Back to School Computer Buying Tips

Back to School computers for your kid

Choose the right 2 in 1, tablet, Ultrabook, laptop, desktop all-in-one, laptop, or smartphone to gear up your child for the school year.

With summertime winding down, it’s time for parents and kids to gear up for the school year and that means selecting the right technology.

With so many different types of devices being advertised today — from desktop PCs, laptops and Ultrabooks, 2 in 1s, phones to tablets — finding the right product at the right price is more challenging than ever.

School-bound students may know already what computer or smartphone they want, but these tips will help parents guide their child to make the right choice that fit their needs.

Dell Inspiron One 23 Touch AIO Desktop PC for back to school

Desktop PCs

If you’re looking for a computer that stays at home, consider a desktop computer. These aren’t the same bulky machines you may remember. In recent years, all-in-one (AIO) computers have combined a monitor with all the components into one sleek, space-saving device. Add to that a wireless mouse and keyboard and you don’t have to worry about messy cables until you hook up your camera, extra hard drive or other peripheral device. AIO computers often use a microprocessor, memory and optical drive designed for laptops, allowing them to run quietly and use less energy. Key things to keep in mind include:

  • Display resolution. Make 1920 x 1080 (the HD standard) your minimum choice. If you’re buying a machine with a large display (27 inches-plus), go for 2540 x 1440 to avoid seeing individual pixels.
  • CPU speed. Many AIOs have an Intel Core i5 processer, but a faster processor (such as a Core i7) will give the machine extra get-up-and-go your child will appreciate.
  • Memory. In terms of size, you’ll want a system with a minimum of 8 GB. However, you’ll also want to make sure it has extra memory slots to allow the addition of more memory if desired. Otherwise, you may have to replace all the existing memory to upgrade.
  • Inputs or ports. Look for a system with at least two USB 3.0 ports, a card reader and an HDMI input.
  • Choose carefully. Many AIOs can’t be upgraded, so you’re stuck with whatever you buy. This is especially true with your monitor and hard drive. Go upper-end with your display, processor, memory and hard drive size to keep your machine active as long as possible.

Asus UX 31 Ultrabook PC for back to school

Laptop and Ultrabook PCs

Laptops and Ultrabooks are still the essential machines for high school and college kids. They are portable and capable of doing just about everything from researching the Internet, writing papers and saving documents, watching and creating videos, and editing photos and designing presentations. Over the years, laptop prices have dropped, making them nearly as affordable as desktop computers, which for years have boasted more bang for the buck. But there’s a lot to consider when shopping for a laptop, including:

  • CPU type. Your main choices are dual core and quad core. Dual core-driven machines are suitable for those who primarily want to surf the web, create and share documents and stream messages. Quad-core laptops offer more power, but they’re also going to be louder, hotter and use more energy.
  • Screen size. As with AIOs, the higher the resolution, the better the image viewing, and the larger the screen size, the higher the resolution should be. Native resolution is 1366 x 768 pixels, but that’s best used for a 14-inch or smaller screen. Go with 1920 x 1080 (also known as 1080p) for 15-inch or larger screens.
  • Battery life. Compare products carefully here. Even a laptop that boasts it can get 8-plus hours in battery life is likely to get half that amount if you’re watching video. Also keep in mind that more powerful batteries weigh more.
  • Weight and thickness. Current laptops are already lightweight — anything above six pounds is considered a Winnebago. Newer laptops — particularly Ultrabooks — are practically paper-thin and feather-light, with some barely topping 2.5 pounds and a half-inch wide. But remember that sometimes “super light” can mean “not so durable.”
  • Choose carefully. Laptops generally can’t be upgraded in terms of memory, graphics card or hard drive. So, buy the best you can afford to give it the longest lifespan.

