Monday, July 1, 2013

Laptop Advice

So my Aunt is thinking of a laptop for my cousin.  Here's what I said:

Hi John (and Nick),
Looking for some guidance....

I'm looking for a laptop for Louie.  Requirements are:
Min 15.6" screen
Software -will need word
Reasonable processing speed because he going to be playing games on it.
I cherish the thought that this could be the laptop that he takes to college 5 yrs from noe.

He's looking at lenova's.  have you heard anything good/bad about them?

Send this onto Nick for me as we'll...the more input the better.


Lenovo's are business laptops.  He won't really be happy with the boxy design and corporate bells and whistles.

You don't want a 15.6" screen.  that's too big.  You want an 11-13" screen.

Unless he is playing Simcity or Total War, he really doesn't need much more than the standard intel graphics accelerator--processing speed is independent of game-playing ability.  Game playing is dependent on the graphics processor and NOT the cpu. besides, at $500 anything better than intel graphics is not an option.

I'd actually say cd/dvd is optional/external.  Besides, unless you can reasonably justify the need for a disc drive (he burns lots of cds, he has a huge movie collection) you will be limiting your computer options.

You absolutely need a Solid State Drive.  It may cost more but it will guarantee long-term durability.

If you want the laptop to last, here's what I recommend:
11"-13" screen
latest intel i5 or i7 processor (ivy bridge or later) @ 2.4+ GHz.  DO NOT get an i3 processor--they are cheaper but will be out of date within the year.
SSD (these will be significantly smaller in capacity (128-256Gb) but they are impact resistant, and considering the iPad it looks like some droppage may occur); if you are really worried about his storage capacity get him an external 500-750Gb hard drive (NO 1Tb, they are newer and less well-tested) that he has to be careful with.
6-8Gb RAM
backlit keyboard
good warranty

cd/dvd drive (maybe blu-ray)
USB 3.0 (although that should be pretty standard)
HDMI port
decent audio (beats, harman kardon, or some other licensed brand)
card reader

All laptops should have (so don't let them sell you on this):
3+ usb ports
built-in camera
1440+ resolution

Brands I trust:
Asus (sometimes their hardware is faulty--as are most brands--but customer support is great at replacing the parts at no cost in a timely manner)
HP (for price, very little I *Envy* about them)
Sony (spendy but will last you)
Apple (expensive, full of proprietary crap, but there is rarely an unhappy Apple customer)
Dell (customer support is good)
Acer (decent low-end computers that will last)
Toshiba (the once great laptop giant is lagging a bit but they still put out a great product every now and then)
Samsung (yay for standing up to Apple)

So, software is a big deal these days.  we are in a period of major transition; apps are replacing traditional desktop software.  That said there are still some standards.

First, Microsoft Office.  Purchase the student Office Edition 2013.  Do not get anything subscription based.  There is a version of Office (365) that requires a subscription.  Do not under any circumstances purchase this or allow it to be pre-installed on the computer.

Second, operating system.  I recommend Windows 8 (soon to be 8.1) but a lot of people are still squeamish about it.  If you really think it's going to be another Vista then go for Windows 7.  But trust me when I say that 7 is going to look like Windows 95 in a year.  And if you get an Apple then you don't have a choice what OS you use.

Third, bloatware.  If you can, ask that the store remove any non-essential programs (bloatware) from the laptop before purchasing.  It's a real headache to do once it is purchased, and it will make the computer run much faster without that--stuff.

Fourth, Anti-virus and firewall.  These are not optional ever.  There are great free anti-virus and firewall programs out there--you should never pay for McAfee or Norton or any other crap.  Get a free one and be done.  Also, get Advanced Systemcare for regular maintenance.  You need to emphasize that this computer is the only one he's getting and you aren't responsible for crashed drives, porno related viruses, or anything else that screws the computer up.  He has to keep it clean and running well.  If he breaks it, that's it.  Tell him you went to college with pen and paper, he should be prepared to do so as well if it gets screwed up.

Fifth, if he has a need for any other software for specific purposes, please let me know.  I can direct you to excellent free versions of software.

Sixth, I truly believe that a computer is best when it's used as something more than a personal tv.  A computer is a tool with which to create and share.  Emphasizing the capability of a computer to do more than be a toy is essential to a healthy relationship with a computer.  There are amazing creative tools out there.  Some examples of things that can be made: Movies, Music, 3d drawings, Animation (2d and 3d), new programs, video games, websites, books, and much more.

Hope this helps.