ALAPTOP WILL be useful for researching and writing papers at 2am, but that is not what you really want it for. What you want one for is music, films and computer games. With that in mind and because mobility is not too much of an issue, go with at least a 14.1-inch screen, though a lot of 15-inch screens offer much higher resolution, leading to sharper images. Get one with a DVD-ROM/CD-RW so you are equipped to pop in a late-night DVD or burn a music CD for a room-mate. A 40-gigabyte hard disk and 512 megabytes of memory are standard on most new laptops. Many laptops also have advanced graphics cards from either nVidia or ATI, which are usually more than enough. If you plan on watching lots of films or playing games, watch out for laptops that come with 'shared video Ram', which uses the system memory as video memory, leading to weak performance. Make sure your laptop is Wi-fi compatible, and operates on the 802.11g standard. Many laptops also come with Bluetooth. Cool extras? Laptop sound cards are always woefully average, so you may want to consider the Creative Audigy2 NX, which gives a laptop support for 7.1 channels of sound (seven satellite speakers and one sub-woofer). Models to look out for: Dell Inspiron 600m, HP Compaq nc6000 and IBM Thinkpad R51. Prices range from $11,000 to $16,000. As far as MP3 players go, there is the iPod and much more. First decide whether you want a flash-based MP3 player or a hard-drive based device. Flash players usually have up to 512MB of Ram and are much lighter, though more expensive. Hard-drive players are a bit bulkier and, because the hard drive is a mechanical object, are not great for jogging, but are much cheaper per megabyte. We suggest hard-drive MP3 players because they can double up as back-up hard disks. Most features are standard, but make sure you get one with microphone recording, such as the iRiver H320, so you do not have to worry about being a fast note-taker in lectures. Give a thought to the different things you want an MP3 player to be able to do - an optional accessory for the iPod is an infrared receiver and remote control that turns an iPod into a home stereo system, if you have the speakers. Models to look out for: iRiver H320, 20GB iPod and Creative Nomad Jukebox ZenXtra. Prices range from $2,000 to $4,000. Mobile phones are essential. Mobile phones come in all shapes and sizes, and the price range is wide. All you need is a phone with an address book of about 300 names. Differences in design can be for practical reasons - a clamshell (such as the Motorola V600) protects the screen from scratches and the keypad from unnecessary dialling, but the sleekness of a Nokia-style straightforward design is hard to beat. Most phones have a standard feature set - colour screens, Java and GPRS enabled, and phonebook capacity of 500 names, with multiple entries per name. Look for phones with Bluetooth and long battery life - you may be in a situation where you are unable to charge the battery. Some phones, such as the Nokia 6230, have Secure Digital card slots for extra memory so the phone can become a mini-MP3 player. Models to look out for: Motorola V600, Nokia 6230 and Sony Ericsson K700i. Prices range from $700 to $6,000. Personal digital assistants (PDAs) are the hardest category for students to reconcile, mostly because mobile phones generally perform the necessary organiser functions needed. Two of the more interesting budget PDAs are the PalmOne Zire 71 and the HP iPAQ rz1700. Both models are available for less than $2,000. The contrast between the two can be fundamental - the Zire runs on Palm OS, whereas the iPAQ runs on Microsoft Windows Mobile, but they can also be similar. Both are bare-bones PDAs that do what needs to be done. Palm OS does have two interesting pieces of software: Student Log and Student Zire Bundle - the former keeps track of assignments, timetables and daily expenses. Student Zire Bundle is a collection that brings together two dictionaries and software that encrypts private information should the Zire be lost or stolen.