Columnist Marc Saltzman guides parents on how to shop wisely for school computers in this Surf Report Week.

Good news for students (and parents) faced with the inevitable update of the computer: there is no never had a better time to buy one.

more options than ever before – in terms of size and shape, brand and specifications ("specifications") – but there are some offers Although choosing the right device to match your needs and your budget can be an overwhelming task.

The following should help you decide what is best for you. student in your house, divided into different ages

up to the 6th grade

Although it is not as popular as laptops, a stationary desktop might be the best for younger students. Not only are they cheaper, on average, but they can be kept in a busy area of ​​the house, such as a kitchen or family room, so that mom and dad can monitor where the kids are connecting.

Because they're not designed for on-the-go use, desktop computers are also less likely to be damaged; they sit in one place and can not be hit or dropped as easily as laptops. Larger (and perhaps curved) keyboards and external mice are also more "ergonomic" than a laptop keyboard and trackpad, and better for smaller hands.

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There are two main types of desktop computers: a tower that connects to a monitor and an "all-in-one" computer, where the guts of the machine

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The advantage of the old is that you can easily upgrade components, over time, like adding a larger monitor, more storage or memory, or a better graphics card ( something that computer players often like to do). However, all-in-one machines take up less space and do not have exposed cables, but are not as easy to upgrade.

College, high school

MacBook (Photo: Apple Inc.)

Preadolescents and Teens Spend More Time out of the house and portability is therefore more important than for young people.

Decide the size of the most logical screen, with 14 or 15 inches as a "sweet spot" popular between a screen too small (more difficult to use) and something too big (and therefore heavier, and with a lower battery life, in general)

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When it comes to it? For the operating systems, you have to ez three main choices: Windows, which is the most popular platform (and with the most choice in devices); macOS, which is more expensive but is very well built; and Chrome OS, which are the cheapest, but do not support as many programs or have a lot of local storage (most applications require an Internet connection).

Some parents buy a tablet from their kids with a wireless keyboard, but a real laptop is a better option for several reasons. A laptop gives you more screen real estate to work with your programs and perform several tasks between them. Laptops tend to have a lot more storage, and they have USB ports and SD card to easily get files on and off the computer. And the clamshell design of a laptop helps protect the screen when it is not being used.


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HP Envy (Photo: HP Development Company, LP)

Another option, however, is a computer "2-in -1 ", which is a laptop when you need it and a tablet when you want it. Depending on the model, the screen looks at 360 degrees when you no longer need the keyboard So, You can use the fingertips (or the stylus) on the screen as a tablet and in other cases, the screen will come off completely from the laptop, which you can take away with you to watch games, movies, TV shows, music, etc. 2-in-1s are usually Windows 10 computers.

Middle School

Mobility and power are important qualities to have in a computer built for those who study at the university or college

and 2-in-1 can last up to 15 hours, which is considerably longer than the laptops that debuted just a few years ago. This is because of better processors (like the Intel Core 7 th generation processors) and operating systems that sip rather than swallow power, SSD storage instead of power. a hard drive, which is better on the battery (as there are not moving parts), and better battery technology, too

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It is extremely important that college and university children first assess their needs. Depending on the program, it may require more power than an entry-level computer – such as studying animation, video editing, or video game programming – or the course. may require a Mac on a PC, depending on the required software

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In other words, do your "homework" before you buy.

Also, when budgeting a university computer, try to buy a PC or Mac that could last 3 or 4 years. of your program. If the budget allows, stretch a little bit to buy one with better specifications, which may cost more in advance, but that means you probably will not need to worry about it. buy a new computer a year or two later

buy a computer for school, it's like buying children's clothes: go a little bigger than what you need today So you can save money in the long run.

Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. Send him an email to

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