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Old 06-13-2012, 08:53 PM   #61
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WINDOWS laptops, that is. I've never seen a student with a Mac. I'm sure there must be some, but I think it would perhaps be a mistake not to have a Windows laptop for compatibility reasons. Most university IT departments will only be able to support Windows systems.
There are some many options for compatibility .. with windows.
vmware, for example allows you to virtualize an entire OS inside your computer. but most lately a lot of folks will use web based / cloud options.

I wouldn't rule out Apple OSX as it is Unix based stable etc. Most laptops can do what you want .. it is mostly about the software..


if $$ isn't a concern.. ssd - solid state drives (smaller in capacity) as it is cost prohibitive are durable and faster.. tablets, smart phones use that.. so ssd in your harddrive would be good. Online services can provide back up i.e. mozy, or crashplan
unofficailly there is even OSX virtualized as well.

For undergrads paper writing, and access to the University intranet sites/ resources is OS agnostic. :-)

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Old 06-14-2012, 12:19 AM   #62
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if $$ isn't a concern.. ssd - solid state drives (smaller in capacity) as it is cost prohibitive are durable and faster.. tablets, smart phones use that..
You won't find a SSD in a tablet and even less in a smart phone. It's flash memory. But yeah SSDs are basically flash memory.
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Old 06-14-2012, 01:06 AM   #63
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Wow. Thanks for all your opinions and information. As I see things:

External Backup Device and Backup/Sync Service. After further thought, ideally I would want to use both together for different reasons. Full backups of OS, Apps, and all other files on both. That would be best to be covered for all eventualities.

Backup/Sync Service. If I just use a backup/sync service like DropBox, SugarSync, iCloud, etc solely for personal files but not for the OS or the apps, then if house or dorm burned down or were robbed, I could recover my personal files. But what about all my registration info for apps that I had purchased for the computer? Yes I could reload the operating system and the apps by downloading them online. But where are all my registrations/authorizations? Where are all my personal settings for all of my apps that took so long to set to my requirements? So I'd have to include all email files and application-personal-settings files as part of the personal files too. Could I find all those necessary specific files when setting this up to sync specific folders or files in the first place? (Maybe, if I'm expert in that OS.) Recovering registrations from email and re-setting all app preferences manually would be extremely time consuming. Finally, I won't have to worry about which files are necessary for recovery if I use a backup/sync service for all files including the OS, apps, and personal files, then I could recover them all but I'd have to pay US$50 or more annually to the service (depending on needed storage plan size). But putting all those files back together so all OS and apps work properly on a new replacement computer will not be a fast or trivial task.

Syncing to other Devices. In addition to backup purposes, syncing services can also be useful for syncing files to/from mobile devices or other computers.

External Storage Device for Backups. And yes, any storage device might go down at any time, including the supposedly more-reliable and fault-tolerant Flash drive or Solid-state drive (SSD) which have few or no moving parts compared to a hard disk drive, and yet might melt anyway due to internal hardware or electronic problems in or near them. So a local external backup device is a quick, cheap, safe, and convenient way to have a complete backup available when necessary. Except when that backup device is also robbed or burned down with house/dorm, hence the usefulness of the Backup/Sync Service. Cost of 500GB portable USB external drive, less than $100.

Solid-State Drive or Flash drive. Similar flash technology improvements (presumably) in speed for operations involving internal storage, as compared to hard disk drive. When I tried a Mac with SSD last year, I appreciated the quicker OS and application startup times and decided, for the price difference, to live with a serial ATA internal disk drive until I buy my next computer. Note it's also difficult to distinguish reasons for speed between various factors such as speed of data in/out on internal drive, speed of bus, speed of processor, etc unless comparing bench tests from changing 1 speed variable at a time.

Protection Plan necessary? Personal preference either way, but probably useful for a student new to Mac, for the included 3 years worth of Apple tech support.

Computer Model & OS. She's definite regarding Mac vs PC and laptop vs desktop and seems to be leaning towards MacBook Air. Possible options at purchase for 13" MacBook Air, base price US$1199: To increase from 4GB to 8GB RAM, add $100. To increase from 128GB to 256GB flash drive internal storage, add $300. To get 3 year AppleCare Protection Plan, add $249.

In comparison, on my MacBook Pro, I have 8GB RAM but I usually don't exceed using 4GB of RAM. I have 750GB internal storage but 128GB internal storage would have been sufficient for my needs, and internal Flash Drive or SSD instead of serial ATA hard disk drive would have been nice, but I felt I didn't need the expensive smaller-storage-capacity SSD option at the time though I regret that decision now. Ah well, maybe I'll get a new computer soon too. Heh

Edit: Printer/Scanner/Copier. She also wants a combined printer/scanner/copier and some extra ink cartridges. And let's not forget a couple reams of paper. I have an old, big Epson Workforce 600 I'm happy with. There are probably cheaper, smaller models these days. Anyone have any particularly strong recommendations for brand & model?

