Advice to College Stuendts when buying a computer

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by iMacZealot, Aug 1, 2005.

  1. iMacZealot macrumors 68020

    Mar 11, 2005
    I am speaking from lots of experience and I definetly know what kind of computer to get for college. I thought this thread might consolidate many "HELP! I need to get a computer for school but I don't know which one!" threads. Here we go!

    • First and most importantly, get a laptop. Laptops are much more convenient than a desktop. My brother and sister went off to college, and my parents bought them an $1800 iMac G3 each. They both hated how they couldn't access their computer from the classroom or library. Now, if you are really going pro and the computer will be the center of your studies, then get what you need. If you do need a 2.7 GHz PowerMac, go for it. You'll want it for those giant projects. If you are a pro but don't need a 2.7 GHz PowerMac, then consider the PowerBooks. They offer good speeds and good graphics. However, for the average person, by all means get a portable.
    • Know the dominant platform your school uses. Most schools use the Windows platform, and MS Office is a good choice in that environment. Yes, iWork and AppleWorks both can translate, but sometimes they just don't work. You're better safe than sorry. Another problem is iWork doesn't have a spreadsheet application...yet. AppleWorks does, however it isn't fully compatible with MS Excel. If your school is mainly a Macintosh environment, such as the Berklee College of Music that requires you to buy a mac, then things don't matter so much. In that case, it doesn't really matter. However I recommend Office simply because Excel is in there and is more compatible with PCs. On the other hand, if money is an issue, such as you living in Canada, Office isn't too good on the budget, and in that case, I recommend iWork because AppleWorks is, and has, pretty much been phased out. Bottom line: if you can afford it, get Office.
    • Don't go all out for the top-of-the-line machine, but still get something that fits your needs. Each model has its pluses and minuses. For example, when we were buying my sister's PowerBook, we didn't know whether we should get her the 12 inch or the 15 inch. The 12" is 4.6 lbs and has 5 hours of battery life whereas the 15" weighs 1 lb more, its battery doesn't last as long, and is more expensive. However, the 15 inch did have a better graphics card, but the average user won't be able to tell the difference.
    • Another concern is how much RAM or memory to get. Well, I was using a 500 MHz G3 w/ 128 MB RAM on a 20 gig hard drive for a year trying to do internet, chatting, WP, and video editing. That didn't work out really. 512 MB RAM is not that bad. My G5 only has 512 and things are running very smoothly. Hard disks are a different story. I suggest to get the biggest hard drive you can without going overboard. You may think you don't use up a lot of space, but all that internet cache, e-mails, movies, iTunes music, and papers can really add up.

    If you're going into middle school or high school and think you need a computer, you don't. You can either use that "cave man" way and write on paper or just type it at home if your handwriting is really bad. If you really need to type in middle or high school, you can just pull out your PalmOne and do a HotSync. And, you'll be labeled "Geek of all time" if you lug an iBook to every class in 6th grade. It happened to some kids in my 6th grade class, and it wasn't pretty. However, I strongly advise that you have a computer at home to type essays and such as many teachers require students to type essays.

    I hope this helped you, and I hope it consolidates a lot of threads. If you have questions, post them below.
  2. Mechcozmo macrumors 603


    Jul 17, 2004
    If you are getting a portable, get the most VRAM possible. Can't upgrade it later like everything else.
  3. ChrisBrightwell macrumors 68020


    Apr 5, 2004
    Huntsville, AL
    This is the best advice you can give anyone, really.

    If you're buying an Apple notebook, max out the HDD and VRAM as much as you can afford to, since these are features that either can't be upgraded or are *really* expensive to upgrade down the road. You can buy after-market RAM and upgrade it yourself, but 512MB is more than adequate for most "normal" users.

    My fiancée and her cousin both bought stock iBook G4s several months ago and are wishing they'd listened to my "get the biggest HDD you can" advice. 30GB isn't cutting it, to say the least.

