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8/11/06 Laptops: which one to buy?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / August 9, 2006 6:47 AM PDT

Hey, CNET, I?m going off to college in a month, and I want to use some graduation money to buy a laptop. I don't know where to start, and time is running out! I need a system that does word processing, spreadsheets, and so on and lets me do quick Web browsing. Games and MP3 storage would be a nice bonus. I'm most concerned about portability, weight, and battery life since I will probably take it to classes. What is my best choice?

--Submitted by: Collin C. of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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Dana's winning answer
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / August 9, 2006 6:47 AM PDT

Wow!, this question should yield a lot of controversy as well as a large variety of answers. It would be similar to asking what is the best Automobile for driving to work each day, has the best gas mileage, longest driving range between fill-ups, holds the most passengers and would be a bonus if I could occasionally race it in the Daytona 500? If there was such a car, there would only be one model on the market and everyone would buy it. There is no ideal computer that will meet all the needs of every user and everyone has their personal favorite as well as a personal worst. Just like cars, every manufacturer has had a lemon or two as well as a few good models.

One major thing is to avoid waiting to long to buy your computer, this time of year as you get closer to school opening, the best and most popular models will be gone. The same thing is true as you start to approach Christmas. You want to get your computer early enough to give you time to set it up, make sure it is working correctly and check for any problems. You will also need time to clean up all the junk that came preinstalled on it as well as install additional software and printers that you may need. This is also a good time to transfer all you CD?s or MP3?s to your new computer.

You are going to have to sacrifice some features to get others. For example: If you want a really small, lightweight model that will be easy to take to class, you will end up with a screen size that is probably too small to play high-end games, a keyboard that is a little small and typically a slower processor and graphics card then one of the larger models. Now having said this, if money is no object, there are ways of putting together a complete system that can approach the ideal, but it will cost you.

For example: You could purchase a really high-end Mini Notebook(~$3000) with removable drive bays that will accommodate extra batteries so you can take it to class and not worry about battery life. Then when you get back to your dorm room, you drop your laptop into a docking station that is connected to a large 30? HD flat LCD display(~$2500) or even an LCD Projector, High-end sound system(~$500), full size wireless keyboard and mouse(~$100) and a few 500gigabyt external Firewire/USB hard drives(~$600) filled with all your favorite MP3?s and Movies. ?Boy!, I wish I was going off to college?

Ok, enough dreaming. Even the least expensive, new laptop you can buy today for about $499 will be capable of basic word processing, spreadsheets, Web browsing, MP3?s and playing some simple games (not the high end games) as long as you have the proper software for these tasks. It may not be real speedy and some games may be choppy or will not play at all. But keep in mind that most computers do not come with some of the software that you may need for school and you will probably want to purchase something like Microsoft Office. There is a special Student/Teacher version of Office for about $99-$149 that includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Your computer may come with a Trial version that will have to be paid for when the trial period expires.

Picking out a Laptop

Not knowing your budget as well as what features are the most important to you, makes is impossible to actually recommend a specific model and I am not sure if I would really want to, but I can give you some general guidelines to selecting a laptop. In general, let?s start with the generic, standard laptop for about $500, you typically get a 14.1? screen, DVD Combo CD-RW drive 256meg of ram, 40 gig hard drive and a single 1.6 ghz Celeron M or AMD processor. Keep in mind that what is standard today will change next month and that 14.1? screen may be a 15.4? for the same money. You will generally pay extra for any of the following:

Faster Processor or Duo Processor ? In general, the faster the processor the higher the cost. Processors made by AMD generally cost less than Intel and as you go up in performance the price increases. You will also pay a premium for the new Duo (Dual Core) processors. If you don?t play games, I am not talking about Solitaire, but games like Counter Strike, Half Life and Age of Empires, and you are not editing and burning videos or using power hungry programs like Act!, then most any of today?s processors will be just fine. But if you are an avid user and tend to have lots of programs running at the same time, you will benefit from a faster processor or the new Duo processors. If you plan to Upgrade to Windows Vista, this may also dictate your processor choice.