Tablet Decisions. So far it seems like she wants an iPad rather than other brands. At iPad prices, I'd suggest WiFi only, not WiFi + Cellular. I'd suggest 16GB storage may be a little tight, or 32GB storage more comfortable if she keeps most of her content on her computer and only loads tablet with music favorites, books currently studying, current work, current other entertainment, and so on. Currently I've got about 11GB of space used on my iPad. But I have a feeling she'll be using her iPad more often and for more varied apps than I use mine. Do any of you other iPad users have recommendations on iPad model options?

Last edited by unboggling; 06-14-2012 at 03:57 AM.
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Old 06-14-2012, 06:43 AM   #64
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Tablet Decisions. So far it seems like she wants an iPad rather than other brands. At iPad prices, I'd suggest WiFi only, not WiFi + Cellular. I'd suggest 16GB storage may be a little tight, or 32GB storage more comfortable if she keeps most of her content on her computer and only loads tablet with music favorites, books currently studying, current work, current other entertainment, and so on. Currently I've got about 11GB of space used on my iPad. But I have a feeling she'll be using her iPad more often and for more varied apps than I use mine. Do any of you other iPad users have recommendations on iPad model options?
I agree with you. 32GB WiFi is a good compromise between price and capability.

But on the laptop front I still maintain that, unless "money is no object", you'll get much more for your money by going for a Windows laptop than a Macbook.
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Old 06-14-2012, 10:06 AM   #65
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OK, I'm no longer a student, but two considerations:

- what I absolutely NEED to have for my normal work (e.g. writing and reading documents and working with Excel) is a big display. I added a 200$ 24" FullHD Samsung screen for home office use and am totally happy with that over the tiny 1280*800 display of my notebook.

- I bought a used HP Laserjet 4050 some years ago for ~200$ on ebay from an equipment liquidator (they sell off used office equipment), and it is just so much better than any injket printer I have had back when I was a student. Of course, I can not print photos on it, but for text/copy it can not be beat IMO. Also, a LJ 4050 or similar with 50,000 pages printed IMO is much better than a new cheapo home laser printer that will take forever to print a single page and have all manners of limitations (OK, it's big, but so what).

Best regards,
Andy

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Old 06-14-2012, 11:49 AM   #66
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Harry, thanks for the reality check about suitable iPad model. And also thanks for the reality check regarding pricing on PC vs Mac. The latter motivated me to do a cursory comparison of hardware to hardware, with reputable computer manufacturers, using real Intel chips rather than Intel clone chips.

I chose Hewlett Packard because I owned a HP Pavilion 5 years ago, and thought that was a good computer. So I just jaunted over to HP's online store, looking for a 13 inch notebook or laptop model that had hardware comparable to the 13 inch MacBook Air. The closest I found in a quick search was the HP Folio 13t-1000.

Let's compare that Folio with the MacBook Air. They both have 13 inch display, 4GB RAM, and 128GB internal flash storage. The Folio's display has less resolution, its Intel i5 processor is 2 GHz slower, it has an Intel HD Graphics 3000 compared to Intel HD Graphics 4000, and it weighs about 0.3 pounds more. But the Folio is $100 cheaper base price, has more ports and slots, has better battery time until recharge, and comes with optical drive. Optical drive for the MacBook Air is an external option (called Superdrive) for an extra $79, which to be fair would add about 0.8 pounds (including USB cable) to the MacBook Air's weight, making the Folio lighter overall by 0.5 pounds if the MacBook Air user wants an optical drive.

Those hardware specs seem relatively comparable. So $1199 + $79 for the MacBook Air vs $1099 for the HP Folio doesn't seem outrageously expensive, given the Air's better display, faster processor, and better graphics chip against the Folio's better battery time and more ports and slots.

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Old 06-14-2012, 12:00 PM   #67
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...At iPad prices, I'd suggest WiFi only, not WiFi + Cellular. I'd suggest 16GB storage may be a little tight, or 32GB storage more comfortable if she keeps most of her content on her computer and only loads tablet with music favorites, books currently studying, current work, current other entertainment, and so on....
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I agree with you. 32GB WiFi is a good compromise between price and capability....
I also agree. I have a 32GB Wi-Fi only 1st generation iPad, and the storage is far better than I'd hoped. Of course, I don't keep movies or videos on the device after they've been watched, but I do store a lot of text documents (Pages, etc.)

