Thank you so much for the details. You gave us information we didn't even
"mcheu" wrote in message
On Wed, 11 Feb 2004 23:44:46 -0600, "DebbieG"
>I need some opinions. I have a relative that is going to college next fall
>and needs a laptop. She will need to be able to:
>1. Check e-mail while on road trips for sports.
>2. Play DVDs and CDs.
>3. Use word processing software.
>4. And whatever normal teenagers use on PCs.
>What specifics should she look for when going to purchase a laptop (like
>memory, CPU, etc.)? She's hoping that whatever she buys will last for her
>college career. Does anyone have any opinions and/or suggestions so she
>buys the right equipment?
This is quite long, but I hope you find this a bit more helpful than
Basically, for what you want, I'd suggest going with something made by
DELL or IBM. The warranty and telephone tech support will be worth it
the first time she encounters a problem. She might not going be able
to con one of her techie friends to come over and help at 4am in the
morning. Especially in crunch season when people will have their own
problems. If she's a journalism, or arts major, a MAC might be a good
alternative to a PC notebook. Some people swear by them. If she's in
sciences/math discipline though, a PC notebook is the way to go --
eventually she'll have to use a software package for some course,
statistics, maths, etc, and it would be nice if the package used by
the school were runnable on the machine.
For the basics:
CPU: P4 or Celeron Mobile. The MHz doesn't really matter too much, as
this is going to be a working machine. Any modern machine will have a
CPU with enough power handle all of what you've requested. The
"Mobile" is very important, as some of the lower end laptops use the
desktop CPUs. Performance will be about the same, but battery life
will suck. Those that are marked "Centrino" aren't that big a deal.
It's an Intel CPU/Chipset combo, that should help with battery life,
but it's more marketing than anything. If the laptop happens to have
the branding, it's nice, but it's not worth putting any effort into
If you're an AMD fan, there are AMD based notebooks, but some people
have troulbe with the chipsets used, and the notebooks aren't as easy
to locate. Again, nice to have, and it might save a few bucks, but
it's not really worth the effort to hunt for one.
Memory: at least 512MB
HD Size: I'd say at least 40GB, but if they offer a larger size
option, go for it. You can never have enough storage.
Video: NVidiaFX Go or Radeon Mobile based. Though pretty comparable,
the manufacturers seem to offer more video memory with the FX Go based
ones. Make sure there is actual video memory, not "shared" memory.
Shared memory uses system memory instead of giving the video it's own.
It's cheaper, but it's dog slow. On the display, make sure it's an
active matrix TFT. Most are, but some models shave a bit off
(sometimes up to $500) using passive matrix screens, and it's not
worth the eyestrain.
The first spec isn't always practical, but it's possible. It won't so
much be a function of the computer though. You'll need to sign her up
for a big national or international ISP, that has local access dialup
numbers in several major cities. Otherwise, she can access her ISP
account, but there could be long distance charges involved.
For the WP software, have a look at the bundled software. Some
manufacturers bundle some version of MS Word with the computer, and if
they do, it's really nice. If they don't, it's worth it to buy the
program (even if it is pricey). It's a very nice word processor, and
as it's the WP standard, it gives the most compatibility if she has to
collaborate with others or have someone do some proof reading.
If you want it to be a desktop replacement (ie, it's the only
computer), there's a school of thought that it should have the same or
similar specs to the desktop machines. There are drawbacks to this,
especially for college students. Basically, gaming vs grades. When
the courseload stress gets too heavy, it's all too tempting to "take a
break" and escape into a game world or spend the night chatting and
procrastinating. Do this too often, and the ol' GPA goes in the
crapper -- That's the dark side of your 4th spec. A slower computer
that doesn't run games nearly so well takes some of that temptation
Playing DVDs and CDs isn't a major biggie. A DVD player or CDRW
player are pretty common options on laptops. If you can, see if you
can find an option for a DVD/CDRW combo drive. That will allow her to
play DVD movies, and burn CDs, which might be useful also.
A wireless network card would be nice. Most college/university
campuses have free wireless hotpoints to allow students to access the
local intranet and sometimes even the internet. Useful for between
class surfing, and email, as well as doing assignments on the school
network. I suggest holding off on this until she's checked it out on
campus. While they're supposed to be standardized, it may be less
frustrating to buy the card and software from the school rather than
trying to configure the wireless card yourself. If she's a techie, it
shouldn't be too difficult, but if she's not... Anyways, once it's up
and working, it's very convenient, especially when you get stuck with
a schedule that has a 4 or 5 hour empty block between classes (you
can't skip the morning class, and there's no point in going home,
because you'd just have to come back). Of course, if you go with a
wireless card, you may as well go with a wireless router at home for
A soft laptop case. A hard case protects the computer better, but
they're a major PITA. They're bulky and heavy, and the laptop is
going to be extra weight already. If the case is a backpack type, and
a light soft case, it's more likely that it will be taken with her
rather than being looked upon as an anvil that needs to be left home.
Backpack style cases are more convenient, as she'll have her hands
free, and it can be used as her main bookbag rather than having to lug
around an extra bag.
A spare battery and a charger. The batteries typically only last 2 or
3 hours and die at very inconvenient moments. Sure there's a power
adapter, but not everybody will allow you to plug in, so a fully
charged spare is nice. Warning: This will add $150 to $200 to the
grand total depending on laptop model.
Finally, theft insurance. You'd be amazed how many friends had their
$2000+ machines just walk off or pfft into thin air. The darned
things are small, light, and expensive, which makes them irresistable
to thieves. School campuses are a favorite target, because there are
lots of people with this sort of expensive hardware, and they're
usually distracted. Either by the workload, or the whole post
MCheu >> Stay informed about: Laptop needs