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A Quick Guide To Computer Choices

Eric Parra, Ryan McLaurin |
September 1, 2012 | 5:54 p.m. PDT

Tech Editor + Contributor


The laptop or the netbook? (laptopvsnetbook)
The laptop or the netbook? (laptopvsnetbook)
Sooner or later there’s a certain question that will always come to mind: Do I need a new computer? There’s no getting around it. In this day and age some connection to the internet is practically required, and for college students electronics are simply a necessity. Not to mention that a fresh new year of education should be greeted with new materials, textbooks, and writing utensils, so perhaps a new computer would fit right in.

For those without a useful and reliable piece of metal for typing and all things kitten-related, the first thing to consider is what type of computer is best suited for your needs. A laptop is more commonly preferred for those on the go, but then you have to decide whether you want power or portability: A notebook or a netbook. 

The main difference between a laptop (notebook) and netbook is power and size . Netbooks are simply pack-it and go computers that are easy to carry and good for use anywhere, whereas a laptop is most likely going to be considerably more powerful, albeit bigger, and will range from easily portable to somewhat stationary.    

Prices and models vary considerably. You can pick up a netbook from roughly around $250, while cheap laptops will start at $350 and easily go up from there. What you choose, of course, depends on what you’re looking for. Online retailers are the way to go if you know what you want, they’re cheaper and it’s easier to customize before they ship it. According to PCworld, Amazon.com is the best for buy, but sites like Newegg and TigerDirect (which have more specialty in computer parts and related devices) may be able to sway your opinion.   

When it comes to size, if you want a larger screen or a full keyboard, a laptop will have options for that while a netbook will not. For an accurate comparison, it would be wise to check both out side by side and try typing a paragraph to see if the keyboard size is going to be an issue. The same goes for screen size, a side by side comparison in-store should help you out. Even if you plan on buying online, check out your local electronics store and get a feel for what you think works. If you like what you see there, maybe you should spring for it. On the other hand, don’t put too much trust on an employee who looks like he has no clue as to what he’s selling you. Best Buy may have the selection, but there are plenty of horror stories involving their Geek Squad and naïve customer support.

It's all truly a matter of preference and maybe some experience (apple and microsoft)
It's all truly a matter of preference and maybe some experience (apple and microsoft)

Again, the power difference may become important if you are required to use programs other than anything provided in Microsoft Office. If you just need to type, browse the internet, check e-mail and whatnot, a netbook will suit your needs. Anything more than that may be worth the investment of a laptop. Be aware, however, that a netbook will lack some ports and a disk drive, which can be very useful long-term.

Provided you have already decided on getting a desktop setup or bringing your own to school, most of the information here may prove less than beneficial for you. However, I can recommend that you also have a netbook to go along with it. A netbook will counter the drawback of having a stationary desktop at school, and you can just connect them via USB or use a thumb drive to transfer over anything between the two.

The only other plausible option would be to use an iPad or tablet with a keyboard attachment to type up all of your notes or assignments. The main drawback being you would most likely need a desktop to transfer all of those notes or assignments to be able to print or email if format becomes an issue.

What computer you choose from there will all depend on what you’re interested in. Samsung, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Alienware, the list goes on and on with only few, but sometimes key differences. Warranties, price, customer support, size, durability, etc. are all specific to the brand and even each model. Apple computers on the other hand, are basically simpler versions of all of the above with more limitations. If you do want simple and you’ve got money to burn, perhaps a Mac is your style. If you want to save a few bucks and have more control over what your computer can do with options, then a check out a PC.

On the off-chance this article didn’t have the answer you were looking for, or you feel like you know more than me, send an email with any questions you probably don’t have. Leaving a comment works just as well.


Reach Tech Editor Eric Parra here; follow him here.

Reach contributor Ryan McLaurin herefollow him here.



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