It’s nearly back to school time: here’s info on buying a new PC

IMGP1554-smAs I posted on Twitter today, Joel Santo Domingo over at PC Magazine has published a new article, How to Buy a Back-to-School PC. He covers what you should consider when shopping for a new PC for back to school or for you home.

It’s helpful and timely information given the article I recently read from Jonathan Starkey on How to clamp down on spending for college, given how expensive tuition and housing are these days. Starkey said that "It all can add up quickly, but there are ways to stretch a family’s college budget."

This reminds me of my prior post, "What kind of a computer should I buy?" from late last year, with suggestions from Tony Hoffman of PC Magazine:

As per my previous Tweet, I recently updated my answer to a popular question around this time of year: "What kind of a computer should I buy?"  I noted that there is something for everyone, at all price points.  It seems that new PCs are high on many people’s holiday shopping lists, and the price:performance is better than ever before.

This week, Tony Hoffman from PC Magazine has posted a timely article on How to Buy a Bargain Laptop.

"Everyone likes a good bargain—the trick is distinguishing what’s truly a worthwhile deal from something you may regret after you’ve used it a while. We define bargain laptops as ones costing $1,000 or less, though you can find great deals at any price. These days, with retailers going the extra mile in an attempt to boost flagging sales, laptops that might otherwise be out of reach for the frugal shopper have been descending into the affordable zone. Here we’ll look at what you should be able to get for $1,000 or less."

As I noted, you can get a great computer these days for far less than $1,000 depending upon your use.  As I said in my previous post…

"For under $500 at one of the big box office stores (on sale or after rebates), you can find a name-brand notebook with a 15.4-inch screen with (as I concur with many of my associates) a decent 1280×800 resolution, Intel Pentium Dual Core T3200, 120GB HDD, 2GB of memory, six cell battery, Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100, 802.11b/g wireless and a CD/DVD Burner running Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic (splurge and get Windows Vista Home Premium for a few dollars). 

"For many general computer applications (surfing the ‘net, writing term papers, listening to music and watching DVDs, streaming video from Netflix) this would fit the bill. And more.

"This tops the 1.73GHz Dual-Core processor (T2080), half GB of memory, an 80GB drive and a double layer DVD Burner with Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic I noted last year for the same amount."  (Dec 17, 2008)

Today you can get a very good computer under $500 that includes just about twice as much computer as you  were able to get less than a year ago. I found one name brand OEM model with an Intel T4200 (2.0 GHz, 1MB L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB), 2GB of Memory, 160GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive, 14.1" WXGA 1280 x 800 LCD screen, SuperMulti 8X DVD+/-RW optical drive, Wireless-G Networking, on-board camera… 

Even consider the current crop of excellent mini laptops, like the HP Mini 110 XP Edition or crop of new mini notebooks that will arrive with Windows 7 (that’s what I’m waiting for after my positive experience with the Dell Mini, HP 2133 and 2140).

"For under $1,000, you can get a very nice 15" laptop with Core 2 Duo, 4GB, 320GB & DVD Burner (after current discounts).  Or even better if you’re looking for a desktop replacement with a bigger screen, I found a 17" (1440 x 900 resolution) notebook with an Intel Core 2 Duo T5800, 3GB memory, 320GB SATA Hard Drive, Intel 4500MHD Graphics, 802.11g wireless, 8X Slot Load CD / Dual Layer DVD+/-R Drive, 2.0M webcam, 9 cell battery, all running on Windows Vista Home Premium Edition SP1.  (Dec 17, 2008)

"Very nice when you consider a year ago the same amount got you a 17" widescreen with a Core Duo Processor (T2350), 2 GB of memory, 120GB hard drive and DVD SuperMulti drive. Ouch."

Double ouch: today that same $1K will get you a slim notebook with an Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 (3MB cache/2.0GHz/1066Mhz FSB), 4GB SDRAM, Widescreen 15.6" WLED LCD (1920×1080), 500GB Hard Drive, DVD+/-RW optical drive, 512MB discreet video card, Wireless-N, Bluetooth Module and an on-board 2.0 MP camera. Again, nearly twice the PC, and I didn’t look very hard for any big discounts, but I’m sure that you’ll see plenty as people return from vacation and the kids make their way back to class.

For just a little more (under $1,500 SRP before discounts), consider one of the slim beauties like the Dell Adamo, complete with a 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB of memory and a 128GB solid state drive in a very sleek package.

Not to mention the incredible deals on home desktop PCs: we added a new desktop PC at home with amazing specs for just about $600 that a year ago cost more than $1,200. You can also find great deals on mainstream desktop PCs for the home for $300-400, especially inexpensive if you have an existing monitor.

Below are the editor’s choices PC Magazine’s Back-to-School PC article…

  • Apple iMac (Nvidia GeForce 9400M)  Apple moves closer to the sweet spot with the iMac (Nvidia GeForce 9400M). This new all-in-one gives you the screen real estate you crave, along with strong multimedia capabilities, and the covetable Apple design, all for a reasonable price.
  • Dell Inspiron 545  The Dell Inspiron 545 gives users something they want: a bundled system with monitor that they can open and start using right away.
  • Compaq Presario CQ5110f  One of the least expensive dual-core systems out there, the Compaq Presario CQ5110f brings the power of dual core to the sub $400 level.
  • Lenovo IdeaCentre A600  With a love-it-or-hate-it design, the Lenovo IdeaCentre A600 gives the value PC buyer an all-in-one option that’s more powerful than that cheap nettop, though power users will want more.

If you’re kids use Macs at school, consider the Apple iMac. Personally, I like the mini form factor desktop PCs from Dell, HP, Lenovo and Acer not to mention the all-in-one designs like HP’s Touchsmart on my desk at home), and laptops from Dell, HP, Sony and Lenovo – but with so many to choose from, you’ll likely find a great PC that meets your needs and price point.

More info: Upgrade or buy a new one? Suggestions from the Seattle Times

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2 replies on “It’s nearly back to school time: here’s info on buying a new PC”

I recommend buying a netbook.


Netbooks are small, and the name correctly implies they are used primarily to get on the internet. It is best suited for work on the go and in school or any other situation where you need a computer but can’t afford to lug a ten pound laptop in a backpack. What’s more, they cost less than mainstream laptops which is an important point of concern in these days of hard economic times.

Agree with Andkon re mini notebooks: great for students especially when backed up regularly (like to a safely stored USB memory fob or SD card).

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