One word about the Wi-Fi: I bought a Virgin Mobile 3G hotspot ($20/500 MG per month plan) for those times when I need the Internet and I'm away from my home network. While it's adequate for surfing this forum, shopping, searching, and email; I wouldn't dream of attempting to watch movies online or visit graphics-intensive sites with it, although when connected to my home network it does all those things fine. But for $20 a month, it's hard to beat.
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Old 06-14-2012, 12:06 PM   #68
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Let's compare that Folio with the MacBook Air. They both have 13 inch display, 4GB RAM, and 128GB internal flash storage. The Folio's display has less resolution, its Intel i5 processor is 2 GHz slower, it has an Intel HD Graphics 3000 compared to Intel HD Graphics 4000, and it weighs about 0.3 pounds more. But the Folio is $100 cheaper base price, has more ports and slots, has better battery time until recharge, and comes with optical drive. Optical drive for the MacBook Air is an external option (called Superdrive) for an extra $79, which to be fair would add about 0.8 pounds (including USB cable) to the MacBook Air's weight, making the Folio lighter overall by 0.5 pounds if the user wants an optical drive.
Given the basis of your comparison, your figures are of course absolutely correct, but I think you need to ask what she's going to use a laptop for. I suspect the answer is that it will be used almost exclusively for web browsing, e-mail, and word processing, and for those tasks you don't need a high-end machine; any low-spec laptop will do absolutely fine. Of course it's nice to have a top-end laptop, and if she has the money, then it would be a nice thing to have; I was simply trying to point out a potential way of saving money.

Eg, A Dell Inspiron 14R (I'm very partial to Dell myself) has a 14" screen, a dual-core Intel i3 processor, 4GB RAM, 500GB hard disk, costs $499, and I'm sure would do everything that she required.

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Old 06-14-2012, 12:59 PM   #69
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OK, I'm no longer a student, but two considerations:

- what I absolutely NEED to have for my normal work (e.g. writing and reading documents and working with Excel) is a big display. I added a 200$ 24" FullHD Samsung screen for home office use and am totally happy with that over the tiny 1280*800 display of my notebook.

- I bought a used HP Laserjet 4050 some years ago for ~200$ on ebay from an equipment liquidator (they sell off used office equipment), and it is just so much better than any injket printer I have had back when I was a student. Of course, I can not print photos on it, but for text/copy it can not be beat IMO. Also, a LJ 4050 or similar with 50,000 pages printed IMO is much better than a new cheapo home laser printer that will take forever to print a single page and have all manners of limitations (OK, it's big, but so what).

Best regards,
Andy
Larger displays are nice, I agree. As a cash-limited student my niece will probably make do without one. If she needs one she can always buy it later. Though the Apple displays are high resolution and thus expensive, and I'm not sure how well other manufacturer's displays (probably cheaper but lower resolution) would work with screen output from a Mac. I haven't ever researched that.

For black and white I liked laser printer output for text, and also I recall having more trouble with cheap laser printers than with cheap inkjet printers. I haven't looked at printers for a few years so I don't know what all the options are now. I'm sure my niece can research them though. Also I never even thought about buying used, good, previously expensive office-duty laser printer. I had assumed that evolving printer technology and increasing print resolution would have made them obsolete. But you jogged a memory of exquisite high resolution color printing from a very expensive office laser printer (forget the manufacturer), on expensive special paper, and that the color supplies for it were phenomenally expensive -- about 15 years ago.

Last edited by unboggling; 06-15-2012 at 09:27 AM. Reason: Corrections explained downstream
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Old 06-15-2012, 03:59 AM   #70
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Larger displays are nice, I agree. As a cash-limited student my niece will probably make do without one. If she needs one she can always buy it later. Though the Apple displays are high resolution and thus expensive, and I'm not sure how well other manufacturer's displays (probably cheaper but lower resolution) would work with screen output from a Mac. I haven't ever researched that.
Apples displays are not of a higher resolution than the competition, apart from the new retina Macbook pro of course. You are paying for built quality, design and Apple research/branding.

Any screen will work fine with a Mac.

When that is said, the OP should probably ask the niece if she prefers Windows over OS X on the Mac. It is quite different to use, and most people that have tried both have their own preference. For simple uses as hers, I personally would recommend OS X, but let her choose her OS before the machine.
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Old 06-15-2012, 09:10 AM   #71
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I also agree. I have a 32GB Wi-Fi only 1st generation iPad, and the storage is far better than I'd hoped. Of course, I don't keep movies or videos on the device after they've been watched, but I do store a lot of text documents (Pages, etc.)

One word about the Wi-Fi: I bought a Virgin Mobile 3G hotspot ($20/500 MG per month plan) for those times when I need the Internet and I'm away from my home network. While it's adequate for surfing this forum, shopping, searching, and email; I wouldn't dream of attempting to watch movies online or visit graphics-intensive sites with it, although when connected to my home network it does all those things fine. But for $20 a month, it's hard to beat.
Thanks for confirming 32GB storage option as reasonable. And the Virgin Mobile 3G Hotspot sounds like a useful way to increase access if necessary. it's nice to know there's a solution for people who buy a Wi-Fi only model and then realize later that they need more access capability.