Extra Small Portable ? You will pay a premium for ultra small portables and you usually will also notice slower processors as well in most of these models. To reduce weight and size, some of these models may be lacking an internal DVD/CD drive, yet you still pay more for the small size.

Larger Screen Sizes ? Laptop Screen sizes are now available up to 17? and I have even seen a 20? model. Some models also offer wide format screens that can improve DVD viewing as well as allow you to view the entire width of documents and web pages without having to scroll from left to right. One thing you should make note of is that most of the new laptops have high-gloss screens that can be really annoying when it comes to reflections.

Brighter and sharper screens ? There are different qualities of screens and some models offer ultra-sharp screens that may be easier to view in high ambient light.

Lighter Weight ? In general, the lighter the model the higher the cost. But watch out that you don?t sacrifice battery life, performance or other features you may need for the lighter weight.

Extra long battery life ? Battery life can be deceiving and will depend on how you use your laptop. A laptop that advertises 8 hours, could end up only to be 2 ? hours if you are running the wireless adapter, Bluetooth, watching a DVD or even listening to MP3?s stored on the hard drive. Some models offer larger capacity battery options as well as secondary batteries that replace the DVD drive when needed. Many models achieve longer battery life by throttling back the processor speed, dimming the screen and turning off various features. If you are a heavy user, you may not get anywhere near the rated battery life.

DVD Burner instead of Just a CD burne ? Most models now come with a combo drive that can read DVD?s and CD?s and Write (burn) CD?s. If you have a need to write DVD?s that will cost a little extra.

Additional Memory ? Even though Microsoft claims that 128meg is the minimum requirement for Windows XP, it is common knowledge that 256 meg is really the minimum. However, with so many background processes running today to protect us against viruses and spyware, the new minimum is 512 meg. If you are thinking of upgrading to Windows Vista when it comes out, then you will need to consider 1 or 2 gig of memory.

Larger Hard Drive ? Laptop hard drives are now typically in the range of 40-120 gigabytes. 40 gig is generally fine for the average person who uses their computer for Word and Excel documents, email and surfing the internet, but if you plan to store ton?s of music and/or photos, install several games, or edit or store video, then a larger hard drive will be needed. To put this into perspective the average computer with Windows XP Home uses about 7 gigabytes just for basic operation (including Microsoft Office, AOL, and some internet security software). I usually recommend never filling a drive beyond 85% leaving 15% as a safety net. So, if you have a 40 gig drive that leaves you with about 27 gigabytes of storage for your personal use. MP3?s average about 3 megabytes per song or about 300 songs per gigabyte. Photos depend on the resolution and format of the photograph, but for example if you have a 4 megapixel camera, you might get about 600 Photos per gigabyte (check your own photos to determine how much space they will take). Graphic intensive games can take as much as 5 gigabytes each to install.

High-end graphics Card ? Most laptops come with integrated Video which is part of the motherboard and shares the main memory. This is fine for basic computer usage. Gaming, and other graphics intense programs will run better or may even require a dedicated graphics card with it?s own dedicated video memory. Many games will not even run without this upgrade.

Finger print security ? Some laptops offer added security with finger print recognition for computer access. This cool feature can save you from having to enter your password. More fun than a necessity, in my opinion.

Built-in Web Camera ? A few laptops have a built-in camera that can be used as a web cam or for low quality photos and video.

Blue-tooth capability ? Some laptops offer Bluetooth which is a short range wireless standard commonly used for wireless head-sets, keyboards and mice.

Integrated Mobile Broadband such as Verizon or Cingular card ? This is not your standard WiFi but rather wireless technology that uses cellular phone network for true mobile internet. Anywhere you have cell phone coverage, you would be able to have internet and email access. These special cards typically add about $200 to the cost of the laptop and you have to pay a monthly usage fee just like a cell phone. There are unlimited plans available for about $80 per month.

