My niece thanks you all for your information, recommendations, opinions, and discussion of issues regarding what technology would be useful for her to take to college. Your posts helped her be more informed in making her own decisions about what to buy and how much to spend.
A few days ago she bought a 15 inch MacBook Pro (base model: 2.3GHz, 4MB SDRAM, 500GB 5400 rpm serial ATA hard drive), Epson WorkForce 545 all-in-one printer, Seagate USB3 500GB external drive, iPad (32GB Wifi+Cellular), various accessories, and protection plans. She already owned an iPhone. Some of the items were on sale, some had education discounts. Overall she went slightly over budget but had enough savings to cover the difference. She had well-thought-out reasons for all of these decisions. She bought the hardware at Best Buy mainly because she wanted their Protection Plan's more extensive coverage than Apple's. She mentioned the local Best Buy's people were friendlier and more helpful than the local Apple Store's people, but there was also a friendly and helpful Apple rep working with customers for Apple products in the Best Buy store.
She was tired of dealing with PC/Windows problems at home and in high school, on many different PCs. She said her friends who had Macs at home were more positive about Macs, than her friends who had Windows PCs at home were positive about Windows PCs. She liked how Apple did things, based on her own experience with her iPhone and iPod Touch. She wanted her computer, mobile devices, and software all as compatible as possible, with minimal muss and fuss. The college said Mac OS X can run the applications she needs for school. But if she finds it necessary to run any particular Windows applications in future, she'll install Windows emulation or partition on the Mac at that time. Thus the decisions for Mac vs PC, and OS X vs Windows.
She plans to use this Mac for at least 8 years, college plus grad school. So she wanted the Mac model to be as capable and upgradable as possible within her budget. She chose notebook vs desktop for general portablity. She decided performance, upgradability, and display size were more important than weight and display resolution, because she can use iPad rather than Mac when quick and light mobility or Retina display is important. She liked the idea of a built-in optical drive on the Mac because she has a DVD movie collection. So she chose the base model 15 inch MacBook Pro.
She decided on the 32GB WiFi+Cellular iPad model because she expects to use it for 8+ years, won't have to pay for monthly cellular service until she needs it, and won't have to hassle with alternative cellular solutions for iPad when she does need the cellular capability.
During the past few days she set up accounts, transferred her files from the old family PC to the new Mac, installed many applications mentioned in this thread, and set up preferences in OS X, iOS, and applications. She set up security including malware scanner on Mac. She set up cloud storage/syncing across Mac, iPad, and iPhone for contacts, email, music, notes, etc. She set up the wireless printer and automatic backups to external hard drive. She did all of that without asking for technical help from family, friends, or venders.
Last edited by unboggling; 06-26-2012 at 12:48 AM.