Monthly Archives: December 2018

Buying a computer for college – an opinion

Some thoughts on choosing a laptop when you are heading off to college next year:

The first thing: check with the college you are heading to [or the several possible colleges!]. They will often have suggestions for what will work.

If that is no help, here are some decisions to be looked at, and some thoughts:
1) Operating System: the big three are Mac, Windows, and Chromebook.
The MaconMacGuy  prefers Mac [obviously!], but he uses Windows AND several versions of Linux daily.  You’ll see arguments both ways – for some, it’s almost a religious thing.
For me, Macs last longer – their hardware is generally higher quality, unless you are comparing Windows laptops in the same price range [well over $1000].
Many people [obviously] prefer Windows.
The bottom line: use what helps you get your work done.
Stay away from the el cheapo machines UNLESS you want to have a “throwaway machine” because you break stuff a lot.  The more expensive laptops generally have better quality components.

ChromeOS [used in Chromebooks] is workable, but the feeling from MDS Tech is that it will create more headaches than it solves, at least for now.

2) Screen size: generally, bigger is better. Then again, bigger means a bigger gizmo to carry around, and less battery life.
3) RAM: get as much as your pocketbook can afford. At a minimum get 8 gig – 16gig would be better. 32gig is probably overkill – unless you find a real good deal.
4) Processor: IN GENERAL later/faster is better. You’ll see references – in the Intel world – of whatever generation [current is 9th generation] and i3 vs i5 vs i7.
For more students i3 isn’t powerful enough – they will grow out of it soon. i5 is a good solid choice – i7 is more powerful, but tends to be a lot more expensive.
For practical purposes you probably won’t see much of a speed difference between 7th and 8th generation. 9th generation JUST came out, and so laptops with that processor are expensive and fairly rare.
There are also subcategories within those designations – you’ll see letters like “m” and “U” and such. They also refer to how powerful the processor is and how fast they drain the battery – but in the interest of keeping things simple let’s just ignore that part.
If you really want to compare using a simple “power rating”, surf to www.cpubenchmark.net and type in the exact processor. The site gives a number that is useful for comparing different processors.
5) Storage – aka Hard Drive or SSD. To use an analogy – the hard drive or SSD is your filing cabinet. As in real life, the bigger the better. [Bigger also means more room to lose things, though.] 
 
SSDs are MUCH faster than hard drives – but also more expensive. MDS Tech prefers an SSD, but you can get a MUCH larger hard drive [“filing cabinet”]for a much smaller amount of money.
6) Backup – MDS Tech also suggests setting up a backup system. This usually involves some software and an external hard drive, OR you can use an online setup [Google Drive **CAN** be used like this, but there are a ton of other options]. You basically want to have a backup of documents that is accessible so when [not if] the thing dies or the computer hamsters go on strike you aren’t stuck.
On the Mac side the iPad guy uses Carbon Copy Cloner and an external set of hard drives. There are similar backup schemes available for the Windows side as well.
7)  Printing – Wait until at least 2nd semester to get a printer. Generally colleges have printers available on the network. Yes, having one in your room means convenience – but it ALSO means more headaches [YOU have to keep it running, stocked, and fend off dorm-mates who want to to do a quick printout – really, I’ll pay you later for the ink and paper……]