Built-in Television tuner ? A built-in TV tuner can be a great addition for the college student, thus eliminating the need to bring a television to school. Note: you will need to connect it to your cable TV line or external antenna to receive anything. When my son went to school with his desktop computer, I purchased a computer monitor with built-in TV tuner to save space.

Improved Sound card ? Standard built-in sound is generally fine for basic use, but if you are really into music or gaming, you might want to upgrade the sound card. You may also want to purchase external speakers that will improve the sound quality when you are working at your desk.

Docking Station ? Some models have a docking station port that allows you to drop your laptop into a dock that has many of the features of a desktop computer. This can simplify your ability to just pickup your laptop and go without having to unplug a bunch of wires such as power, printer, external monitor, external hard drives and a full size keyboard and mouse. Note: Don?t confuse real docking stations with port replicators. Docking stations use a special connector on the bottom or back of your computer, whereas the replicator just plugs into a USB port.

Computer Checklist For College

Computer ? Check with your School first for any requirements they may have. They may also be offering some great student deals on computers. Some courses such as graphic Arts may be using Mac computers instead of PC?s. In general the trend has gone from Desktop Computers to Laptops for College. Not only do they take up less room in an already crowded doom room, especially if you get stuck in a forced triple, but you will be able to take it to class, the library, student center or under a nice tree to work. A laptop is also much easier to bring home on break. PC or Mac is up to you, unless you have some specific course requirements. I prefer PC but will leave it at that.

Printer ? Just about any <$100 inkjet printer will do just fine, I prefer HP myself because they seem to do better when not used during the summer or school breaks. Some of the other inkjet models tend to clog up when not in use. If you prefer or have the need, you can get a nice All-IN-ONE printer that will give you the ability to Scan, fax and print for about $150. If you are planning to do a lot of printing, a small B&W laser printer (~$149) may be a good idea. I sent my son off to school several years ago with both a small laser for black and white papers and a color inkjet for color jobs. 1 laser cartridge lasted all four years and cost about 1/10 of the price per page as inkjet.

Printer Cable ? Most printers do not come with the printer cable, so make sure have the proper cable with you.

Printer Supplies ? Make sure you bring some extra ink cartridges and Paper. Nothing worse then running out of ink at 3am with a paper due in the morning.

Software ? You will probably want Microsoft Office and as I mentioned above, the Student/Teacher version is a great deal if all you need is Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

Security Software ? Again, Check with your School, because many schools offer free antivirus and internet security software to their students. If they don?t or you want to use your own, you will definitely need protection and will want a package that includes at least Antivirus, Antispyware and Firewall software. Most all computers come with trial versions of either Norton or McAfee, but you will have to make sure that you pay for them when the trial period ends (usually 60 days). There are also many free versions available for download such as AVG Free. DO NOT LEAVE HOME WITHOUT A FULLY PROTECTED COMPUTER

Ethernet Cable ? Depending on your specific College Dorm room, you may need a long Ethernet cable to connect up to the college network. I would recommend bringing along both a short 7? cable as well as a 25? cable just incase your desk is located on the other side of the room. Some colleges are now offering wireless networking, so check with your school.

Power Strip ? You will probably need a good surge protected power strip or two to plug in your computer, printer, refrig, TV and Microwave oven. Bringing along an extra extension cord would be a good idea.

Lock ? I would recommend a good computer lock. Laptops have a way of disappearing very easily at school.

Carrying Case ? Try to find a good rugged carrying case for your laptop. Most laptop damage comes from dropping or bumping, so you want the case to be well padded.

USB Thumb Drive ? I would recommend having at least one USB thumb drive for backup and moving files to other computers. You can get a 1 gig model for about $50 now and smaller sizes for even less. Keep a copy of that critical term paper on it at all times.

Blank DVD or CD?s ? All it takes is to drop your laptop and you could lose everything. You will need some blank media to backup all your important data.

