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Buying a computer for college...

Posted on 2002-03-25
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2011-09-20
I go away to college next year, and as a gift, my parents have agreed to buy me a computer. The problem is, I don't really know where to start. What are the benefits of having a laptop computer as opposed to a PC? And which model should I buy, and why? And also, which accessories should I buy?? Cost isn't really an issue, but if possible, I don't it want to be outrageously expensive. Thank you so much for your help!
Question by:vwjen27
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Expert Comment

ID: 6895507
well, here's my two cents worth...

I've used/fixed almost every type of computer made for the last 10 years, and it simply depends on what you want.

For Example...

If you're the type of person that doesn't spend much time at home, then you woud probably want a laptop.  That way you could have access to your homework anytime or anywhere (on breaks at work, or during certain classes).  But if you're more of a home body then you might want to get a desktop.

But some things to keep in mind...

With a Laptop:

If somebody steals it, you're screwed!
More laptops are stolen on a college campus than anywhere else!
If you get it wet or drop it too hard, you're screwed!
They're not the best for playing games (if that's your thing)
Parts are expensive
Less speed for the same price

You can take it almost anywhere
Doesn't take up much space.

With a Desktop:   Bad
Not exactly portable...  or light either
You have to take up space in the dorm for it

Upgrades are cheaper since parts are cheaper (hard drive for desktop 100 bucks same drive for laptop 250)
Ideal for hightech games
Better system for the price
Much harded to break!

As far as brand names:
Most rugged = Dell
Cheapest = Toshiba
Best looking = Sony or Macintosh
Customer Support = Dell or Gateway

Price = Gateway and Dell are both competitive in price, BUT the cheapest is to build it yourself.
Best components = Dell seems to have the best hardware for the price, BUT for the best components build it yourself.
Customer Support = Dell or Gateway

Now, lets discuss your intentions, cause if you're an art, graphics design, or publishing student then your BEST option by far would be a Macintosh!  But if you're going for most anything else, especially for networking or system administrator you'd better get an Intel or AMD based PC.

Operating System...
  If you know about computer systems or like to tinker with the settings in your system to personalize things to your taste, then you might consider linux, but otherwise, just stick with Microsoft Windows.  If you're thinking about a Mac, you can still use most windows software and games with your Macintosh machine.

If you've read this and think you migh want to go with a Desktop PC, you might want to look at this site: www.ginstar.com
That is the place I buy most of my systems and parts, they've got about the lowest prices I've seen.  I'm local to them, so I just run over and pick it up, but you can order over the net or phone also and they will ship it to you.  Just a suggestion, but they can beat dell or gateway for the cheapest price on a smaller system.

I hope this will help make your decision easier...
LVL 18

Expert Comment

ID: 6895536
This was also posted in (General) Operating systems.
LVL 14

Accepted Solution

Don Thomson earned 120 total points
ID: 6895591
I agree with smokintbird  - Have a custom system built to you specs.

If you want convienience - go to a local computer store. Stay away from the name brands - their base systems are lower price but the add-ons and upgrades are way over priced. Same story with mail-order.

If you an independant computer consultant that takes care of small to medium sized businesses - they can have a custom system built to your requirements - at the same cost as the retail - but you will get some expert advice and help setting it up.

If you decide on a laptop

Thinking that you can take it to class and take notes with it - remember thatunless you can type about 60-80 words per minute  - you won't be able to keep up. If a notebook is still your choice - Get one with at least a 3 year parts and labor warranty. Also make sure you get theft insurance and LCD breakage insurance.

With the desktop -

Get a Pentium 4 - 1.5 to 2.0 Mhz  with 512 DDR PC2100 Sdram

Get a 60-80 Gig 7200 ATA-100 Hard Drive

A good 32 or 64 Meg AGP Video Adapter

Look for the New Combo DVD-Reader / CDRWriters   either with or without a regular CDROM

A 10/100 Network card

an Internal 56K Modem

A Good Inkjet Printer that uses low cost ink cartridge replacements - not one that replaces the entire head.

You may also want to go with a palm pilot to keep your schedule together that you can sync up at regular intervals

Don't load it up with software before you get to College - You can usually get a much better price on campus than off. Most software companies give great prices for educational software.

Hope this helps
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Expert Comment

ID: 6896796
Ginstar is good, but www.tigerdirect.com can also be a good resouce.  For instance the have a 40G HD, 7200 RPM about $10.00 - $15.00 cheaper then Ginstar.  They are quick to ship too.  Last shipment they gave me 2 for the price of 1 as well.
LVL 13

Expert Comment

ID: 6897007
Important questions:

1.  What will be your major?  How can anyone answer your query without knowing the use for the computer is beyond me.  Maybe an art major will want a big screen and a scanner.  An engineering major will want a big screen and a good rendering video card.  A business major will want accounting software preinstalled.

2.  What is your parent's budget?  Even though you say cost isn't an issue, I bet I can reecommend a workstation that would be past the limit.  Saying "not too expensive" is relative to you, but how do we know your situation?  So, within $500 either way, what is the budget?