Lenovo Yoga 13 2 in 1 convertible PC for back to school

2 in 1 Devices

This newest computer category is designed for flexibility — people who want one device that combines Ultrabook computing performance with tablet-like mobility. With a 2 in 1 device, you can use a keyboard or touchscreen control, providing the best of both types of interaction. Because there are so many different designs there’s tremendous choice when you buy a 2 in 1. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re shopping:

  • Form factor. Knowing how the device will be used will help you choose a convertible style 2 in 1 device that will best meet your needs. Detachable models let you separate the keyboard from the display. Sliders remain intact but snap back and forth to reveal or hide the keyboard. Folding and twist models let you open it like a laptop then flip the screen around and lay it on top of the keyboard so it can be used as a tablet. There are also dual-screen models that offer one screen for tablet mode and another for laptop. Then there’s the Ferris wheel design, which allows the screen to spin around for use each mode.
  • Hinge. The hinge or other attachment mechanism will get lots of use moving between tablet and laptop modes. Look for a hinge mechanism that moves smoothly and is solidly built to withstand wear and tear.
  • Operating system. Many 2 in 1 devices run Windows 8 in both laptop and tablet mode, but soon there will be models that run both Windows and Android. These dual OS devices let you use Windows applications such as Office and Excel and applications available from the Google Play Store. When considering a dual OS device, look closely at how the devices moves between the different operating systems so you can shift back and forth quickly and easily.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1-inch Android Tablet for back to school

Tablets

As the middle ground between laptops and handhelds, tablets offer some of the flexibility of a laptop, thanks to their ability to run basic Office and Internet apps. They’re smaller, lighter and overall less expensive and powerful than their PC brethren. Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for a tablet:

  • Compatibility. Tablets are often designed to be companion devices that pair well with other products that run similar operating systems. For example, if your child has an iPhone or Android based smartphone with an extensive music, photo or game collection, he or she might be happier with an iPad or Android-based tablet.
  • Power users vs. readers. If your child is a multi-tasker who likes to run several applications simultaneously, you might be disappointed by the performance of a tablet, which for the most part are scaled down laptops). At the other extreme, simpler, less expensive digital readers such as the Kindle or Nook might suit the reading needs of most children.
  • Operating system. Most tablets use some version of the Android platform. Make sure yours uses at least version 4.0 (a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich) or the most recent version 4.3 (a.k.a. Jelly Bean). If you have a laptop or desktop computer that runs the Windows 7 or 8 operating system, keep in mind what OS you are using and choose a tablet with a compatible operating system if you want to use the same apps. If you have a MacBook, take note of what operating system its running and check to see if the new iPad is compatible.
  • Storage, processing and memory. Stick with at least 16 GB of data storage size, especially with an iPad, which cannot be expanded. That will allow your tablet to hold hundreds of apps, songs, photos and videos before needing to rely on so-called cloud storage services, many of which charge a monthly fee. Choose a dual-core processor, especially with a Windows tablet because the CPU determines what version of Windows you get and affects the capabilities and performance of the tablet. With system memory, you won’t have much choice, as most tablets carry 1 GB, but the 2 GB models are just starting to hit the market.
  • Ports. As with laptops, a Windows-based tablet can offer a number of ports for connection to other devices, and vice versa. These include USB, micro-USB and HDMI. iPads, on the other hand, offer one proprietary port for charging and data transfer, but also allow use of a dongle, or port adapter, for connection of a USB camera, SD card and HDMI-based products.

Nokia Lumia 925 Smartphone for back to school

Smartphones

If what your son or daughter needs is an upgraded smartphone, you’ve got a lot of research ahead due to the number of handhelds out there. Here are some basic things to keep in mind:

  • Call quality. Make a few test calls, checking for static, tinny sounding voice or interference and background noise.
  • Design. Make sure the smartphone is comfortable to hold behind your ear, and that you can hear callers without constantly adjusting the phone’s position. Also make sure it’s durable enough to handle the rigors of everyday use, and that storage cases are readily available.
  • Operating system. There are four main types available: Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS, BlackBerry’s OS, and Windows Phone. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but keep in mind that Google and Apple control most of the market, meaning most apps will be tailored to them.
  • Display and screen resolution. If your child plans to do a lot of web browsing or movie streaming, you’ll want at least a three-inch screen, measuring diagonally across the screen. For screen resolution, consider an AMOLED screen if you think they’ll spend a lot of time in bright light. Think strongly about a qHD display if there are a lot of video games or movies in the phone’s future.
  • Wireless Connection. Look for phones built with 4G, which can deliver good Internet experiences, including faster downloads and better video streaming. Also, be sure the device has built in Wi-Fi, which can be used at home, schools, cafes, airports and wherever Wi-Fi wireless Internet access is made available.
  • Camera quality. If your child is into photography, look for a phone with at least a 5 or 8-megapixel camera and has a built-in flash. If he or she plans to shoot video, make sure it’s easy to transfer video from the phone to a computer, a memory card, or to a social media site like Facebook or YouTube.
Back to School Computer Buying Tips

Back to School computers for your kid

Choose the right 2 in 1, tablet, Ultrabook, laptop, desktop all-in-one, laptop, or smartphone to gear up your child for the school year.

