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Tech to school
Students have more gadget choices than ever

08/02/12
By John Andrews jandrews@hippopress.com



The approach of a new school year is an opportunity many take to purchase new computers. The definition of “computer” has expanded somewhat in the past few years, though, and some parents will be sending their kids off with more than one device.

First off, does your educational institution of choice (college, high school, whatever) recommend a particular computer? Or even, perchance, offer a discount? Take that into consideration by all means; the school’s IT staff is likely set up to support a particular model or two with more efficiency than others, so any tech problems can be addressed more easily. But one computer does not fit all. Everyone writes papers, but a graphic design student will have different needs than a science student: different software, different hardware requirements.

You can easily spend thousands on a really beefy computer, and while that’s small change compared to an overall college education, you’re probably already a bit strapped. So what’s useful these days?

Desktop: The old standby, the desktop computer, doesn’t get much respect nowadays. The PC era is over, gadget hounds and pundits declare, but you know what? They can be a good value. For the most raw processing and storage power, a desktop PC is absolutely cheapest. Desktops also possess one feature that can easily be viewed as a liability, but can be an advantage if you look at it the right way: they’re stationary. You can’t take them to the student union or the dining hall or the dorm lounge. You set it up in your room and it stays there. That means you stay there, concentrating on your work. There are also fewer opportunities for the thing to get damaged in a bag, underfoot, or by errant snack foods.

Laptop: Probably the default choice for most students, because who wants to be cooped up in a dorm room writing papers? There really are plenty of reasons to want a portable computer, and not just so you can “work” in that cute classmate’s dorm room. It’s pretty commonplace to take notes in class on laptops.

Writing a paper is a lot easier when you can take the laptop right to the library rather than lugging books or notes around. It’s also easier to collaborate with other students when teachers and professors assign those obnoxious group projects.

Tablet: Now we’re getting into some previously unavailable technology. If your school supports any tablet, it’s the iPad. A touchscreen certainly isn’t ideal for a term paper, but when paired with a Bluetooth keyboard, a tablet can actually be a fairly inexpensive replacement for a basic computer. It might work better as a complement to a desktop, though. Load it up with Kingsoft Office or OliveOffice for a free office suite solution. Its portability is even better than a laptop’s, and it’s guaranteed to make anyone cool. Well, geek cool.

Smartphone: A mobile phone is essential these days. What kind of phone is up to you: a basic phone for calls and texts or a smartphone that’s basically a small tablet with a higher monthly service charge. If you already have a smartphone, the case for getting a tablet is a bit harder to make, but it shouldn’t be a reason to forego a computer altogether. Content creation, meaning typing, is just not practical on a phone.

No matter what you get, it’ll be obsolete by graduation. Perfect time for a congratulatory gift, though.

Get smarter just by following @CitizenjaQ on Twitter.






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