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Granddaughter #2 is graduating and the family is chipping together to get her a laptop for college.  Any recommendations of specific brands?  She said it didn't matter as long as it was sturdy and had a huge hard drive.  She's going to be an engineering student.

I think most of the basic stuff is pretty standard, I'm mostly interested in the "sturdy."  And reliable.

Betsy
 

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For laptops, I've always had good luck with HP. HP has always been reliable for me
 

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We tend to buy Dells because that's what I have at the office and we have had good luck with them.
Most manufacturer's now have essentially an Accidental Damage policy that can be purchased and covers the laptop even if it's something that would normally void the warranty - kind of like the Square Trade thing for the Kindles.  If you can get something like that added, it will give you (and her) some extra piece of mind.  Also make sure to include a large capacity external hard drive so she can keep regular backups - essential in case of a crash!
And I'm sure you already know this, but don't spend extra money to purchase Microsoft Office.  She will be able to get it MUCH cheaper as a student :)
 

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You can get SquareTrade on the laptop as well.
I've been happy with Dell. I second what Andra said about MS Office. She can get much cheaper as a student. If she has required software, I'd wait to get that as well. The student bookstore here offers student discounts on Adobe and AutoCAD software, along with a few others.
 

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With her being an engineering student, ignoring brands of the actual laptops, you will probably want to make sure you get her a powerful one of whichever sort you choose. Engineering programs can be massive and use quite a lot of resources, so I would probably stick with Intel chips and get her an i7. It's going to be a little pricier, but CAD programs are resource hogs. You also want to make sure you get at least a 2.3 ghz chip. You'll see i7 chips running under 2.0 for a lot cheaper, but that's because they're far less powerful. RAM is another thing to look at, but it should be easy enough to upgrade (I'd suggest 4GB at the very very least). With external storage, and even cloud storage, becoming cheaper and bigger you can get away with sacrificing drive space if you have to, but that does mean she'd need to make use of those other options.

Another thing to consider is the keyboard layout. A lot of laptop keyboards eschew the numberpad on the side to conserve space, but as an engineering student she'll be doing a lot of math and trying to input figures using the numbers along the top row of the keyboard is a pain. You -can- get external keypads that will plug in by a USB if it's difficult to find a laptop with them. The mouse is another concern... actually....

To be perfectly honest I wouldn't dream of making a laptop my only computer for those sorts of classes. I don't know if she'd be using CAD or the like because I am the only person in my family who actually -isn't- an engineer, but I do know all of them have used it in one way or another. I've played around enough with the CAD programs to know that they would be a bear to use without a mouse. What I would do, if the budget allowed it, is get her a powerful desktop computer from a company that builds them to order, not from Dell or Gateway, then get an Acer netbook for toting to classes.

Doing just a quick bit of research, I found that this is supposed to be pretty nice for folks wanting decent power at a lower price. It's an i5 instead of an i7, but is running at 2.53GHz. It only has 4 gigs of RAM, I would really consider going up to 8 if it can support it. It does have the keypad though, which I think is an important feature. I despise Dell and would never buy a desktop computer from them, but when it comes to Laptops you're pretty stuck buying them from a brand name and Dell is pretty decent when it comes to laptops. Here's the link to it on Amazon... And I will say in closing to stay away from Toshibas no matter what you decide.

 

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Check with the university where she's studying -- they will probably have suggestions and/or you may be able to get a discount by purchasing through the school.  At the least you'll know the minimum that the school wants her to have -- and then get anything past that you can afford in terms of memory/processing speed.  Purchasing through the school also frequently includes tech support while she's there which can be a good thing if her usual tech support 'team' is not with her at college. :)
 

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I agree that Dell is a nice entry level computer, especially when you can customize it a bit and watch the price.  I had Dell computers throughout my college years and it was perfect.  Like Ann, I would ask the school. 