With summertime winding down, it’s time for parents and kids to gear up for the school year and that means selecting the right technology.

With so many different types of devices being advertised today — from desktop PCs, laptops and Ultrabooks, 2 in 1s, phones to tablets — finding the right product at the right price is more challenging than ever.

School-bound students may know already what computer or smartphone they want, but these tips will help parents guide their child to make the right choice that fit their needs.

Dell Inspiron One 23 Touch AIO Desktop PC for back to school

Desktop PCs

If you’re looking for a computer that stays at home, consider a desktop computer. These aren’t the same bulky machines you may remember. In recent years, all-in-one (AIO) computers have combined a monitor with all the components into one sleek, space-saving device. Add to that a wireless mouse and keyboard and you don’t have to worry about messy cables until you hook up your camera, extra hard drive or other peripheral device. AIO computers often use a microprocessor, memory and optical drive designed for laptops, allowing them to run quietly and use less energy. Key things to keep in mind include:

  • Display resolution. Make 1920 x 1080 (the HD standard) your minimum choice. If you’re buying a machine with a large display (27 inches-plus), go for 2540 x 1440 to avoid seeing individual pixels.
  • CPU speed. Many AIOs have an Intel Core i5 processer, but a faster processor (such as a Core i7) will give the machine extra get-up-and-go your child will appreciate.
  • Memory. In terms of size, you’ll want a system with a minimum of 8 GB. However, you’ll also want to make sure it has extra memory slots to allow the addition of more memory if desired. Otherwise, you may have to replace all the existing memory to upgrade.
  • Inputs or ports. Look for a system with at least two USB 3.0 ports, a card reader and an HDMI input.
  • Choose carefully. Many AIOs can’t be upgraded, so you’re stuck with whatever you buy. This is especially true with your monitor and hard drive. Go upper-end with your display, processor, memory and hard drive size to keep your machine active as long as possible.

Asus UX 31 Ultrabook PC for back to school

Laptop and Ultrabook PCs

Laptops and Ultrabooks are still the essential machines for high school and college kids. They are portable and capable of doing just about everything from researching the Internet, writing papers and saving documents, watching and creating videos, and editing photos and designing presentations. Over the years, laptop prices have dropped, making them nearly as affordable as desktop computers, which for years have boasted more bang for the buck. But there’s a lot to consider when shopping for a laptop, including:

  • CPU type. Your main choices are dual core and quad core. Dual core-driven machines are suitable for those who primarily want to surf the web, create and share documents and stream messages. Quad-core laptops offer more power, but they’re also going to be louder, hotter and use more energy.
  • Screen size. As with AIOs, the higher the resolution, the better the image viewing, and the larger the screen size, the higher the resolution should be. Native resolution is 1366 x 768 pixels, but that’s best used for a 14-inch or smaller screen. Go with 1920 x 1080 (also known as 1080p) for 15-inch or larger screens.
  • Battery life. Compare products carefully here. Even a laptop that boasts it can get 8-plus hours in battery life is likely to get half that amount if you’re watching video. Also keep in mind that more powerful batteries weigh more.
  • Weight and thickness. Current laptops are already lightweight — anything above six pounds is considered a Winnebago. Newer laptops — particularly Ultrabooks — are practically paper-thin and feather-light, with some barely topping 2.5 pounds and a half-inch wide. But remember that sometimes “super light” can mean “not so durable.”
  • Choose carefully. Laptops generally can’t be upgraded in terms of memory, graphics card or hard drive. So, buy the best you can afford to give it the longest lifespan.

