Da Bomb Diggity: Best Buys for Back to School

bgerber

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We show you a variety of mobile computing accessories including Bluetooth printer adapters and tiny folding keyboards, backpacks and carrying cases, security locks, expansion docks, privacy filters, notebook coolers and a piece of software to manage your classes and your life.
 

enewmen

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Just asking.
Can someone better define a school computer?
I know a lot about lightweight travel PCs and accessories. But the school environment is different. The locks are a good example.
The folding keyboard works well for note taking, but it's hard to find many Symbian/bluetooth phones in the U.S. that will work.

It's been a few years since I was in college. But do most (big International) schools now a days have good WiFi coverage or is GPRS necessary? I had access to many computer labs (10 years ago), but I wasn't able to simply attach a notebook to a hub and surf the web. Has things changed?
 

agentsmithitaly

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The 700$ notebook review is a very useful idea and covers much of the most common brands. Unfortunately there are a few typos and questionable suggestions:
- you forgot the Dell notebook's price
- Windows XP PRO comes at a significant price difference compared to Home version and offer no more connection capabilities, except for joining domains. A feature mostly used on corporate networks and I suppose only on big campus networks...
- Yes students can get genuine Microsoft Office for a much reduced price, but why buy software when you're already tight with your hw budget and you have an excellent FREE alternative like OpenOffice?
I think open source software should get more popular among students, it will help them with their low budgets, and journalists can do their part...

Just my 2 cents,
Agentsmith from Milan, Italy
 

foshizzle

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Haha, I saw that $599.99 Toshiba in the Best Buy ad too and was thinking the whole time I was reading this article that that deal couldn't be beat. I wasn't aware that you were forced to buy a printer with it! What a scam.
 

CRU

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I actually got lucky enough to get in on this. The Price was $599 + tax out the door with a free printer (valued at $89). The Sales people of course try to sell you everything else in the world.
 

foshizzle

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Whoa, you got an awesome deal!

I'm seriously thinking about going to see if there are any left after work here....
 

CRU

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The store by me was out in about a half an hour on Sunday, and I was going to my parents-in-law on Monday, and got out there early, so I stopped into the store by them, and got the last one on their shelf. Remember to look into the cages in the store for it, as sometimes they may lie about being out. Guess they are too lazy to get one down. :)
 

joex444

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At my school we have complete campus coverage for 802.11b, parking lots, streets simply near the college, even the bus routes have complete coverage, though we were also recognized for this by Intel (http://www.intel.com/personal/wireless/unwiredcampuses.htm) at #6. Some of the printers throughout campus have wireless access to them.

We also require every student to buy a laptop, whether they are a commuter or resident (the campus is 62% commuter). I think just the fact that everyone has a laptop makes it kind of stupid to steal one.

The only known laptop theft I know of involved an older student (mid-40s) who lived in a nearby city, which has a much higher rate of crime. Apparently somebody broke into his house and took the laptop off his kitchen table, and nothing more, didn't even make a mess.

BTW, why would you use a lock to tie it to a desk leg? I mean, I could lift the table, take the laptop with it's lock on it, and then try to break the lock later.
 

gm0n3y

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I have never tried this, but wouldn'd it be easy to just use a pair of bolt cutters to cut off the security lock? I mean, the article says that they are strong, but I have yet to see anything of that size that a decent set of bolt cutters couldn't get through.
 

gm0n3y

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True, but still a lot less suspicious and quick than a hacksaw. You could even conceivably hide bolt cutters inside a trench coat.
 