Recovery CD?s ? Many manufacturers no longer include the original Windows and drivers CD?s that may be needed, should something go wrong. They are including a recovery partition on the hard drive, but if the drive fails, this partition will do you no good. Some computers have software that will allow you to create your own set of recovery disks, and you should do this as soon as you get your computer. If you are purchasing a Dell computer, they offer the option to purchase the original installation disks for $10 and I would do this. You will have to call and demand these disks from the other manufacturers and may have to pay for them. If you wait until your drive fails, which it will at some point, you may no longer be able to get these disks and will be forced to purchase a new copy of Windows.

Warranty ? People ask me all the time about buying extended warranties and this is really up to you, but you should know that repairs to laptops can be very costly. I just ordered a new screen for a customer?s Sony Mini TR3 for $700. In my opinion, if the price of the laptop is under $800 it is probably not worth pay an additional $200 for an extended plan. But if you are buying a $2500 laptop, you might want to consider the warranty. If you decide to purchase an extended warranty, MAKE ABSOLUTLY SURE you understand what is covered, who is going to fix it, how long it will take to get it fixed. Some plans may look great but do not cover accidental damage, some cover software and some don?t, other may even cover viruses. The screen is generally the most expensive part of the laptop, so double check the coverage for this. The other thing to keep in mind is that some warranty services can take 3 weeks or more, plus you may have to pay for shipping and insurance. So if you just can?t be without your computer for this long, maybe the warranty is not worth it.

Cooling Pad ? Some laptops can tend to run pretty hot, especially if you leave them on all the time. I strongly suggest getting a cooling pad that sits under your laptop when it is at your desk. This can help reduce the build up of heat and prolong the life of your computer.

Full Size Keyboard and Mouse ? Many users still find it faster and easier to work with a regular full size keyboard and mouse. You can add these to any laptop by simply plug into any USB port. You can even get wireless versions. At the very least, a mouse can make life a lot easier when you are working at your desk.

Setup and Test Your Computer before taking it to School
It is important to setup your computer before going off to school. You want to make sure everything is working correctly before you leave. Activate Windows, Install your printer and all of your software and test it thoroughly. Setup, activate and update whatever internet security package you have. You want to correct any and all problems before you get to school. This is also a good time to uninstall all the junk that the manufacturer pre-installed that you don?t want. Manufacturers install all kinds of trial software and free offers that can really slow down even the fastest new computer. It has gotten so bad that some retailers actually offer a $30 service to clean your new computer before you even take it home. Some of the software that is often installed that you may not need are: Trial versions of Quicken, AOL, Earthlink, Microsoft Money, Trial Spyware Scanners, Netscape and many others.

Tips for keeping your Laptop Running Well

Cooling Issues ? All computers generate heat and need some way to remove it. Laptops usually have tiny fans that force hot air out of small vents typically located on the sides, back and bottom of the computer. These vents must be kept clear of dust and dirt for proper cooling and should be blown out with compressed air every few months. One common problem with laptops that can be avoided is overheating. Using your laptop on soft surfaces such as rugs, pillows and bed covers can block some of these vents leading to overheating or failure. Depending on the exact model, various things can happen when a laptop overheats.

? -- Miscellaneous Computer Crashes
? -- Sudden restarts or shut down.
? -- Slow performance
? -- Fan starts getting louder, coming on more often or is on constantly
? -- Long term overheating can also lead to premature failure of internal components and especially the hard drive.

Routine Maintenance ? Performing routine maintenance can go a long way toward keeping your computer in top condition. Here is a quick list:

? -- Run Windows Update
? -- Run Diskclean to remove temporary files
? -- Updating and running all virus and spyware programs
? -- Delete/remove unused programs and files
? -- Clean and blow out all cooling vents
? -- Run Disk defragmenter every few months

There are a lot of great deals on laptops right now and even if you are planning to purchase online, I would recommend just checking out some of the models at your local retailer. This will make it easier to decide on things like screen size and other features that you may want. Again, don?t wait too long, because the laptops get cleaned out this time of year and you don?t want to get stuck with a model that you really didn?t want.

