In the last 2-3 years the use of laptops and netbooks has become standard fare for most students. Gone are the days of desk top PC’s, due to their size. Microprocessors have gotten faster and smaller along with available memory and RAM. So what should you look for in a laptop when shopping for one? It depends on a variety of things such as what do you plan on doing with it to what applications do you plan on running.
If you will be running a large data base, graphics programs or have a need for video editing on a daily scale then you will need to look at a laptop with a large memory bank. I personally would not look at anything under 180 giga bytes. If you are downloading large files off of the internet then having a large amount of RAM will be an advantage. Having at least 1 giga byte of RAM available and 3 giga bytes would be ideal. For under $500 both of those needs can be easily met.
Almost all laptops and netbooks come with Wi-Fi as a standard but some stores might still have older models that don’t have it. Another thing to watch for is old operating systems. You should not have to settle for Windows XP when Vista and Windows 7 have been around for the past several years.
Other things to look for while shopping is how much heat a laptop generates, physical size, operating system and reliability. Certain brands are noted for different types of laptops and netbooks, here is a quick run down:
HP is the world’s largest computer maker. They have several laptops and netbooks that will serve the purpose for a student. Their small netbooks are slim and have USB ports for flash drives but they lack DVD drives, so loading purchased programs on CD will require you to purchase a separate external DVD drive. The memory on both of their larger laptops and the netbooks is often lower than other brands in the same price range so you will need to take note of what they are offering under $500. Also look for a netbook or laptop that has the latest OP. Don’t buy one that has the old outdated and trouble filled, Windows XP. The HP’s also have a tendency to run hot when on your lap and eat up batteries like crazy. Our household has 3 HP Compaq Persarios and only one has been trouble free.
The Toshiba line has the larger laptops in size but they also carry more bang for your buck. The laptops don’t get as hot as the HP ones do simply because their cooling fan is located on the side of the laptop rather than underneath it like the HP’s are. They also have the advantage of not coming preloaded with much of the software junk that HP loads in their laptops. Our house has one Toshiba laptop and it has been trouble free.
Now if you want cute, color and small, Acer is the way to go. They have some great little netbooks for under $300 at Walmart which any student would fall in love with. Like most netbooks they don’t have a DVD drive but for under $300 you can buy an external one and plug it in to one of the USB outlets.
The Sony VAIO is worth taking a look at. While Sony has had a reputation of having the lower end priced electronics they are starting to make their way up the exclusive electronics ladder.
Touch screens for under $500
Now if you absolutely must have a touch screen on your laptop then there are a few priced under $500. They are the ASUS Eee netbook, the Schoolmate Convertible netbook by HP, the Mirus Schoolmate Convertible and the Lenovo Cosmic Night IdeaPad. All of them can be found at Walmart.
$500 can buy you a lot of laptop power now. Touch screens are becoming more mainstream to keep up with Apple’s iPad. You will see a lot on innovation in the next 9 months as technology gets smaller, more user friendly and cheaper.