Or, when little Johnny goes to college and
wants a PC
Jack ďjaQĒ Andrews
If you or your
is going back to school this fall, you might be considering a new
Many colleges actually
require students to own a laptop, and offer a model or two at reduced
cost. Everyoneís computing needs are different, though, so whatís
perfect for Zach might not be ideal for Screech.
Youíre also probably
trying to keep your bank account from hemorrhaging too severely. In that
vein, Hippo proudly presents a guide to shopping for a back-to-school
Desktop or laptop?
Looking solely at
price, youíre probably tempted to get a desktop. Thereís no doubt that
you get more computing power for your dollar with a desktop, but the
difference is not as great as you might expect, especially when you
factor in the price of a good monitor.
Laptops perform just as
well as desktops for all but the most complex programs, and they offer
the compelling advantage of portability. You donít want your child
deprived of a place to finish his term paper just because his roommate
hung a sock on the doorknob, do you?
Laptops also tend to be
engineered a bit more solidly. Instead of throwing together standard
components that may have hidden compatibility issues into a desktop,
manufacturers must take more care in assembling a custom laptop model.
Finally, if youíre at
all an eco-nerd, youíll appreciate that laptops use far less power than
That megahertz thing
has gotten a whole lot more complicated recently, with Intel admitting
that more megahertz doesnít necessarily offer better performance.
Different models of processor vary widely, so comparing speeds is most
useful only when youíre looking at two processors in the same family ó
i.e., a 1.4GHz Pentium-M versus a 1.8GHz Pentium-M. Faster is obviously
better, but for writing papers it truly doesnít matter much. Video,
photo or music editing will see better performance with faster
processing, as will math and technical applications.
256MB is a bare, bare
minimum; 512MB is more realistic. A student is a multitasker, and needs
to have several programs running at once. Too little memory will slow
the computer to a crawl.
Writing papers doesnít
eat up too much hard drive space. Downloading illegal music and movies
does. As does porn.
Not that college
students do any of that.
In any case, most
laptops these days come with a 40GB hard drive or larger. Again, thatís
plenty for paper-writing; multimedia editing will require more space.
Make sure you match
your computerís networking capabilities to your studentís campus
network. If itís wireless, match the protocol to the one in the PCís
specs (usually 802.11b or 802.11g). If itís wired, get a computer with
an Ethernet port.
PCs donít usually come
with one of these, but do your student a favor and get one. Itís todayís
equivalent of a floppy disk, and can hold a backup of all papers due
tomorrow, so if something should happen to the computer, the papers can
still be finished and printed. Theyíre also quite swanky and will make
your kid very popular. You want your kid to have friends, right?