I would say about 10-20% of those entering college my first year had a Mac and many of them had SO many issues connecting to the school's network, it took them at least a week or so before tech got around to each dorm hall or commuter lounge to correct network issues.  If people had read the notice or asked the school what type of computer works best, they would've known that though Mac do "work", our school is mainly a PC campus.  I'm sure it's probably easier for Macs on my old campus now, but it was a complete pain for one of my roommates who had the only Mac in our group as we all had online discussion boards for our classes which a chunk of our course grade depended on.  So she had to walk to the computer lab or use our computers while waiting for tech who were swamped and couldn't tell her when they were coming but would need access to her computer when they do arrive.  This was only the beginning of the school year.

Tris
 

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Find a student already at the school (I know it's summer and difficult) who is already taking/has taken the coursework she will be taking, they can steer you to the ones that will work for her.
 

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It depends on how she plans on using the computer. If she plans On taking notes in class, one would have to consider battery life and weight.

Personally I use a mini HP and a wacom bamboo pen and touch tablet with microsoft's OneNote program. This way I can type notes via keyboard and draw on board illustrations via pen tablet. I take notes for school to help balance tuition. So this method of notetaking in easier for me.

PS: if u plan on getting the Microsoft Office programs for her it usually easier cheaper for her to buy it from the school book store. For three licenses for all the office programs usually runs 400+ dollars. At my school store it runs for 99.99.
 

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My wife and I have purchased two Acers at Costco.  Work great.  Bells and whistles standard.  Reasonably inexpensive.

Like Nike, I think you pay a lot for the name with Dell.

I hate HPs, ( :p) period.  Bad experiences.
 

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It might be a good idea to contact the engineering department of any University and talk to the one of the student engineering organizations.  They will have advice on issues "we" will not think of.

Do some investigation on needed software and if possible buy it pre-installed.

This will be your granddaughter's most important tool during her college years, go for the best hardware/software that finances allow.

When not "Kindleboarding", my computer is used for science/engineering.....I have a 17" Dell which I mainly bought for the numeric key pad.  This is a must for any engineering application.  The Dell has several hard years and may miles on it......only complaint is the weight......very heavy when traveling.  That will be a student issue as well.

Good Luck
 

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NapCat said:
When not "Kindleboarding", my computer is used for science/engineering.....I have a 17" Dell which I mainly bought for the numeric key pad. This is a must for any engineering application. The Dell has several hard years and may miles on it......only complaint is the weight......very heavy when traveling. That will be a student issue as well.

Good Luck
I purchased a 17" Dell for myself last fall. I was carrying it in a messenger bag and yeah, the sucker is heavy! Last week I ordered a Swiss Gear Ibex backpack. Its FANTASTIC! And has a ton of room for the other things I carry. It has replaced my purse. Here is the Amazon link, but I got it from Dell for $20 less with free shipping! It really pays to look around. http://www.amazon.com/Swiss-Gear-17-Inch-Notebook-Backpack/dp/B000WQCYDI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1307107059&sr=8-2
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks for all the great help, y'all! As usual, you were right on target. I did ask a friend whose daughter had gone to Princeton (not where GD#2 is going) for an engineering degree and he also suggested that we go through the school, which might have a purchase program. Because of that suggestion and the suggestions here, I finally found this on the school's website:

We are often asked to recommend computer specs for incoming engineering students. The campus has established the ACT program with both Dell and Apple. Typically, we recommend the higher level of Dell laptop hardware for Engineering students, with the following specs:

Integrated wireless network connectivity
Intel® Core™ i5-520M, 2.4GHz
14.1" or 15.1"Wide Screen WXGA LCD Panel
2GB or 4GB DDR3-1066MHz SDRAM, 2 DIMMS
Internal English Keyboard
512MB NVIDIA® NVS 3100M™ with ExpressCard
250GB Hard Drive, 7200RPM
Standard Touchpad
No Floppy Drive
Windows® 7 Professional, 32-bit with media
90W A/C Adapter
4 Year Limited Warranty plus 4 Year NBD On-site Service and CompleteCare
This program provides a depot level, local support service for machine purchased under it.

We do not recommend purchasing any software other than MS Office before arriving on campus. Depending on the major, the necessary software can change.

We have also implemented a Citrix environment where many of the packages will be available online in our "Virtual Lab", so we advise delaying the software purchases as long as possible.
So y'all were spot on with the requirements...will let you know what happens. Thanks for all the good advice!

Betsy
 
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