Which computer should I buy for university?

Tips from a student who has trouble resisting Apple


Buying a new computer is sort of like choosing classes. At first it seems like the possibilities are endless, with all kinds of fascinating options.

Then you remember all of your required courses, you notice that you don’t have any of the prerequisites for that cool Psyc. class, and that interesting microbiology course is only available at 8:00 a.m., rendering it suddenly less interesting.

So you compromise. You take that histology lab that’s more boring than the first two hours of Titanic, but hey, at least you’ve crossed a required course off the list.

If you’re looking for the perfect laptop, computer or tablet for the new school year, similar compromises are required. Here are a few tips for getting the device that best fits your needs:

1. Don’t compare Apples to Apples. Compare them to PCs.

Never mind iTunes. Apple’s real strength is mind control. After watching slick commercials for the Macbook Air—with upbeat pop songs and phrases like “unibody aluminum frame”—your brain is reprogrammed with a single goal: purchasing a laptop that fits into a manila envelope.

I’d like to say that I’m immune to advertising, and that I actually stopped and wondered, “Will I ever actually have any reason to put my laptop into an envelope? Why is that even a good thing?” But in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you this blog post was written on a Macbook.

If you overcome the impulse to buy all Apple, you could get similar quality for a better price. For instance, instead of a $2,200 Macbook Pro, you might want to consider the $1,500 Asus G75VW that features the same processor, six times the storage, a bigger screen and better resolution.

2. Budget.

It’s easy to get carried away with upgraded processors and terabyte-sized hard drives, but if you’re a student, you probably don’t need them and you probably can’t afford them. Luckily, there are numerous products for penniless students who want those luxuries anyway. Instead of the $500 iPad, check out the Nexus 7. It lacks 3G and its screen is smaller, but so is the price tag—a much more manageable $199. You could also spin the small screen size and absence of 3G as advantages: it’s ultra portable (so easy to bring to class) and you can’t check Facebook as easily.

3. Ask yourself: do I really need a new computer?

A shiny new laptop beckons with its quad-core processor and super fast CPU, but do you really need it? If you’re just going to use it as an essay and Wikipedia machine, do you really need a cutting-edge graphics card? Is a 10-hour battery really necessary, when lectures are less than three? Does it really matter if a laptop is 0.54 inches thick? Your old computer might work just fine.

But if that’s your plan, don’t watch this. If you’re anything like me, resistance is futile.

Scott Dobson-Mitchell is a Master of Science student at Wilfrid Laurier University.


Which computer should I buy for university?

  1. instead of $1,500 Asus G75VW, why not 900 lenovo y580,that features the same processor, graphic card? but only 15.6 inch…and who carries a 17inch mega laptop to class….

  2. Scott hit the nail on the head when he said that Apple is all about mind control. They build very stylish products that are priced high but fall short in the important areas of value and ruggedness. Think of them as designer label clothing. The price is much higher but the pants don’t work any better!

    Until recently I worked in the IT business for a branch of the Canadian Government. We had about 300 computer systems of which about 15% were Apples. They caused over 50% of the hardware problems. That “unibody aluminum frame” Scott mentioned is so weak that if you put it into the seat back pocket of the airline seat in front of you and the passenger in that seat leans back hard the case bends and cracks the glass of the screen. We lost several that way – and repair is not covered by normal warranty and is un-economic if you have to pay for it yourself. The Macbook Air’s battery is built in so when it fails (as most laptop batteries will in 3 or 4 years) you have to send the machine in for service rather than just popping in a new battery. I believe this is a poor engineering choice made just to achieve the bragging rights of having the thinnest laptop. When I started having to support Apples I got a Powerbook to learn on. It spent about 2.5 years of it’s 3 year warranty at the dealer undergoing repair. The dealer acknowledged that the machine did not work properly, but it proved impossible to fix – and they tried VERY hard. At the end of the warranty they said they could not even try any more. I phoned Apple (had their number on speed-dial) and asked what they were ging to do about it. At first they said they would not do anything about repairing an out of warranty machine, but whan I asked the rep to look at the repair history of the machine on his computer he literally gasped – and then said he would send me a new current model laptop immediately. I thought I had been reasonably treated until about 2 weeks later Apple yet again brought out new models with yet again a different type of CPU thus obsoleting all previous models.

    Also, watch out for the Apple dealers. There are several in my town. I dealt with three of them. One was great – very helpful and honest. The other two engaged in “sharp” business practices such as buying a machine from Apple with minimal RAM and disk space, removing the Apple supplied RAM and disk and installing less expensive third party RAM and disk to meet the required specifications and then selling us the machine with an Applecare extended warranty that they claimed covered the entire machine. Obviously Apple will not provide warranty on parts they did not supply! No two ways about it – the dealer’s actions were fraudlent!

    I fully expect to be flamed by those people who have succumbed to Apple’s mind control but I assure you that all of the incidents recounted were experienced by me presonally in the course of my IT work. Honestly – Some are so strange I would not have the imagination to make them up!

    What am I typing this on? I have a $600 Dell laptop that I have beat the heck out of for 4 years and it is still going strong. Not much style but lots of good basic value and ruggedness.


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