Helping a Friend Choose a Laptop

It’s that time of year when graduated high school seniors are getting ready to head off to college. For many, it’s at this time that one gets to make a big, yet exciting decision; which college computer to buy. Known for being a tech guy, many of my friends come to me for advice. Today I got a text from a friend, let’s call her Sue, asking what computer she should buy for college. Obviously that’s a pretty broad question roughly equivalent to asking someone what car one should buy… there are many things to consider before a decision is made. Sue is certainly not a tech geek, so my response and suggestions are adjusted with this knowledge in an attempt to have her end up with the computer that will work best for her.

In a short text back, I asked Sue what she planned on using the computer for. Some people want power, some want portability, and then there are some who would prefer a balance of the two. I also asked her what her budget was.

She had a pretty short list of uses for the computer, pretty much all standard school use: entertainment, communication with friends/family, word processing, and she mentioned that she’d be taking it abroad. She also told me that she wanted to go to local stores (Best Buy, etc.) and check out the laptops for herself. Her usage list wasn’t very specific and she didn’t need any specialized software, on top of that, the computer would be purchased as a graduation gift, effectively giving her a pretty large budget.

With a high budget and a fairly simple list of needs, I recommended that she head to the nearest Apple store and take a look at their smallest MacBook Pro, the 13”. While Macs might not have the most features, they are undeniably well designed, and their operating system can be more friendly than the Windows alternative. The integrated webcam coupled with intuitive software would make video chats with friends and family back home a snap. I figured that she’d be quickly won over by the unibody MacBook Pro enclosure and relatively thin and portable computer. I also recommended that she go with the top of the line configuration so that the computer would last her longer before needing an upgrade. Additionally I pointed out that students are eligible for discounts and offers including Apple’s popular free iPod Touch promotion which I told Sue could be sold or given away to a friend or family member even if she didn’t have a use for it herself. I’ve also suggested that she be sure to inquire whether or not her plans to travel abroad would affect the warranty on her computer (ie: would she have a non-long distance number to call for support in her language, depending on where she is travelling).

While extorting money from parents is never a good idea, I also suggested that she check out the Apple store and try to sell her Dad on the MacBook before going to Best Buy, as it can sometimes be hard to convince parents that there is a difference between a $599 clearance laptop, and a more powerful, more chic, computer.

As I was last updated, Sue tells me that she hopes to purchase the MacBook Pro. She checked it out in the store and really liked it. She also swung by Best Buy to see what selection of Windows based computers that they had, but still wanted to get the Macbook Pro. She wanted to get in contact with her college before making the purchase decision and make sure that they didn’t recommend something else. As far as college computer recommendations go, I often find them to be much more akin to general guidelines than actual computing suggestions. Unless you are doing specific computer related work, most college’s have suggestions based on what sort of specs would be expected from a low/mid-level laptop if purchased today.

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