--Submitted by: Dana H. of Wayland, Massachusetts
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Which Laptop
by robbie Murray / August 10, 2006 8:18 PM PDT
In reply to: Dana's winning answer

A Mac!

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Apple, Hmmmm
by rustblack / August 10, 2006 9:59 PM PDT
In reply to: Which Laptop

For a college student, it really depends what the major is. Although business students can typically get away with using Apple, Linux, or Windows, sometimes courses come with software that only runs on Windows. Specifically, software for MS Excel.

Apple has Parallels to run Windows and its software, which is terrific, but adds an additional expense for the OS, Office suite, and Parallels itself.

I'm a student and use Apple, Alienware, and Dell laptops. I like the Apple for its iLife suite, but there's no Exchange client, which I need (at least I couldn't get MS Entourage to work with Exchange). I chose not to run Parallels since the Apple is the last model using the Motorola processor and is awefully slow. So, when I need Microsoft software, I use a free MS terminal services client and remotely access my Dell server.

Since many students are on a budget, I would recommend buying a used IBM Thinkpad as long as it has at least 1Ghz processor with 512 RAM. With high capacity thumb drives and MP3 players, you may find DVD and CD authoring isn't that important. Plus, most colleges have computers in labs that are loaded with all the extra software and devices you can use when needed. Make sure the Thinkpad is a T-series; T for Titanium. Those models can take a severe beating and are very light.

I would warn against fad computers like Alienware and Voodoo. They are typically overpriced, not high in quality, and don't undergo stringent quality and compatibility testing as do Dell, HP, IBM, etc. They are also made redundant now that Dell has its XPS notebook line. That XPS is very nice, but will be heavy and set you back quite a bit on money.

Back to Apples. They are very nice, high in quality, light, stylish, virus resistant, but are pricey. In my opinion, a DUO core Apple running Parallels over Windows is a combination that simply can't be beat. If you have the cash to spare, I give it the high 5.

As far as options for any laptop, you'll find out what you need when you go to build it out. You'll add all options to the shopping cart, see the price double, then start taking off options one by one until you can breathe again.

My one lesson learned is to buy an external hard drive (Serial ATA or USB 2.0) and use it to store backups and non-critical BLOBS (Binary large objects). If you do get a CD or DVD burner, regularly burn completed work and multi-media to it for backups. It's a real shame to lose years of photographs in the blink of an eye....or a homework assignment.

Almost forgot. There's free program called FolderShare. When used between a Windows computer and Apple, it backs up specified folders from the Windows machine to the Apple. It's a great synchronization tool that can save you big headaches if one of your computers crashes. You can use your home computer to be a mirror of your college computer, just in case.

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security pay attention
by marioserna / August 10, 2006 9:20 PM PDT
In reply to: Dana's winning answer

If the lap top you are buying is over 1000 dollars you should really invest in protection to your asset. The screens are very delicate, I had an accident with my laptop which fell out of its carrying case and dropped on the floor. I couldn't catch it on time, when I turned it on, the screen was bruised up and damaged. Now, I have to replace it. Be aware of the warranty the suppliers are giving you, salesman can tell you anything in order to sell warranty, but when an accident happens you have to know what type of warranty you paid for, in order to avoid misunderstandings later. I bought my laptop in miami, and the company is telling me that the warranty didn't cover accidental damage, when the salesman told me the opposite, now they have asked me to send them the laptop and that they will determine if the warranty can cover the damage or if the laptop has to be sent to HP to be fixed by me.
I hope this will help you guys. girls .

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Difrag and Windows Scan.
by Hondopalman / August 10, 2006 9:56 PM PDT
In reply to: Dana's winning answer

Dana I enjoyed your report on buying a Laptop, well written and up to date. Just one thing, (From personal experience of running many computers for some years). Difragment every week, Scan every month, and Clean out the junk. Why? It will speed up your computer!

