Choosing The Best Laptop – A Computer Science Student’s Guide to Electronic Elation

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Let’s face it, when it comes to buying a new computer, even a person like myself; a Computer Science major is overwhelmed with the latest tech trends, the latest features, the latest everything.  People get into a bind of sorts, which computer do I buy?  Which brand is best?  Hopefully, this guide will help you in making an important decision. You see buying a computer is almost like buying a car.  You need to do research for both and here’s a few tips that could make the laptop buying experience a little more palatable.

  1. Take a look at what you currently have. This is a crucial first step in making the decision with regards to buying your next computer.  Assess and make a note of what features your current machine has.  For example, make note of the hard drive capacity which is measured in gigabytes (GB).  This is the part in which all music files, movies, and documents are stored.  Making a note of what are commonly referred to as the specs or specifications of your machine will show you what features are different in current laptops.

  2. Observe tech trends.  Taking step 1 into consideration, observing the tech trends in the consumer market is important because sometimes there could be a laptop that could be appealing in terms of all the specifications, but may cost at least $1000.00 and at other times the price may be more appealing than the specifications.  Therefore, observing the tech trends will help in striking that right balance between price and specifications.

  3. Steps 1 and 2 lead to this step which is figuring out the purpose of the next computer.  Ask yourself, what am I going to be using this new computer for?  Keeping in mind, the main purpose will take you one step closer to choosing the right laptop.  For example, being a Computer Science student, I work with a variety of applications other than Microsoft Office.  Since I have also taken up a hobby of developing apps for Windows Phone, I use an application called Visual Studio which takes up a lot of space on my hard drive.  Therefore, my next computer would need to have a larger capacity hard drive.

  4. Start shopping around.  This step is similar to step two, but this time you are getting a feel for what machines are out there. Don’t start here because once you start shopping around, you may feel confused and will most probably be overwhelmed and may not understand the meaning of the terms such as RAM, Graphics Card, Solid State Drive, etc…

  5. List options in terms of which machines appeal to you.  Here is where you have to make the decision. Is the machine that I am looking at (in store or online) worth the price at which it is listed?  This is now where you should be setting your budget for you laptop.  In this step, you are primarily concerned with finding out which correct specifications when put into one unit called a laptop fit my purpose?  Make sure you have a list of at least five different laptops with different specific specifications, and do not pay attention to the price.

6. Set your budget.  Here is where Suzie Orman, a well- known personality in the Finance industry would say, “Show me the money!”  However, aggressively eliminate and narrow your list down.  If you can identify a number of machines which somewhat satisfy the purpose which you have identified, you should see the number of laptops go down.  Ideally, it would really help if after all the evaluation, observing, and hard thinking, that you end up with the laptop.

7. Wait for it!  Here, do not hesitate when buying your computer.  The reason for this is that stores such as Best Buy, and Staples may have sales, especially around the holidays.  In such a scenario, you may notice that the laptop you are looking to buy could have the price drop, there may be an opportunity to apply various discounts, and you may even be able to score some freebies as well.  Trust me, people like myself would jump at freebies.  For example, online websites such as newegg.com have a promotion where you can get a free video game when you purchase your laptop, or even during the month of September about a year ago, Microsoft had this offer in which if a student was to purchase a brand new computer, the student would be able to bundle an Xbox 360 for free!  A game console and a new laptop?!  Who wouldn’t want that!  Therefore, timing your purchase will bring you one step closer to happiness and your wallet will definitely thank you!  I recommend that people purchase electronics in general around the Black Friday weekend.  Cyber Monday would still have good deals, but Black Friday is usually when shoppers get the most out of the purchase.

8. Buy the machine, now after all the head scratching, hard thinking, go ahead and buy your machine.  You have done the hard work finding the right device; now let the device work hard showing you that your investment was truly a wise investment.

Now here is an example of me going through the procedure that I outlined above:

  1. Currently my laptop has a first generation Intel i3 processor (the component in charge of booting up the computer), with 4GB of RAM (Random Access Memory which are the resources required for starting the computer, loading the operating system and also having the resources for applications or games to run), and 500 GB hard drive with a 14 inch screen and a battery that lasts me for approximately 7.5 hours on a single charge.  The major downside is that the laptop can be heavy at times, since I commute to campus.

  2. Overall, now that I will be starting my graduate studies in the Spring of 2014, I am looking for a new laptop which not only has a large capacity hard drive, and decent graphics, I’m looking for a laptop again with a decent battery life say about 6 hours or so and approximately the same screen size, and of course it should be lighter to carry. I also notice that many laptops now come with a very long battery life and some laptops are about 5 pounds or less in total weight!

  3. Therefore, the overall purpose is for using the laptop for schoolwork.  I would like for the laptop to enable me to take notes from class, but overall schoolwork (assignments and projects) is top priority.

  4. I begin looking around and notice exactly some of the trends that I mentioned in step 2.  There are laptops which weight around 5 pounds or less, and their battery life is at least 6 hours.  The hard drives are either Solid State Drives, which are basically like flash drives, or Hybrid Hard Drives which are a combination of the standard hard drive with a Solid State Drive partition in the same component.  This can help because the Solid State partition will contain many of the key files that are necessary for the computer to run and also the computer will be able to detect which applications are used the most.  Therefore, moving the file of the application (which in Computer Science is referred to as the executable file) to the Solid State partition.

  5. Now I had a list of machines in mind by the following three brands: Lenovo, Sony, and Asus.  Brands such as HP and Dell did not make my list because I have an HP currently and after I upgraded to the Windows 8 operating system, I found to my horror a broken escape key which actually was broken by a Microsoft store technician and recently my mouse button is coming off.  Dell I did not put on this list because Dell was the premier laptop to get back in 2005, and now I have been noticing that Dell has been declining in quality.  Lenovo has been really doing well with their newest laptops in which the laptop screen rotates back a full 360 degrees thus converting the laptop into a tablet. Sony has models that do the same thing as well, and Asus has a double-sided monitor.  On both sides there is a touchscreen.

  6. My budget for the new laptop is approximately $1,000.00 and this is such a high amount and I chose this amount because when I got my HP laptop back in 2010, the value of the computer then was about $1,000.00 as well.  Now 3.5 years later, practically my entire undergrad I have had to charge the laptop maybe about twice a week, then but now the laptop has been overheating.  Therefore, looking at the field of Lenovo, Sony, and Asus; my final choice has been to go with the Sony Vaio Flip 15A.

  7. The wait is killing me, because Black Friday was recently and I was able to find some greater deals!  For example, was able to get Office 2013 for about $80.00 when normally it would cost about $140.00 that is about a savings of $60.00 right there.

  8. All in all, it is only a matter of when to buy my laptop.  I have worked my tail off during my undergraduate career and Christmas is around the corner.  The Sony Vaio Flip 15A would really be a nice gift Mom and Dad! (hint, hint)!
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