Berzemus

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i wonder why second-hand laptops weren't considered.. it's a great way to get some real fine laptops, i.e. Thinkpads, which are sturdy, discreet and provide very nice battery life. They even have that little light, which is useful for taking notes when the lights are off. They can be bought for less then 700$, and still have a great value, not even talking about linux and open-source, which do run pretty well on thinkpads, and are a favourite amongs studes, 'cos it's free.. That's my personal opinion though.
 

gm0n3y

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i wonder why second-hand laptops weren't considered.. it's a great way to get some real fine laptops, i.e. Thinkpads, which are sturdy, discreet and provide very nice battery life. They even have that little light, which is useful for taking notes when the lights are off. They can be bought for less then 700$, and still have a great value, not even talking about linux and open-source, which do run pretty well on thinkpads, and are a favourite amongs studes, 'cos it's free.. That's my personal opinion though.
While I have heard many people applaud the build quality of Thinkpads, I would personally never recommend one. I had one a few years ago that I purchased new for over $2000 (through my school, along with many other students in my program). These were purchased on a lease with a $500 buyout option after 2 years.

About 30% of the users returned their laptop in the first year and recieved a partial refund which most of them used to purchase different laptops. At the end of the second year barely anybody actually paid the $500 to keep their machine and many who did simply turned around and sold it on ebay.

So many things went wrong with those machines. The biggest problem was faulty screens. About half of them had to have at least one screen replaced (under our lease warrentee for the first 2 years). Some users went throught 3 or more screens. The video chip (onboard) had a tendency to glitch periodically and eventually die. There was even faulty RAM in some of the machines. The overall performance of the machine was mediocre at best compared to a similarily priced machine at the time. The screen, when it was working, was awful. I think only 2 or 3 of the machines (out of more than 30) didn't have any problems.

Most of the people I know from school bought Toshibas, HPs, even ECS once they had rid themselves of the Thinkpad. All of them were vastly superior in performance and quality (although the ECS also had some problems).

I have heard that that model of Thinkpad happened to have more problems that most, but I still would never buy one again. Luckily, IBM did give us pretty good support, and my school had laptops they would loan us (just swap the HD) when ours were broken.

EDIT: BTW, if you want to avoid the model, I can't remember the number, but it had a P4 1.6GHz, 256MB RAM, onboad video (16MB shared RAM), no wireless ethernet.
 

glockman

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The reason I mention the ThinkPad is I actually have one that I use as my 'everyday' computer for browsing, bill pay, etc. It is a 300Mhz with 300Mb RAM and a 10Gb HD - it is a little slow but works great and the screen is as nice as any new ones I look at. I got it used in a swap on craigslist for an ASUS mobo I was not using + $80 so that kind of supports what the previous poster said about the used market. Problem with most of the used market is that people & used dealers want way too much for notebooks in general compared to what you'd pay for a used desktop. ThinkPads like any other brand will have problems (like the current battery fiasco Dell is dealing with) that does not mean to avoid a brand forever (unless you are talking about Firestone tires!) I only mentioned Think (Lenovo) because they are trying to play in the low Acer / Dell space and I found the model I pasted the link to previously and at the time it had a $100 rebate making it pretty reasonable.
 

Berzemus

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Sounds like an R-series.. that's nice, i just bought a R32 14" p4 2ghz, 16 mb shared ram :? Didn't it have little 'e' at the end ?

But it seems to work really nice. I use it for simple work, taking notes, it has wireless support, a nice keyboard, a trackpoint (love that one), and i might buy a second ultrabay battery (nice feature also) as well as a new hardisk, i don't wan't this one to crash.

They start at 849,16 €, for the most basic R-series (that's funny, because any other series starts at 2.000) so Glockman is right about that (also about the people-over-evaluating part). I tried a lenovo 3000 at a local store, man, that felt cheap.. which leaves me very suspicious about thinkpad's future..

Apple isn't mentioned either, while you can get a good 'ol powerbook or ibook for a good price.
 

Grafitti

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I just thought I'd point out that there is a Fujitsu notebook in the under-$700 range. I don't know what the availability is in the states, since it's a european model, but at least in the UK, i've found the AMILO v2030 model for $660. This comes with up to 1.7Ghz Celeron, 256 MB DDR2, 40 GB SATA2, 15" LCD, wi-fi, and it's excellent value for money. The downsides: built-in speakers are not very powerful, and battery life is just one hour.
 