The Internet is changing continually and more and more critical and other downloads are needed not only weekly but sometimes daily. Plus usage and any changes you might need to make, really mess up the HD. To prove it just look at the HD Difrag diagnose colors and see how many red lines you have accumulated in a week or so of computing. Perhaps I am a fanatic but I like to keep my computers in the solid blue range if possible. You can do this by repeating the Difrag as many times as necessary the first time, afterwards, if you Difrag regularly it will only take a minute or two, instead of 20 o 30 minutes.

I have found the Windows scan useful too. It may correct some errors on your HD that you did not know were there. (Windows XP seems to hide it.) This can be found by clicking on My PC, then right clicking on the HD, then click on properties, this will open up a window, click on tools. There are three options, take the first at the top of the window, it will give you 2 radio buttons click both and then say yes to the box that appears. This will then set your computer to scan the next time you reboot. Be prepared, it can take quite some time depending on your computer.

Cleaning out junk accumulated is useful. This logically shoud be the first thing you do, (if you have an older computer) before a Scan and Difrag. A new computer as Dana says may need this also. In that case the order should be, CLEAN, SCAN and DIFRAG.
I like the old 98 and ME Wizard, it did all three things your computer needed in one go. The XP system needs each one done separately. But if you require a clean and fast computer do them all on a regular basis.
Hope this helps a little. Ed. SPS, Honduras C.A.

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by Nelson5693 / August 11, 2006 4:45 AM PDT

Not to be mean or anything, but it's DEFRAG not DIFRAG.

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Thanks, Nelson.
by Hondopalman / August 11, 2006 2:20 PM PDT
In reply to: Misspelling

I never noticed that mistake. It was a stupid one. I did go over the rest.
Is there a way to edit afterwards? Thanks again, Ed.

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Defragging - specific instructions?
by Katrina125 / December 21, 2006 11:16 PM PST

Don't worry about the misspelling - it's an easy mistake to make if your native language is Spanish (the "i" in Spanish is pronounced like English "e" as in "evil"!) and it looks like you're from the Honduras in Central America.
Meanwhile, you mention defragging as something you do every week - I've never done it on my own before, but my Toshiba M45 S331 is running slowly these days, and I was wondering if you could give me specific instructions as to how to defrag my Windows XP system (is there a place on the Control Panel to start?). Thanks so much, Katrina

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Laptop wireless hookup
by kyiaboy_80 / December 22, 2006 10:32 PM PST

trying to get my son's toshiba laptop to be hooked up at home again, it was securely hooked up by a wireless router NetGear WGT624v2 before he went off to college and it always worked fine but I put it back online and now can't get it to work. Can someone tell me what to do to get it going again. Thanks Kyle

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Protecting from Theft
by ahmadi1981 / August 10, 2006 10:06 PM PDT
In reply to: Dana's winning answer

I am looking into laptops for my daughter, she will be attending college next year. Dana's response is a excellenct check list to use. I would like some feedback for students on how to best protect the laptop from theft. I travel for business and have had 2 laptops stolen in 4 years. How do you protect your laptop at college?

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Theft Problems
by waytron / August 12, 2006 9:59 PM PDT
In reply to: Protecting from Theft

Theft has always been a real problem with Small, expensive electonics. Laptops, Cell Phones, MP3 Players are all prime targets and can be lifted very easily. There are many types of laptop locks that can secure your laptop to a table, but they only protect you from the casual theft. If someone really wants your laptop, they will simply cut the cable and run. All students should use a laptop lock and should also get into the habit of putting their laptop away when they are not using it or going out for extended periods of time.

You can purchase laptop locks that have just a cable that you attach to the leg of a table or you can get ones with an alarm. Check out your local computer store of Office Superstore for the various models.

Dana H.

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Use common sense and get a cable lock-- no problems.
by shrakner / August 13, 2006 2:50 AM PDT
In reply to: Protecting from Theft

I've had my laptop (1.5 GHz Powerbook)at Georgia Tech for two semesters without getting it stolen, and I took the thing EVERYWHERE. I got a laptop backpack, so it wasn't obvious that there was a laptop in it. Basically, I never let it out of my sight unless it was securely anchored with my Kensington cable lock (combination lock). A few times I left it unsecured, but that was in Architecture Studio, where there's about 30 people in the room and some of them knew me, so I felt pretty safe.

