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Old 2007-01-26, 08:08 PM   #1
David_Hanlon
 
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Default Best Student-Level Notebook?

I have 2 kids who will be heading off to Univ. next Sept. I am not looking for advice on what laptop to get them. I'm more curious about how others have approached the following:

1. service. Extended warranty from retailer and/or maker, fingers crossed, or pay for service as needed. Do university IT departments offer anything here?

2. software. Buy bundled with the laptop, buy through the university, or other. This would include things like virus protection, CD/DVD burning software and productivity software (office, etc).

3. data security/backup. Flash memory, CD/DVD burner, save on network, other? My kids use computers heavily, but are not at this point very cognizant of the fact that computers can and do fail.

4. printing. Do they need a printer, or do universities offer printing facilities which are sufficient for most students? Printers aren't expensive, but the toner is.

5. battery. Is an extra battery a 'need' for typical university students?

Laptops are great, but item 1 in particular disturbs me. When my laptop has a problem (and its had several) I plunck the thing down at my company's help desk. What do you do when you actually own the thing?

Thanks for any input,
Dave
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Old 2007-01-26, 08:26 PM   #2
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Does the university have a specific recommendation for what to buy and what S/W to install? Most of your questions will probably have specific answers depending on the university they go to.

That being said, it's likely that any reasonably modern laptop will do. In all likelihood all they will use it for is writing papers, surfing (I mean researching) and other stuff.

For backup purposes, buy an external USB drive and before they go, install Drive Image (from Acronis) and show them how to use it.
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Old 2007-01-26, 09:00 PM   #3
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1. If you buy a thinkpad, which is about the best especially for the abuse students dish out, it comes with 3 years comprehensive warranty, and you can make it 5 years for aobut $150 more. Most brands only offer 1 year standard warranty, and refuse to cover for 5 years because they know their product has no hope of lasting that long. I may be able to get you the employee pricing on the thinkpad (pm me for info/code).

2. DVD/CD burning s/w should come standard with any decent laptop equipment with a dvd/cd. NOD32 is only $20 and provides outstanding anti-viral protecting. Students are eligible for student-pricing on MS Office for about $160 (for everything), and this is available at some retailers if you show proof of status. I'd expect the university bookstore would sell Office for the student rate too.

3. External backup as per the above post. Alternatively, they can burn data to a cd or dvd, perhaps a rewriteable one. If you buy a top brand of laptop (ie, thinkpad or fujitsu or perhaps apple), you can probably survive without backups. The thinkpad has automatic backup & recovery built-in. If you buy a compaq, hp or vaio, you should back up daily due to their poor reliability, lol

4. Universities where I live charge 10 cents or 20 cents per page. So buy a b/w laser printer. Toner cartridges for a laser can be replaced with generics. Or you can buy just the toner and poor it into the cartridge ($10 for ~2000 pages)

5. That depends a lot on the model and how much they will use it on battery-only. I have an X60 thinkpad which lasts 8-9 hours on the battery. I also have a T60 which only lasts ~3.5 hours. In any event, I strongly recommend nothing bigger than 14 inches, for portability and reasonable battery use. If you buy an extra laptop battery, keep in mind that they deteriorate with age even if you dont use it. And they will probably need to be replaced within 2 years to get good performance again. I would recommend a 2nd AC adapter - then they have a spare to carry to school, which is MUCH more convenient than disconnecting/unplugging the AC adapter from their room. And a spare AC adapter costs only $25 (on the aforementioned employee pricing programming; or a second battery and adapter are $99)
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Old 2007-01-26, 10:24 PM   #4
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Just my 2 cents:

1. You can never re-enforce the idea of backing up data enough. Try to make it as easy as possible (as suggested above) but stress that if they don't do it they are at risk and there be no (cost-effective) way of recovery.

2. I think the big concern regarding warranty has to do with turn around time. A warranty doesn't do any good if they need to wait 4 weeks to get a replacement. For this reason, if its worth the money to you, you might consider getting a "business" level warranty where there is an established SLA (Service Level Agreement) and you know what the expectation will be for service. All the "big" players (IBM, Dell, HP) will offer 4-hour response, 24x7 support with NBD onsite service.

3. The one thing you didn't mention, but I think is a concern is security (physical, not online). LOTS of laptops/computer equipment gets stolen every year in dorms and campuses. Stress to your kids that their dorm/residence/rental is not like home and they have to watch their valuables. Despite their ineffectiveness, I would make sure you get them a locking kit. Record all the serial numbers and take pictures of all the equipment. Keep receipts. You may also want to get an engraver and have it all marked. [This also emphasizes the need for backups...what are they going to do if their laptop goes missing.]
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Old 2007-01-27, 12:07 AM   #5
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yep what gqueue said in #3
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Old 2007-01-27, 09:06 AM   #6
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Toshiba have a great warranty program - 3 or 4 different levels. At the top, it's a "even if you drop kick it through the uprights after you spill 3 gallons of coffee on it", we'll replace it. I purchased this level for my son, as he needs it. On the other hand, my daughter needed one much less inclusive, and expensive.

As students, they need little storage space, as most of the use, depending on which program they are in, is accessing the internet for class notes put there by the prof (they don't need computers to take notes, at least at the universities my kids went to) , and in some courses writing papers. As a result, they don't need the fastest computer either.

A smaller eg. 12" or 14" laptop will work better as well, in particular if they are taking it to class, as the 15 1/4" standards are far too heavy for kids to lug around all day (or at least my kids!) - particularly when they live off campus, and walk to school.