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Given the basis of your comparison, your figures are of course absolutely correct, but I think you need to ask what she's going to use a laptop for. I suspect the answer is that it will be used almost exclusively for web browsing, e-mail, and word processing, and for those tasks you don't need a high-end machine; any low-spec laptop will do absolutely fine. Of course it's nice to have a top-end laptop, and if she has the money, then it would be a nice thing to have; I was simply trying to point out a potential way of saving money.

Eg, A Dell Inspiron 14R (I'm very partial to Dell myself) has a 14" screen, a dual-core Intel i3 processor, 4GB RAM, 500GB hard disk, costs $499, and I'm sure would do everything that she required.
Ah. Now I think I know what I misunderstood earlier. I was hearing "Mac vs PC" in terms of OS, while you were meaning "higher end computer vs lower end computer" in terms of hardware, regardless of OS. Generally Mac models reside toward the higher end of the hardware continuum, while PC models from various manufacturers with various qualities of chips have more variety in hardware ranging all the way from lower end to higher end. Thus with PCs there are more choices for users who don't necessarily need higher end machines. For some reason I never considered it in that particular way before. Apologies for my obtuseness.

I got some clarification on her budget, there's a little more room than I'd thought. But we also discussed which option she'd prefer: (A) having inexpensive PC laptop and an iPad, or (B) a Mac laptop alone. She was definite and unwavering, choosing (B). She's grown up with a couple of old and tired un-high-end PCs that caused a lot of frustration with storage and RAM limitations, some OS problems, security scares, and frequent crashes. So after thinking all of this over, I agree a new Dell Inspiron 14R or equivalent probably would be adequate, but she'll probably choose a Mac option anyway.

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Apples displays are not of a higher resolution than the competition, apart from the new retina Macbook pro of course. You are paying for built quality, design and Apple research/branding.

Any screen will work fine with a Mac.
Thanks for clarifying. Those were bad assumptions on my part that needed to get straightened out.

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When that is said, the OP should probably ask the niece if she prefers Windows over OS X on the Mac. It is quite different to use, and most people that have tried both have their own preference. For simple uses as hers, I personally would recommend OS X, but let her choose her OS before the machine.
I don't know if she ever sat down with a Mac long enough to get a feel for Mac OS X. She does have experience with Windows already. The problem is that it takes people a while to get a good feel for a different OS that they're new to. Trying Mac OS X for an hour at an Apple Store is not the same as working with Mac OS X over time. That applies to any unfamiliar operating system. So the decision to "risk it" at first has to be based on reputation, advertising, or word of mouth.
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Old 06-15-2012, 11:41 AM   #72
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I don't know if she ever sat down with a Mac long enough to get a feel for Mac OS X. She does have experience with Windows already. The problem is that it takes people a while to get a good feel for a different OS that they're new to. Trying Mac OS X for an hour at an Apple Store is not the same as working with Mac OS X over time. That applies to any unfamiliar operating system. So the decision to "risk it" at first has to be based on reputation, advertising, or word of mouth.
All of this talk about OS differences reminds me of my decisions on this. As far as I am concerned it is the applications that I am interested in not the OS. The OS is just a way to run applications. For this reason I use a iPad but my main computer runs Windows. For my use there are many more applications that I want that only run on that platform.

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Old 06-15-2012, 11:47 AM   #73
HarryT
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All of this talk about OS differences reminds me of my decisions on this. As far as I am concerned it is the applications that I am interested in not the OS. The OS is just a way to run applications. For this reason I use a iPad but my main computer runs Windows. For my use there are many more applications that I want that only run on that platform.

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That's my reason for using Windows, too.
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Old 06-15-2012, 12:02 PM   #74
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That's my reason for using Windows, too.
Mine, also.

I love Apple's iOS (except for iTunes), but am underwhelmed by the Mac OS. The software that I need to run on a Windows system makes the choice an easy one for me. So I have an iPad, and Windows laptop and desktop.

When we talk about price comparisons, I agree with HarryT. It is true that a Mac laptop and a comparably equipped Windows laptop are in the same ballpark. But Windows laptops are also available in much less "robust" setups, at a significantly lower price point. And, unless she's starting her own space program, those less robust (and cheaper) machines would be more than sufficient. Apple has no such "lesser" options.
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Old 06-15-2012, 12:21 PM   #75
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It is true that a Mac laptop and a comparably equipped Windows laptop are in the same ballpark. But Windows laptops are also available in much less "robust" setups, at a significantly lower price point. And, unless she's starting her own space program, those less robust (and cheaper) machines would be more than sufficient. Apple has no such "lesser" options.
Yes, that was precisely the point I was making. Apple laptops are great - no doubt about it - but Apple don't give you the option of buying a low-end laptop for basic use, at a low price. Windows laptops do give you that option.
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