During the summer months, many parents and relatives are considering which computer to purchase for the student in their lives. Summer is a good time to purchase the new computer, so your student can have it setup and ready once school goes back in session.
There are several choices for student computers:
Computer type: Desktop, Laptop, Tablet.
Operating system: PC, Mac, Chromebook.
Desktop computers normally have separate monitors, keyboards, mice and cases. (there are some all-in-one desktop computers available). Desktop computers are the least expensive option, and offer the most flexibility in screen size, keyboard options, and accessories.
Laptop computers come with built-in screens and keyboards. Laptops are typically more expensive than desktops, and offer fewer choices for customization. The big advantage of a laptop for a student is portability.
Tablet computers like Apple’s iPad come with a screen, which is touch sensitive for writing and drawing on, or for using an on-screen keyboard. You can add a keyboard to a tablet computer to make it function more like a laptop. Areas of difference between tablets and laptops are size, power, software choices and accessories.
Tablets are small and light, with screens ranging in size from 7-10″. Tablets often weigh between 1.5 and 3 pounds and have long battery life. They do not have the processing power of a laptop, nor is their storage capacity typically expandable. Software for tablets comes from Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store, and is not normally as full-featured as software that’s made for a laptop or desktop computer. Prices for tablets start at under $200.
Microsoft Surface Tablet. Depending upon which model you choose, the Surface tablet can have all the power and speed of a laptop, packed into a smaller, lighter package with a detachable keyboard option. A Surface tablet will run standard Windows software-a big plus. Surface tablets start at $499.
Microsoft offers 10% off for students, parents, educators. Check out their education discounts here.
Apple MacBook laptops are very popular, but pricey. Prices for MacBooks start at $899. Apple offers discounts if you meet their student criteria. Check out the Apple Store for Education here
Chrome laptops use Google’s Chrome operating system. Major points of differentiation between Chromebooks and Mac or Window laptops are that Chromebooks store all your files on the Internet (cloud), and prices are often much lower, starting at under $200.
Having your files stored on the Internet can be an advantage, as you’re less likely to suffer a loss due to hardware failure or computer theft. A potential disadvantage is that you may not be able to access all your files without an Internet connection. Another potential disadvantage is that not everyone likes Google’s versions of word processing, spreadsheet, email, etc.
For more information about Chromebooks, check out Google’s Chromebook page
Windows laptops are popular, come in myriad configurations and price ranges. We have found Dell laptops to be very well priced and reliable. Windows laptop prices start at under $200.
For most students, I recommend a Mac laptop. Why? Ease of portability and less chance of viruses.
Since virus writers do not target Macs as much as PCs, there is less chance your student will get a virus.
While it’s true that Macs are significantly more expensive than PCs, having a computer that needs fewer repairs is a significant advantage for students, who have to meet strict deadlines, and who are very dependent upon a computer for research, note-taking, writing, turning in assignments, etc.
The importance of a reliable computer for a student hit home for me several years ago. My son Matthew called one evening to say his computer had a virus. He was very stressed as he had an assignment due the next morning, and was unable to access his class notes, the draft of his assignment, or the Internet to complete his research.
Luckily for Matthew, he was attending college only a few miles away from home, and I was able to make an emergency service call to remove the virus. Even more fortunate was that the virus was easily and quickly removed-many are not. It is common for viruses to require a complete cleaning of the hard drive and reinstallation of all software and data-a job that normally requires a few hours.
If your student gets a virus, expect to spend at least $150, plus the time to wait for repairs. This can be especially harrowing for the student, who is likely busy with school, and may not have transportation to a computer repair shop.