Basically, use common sense- that's the best advice.

- shrakner

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Long answer to a question that wasn't answered
by petre_bio / August 10, 2006 10:14 PM PDT
In reply to: Dana's winning answer

I'd advise you to read the reviews which can be found online but take a good hard look at one of Toshiba's as they have gotten a lot of good reviews.

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May I Use This For My Students
by poser / August 10, 2006 10:41 PM PDT
In reply to: Dana's winning answer

You have written the difinitive answer to a question that I get every day. May I have your permission to use your post when I get this question? (with proper citation of course)

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by waytron / August 12, 2006 9:42 PM PDT

Please feel free to use this for any purpose you want. I am glad you found it helpful.

Dana H.
Wayland Computer

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Great Write Up!!!! Why can't I find a computer salesperson
by Wedding Rings / August 10, 2006 11:04 PM PDT
In reply to: Dana's winning answer

like Dana in Charlotte?



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Answer by Dana
by aa01 / August 10, 2006 11:09 PM PDT
In reply to: Dana's winning answer

A very complete and comprehensive answer, professionally written. I would be happy to buy a computer recommended by you any time.

Agreeing with you that the screen is the most expensive and an essential part of the computer, should we not be recommending a Sony laptop every time.

I have two Sony laptops performing brilliantly, touch wood, and wanted to share this experience with others.

Azad Ayub

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by waytron / August 12, 2006 9:40 PM PDT
In reply to: Answer by Dana

I did not intend to this to be read as to stay away from Sony, but was simply an example of how much some replacement parts can cost. I actually like Sony laptops very much, although they tend to cost a little more than some of the other brands.

Dana H.

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best laptop for college
by Cheryl&boys / August 10, 2006 11:18 PM PDT
In reply to: Dana's winning answer

get a 14.1 laptop; get a 19 inch monitor for the dorm; get a spare battery; pass on the top processor; $50 for additional memory (get at least 768 (a std 256 & 512 add in)
go for light, cheap, and low-tech.
it's the human interface that counts

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Best answer!
by djdelph / August 11, 2006 12:06 AM PDT

Best advice yet! Some people know too much for my good and are willing to share all of it. Thanks to listats!

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Beware of the power connection on laptops!!!
by healyp / August 11, 2006 12:09 AM PDT
In reply to: Dana's winning answer

I spent $3,500 on a Sony 680 laptop. 14 months later I had an unusable unfixable computer. The flawed design caused problems with the power connection and after spending #1,000 I was told there was nothing that could be done. Sony did not stand behind the design flaw and large numbers of people left Sony computers for good. I have now moved to Apple with their magnetic power connection.

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Beware of the power connection on laptops/Dell Ext Warranty
by Wasn't Me / August 11, 2006 5:56 AM PDT

My Dell has a power connection issue to, which is intermittent. I have the extended warranty and like I posted earlier, I had my hinges crack after 6 months. Dell said they would replace it this time, even though I had extended warranty. I was suppose to buy the "accident" warranty to cover the hinges next time, but to me, the hinges cracking is no accident but a design flaw. Others online have reported the same with Dell's low end models.

Stay away from ANY low end or entry level model, even from Dell!!

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Many Laptops have had this problem
by waytron / August 12, 2006 9:50 PM PDT

Over the past several years many manufacturers have had problems with premature failure of the power jack. Many of these models required a new motherboard to repair the problem. Most manufacturers have fixed this weakness, but can still be a problem with people who move their laptop around more frequently. If you are aware of this possible weakness and take precautions when plugging and unplugging your power, you should have no problems. Even if you do and the company will not stand behind it, there are many 3rd party suppliers that will fix it for about $80.

Dana H.