Berzemus

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now you're pointing out somethin' : battery life, it seems to me it's hardly considered in the article.. but what's more important to a student who has to take notes during class, while there isn't any plug nearby.. i'd say those system builders save part on the money on battery life (cheaper battery's, greater power consumption). It would be nice to have a banchmark about that.
 

Narg

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Sorry, but $700 just doesn't cut it. Especially for "School Work" type computing. Better budget for $1000 or you won't get anything worth owning more than 12 months, if that long.

Take the Dell 6400 (E1505).

Add 1 gig memory (minimum in today's environment)
Add the True Life screen (your eyes will thank you)
Add X1300 video (your eyes will really thank you)
Add 60gig 7200 (the speed is noticable guys!)
Add BlueTooth (Yes, you need it!)
Add the bigger battery...

And, you are still under $1000 with a kick-ass system worth every penny to own and use. I'd go for the X1400 and higher res screen too, for just over $1000, even that much more life and usability would be gained. Pamper yourself if you wish with faster processors, but already you have a system that will keep you throughout a full degree program.

What ever you do!!! Don't get a Core Solo Proc (A celeron in cloak)! There's way too many of these still for sale out there. All software from now foward will expect dual core. Be ready for it!

Don't sell yourself short. There is no longer such a concept as "simple computing". All computing, especially school work, requires power to spare. Even simple web surfing even requires adequate processing muscle to keep your system safe from intrusion. Every dollar you don't spend equates to shorter life span and more money sooner rather than later to fix the problem.[/b]
 

gm0n3y

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Sorry, but $700 just doesn't cut it. Especially for "School Work" type computing. Better budget for $1000 or you won't get anything worth owning more than 12 months, if that long.

Take the Dell 6400 (E1505).

Add 1 gig memory (minimum in today's environment)
Add the True Life screen (your eyes will thank you)
Add X1300 video (your eyes will really thank you)
Add 60gig 7200 (the speed is noticable guys!)
Add BlueTooth (Yes, you need it!)
Add the bigger battery...

And, you are still under $1000 with a kick-ass system worth every penny to own and use. I'd go for the X1400 and higher res screen too, for just over $1000, even that much more life and usability would be gained. Pamper yourself if you wish with faster processors, but already you have a system that will keep you throughout a full degree program.

What ever you do!!! Don't get a Core Solo Proc (A celeron in cloak)! There's way too many of these still for sale out there. All software from now foward will expect dual core. Be ready for it!

Don't sell yourself short. There is no longer such a concept as "simple computing". All computing, especially school work, requires power to spare. Even simple web surfing even requires adequate processing muscle to keep your system safe from intrusion. Every dollar you don't spend equates to shorter life span and more money sooner rather than later to fix the problem.[/b]
I have to disagree with a couple of your points. I think that for school, you don't need a 7200rpm drive. I had a laptop that has a 5400rpm drive and yeah it was slow loading stuff, but for a student it wasn't a big deal. How long can it really take to load msword? I even used my laptop to develop software (VS 2K3 was a beast for my machine when it came out) and the load times were a little annoying, but not that bad.

Also, I wouldn't pay much extra for bluetooth unless you really need it. It isn't really necessary for a budget laptop.

I also think that having more than crappy onboard video really depends on what you are doing. Remember, this laptop is not supposed to play games, so if you are just taking notes and surfing the web, you don't need a dedicated graphics card.

I do however agree that 1gig of memory is pretty much a necessity these days. You could get away with less, but if you want it to last more than a year, get 1gig (2gb is going to start becoming the standard for desktops in the next year).

Of course a bigger battery would be nice. If its not too much more, I would get it (although for my laptop there was no bigger battery and an extra one was $250+, that is way too much).
 
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