A laptop for a student – Part 1

My son is going back to college just now and needed to buy his first laptop so I tried to help out along the way. The first decision was straightforward – he’d used the Windows OS for years and was familiar with that, so it had to be a laptop with Windows. Not a MacBook because, even with student discount, this was beyond his budget and not a Linux OS because, well, because if you’re familiar with Windows it’s easier to stick with what you know, especially if you’re not tech minded. I’m just learning Ubuntu and would still struggle to help him out, especially away from home. Besides, buying a laptop with Vista Home Premium at the moment entitles you to a free upgrade to Windows 7 Premium, which by all accounts promises to be a great OS.

So off down to our major PC retailers to see what was on offer. First surprise, no Toshiba laptops in either retailer we tried. My daughter had bought a Toshiba laptop 2 years ago and we were all quite pleased with it. Ah well, so we had a choice of Acer, HP, Compaq, Packard Bell, Sony, Dell, Advent, etc. It was now that my son really surprised me. The first things I would look at when buying a laptop are hard drive size, amount of RAM installed, processor type, monitor size, but his first priority was build quality and design – the feel of the keys, the feel of the touchpad, rigidity of the case, etc. Some of the laptops had what I can only describe as bendy keyboard platforms which visibly sagged as you touched the keys – he didn’t like that, nor keys which seemed to be mounted poorly. He checked the feel of the keys as he typed. He also preferred a grainy-feel touchpad rather than the smooth ones. He pointed out that when his thumb or fingers were sweaty, they would stick on the smooth surface touchpad but were fine on the rougher surface. He also didn’t want the largest screen size laptops as this wouldn’t fit in his backpack and would be less portable.


So, at the end of the day, with all these points in mind and with a budget to stick to, he went for the Dell Inspiron 1545 laptop. Nice build quality, 15.6 inch screen, and 4GB RAM. The only slight downside was that the hard drive was only 160 GB. However, my daughter’s Toshiba has the same size and she manages fine – it forces you to be more organized and not hoard a lot of stuff. In any case, we spotted Iomega 1TB external hard drives for around £70 so that’s an alternative for storage when the time comes.

We then steadfastly refused all offers of Microsoft Office Home & Student, Norton Security, after sales help and insurance from the dogged salesman, paid up and left quite happy.

So what software should we put on it? Well, that’s coming up in Part 2 which I’ll publish in the next day or two.

What do you look for when you’re purchasing a laptop? Is build quality important or do you go for specs… or even looks? Let me know in the comments.

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