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Long message without an answer?
by ringrhymer / August 11, 2006 12:38 AM PDT
In reply to: Dana's winning answer

I kinda wish this question would have been answered with model numbers of the favorites.

Well, I guess "bigger is always better" is more American!

Let's take a poll.

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Carrying case essentials
by janestern / August 11, 2006 2:17 AM PDT
In reply to: Dana's winning answer

I would add to Dana's answer that the carrying case MUST be on wheels if you don't want a sore hand or shoulder.

Also, under the heading "seems unimportant until you need it," you need a carrying case which is narrow enough from side to side when you are rolling it to be wheeled down an airplane aisle. Otherwise, you will end up having to lift it by hand and carry it down the aisle.

I got a perfect case which fit the bill at Office Depot for only about $40. about four years ago. Unfortunately, they don't seem to be selling that one any more. However, it should be possible to find others which fulfill these requirements.

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Carrying case
by snh628 / August 15, 2006 10:49 PM PDT

I think a carrying case on wheels might get you beat up at school ;). I'd probably go with something like a backpack with a padded laptop compartment. When you do carry your laptop around at school, you'll probably have some other stuff like books or food with you, so you'll want to carry it all. Best of luck to you in school Happy

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Hope you're taking this all in
by NM_Bill / August 11, 2006 3:10 AM PDT
In reply to: Dana's winning answer

fantastic info presented by many more adept than me.

Some key points:

Contact college for requirements, recommendations & discounts.
Mfrs. extended warranty a must!
I know, likely to go 500 bucks w/ MS office student/teacher at school discount.
A basic $150 b&w laser for dorm- great.

Now - opinion:

I'm a Mac fan; not a WinTel basher. Always used the generic mainline at work. Preferred Mac at home.
Road warriors always want small size - say 12''-14''.
I'm old, w/ Mac 17''. My eyes would want Mac 21'' MacBookPro.
Ok, the Pro is from $1999.
MacBook 13'' is from $1099. (1.83 GHz, 60 GB, combo drive)
$1499 gets 2.9 GHz, 80 GB, 80 GB Super Drive.
I'd upgrade to 1.0 GB ram as a must, like for upcoming Vista.

Additional opinion:

I'm sorta dual platform as I got Office 2004 for Mac. I use some MS features like Word and Entourage.
Mac 10.4 is quite fine, but WOW, 10.5 out next spring should be so freakin' awesome! The recent Mac developer meeting preview of coming feature improvements is to be fantastically well integrated.
I can't wait. Just so more elegant than clunky MS offerings.
Of course, the free Mac Boot Camp beta will be native in the new release. Real, up to the minute dual paltform will set you up to be SOOO well positioned for the future.

Reality of the almighty dollar: Damn good deals should be out there now in prep of mfrs. readying themselves for Intel Core 2 Duo.

Best of luck. Be prepared to work academically like you haven't before.
Go get 'em.

Please don't forget that Mac option. Not strippeed down, but properly equipped, the so called Mac premium may be absolutely zero, nada, zilch. And you would be so flexible for the future. Dual platform, baby!!!

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Duo Core Processors
by brucerobb / August 11, 2006 8:13 AM PDT

I've seen articles, I think here on c|net/ZDnet, that the prices on the old version processors are not going to be coming down as they should in relation to the new Duo Core ones. The price difference between the high-end older models is not very much compared to the performance increase of Duo Cores.

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Mac Book
by geezer10 / August 11, 2006 4:46 AM PDT
In reply to: Dana's winning answer

I say get a macbook. They can run all your games and they can even run windows now! That's The Best Of Both Worlds

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Anyone use CCleaner?
by bosston / August 11, 2006 2:50 PM PDT
In reply to: Mac Book

Not to get too much off topic but I fixed a Dell laptop which wasn't booting up. I ran Windows Checkdisk and the hard drive booted again but the computer had about 100 mb's of free space left on a 20 gig hard drive. I installed CCleaner and it cleaned off about 2 gig of junk. This is a great program.

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