Personally, for the price, it's nice for the student to be able to print out pages in their dorm, or apartment, as opposed to having to go to school to do it. But for the amount they will print out, an inkjet is more than fine.

I'm not sure I'd worry about backup storage - it's not like they have nuclear secrets in their computers. Usually when a paper is done, they don't really need it any more anyway (albeit, it may be nice to save it), so what my kids did was email it to themselves. Far cheaper, and much easier. In reality, it's only the music and pictures that really need to be saved, and there are options there (at worst, network with a roommate, and exchange files).

Most universities have an on-site "Geek Squad" service where you can drop off your computer if you are having problems, and they will fix it gratis, or for a charge, make all well.

Just some thoughts from someone who has been there.
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Old 2007-01-27, 10:07 AM   #7
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Great information from everyone, thank you.

Physical security was about the only thing I had figured out. I've already picked up a couple of retractable kensington locks at FS for $20 each.

When I look at the Thinkpads online, it only mentions a 1 year warranty. Am I looking at the right place (http://www.lenovo.com/products/ca/en/

For printing my initial idea was a b/w laser. I picked up a refurbished Brother from TigerDirect and its been great. I'll probably do the same for them.

A second AC adapter is a great idea, much better that a 2nd battery. I'll go with that.

Thanks everyone. This is a big help.
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Old 2007-01-27, 03:10 PM   #8
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All the T-series and X-series have at least 3-year warranties.
Check them out on visaperks for example.
http://caipsgws001.can.ibm.com/store...ks&aud=EA1VISA
(oh i guess entry-level R-series have only 1 year warranty but it can be upgraded for a reasonable fee... i wouldn't recommend the R-series because they're big & heavy like most of the other manufacturers' 14" and 15" laptops in FS)

As someone mentioned above, even 14" is rather heavy to carry, with books for long distances daily. I think the 12" x-series would be perfect. I own an X60, and it's a gem - build quiality is superb. I also have a new T-series T60 from work, but I much prefer the X60 (look around the net and you'll see that the X-series thinkpad ranks as Editors Choice among almost all the major laptop and computing professional review magazines/sites). To economize, you could buy a used X41 and it shoulld be terrific (check the ibm website to see if that serial is still under warranty). I have 10-15-year-old thinkpads that still run strong, though they're obviously obsolete.
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Old 2007-01-27, 10:34 PM   #9
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FYI the link SkiBunny posted has Visa discounted pricing (so you'll need to buy it with a VISA card to get that pricing).

I too would go for a Thinkpad T60 or X60 series.

I'm a student and use a 12" Laptop and i love it. Mind you it's not a thinkpad and about 4+ pounds. I did buy an extended battery which gives a total of 10 hours of use (and i've only used it when traveling), thinking back I would have probably not bothered with it. I do CAD drafting which would be alot nicer to do on a 14" laptop with a better videocard. The 12" size did take me some time to get used to but now have no regrets that i bought it.

For printing my univ. offers it in the computer labs but i ended up getting a B/W laser printer. I've used it for over 3 years and i haven't had to replace the toner yet. Very handy to have and i've found it cheaper in the long run since some places charge 7-10 cents per page to print on campus compared to a sub $100 laser printer.

A USB memory stick is a must for any univ student. I use a 2 GB one and it is a great way to keep a second copy of all your files handy.

Some of my classmates do find 12" laptops screens too small, so i'd talk to your kids about it if they think they'd prefer 12" or 14". Some people i know who have 15"+ laptops don't bother bringing them to class because it's too cumbersome to carry around and usually end up using the universities computers instead. If they want anything bigger then 14" i'd remind them your the one buying it in the end .
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Old 2007-01-28, 08:08 AM   #10
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Also consider the Toshiba lineup. Good laptops, well made. I picked up both my kids' Toshibas off internet sites (normal retail 1799, paid 800), put warranties on them, and they're both very happy. I then picked up a Toshiba from Future Shop for my son-in-law for $699 (more than enough power, hard drive, RAM, DVD burner, 16X9 screen (for watching DVDs!)) and it's been perfect for him. Just another option.
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Old 2007-01-28, 09:39 AM   #11
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My wife's employer has an EPP with Lenovo, so I have access to the discounted pricing. But the 3 year comprehensive warranty only comes on the more expensive models. Everything I buy I have to buy 2 of, so the budget won't cover the cost of a T60 or X60. Hope they don't read this forum

A memory stick is a great idea for keeping a second copy of files in case of hard drive failure or theft.

Thanks for the info.

And just a comment...

I noticed the title of this thread was changed by someone to "Best Student-Level Notebook?". I specifically mentioned in my original post that I wasn't looking for advice on what notebook to get, but the best way to "dress one out" for a student. Why take the time to change the thread title but not take the time to figure out what the thread is actually about? Things I don't understand...
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Old 2007-01-28, 10:58 AM   #12
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Prices have dropped by half compared to Xmas 2005. Prices will drop again significantly this year.

The best time to buy is in summer during the back-to-school sales. I think you will regret buying now if you can hold off til summer. Since you have access to EPP pricing, you can expect to find EPP sales in june/july of lefttover T60 and X60 models (by then the T61 and X61 will be out)... these may fit your budget. For example, last leftover T43's were selling on EPP for $899 after the T60 came out. Those same T43's had been selling for well over $2000 half a year earlier.

Don't settle for a lenovo or satellite or compaq etc. Do your homework on the internet, and you'll see those are relatively poor compared to a thinkpad or fujitsu or perhaps a mac.
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