3.  Have you picked a school yet?  At least narrowed it down?  On the schools' websites will either be brags about how bitchin' their computer labs are stocked (or nothing at all), brags (or no mention) of ethernet in all dorm rooms, etc, etc.  Depending how hard core are the school's own (read: free with tuition) computers, you may need a basic system or something full blown.
     For example, at my school, business majors paid an extra $350 per semester for a business majors only computer lab.  It was, and still is, seriously stocked (free printing, 17" screens on P3-800s, scanners, digital cameras) so no one really needed a computer of their own except for convenience.  Students would have needed to spend a lot to buy as good a machine as was in the lab, so most only had basic systems if anything back in the dorms unless they were just spoiled rich kids.  On the other hand, liberal arts majors (who didn't pay an extra fee) had the most crappy lab ever; P90s, 14" screens curved more than a Saturn's windshield, COAX thinnet, pay per page printing)

Without addressing the above, any answers are not taking your needs into account very well    :(


Expert Comment

ID: 6897639
You might also consider that all schools now have access to a PC on campus.  You can even save your files on the network drive, so you can access it from any PC on campus for most hours of the day or night or weekend.  They also have high-speed internet access to help with research.  When you really must carry files, you can email them to yourself or "burn" them to a CD.
this saves all the expense, and upkeep of a PC.

Expert Comment

ID: 6899263
also try newegg.com that's one of the few places I still order from.  prices not far from the lowest on pricewatch.com.

although it's great for components (DIY pc's)

Expert Comment

ID: 6901905

This my first answer

Just think what all you want to do with a PC and to start with you can buy an off shelf or a second hand laptop or desktop a celeron 466 or a P2 266 or P3 500 with 128 mb of ram a cdrom ,1.44 FDD will do try not to spend too much to begin and if you can try out Linux it will give you a good start....

want more ?  write to me

Expert Comment

ID: 7130549
Hello vwjen27,

It appears that you have abandoned this question. I will ask Community Support to close it unless you finalize it within 7 days. If there is no objection or further activity, I will suggest to:

   Abandoned - No Refund  0 point PAQ.

EXPERTS: This is an opinion question without Asker participation and therefore no clear solution.  Thank you all for your participation.  This is the most equitable resolve available.

Please do not accept this comment as an answer!
EE Database Cleanup Volunteer
LVL 13

Expert Comment

ID: 7130636
'smokintbird' arrived first with good suggestions and pointers as to deciding what to pick.  Not our fault vwjen27 flunked out and isn't going to college after all.

Expert Comment

ID: 7130851

Thank you for your comments. They will be a valued assist at the time of the actual closing action.

The recommendation placed fault only on the Asker for not participating by not refunding points.  By placing to PAQ at 0 points it makes the valuable information presented by each Expert, including your own, available to the widest audience.  Thus all members of EE can benefit.

The recommendation is that, a recommendation, and the final decision made by the moderator will include both the recommendation and valued added Expert comments.

EE DB Cleanup Volunteer

LVL 13

Expert Comment

ID: 7130900
"By placing to PAQ at 0 points it makes the valuable information ...available to the widest audience"

It also gives smokingtbird no credit for writing a screen and a half.

EE DB Cleanup Volunteer"

Is that a self-appointed position?

Expert Comment

ID: 7130944
Magarity, I appreciate the effort, but I'm not in this for glory.  I just wana help out, like you and others have done for me in the past.

I'm ok with this being set as a PAQ, but I agree with you that this shouldn't be a 0 pointer.  After all, there were several of us that faithfully tried awnsering the question, reguardless of whether "vwjen27" even remembers they started an EE account.  I think the question should be at least a 5 pointer.

LVL 13

Expert Comment

ID: 7131140
The new Dell 8200, P-4 2.83 ghz Intel processor, 800mghz FSB, 512mb DDR-RAM, 160 gb Maxtor ATA-100, nVida G-Force 4 Ti400 w/128mb DDR-SDRAM-AGP, 17" .24 dot pitch flat screen Monitor.  Sound Blaster http://www.soundblaster.com/products/extigy/ ,TDK 40x12x48 CD-RW, optional 16x DVD, Intel Mainboard and 850 chipset.

Under 2,000.00

All components are namebrand, and you do not have to use their pre-load software, you will receive WindowsXP Home Edition Disk, pre-load disk optional, as is SCSI HDD.

Expert Comment

ID: 7132039

ITsheresomewhere has been helping us clean up old questions in a number of topic areas. He (and several others like him) is doing so with the blessing and gratitude of the Moderators and Admin.

Perhaps you'd like to lend a hand? http://www.experts-exchange.com/cleanup/ -- we have about 170 topic areas, and most of them could use some work...

CS Moderator

Author Comment

ID: 7133296
Thank you so much for your wonderful, and extremely helpful information! I'm going out to buy a computer later this week, and I'm keeping all of your information in mind. Once again, thank you! I'm not really sure how this whole point thing works, but I hope I gave you enough! :-)

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