December 17, 2007

Laptop Bleg

Y'know, I really messed up on my timetable for getting out of the blogging biz. Because if I were still at it, it would be SO MUCH EASIER to ask the following question:

Supposing you had a kid who'd saved up a couple of hundred dollars toward a laptop, and said child was in anticipation of a few hundred grickles more from Santa in a few days, exactly what sort of laptop should said child buy? And from whom?

Despite my aura of technological sophistication and incredible knowledge about things computery, I must confess I have absolutely no idea of the best way of going about choosing what sort of equipment to buy.

Basics are this: said child (who is a highly responsible 15 year old girl, not to give anything away) needs to be able to do your basic MS Office type applications--Word, PowerPoint, Excel--as well as be able to use the Internet, run her iPod, play games, maybe watch a video or two. She's not deep into video editing or online role playing games or anything that requires heavy-duty processing power. She needs to be able to seamlessly synch back and forth to our home computer (which is an HP running XP Home) or the computer at Grandmom and grandad's house (which is some kind of Dell running a full blown version of XP), and needs something that will not be obsolete when she takes it out of the box, will serve her needs through the rest of high school and be easily (within reason) upgraded when she decides she needs more horsepower. I would really rather NOT have anything with Vista, since it seems a step backwards from XP, although this might not be as big a problem with an OE install rather than an upgrade to an existing machine. Still, the word on the screet is that it's still got way too many entomology students working overtime.

I've seen specials at Staples and such like for a whole laptop package for around five bills, including a printer and a case and sparkly moonbeam stickers and coupons for fabulous savings on things you don't need. This one in particular seems pretty spiff, although, again, I don't know nuthin' but that it seems like an awfully fine price, even if it's not one of the ones with a free printer.

ANYway, it's all very confusing and everyone has something slightly different on sale right now, and that makes it very difficult to compare apples to lobsters.

So, for all two of you who've remained loyal to Possumblog even though it's no longer in operation, what say you when it comes to the best bet?

Posted by Terry Oglesby at December 17, 2007 11:56 AM

I looked around at but didn't see anything too spectacular. You may want to wait and see what the after-Christmas specials look like. You can get laptops with Windows XP, but they will typically be refurbs. Refurbs are not necessarily bad, but you do take your chances.

More than anything else you will want to extend the warranty by at least one year, if not two. Laptops are potentially expensive doorstops and very difficult to fix on your own (unlike desktop computers). Next in the line of concerns is RAM. Even with XP you should have 1 GB of RAM. If you find the need to run Vista, most reports I have heard recommend 2 GB of RAM (notice a doubling trend?). Installing RAM in a laptop is not too terribly difficult, but you have to consider the price.

Finally, even though she would be eligible for the studen version, a copy of M$ Office will run a little over $100. Try to get the version of Office that has OneNote. Having her learn how to effectively use it will be a big difference maker in her future as a student and employee.

Posted by: Marc V at December 17, 2007 12:53 PM

One of the new MacBooks can run both Mac OS X and any M$ OS. I find my Mac runs XP w/better results and far fewer glitches, headaches & other asstd ills prone to the PC world. Price wise I find them equal to comparable HP, Del etc.

MarcV: One note rocks!

PS: iPods & iTunes work great on either platform. IMO Apple writes the best M$ apps out there. I use Safari on both BTW.

Posted by: Chef Tony at December 17, 2007 01:09 PM

How much would I expect her to have to pay for a Mac, Tony?

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at December 17, 2007 02:16 PM

Brand new w/a educational discount the least spendy is $999 including free shipping. One step up is the sweet spot IMO It has:

2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
1GB memory (you really need 2 gig to make is sing)
120GB hard drive (Mine has the 250 gig)
Double-layer SuperDrive (CD& DVD read write)

This is $1299 and is what I use for most stuff here at Festung von Krag. I'd add in Apple Care too, it extends the warrantee to 3 years always a good thing w/laptops. Student Office is $100 or so and a adapter to hook to a external monitor is $17.

I have XP Pro on mine plus Unbutou Linux all running at the same time. But then I'm both a geek & a Moron®. :)

Posted by: Chef Tony at December 17, 2007 03:38 PM

I don't know how the student version deal works for high school students, but at UAB college students can get Office 2003 or 2007, Vista or XP for about $8 each.

Posted by: megabeth at December 17, 2007 03:51 PM

Wow--that's a really good deal, MBeth. We can order similar stuff through my work, but it's still more expensive than that--MS Office Pro XP is $19.95. And Tony, are you sure there's nothing lower priced? Remember, we're on the poverty plan.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at December 17, 2007 04:00 PM

We have an Acer, which has served us well for the past couple years. I doubt it is the best computer out there, but it was reasonably priced (we got it at Sam's Club) and it does the things we need it to do.

Posted by: Jordana at December 17, 2007 05:54 PM

Jordana, I've looked at those, too. I've heard both good and bad about their quality control, though, and it makes me a bit leery of spending money on one. Stan the Former Gummint Man sent me a link yesterday to a Gateway (which I've ALSO heard good and bad about as far as QC) at Best Buy that's only 399.99, regularly 599.99. I took some particular child there last night, and it really is a pretty darned okay looking and performing machine. Problem? Sold out. In Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. No deliveries expected anytime soon, either.


Posted by: Terry Oglesby at December 18, 2007 09:34 AM

Hey Terry, I still check in here every week or so, to see if you've posted anything new!

As for notebooks, my family has three Dells (all different models) that we've had good service from. One XP and two Vistas. I'm not into all the tech metrics, but they're just the basic models.

My son seems to like his Vista fine for college use. The newest is for my wife, and it seems ok other than a couple of minor issues (Lexmark doesn't have Vista drivers for my old printer, and I can't figure out how to make the screensaver work!).

Posted by: BillW at December 18, 2007 11:59 AM


Thanks for letting us know the results of your trip to Best Buy. Oh well--I was hoping at least SOMEBODY I knew might get a deal like that.

Posted by: Stan at December 18, 2007 12:20 PM

Bill, I like Dell (I'm using one now!) but I do wish they could find a way to sell something just a bit less costly. And our employee discount thing isn't quite enough to make up for the difference in cost compared to that Gateway. Then again, even Gateway's site isn't as cheap as Best Buy on the same computer.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at December 18, 2007 01:00 PM

We had a refurbished Gateway before the Acer. It too was a good machine that really never gave us any problems until the older girl threw up on it. It never was quite the same after that.

Whatever laptop you get, remind the girl child not to drink liquid near it or to puke on it. I say this as I sit next to my computer with a cup of hot chocolate.

Posted by: Jordana at December 18, 2007 05:50 PM

I was never the same after our kids threw up on me.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at December 19, 2007 11:54 AM

My Compaq is 2 years old now, runs XP perfectly, has a wireless internet coneection and I recommend the brand to anyone. And they are cheap- probably $500-600. Mine has been trouble free and the extended warranty I purchased went entirely unused. It does need a battery.

So, my recommendation? Whatever Compaq is pushing right now through Circuit City, CompUSA or Best Buy. And if I were buying for myself right now, I'd pay to have XP installed over Vista!

Posted by: Nate at December 22, 2007 11:11 PM

That's the one nice thing about Gateway, IF you order through the Gateway site--they'll still install XP for you instead of Vista.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at December 23, 2007 08:30 AM