    My sister, on the other hand, picked up Bluetooth and the 80GB HDD (per my recommendations) and couldn't be happier. She never uses Bluetooth, but she appreciates that it's there. She's been shopping for a new mouse, though, so maybe she'll flip on that BT chip soon. :)
  4. orfanotna macrumors newbie

    Jul 30, 2005
    iWork costs $50 (with student discount), Office Student/Teacher Edition costs $100 (with a dubious limited time mail-in rebate, you still have to pay $150 up front), so how are they the same?
  5. gwuMACaddict macrumors 68040


    Apr 21, 2003
    washington dc

    or save the extra money you'll have to spend on a laptop and buy a nicer desktop...

    i NEVER needed a laptop in class. portability can be nice, but it's not the 'most important thing'
  6. emw macrumors G4


    Aug 2, 2004
    Make sure to get one that comes with a Spell Checking utility. ;) :D

    But I agree with the laptop advice - going less expensive with an iMac or mini, or whatever, may be better financially, but it limits you as to where you can use it.

    Many college kids share a room with at least one other person. Being forced to do your work in that room when the other person is watching TV or whatever is not a good situation. Having a laptop gives you options.

    Plus, you may want it in class for notes, distraction, whatever.
  7. Steven1621 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 10, 2003
    I personally would suggest getting a 12in notebook and an external display w/ keyboard and mouse. You get the best of both worlds with that setup.
  8. iMacZealot thread starter macrumors 68020

    Mar 11, 2005
    Oops. I had it in my head that iWork was $99. However, I still recommend Office over iWork until iWork actually has a spreadsheet application and more compatibility with Office.
  9. brepublican macrumors 6502a


    Jul 22, 2005
    Bowdoin sucks!!!

    JK :D

    12", external display and other paraphenalia is the way to go. Seriously. And thanks for the advice iMacZealot.
  10. Mood macrumors regular


    Jun 29, 2005
    most people don't need the extra vram. dual monitors is enough with 64 megs. if you're playing games, you should be looking at consoles or pcs.
  11. iMacZealot thread starter macrumors 68020

    Mar 11, 2005
    That may be you, but what happens when your roomate decides to have a boozeria in your room when you are cramming for your finals tomorrow? Okay, the boozeria part isn't too realistic, but it is nice to have a portable for when you're doing research in the library.

    Now, when it comes to research, many schools discourage you from doing research online because anybody can write a webpage and nobody checks the accuracy of those webpages. So, the only resources you have left are books, which have been written by professionals, have been checked for accuracy, and are found in a library, and libraries aren't in dorm rooms, so you'll have to leave your dorm room for research most of the time.
  12. grapes911 Moderator emeritus


    Jul 28, 2003
    Citizens Bank Park
    Do you know how many people purchased a laptop with the minimum VRAM about a year ago? They were the same people asking how to update their video card because they were pissed when they didn't get the ripple effect in Tiger. My rule is: If you can't upgrade it later, upgrade it at purchase.
  13. wPod macrumors 68000


    Aug 19, 2003
    Denver, CO
    yes, i couldnt agree more. if you live in a small dorm room with a roommate its hard to bring a group of people over to work on your computer for a group project. its much easier to bring a laptop to a central location. if you live off campus in an apt its often hard to get every to that location so again a laptop can be brought to a central location. also laptops are good if you go to a computer lab and it is full. you will always have your laptop with you and wont have to worry about a full lab.

    i completely agree. i have the rev A PB with only 32mb VRAM and it is sad that i cant get the full 'coolness' of tiger. the more vram/HD you get now, the longer the technology will be current.

    i think there are 2 important things to get with your computer.
    1) everyone should get an iPod shuffle or some sort of thumb drive for moving data. . . come on, noone uses a floppy drive anymore.
    2) if you do go portable and get a laptop get a second power supply. you will wear one out really quickly if you roll it up take it to class and unroll it all of the time. its much easier if you have one set up at your dorm or wherever you mainly use the computer. then have the second one stored in your bag and ready for when you go to class or wherever.
  14. Patch^ macrumors regular

    Mar 11, 2005
    Great Britain
    Thts gr8 advice, i was deciding between the 2.0 and 2.3 powermac, cuz the 2.0 was cheaper and let me upgrade it to the X850 at the same price as the 2.3, however if i buy the 2.3 i can upgrade the Graphics card later.

