One of the most important, if not the most important, purchases you’ll make as you head off to college is a computer. A computer is essential for taking notes, writing papers, and doing research. It is important, therefore, that careful thought go into this important acquisition.
COST. Unless you were born with the proverbial silver spoon in your mouth, money will be a key factor in the purchasing decisions you make. The cost of a college education has continued to rise, so it is important to consider how much you have to spend for everything associated with school. The fortunate thing is that, while almost everything else has gone up, computer prices have remained generally stable, and even gone down in some cases. In addition, used computers can be bought for almost giveaway prices, so depending on your computing needs, this purchase doesn’t have to break your budget.
USE. The next step is determining just what you plan to use your computer for. If you want to use it to take notes in class, you’ll need a good laptop. Where there is a tendency to go for the slim, lightweight laptops, lugging it from class to class subjects it to a lot of wear and tear, so it might be a good idea to get a rugged unit that will stand up to that much transporting. If you don’t plan to do a lot of complicated graphics or games, a basic laptop is an economical purchase. For advanced graphics and computer games, look for a laptop with a widescreen. An alternative would be to invest in a separate wide screen monitor and a docking port to leave in your dorm. Whether you’re on the go or in the dorm, look at Bluetooth technology for peripherals like mice and printers. This costs a little more, but cuts down on the amount of cable hook ups you have to deal with.
COMPUTER LITERACY. Most people born since 1985 are familiar with computers, but not all users are equal. You need to make sure you can easily operate the system you buy without having a techno geek standing behind you. One important thing to know before you buy is what is the most common operating system in use on your campus. More and more schools are using Macintosh instead of Microsoft. If you want the ease of sharing files without having to mess with conversion utilities, it’s smart to go with the prevailing system. If you’re tech savvy and comfortable manipulating technology, get a computer with programs that allow you to switch back and forth between Mac and DOS on the same machine.
DESKTOP VS LAPTOP. A lot of computer gamers still believe the desktop PC is best for playing games, especially on the Internet. With the new widescreen laptops, and the versatility of a docking station, however, a laptop is just as good, and it gives you other benefits that the desktop cannot. The primary advantage of a desktop PC is price. For the cost of a really good laptop, you can get an equivalent desktop and have enough money left over for a decent laser printer/scanner/fax.