With the back-to-school rush in full swing, there's plenty of choice when it comes to purchasing a new laptop. We've looked at the different types of machine on the market to help decide exactly what suits your needs.

For the past five years or so, things have been relatively static on the desktop-PC front. Portable computing, meanwhile, has seen major innovation. With laptop specifications catching up with those of desktop systems to the extent that they no longer seem like scaled-down versions of 'proper' computers, the twin advantages of portability and compactness make portable PCs a clear choice for many people.

Lately, the remaining bugbear of laptop PCs – having to worry about a limited battery life – has been addressed too. The newly launched Intel Centrino 2 processor promises a battery life of up to 10 hours between charges if you use the slightly bulkier six-cell battery pack, which is available as an add-on with most laptops.

Even if you go for the standard battery, you can expect it to run for about six hours – and to be able to pick up such a model for little more than £500.

Better yet, the same low power consumption that enables it to operate for so long also means it will cost you less to power from the mains. What's more, the introduction of a new processor is great news for anyone looking to acquire a bargain machine: it means there's a glut of non-Centrino 2 laptops sitting in warehouses and on shop shelves waiting to be sold off so the retailers can get the shiny newcomers out on show.

Back-to-school bargains

Even without a replacement for the all-conquering Centrino processor to push, this would be a frenetic time for laptop retailers. The back-to-school rush gives notebook sales a boost every year.

Despite this increased demand, however, late summer can be a great time to pick up a bargain. Notebook manufacturers bank on being able to shift well above average numbers of machines as consumers kit themselves out for the new term, and target this time of year for their big sales push. With competition for your business stiffer than ever, you should be able to find a compelling deal.

With the new academic year approaching, we’ll help you find a notebook PC that’s ideal for study. However, there's also plenty of advice to help home or general users trade up to a new model without making sacrifices along the way.

NEXT PAGE: Choosing a machine to suit your needs

  1. The ultimate guide to choosing a laptop
  2. Choosing a machine to suit your lifestyle needs
  3. Justifying the expense
  4. Avoiding expensive software
  5. Storage space
  6. Interface issues

See our Laptop Advisor website for expert reviews of today’s best laptops, plus read our essential advice to make sure you choose the right specs