  15. Steadmuffin macrumors member

    Jul 10, 2005
    For Canadian students, AppleWorks and iWork are a much more affordable combo than Office since iWork is $65, AppleWorks is free, and Office costs a whopping two-hundred bones.
  16. ChrisBrightwell macrumors 68020


    Apr 5, 2004
    Huntsville, AL
    I'll remember that next time I win an UT2K4 tournament w/ my Powerbook.
  17. Capt Underpants macrumors 68030

    Capt Underpants

    Jul 23, 2003
    Austin, Texas
    You need to take the crap about High School students not needing a computer out, or atleast edit to say you don't need a computer on campus.
  18. tuartboy macrumors 6502a


    May 10, 2005
    Uh, who ever used or even needed a computer in high school? I took calc and physics, and we always used the school's for that and never did i ever need one for anything else.

    Hell, if i would have taken one I would have gotten in trouble
  19. Capt Underpants macrumors 68030

    Capt Underpants

    Jul 23, 2003
    Austin, Texas
    Like I said... edit it to say "if you are in high school and you think you need a computer on campus, you're wrong". Saying that high school students don't need computers is crazy.

    There's a private high school around here where notebooks are required!

    Glad to know you took calc and physics.
  20. anonymous161 macrumors 6502

    Apr 15, 2003
    Where the wind comes sweeping down the plains
    a. First and most importantly, when starting a thread about computer suggestions for college students, make sure to spell all the words in said thread title correctly. :rolleyes:

    b. Second, read above mentioned thread thoroughly to avoid making the same bad joke as another member. Disregard this statement if you enjoy looking like an ass. :)
  21. crackpip macrumors regular

    Jul 23, 2002
    The cost of office for students at different universities is dependent upon agreements made between M$ and the university. At my university, Office is $11 whereas iWork is $50.

    Not that I consider $11 worth it for Office. The incompatibilities between Mac and PC versions of Office drive me nuts! I make sure any collaborations I'm involved in employ PDF.

    For word processing, I use Xcode and TexShop. For presentations I use Keynote and the pdf's created in TexShop. If I need a spreadsheet, which is rare, I'll use Open Office. For plotting, I often have to use specialized plotting packages to handle my generated data. But, if I had to make simple plots, I might give gnuplot a try; Excel plots are just too ugly to use in a professional setting.

    Viva MacOS X!
  22. Alone2Gether macrumors regular


    Jul 27, 2005
    addressing to section b:
    There is a version of Office for the mac. Office 2004. But yea, definitely figure out what programs your school uses most frequently.
  23. ajampam macrumors regular


    Jul 31, 2005
    Oh it is VERY realistic all-right....I had the exact same experience, not before a final, but before a departmental research proposal meeting....and in comes my room mate....and his already floating in booze buddies....I only had a Sony laptop at that time, but as far as the portability of a notebook is considered, a very vital thing for college students....also when we go for important conferences as graduate students, that is the classic time for USB drives, etc to crash...I have saved m hide many a times having a laptop around with all my stuff on it......
  24. After G macrumors 68000

    After G

    Aug 27, 2003
    The convenience of a laptop can be very nice for a college student (I have one). However, don't knock a desktop if you don't have a high budget. I got along fine with a desktop until I found it much too inconvenient to leave my work in the dorm/apartment. Then the higher expense of a laptop justified itself to me in terms of increased productivity. There are always alternatives to buying your own laptop. The labs in my school only close for two hours a week for cleaning. The library lets you check out laptops for 4 hours at a time. I say go for the best you can get with your money, but consider your needs carefully. You can get an awesome desktop for what you would pay for a crap laptop. And if you don't really need the latest and greatest, you will have extra money for "extracurricular" activities and other cool swag besides computers. Heck, you probably won't even be in front of it 90% of the time if you're even halfway sociable, and an even better computer will come out in a year or less.
  25. xparaparafreakx macrumors 65816

    Jul 29, 2005
    Well guess I made a mistake asking my parents for my TiBook in 9th grade. Well after reading this I still dont reget it. It is so nice to have a TiBook to work on my powerpoint on the go and being able to use InDesign on this computer instead of the old P2 machines with 1024x768 Rez. BTW they decided to upgrade those machines to P4. I understand how most kids dont need a laptop in highschool.

    Since it looks like people are giving advice here about computers, what should I do with this TiBook 1Ghz? I have an option to get another computer at the end of my senior year 2006 with a budget of $3,000.

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