Be a Techie – Part Deux of Technology for Students

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Posted 02 Sep 2007 in Soulville, Technology

Ok, ok, I know this is a week late (I’m not a slacker, I promise). But here is the followup to my previous Technology for Students post. Here, I’m reviewing some of the computer products I mentioned to give you an even better idea about them.


Cheap Laptop:

I really like the Acer 3680 that’s only $400 at It comes with 512 MB of RAM which should be enough to do basic school work and watch that DVD you just borrowed and is expandable to 2 GB which is enough for the serious gamer. The 14.1″ widescreen is a pretty nice size, as are the rest of the specs: 80GB hard drive, DVD-ROM (reads only) and CDRW combo drive, the 5-in-1 memory card reader, and the Wi-Fi card. It is a little over 5 pounds, which is a little heavy, and doesn’t have a fancy soundcard but hey – can’t have everything right?

Midrange Laptop:

While there are many I really like in this category (including my own Dell Inspiron E1505), Frys has a Toshiba A215 (currently on sale for under the normal price of $849) that I like. It’s an AMD chip which is a plus, 1 GB RAM and a 200GB hard drive. There is a DVD multilayer burner (which also burns CDs), it’s a 15.4″ widescreen and it’s wireless with a ton of USB ports and Firewire, so you can use the broadband and network cables you already have. It’s also got an S-Video out (to connect to a TV with the right cables) and a 5-in-1 memory card reader. The only downside is that it comes with Vista, though certainly the geeks at Frys can change that out for you at little cost. This same laptop is on, so if there is a Microcenter store near you, buy online and go pick up in the store!

High Range Laptop:

I’ll review a smaller laptop for this category – the Dell XPS M1330 is a pretty nice and compact laptop. If you pick the “Best” Option (dell gives you Good, Better, Best customization options), you get a 13.3″ widescreen, can custom pick XP for your operating system, 2 GB RAM and a 160 GB hard drive. It’s wireless N, which is all the latest rage (yet you’ll probably still be running on G for a while….N is the newest and fastest). You get McAfee already installed with a 15 month subscription and can pay a little over the already $1994 price tag to have Office installed before it’s shipped. If you’re like me though, Office is free at your university from the tech dept. At about 4 pounds, this will be one hot laptop so make sure you grab some security features!

Laptop Accessories:

Make sure you get a bag big enough for your laptop. I use a laptop sleeve and a regular backpack to deter theft and to give me the option to use multiple bags to carry my laptop safely. Also, many laptop locks can be popped with a Bic pen (there are videos and how-to’s all over the internet on how to do this) so find other ways to keep your stuff safe (don’t get up and leave it in the library while you go potty, lock your dorm room door, etc).

Cheap Desktop:

Once again, I’ll defer to for the cheapest item – the Compaq Presario SR2163WM. At $299 it’s a steal. I’ve got one similar to this that I purchased from Microcenter for about $100 more (has more RAM and a bigger Hard Drive) but I love it. It doesn’t come with a monitor, but remedy that by searching Microcenter or Frys or by going to Tiger Direct and finding one of their really super cheap deals on LCDs. It has 512MB RAM (upgradeable to 2 GB), 160 GB Hard Drive and a super cool Lightscribe CD/DVD burner. It has a 5.1 channel surround sound sound card and an ethernet card plus empty bays in the computer to add more coolness later. It comes with a mouse and keyboard.

Midrange Desktop:

Since it’s back to school time, Dell has big discounts on everything. Right now they have an Inspiron 531 desktop on sale with a monitor included for $599 with free shipping. The monitor is a 19″ widescreen LCD from Samsung. The system has 2 GB of RAM, a 320 GB Hard Drive, a DVDRW burner (burns CDs as well), and is super upgradeable. If you have the $600 it’s worth the deal.

High Range Desktop:

Strangely, the high range desktop costs the same as the mid range ($600) and rightly so. From Frys, this refurbished HP Pavilion Media Center m7550n desktop system includes 2 GB of RAM, a 400 GB Hard Drive, a Super Multi DVD Burner with Lightscribe, a tv tuner (watch TV on your desktop), a 15-in-1 memory card reader, plenty of USB slots, firewire AND a remote control. Again, the downside is it now has Vista but many stores do have techs that can change that for you pretty easily.

Though I just covered the computers here, there are plenty of reviews out there for all of the other products at CNet and elsewhere on the internet.

Check me out next week!

HarriMac enjoys a well lived life with a large serving of soul. Her special feature, Welcome to Soulville, appears regularly!

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