) model

MacBook Air


MacBook Pro



La Trobe Students are entitled to discounts from our Enterprise partner, Dell.

To take advantage of these discounts, go to, create an account using your La Trobe email address (e.g, 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:

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/inquiries 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 incur and additional fee.

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.


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