Laptop, Windows XP, software, specification

  crobar 21:51 31 May 2003

I've been researching the situation with laptops for some while now - I'll be getting one soon for our daughter ready for university in autumn. PCA archives have been invaluable.

Advice and comments - particularly from anyone in a similar situation or with a recent purchase - on the following would be very welcome.

It looks like the following spec would be about right to keep on track over the next three years: 30 Gig HDD, 512 mB DDR RAM, multi-purpose CD/re-writer/DVD set up, 15" screen, about 2 Gig CPU (mobile ideally to keep heat down and provide a measure of battery use) Centrino would be nice in case Wi-Fi gets better established but probably too dear?

Time computer prices look good but archive threads on reliability and after-service do not give confidence.

Multivision, Evesham, Rock in the frame - any other suggestions? A reasonable mix of price/reliability is what I'd like. Price? £1000 - £1200 perhaps.

Software? Student Licence MS Office - where from and how much?

I've used Norton utilities for my desktop boneshaker (W95 - good for defragging (remember that) clearing old, abandoned files, general tidying etc) Any value with XP?

Traditional floppy drive - worth having still I reckon. Where from and what target price?

Anything else?


  H-J 22:20 31 May 2003

If the machine is for use at uni, then see if you can get some form of insurance for accidental damage/theft etc. Do NOT rely on the manufacturers warranty for this or you will be in for a very unpleaant (and expensive!) surprise.


  wee eddie 22:22 31 May 2003

At the beginning of each new year, thefts from student accommodation are horrendous.

It has been recommended here before that a newbie starts with an old/second hand machine and upgrades when the real requirements are known and everybody in the lodgings is able to tell friend from foe.

I know that this has little feel-good factor but worse is the loss of a present given by someone dear to one. Even if insurance covers the loss, they usually try to wiggle out of a full payout.

  crobar 22:53 31 May 2003

Phew! Quick replies - thanks for these pointers. A useful start.


  crobar 22:54 31 May 2003

Phew! Quick replies - thanks for these pointers. A useful start.


  crobar 22:56 31 May 2003

sorry about the duplicate message - it's PCA's server sending me bum info

  flick 23:33 31 May 2003

I would echo the advice about accidental cover, at least, since a water spillage by a friend 6 months into my student son's new laptop meant a new motherboard and graphics card at our expense. Given the limited workspace students often have and vulnerability of expensive parts just under the keyboard I suppose we should have anticipated it.

It is possible to lock up a laptop with a cable to deter casual theft at home or out and about.

I would also agree with the advice to keep things simple. If your daughter is doing an arts degree then a good word processor is essential. If she's doing science, then all the science orientated programs she is likely to need will be available on license from the university.

These days so much stuff is distributed to students via the internet or uni intranet that an ethernet enabled laptop will allow her to plug into the system on campus or in halls (check availability).
If she's going to have to carry it around then weight is probably the most important criterion.

For what it's worth we bought a Dell laptop because they're well made and well specified and I have always found their tech support very helpful. The repairs mentioned earlier took less than 3 days from first reporting the problem to having it returned fully functioning.

  crobar 10:53 01 Jun 2003

Thanks Flick - good stuff and interesting, highly-relevant points.

  flick 22:48 01 Jun 2003

Further thoughts

I would suggest you also consider the purchase of a printer - basic or all in one
scanner/copier/printer - because, as I mentioned before, so much is distributed via internet/intranet - notes, assignments, problem sheets, past papers - and although printers are available to students, they usually have have to pay a per page fee for printing and photocopying.

Internet access is the the most important factor in my son's life for the reasons noted above and keeping in touch with his friends.

This year, in halls, he has had free broadband via the university's intranet. Next year he goes into rented housing with some friends and I expect things get a bit tougher. If they club together to pay for ADSL then his wi-fi enabled laptop will enable him to continue as before. Otherwise it's a combination of modem access and uni computer when on-site.

  crobar 18:53 02 Jun 2003

Hi Flick

Interesting point about an all-in-one unit.

Would be a compromise but highest qualities could always be paid for elsewhere and would keep rouine costs as low as practicable.

Internet access would, I feel sure, be very important to our daughter too. If she gets her first choice, Internet access is widely available in the halls. Her second choice has few facilities, just a few rooms linked-up. Having to use communal computer rooms would be a pain - even our ancient domestic system works fine although no broadband on my boneshaker Dan 166 meg Pentium MMX - it used to be cutting-edge technology once!

Another interesting point about the speed of repair of your son's Dell - important when there's work waiting.

It's a science course (your earlier comments) so not having to buy special software will be useful.

Thanks for these further comments.


  flick 22:55 02 Jun 2003

Hi there crobar

My son is doing physics so doesn't write any essays! He uses his all in one for scanning and printing notes for lectures he missed or when there weren't enough to go around, and printing out problem sheets and notes that are posted on the intranet.

The amount of actual computer usage (apart from some game playing) is pretty minimal I suspect. The programming course he had to do was in the university's computer lab.

He has an HP 2150 and I think the quality of both scan and printing is excellent - the obvious advantage of the all in one versus separate components is space and ease of carting around. He has to clear his room at the end of every term.

Even if your daughter's room isn't ethernet enabled, a truly portable pc would enable her to plug into a communal port somewhere on campus to give her internet access.

It's a bit galling isn't it that we find ourselves buying better quality gear for our children than we have been making do with ourselves for years?

I wish her well in her university career - we need more scientists.

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