Lenovo Yoga 13 2 in 1 convertible PC for back to school

2 in 1 Devices

This newest computer category is designed for flexibility — people who want one device that combines Ultrabook computing performance with tablet-like mobility. With a 2 in 1 device, you can use a keyboard or touchscreen control, providing the best of both types of interaction. Because there are so many different designs there’s tremendous choice when you buy a 2 in 1. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re shopping:

  • Form factor. Knowing how the device will be used will help you choose a convertible style 2 in 1 device that will best meet your needs. Detachable models let you separate the keyboard from the display. Sliders remain intact but snap back and forth to reveal or hide the keyboard. Folding and twist models let you open it like a laptop then flip the screen around and lay it on top of the keyboard so it can be used as a tablet. There are also dual-screen models that offer one screen for tablet mode and another for laptop. Then there’s the Ferris wheel design, which allows the screen to spin around for use each mode.
  • Hinge. The hinge or other attachment mechanism will get lots of use moving between tablet and laptop modes. Look for a hinge mechanism that moves smoothly and is solidly built to withstand wear and tear.
  • Operating system. Many 2 in 1 devices run Windows 8 in both laptop and tablet mode, but soon there will be models that run both Windows and Android. These dual OS devices let you use Windows applications such as Office and Excel and applications available from the Google Play Store. When considering a dual OS device, look closely at how the devices moves between the different operating systems so you can shift back and forth quickly and easily.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1-inch Android Tablet for back to school

Tablets

As the middle ground between laptops and handhelds, tablets offer some of the flexibility of a laptop, thanks to their ability to run basic Office and Internet apps. They’re smaller, lighter and overall less expensive and powerful than their PC brethren. Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for a tablet:

  • Compatibility. Tablets are often designed to be companion devices that pair well with other products that run similar operating systems. For example, if your child has an iPhone or Android based smartphone with an extensive music, photo or game collection, he or she might be happier with an iPad or Android-based tablet.
  • Power users vs. readers. If your child is a multi-tasker who likes to run several applications simultaneously, you might be disappointed by the performance of a tablet, which for the most part are scaled down laptops). At the other extreme, simpler, less expensive digital readers such as the Kindle or Nook might suit the reading needs of most children.
  • Operating system. Most tablets use some version of the Android platform. Make sure yours uses at least version 4.0 (a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich) or the most recent version 4.3 (a.k.a. Jelly Bean). If you have a laptop or desktop computer that runs the Windows 7 or 8 operating system, keep in mind what OS you are using and choose a tablet with a compatible operating system if you want to use the same apps. If you have a MacBook, take note of what operating system its running and check to see if the new iPad is compatible.
  • Storage, processing and memory. Stick with at least 16 GB of data storage size, especially with an iPad, which cannot be expanded. That will allow your tablet to hold hundreds of apps, songs, photos and videos before needing to rely on so-called cloud storage services, many of which charge a monthly fee. Choose a dual-core processor, especially with a Windows tablet because the CPU determines what version of Windows you get and affects the capabilities and performance of the tablet. With system memory, you won’t have much choice, as most tablets carry 1 GB, but the 2 GB models are just starting to hit the market.
  • Ports. As with laptops, a Windows-based tablet can offer a number of ports for connection to other devices, and vice versa. These include USB, micro-USB and HDMI. iPads, on the other hand, offer one proprietary port for charging and data transfer, but also allow use of a dongle, or port adapter, for connection of a USB camera, SD card and HDMI-based products.

Nokia Lumia 925 Smartphone for back to school

Smartphones

If what your son or daughter needs is an upgraded smartphone, you’ve got a lot of research ahead due to the number of handhelds out there. Here are some basic things to keep in mind:

  • Call quality. Make a few test calls, checking for static, tinny sounding voice or interference and background noise.
  • Design. Make sure the smartphone is comfortable to hold behind your ear, and that you can hear callers without constantly adjusting the phone’s position. Also make sure it’s durable enough to handle the rigors of everyday use, and that storage cases are readily available.
  • Operating system. There are four main types available: Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS, BlackBerry’s OS, and Windows Phone. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but keep in mind that Google and Apple control most of the market, meaning most apps will be tailored to them.
  • Display and screen resolution. If your child plans to do a lot of web browsing or movie streaming, you’ll want at least a three-inch screen, measuring diagonally across the screen. For screen resolution, consider an AMOLED screen if you think they’ll spend a lot of time in bright light. Think strongly about a qHD display if there are a lot of video games or movies in the phone’s future.
  • Wireless Connection. Look for phones built with 4G, which can deliver good Internet experiences, including faster downloads and better video streaming. Also, be sure the device has built in Wi-Fi, which can be used at home, schools, cafes, airports and wherever Wi-Fi wireless Internet access is made available.
  • Camera quality. If your child is into photography, look for a phone with at least a 5 or 8-megapixel camera and has a built-in flash. If he or she plans to shoot video, make sure it’s easy to transfer video from the phone to a computer, a memory card, or to a social media site like Facebook or YouTube.