Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Choosing the right computer for your student

This is the time of year when I am asked for advice on what computer “tech” to buy for students.

It can be daunting – shopping for a new laptop or PC – as the number of choices is immense. (And shopping for someone else isn’t as easy, either.) But the good news is that it is hard to find a laptop or PC that is not capable of (powerful enough for) ‘general use’; even the cheapest ones. And the other good news is that, because computers are just an assembly of parts, it really isn’t all that important to choose one brand over another. Better yet, almost everyone selling tech has super discounts this time of year.

parents/teachers may want to click this image

However, if your student is older, and their coursework requires taking (doing) processor-heavy stuff – such as Animation/Film, Music editing/Broadcasting, Video Game Design, Drafting/Architecture, etc. – you’ll want to look at mid-to high-end units; which have faster processors (with more “cores”), plenty of RAM (4 – 6 GB’s), bigger screens with a “graphics card” (or in the case of laptops/notebooks, what is called “discrete graphics”) of at least 1GB.

Laptop or Desktop?

For home (or the dorm) the Desktop PC is still the workhorse, and my first choice; but for students who need mobility to study in the library, take notes in the classroom, join collaborative “study sessions” at the Quad, and whatnot, it’s hard to beat a laptop. (Sorry, but no, an iPad or tablet is not really a productivity device.)

If you decide on a laptop/notebook, there are a few factors to consider – most do not come with a 10-key “numberpad”, so if your student is a math, or business major, you might want to choose a model that does. Also, you might also want to buy a (larger) monitor that can be plugged into the laptop when back in the dorm.

More essential accessories:

* I always add a wireless mouse to my laptops. If the laptop you select has Bluetooth, a Bluetooth mouse is a “must have” addition (IMHO). If it doesn’t have Bluetooth, I would recommend a small (aka “travel”) wireless mouse from Kensington.

* External backup (“storage”). Whether you opt for a 1TB “portable” USB drive, or signing your student up with a subscription to a “cloud” file storage/sync service like Dropbox or SOS, a place to store copies of their homework is essential (you wouldn’t want to have to write that essay twice, would you?) and can help prevent “the hard drive ate my homework” nightmares.

* A pair of decent speakers. Today’s world really is “multimedia”, and speakers are must-have’s. It’s just that simple. And I said “decent”, as in don’t buy the cheapest you can find. (Yes, laptops do [usually] come with some kind of ‘built-in’ speaker, but even the best of those are wimpy.) I consider headphones to be a supplement to a speaker set, but in environments with nearby roommates (such as a dorm room), headphones might be a better first choice than speakers.. (if you’re planning to use Skype to visit with your student [and/or they’re online gamers] a headset with a ‘built-in’ microphone would be a good choice.)

* Anti-theft/find-if-lost software (optional). I personally would feel better if my student’s new laptop were protected – and (possibly) recoverable – if misplaced or stolen, and software like Laptop Cop is a great addition, well-worth the added investment. (See, 6 Ways to Find Your Stolen Laptop, If your laptop is ever lost or stolen, this security software will work hard to protect your precious data and help you recover the device.)

I hope these thoughts will help you choose a unit that your student will like and get good use from. But if you were hoping for more info (such as, “what do those Giga-numbers mean to humans?” [aka “specs”]) you may also be interested in this article: What to Look for When Buying a New Computer, My Computer Shopping Guidelines (it’s older, but still pertinent and more detailed).

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Are we ready to pay attention now? $1.5 million Cyberheist Ruins Escrow Firm

A $1.5 million cyberheist against a California escrow firm earlier this year has forced the company to close and lay off its entire staff. Meanwhile, the firm’s remaining money is in the hands of a court-appointed state receiver who is preparing for a lawsuit against the victim’s bank to recover the stolen funds.Read more

Today’s quote:I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” ~ Mark Twain

Today’s fun video (because it’s summer):

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August 14, 2013 Posted by | advice, computers, consumer electronics, hardware, PC, Portable Computing, shopping for, tech | , , , , | 2 Comments