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  • rageguy34 - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    I'm surprised that you would even mention USB keys given how easy they are to lose or an external hard drive seeing as how they can also get lost or have a mechanical failure. Every student should use dropbox or another alternative if not only for cloud storage but for the version history on document saves as well Reply
  • brshoemak - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    Losing a USB key is not the fault of the hardware. External drives, like anything else can fail. I agree that Dropbox (or like services) should be a part of a student storage plan but other methods of data redundancy are fine. Keep in mind there are times where you need to go to campus computer labs to print certain specialized documents or need color laser prints, most students aren't rocking color lasers in their dorm rooms. Those lab PC's are locked down so you have no way to install Dropbox to get your files - a flash drive is required in those instances, so they can't be totally discounted. Reply
  • zshift - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Dropbox has a web interface. I haven't used a flash drive since I created my Dropbox account, and it provides multiple points of backup if you use it on multiple computers. For a student, the spacing limitations shouldn't be too much trouble, especially since referrals net the user extra space. Last I checked, docs, presentations, spreadsheets, and even a few songs or pics here and there don't fill up my Dropbox. I have 2 years worth of material on there, accessible from anywhere I can get an internet connection. Plus, I've lost every flash drive I've ever owned. Reply
  • Zoomer - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    A flash drive is so much faster than mucking around with some web interface, particularly when the paper is due in -10 minutes. Reply
  • nickb64 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    I bought a 16GB USB Key last year because my school blocked the dropbox domain, and I got it on sale on Amazon for $20, which I felt was a pretty good deal, since it was only a dollar more than the 8GB model by the same company.

    I can access Amazon Cloud Storage from school, but it's a pain in the ass to keep it and Dropbox with the same files in case I need them. Having something in Dropbox is useless if I have to use it in a lab where I don't have access to the Dropbox site.

    I just bought a 4-pack of 4GB USB keys because my old 2GB one was too small for my sister's needs, and I can keep various utilities on another in case I need to use them to help someone I know with a computer issue. Also, they were really cheap.
  • nafhan - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Different students are going to have different storage needs. Dropbox will be fine for Word Docs (and has other advantages, as you mentioned), but someone working with large media files will need at least a thumb drive or a mechanical hard drive to get enough space. Reply
  • Procurion - Monday, August 08, 2011 - link

    Cloud....meh....I call it pie-in-the-sky. I choose to remain in control of my programs and my privacy, not relenquish it to an unknown group of for profit individuals. Anyone remember Wikileaks???? Nothing on the intenet is "safe". Reply
  • Nataku - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    no offense, but cloud storage just isn't be all end all solution

    there are plenty of reasons, but to name just a few
    - >1GB file download or USB transfer? USB is a hell a lot more faster

    - firewall blockage + paranoid IT security will own you when u thought u could download ur powerpoint for the presentation happening in 5 min

    - no internet connection --> hey my school kept printing stations off the net so u have to use USB drives

    - entering ur username/password on a pub PC that may have keylogger and ur dropbox account having personal stuff, (self video of triple x stuff.. j/k lol)
  • StormyParis - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    As a student, I worked at the Computer Lab. That was back in 5"1/4 floppies day, but the broad 50% of people coming in about lost/corrupted/destroyed data or equipment has stayed about the same.

    So please kids, do backups. And remember, backups are
    - offline, so a virus (or a pissed ex) that wipes your stuff can't get to your backups.
    - offsite, so the thief that empties your dorm room nor the idiot that drowns it can get to it
    - several, because of murphy's law: your backup will go bad the day your laptop gets stolen.
    - tested, because quite often you think you're backuping stuff only to realize that your app does not pout its docs in the user directory.

    Also, buy cheap stuff. I know youngsters always need ego-boosters, and branded overskill tech stuff is a nice personnality crutch. Keep in ming though, that it's a waste of money, it's likelier to get stolen, it makes it worse when it's stolen / damaged... and, really, you should try being what you do, not what you own.
  • techhhhhhy - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    I'm sorry, but this was clearly written by someone who doesn't go to college and doesn't know what's right for a campus.

    There is no way, 0 chance that you can use a desktop on a college campus / dorm. Does it work? Yes but it is absolutely retarded idea.

    I could have made this article in 1 page. Get a 15" or less laptop, 13" is ideal. Portability is key in college. If you can afford it get a Macbook because this is what 75% of your classmates will have.
  • mfenn - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    Damn, something must be wrong with my memory. I thought that I spend 5 years of undergrad/grad (3 years living in a dorm) with a gaming rig. I must have been mistaken though because there is obviously "0 chance" of that happening. Reply
  • frumply - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Probably not a bad idea to not have a laptop anyway -- it's every bit as much a distraction device as it is a productivity one.

    Definitely would have gotten much more studying done in college if I didnt buy a laptop on the 3rd/4th year.
  • Friendly0Fire - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    Wait, so because others have a Macbook, you should have one too?

    If everybody else decided to jump off a bridge, would you follow them?

    The Macbook might be a good laptop for your needs, but it isn't a universal solution and there are many capable laptops available that are not Macs.
  • mgl888 - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    It really depends on your dorm. I lived with a full rig in my dorm + ultraportable.
    Seriously, a desktop was a lot more comfortable to use than a cramped laptop.
  • Chinoman - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    I don't even game much on my desktop yet I find it much more comfortable to use. I would rather work on my decently-large 22" monitor than stare into a 13" "ultraportable" for four years.

    Did you even go to college? Do you know how fatiguing it can be to work for long periods?
  • Taft12 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    If YOU had gone to college, you would have learned laptops have VGA (now HDMI) ports to use a nice big display. A comfortable keyboard too. Reply
  • Gooberlx2 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Weird how those of us who attended college before laptops were either universally available or generally affordable were able to manage with desktops (often full towers too!), clunky CRT monitors and speakers....all the while crammed in with our dual tape deck stereos, TVs, VCRs, DVD players, mini-fridges.....and all our roomate's crap.

    Maybe you're just crap at space management.
  • Gooberlx2 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    That said, I would encourage a laptop if a student can only have one computer, because portability is certainly nice to have. Reply
  • Rick83 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    I would encourage a decent desktop, because a amount of working area and a full-size keyboard and mouse are not replaceable, and portability really is overvalued. I had exactly one laptop during my university days, it sucked and I never needed nor used it.
    Now, my 5 inch Tablet, that I use a lot, and my desktop, I wouldn't give that away for anything.

    Really, in the end it's a matter of analyzing needs and wants.
    A laptop usually just serves to distract you during lectures, a desktop is a trusty machine you can return to, and get serious work done, without being limited to those ridiculous 15" screens.
    Currently have a work laptop - and guess what: I'm hating every minute of it, because the screen is crap, I have to put it on a cardboard box to get the screen to the proper ergonomic height, I can only plug in one external screen without a docking station, it's slow, soooo slow, because there's no SSD in it (and we're forced to run XP, which has horrible caching settings), it's loud when used hard, gets hot, and I have to kensington-lock it to the table. A proper silent tower and a set of screens is something that I return home to, full of anticipation.

    So, don't get a laptop, because you think it's what's best. For the same money, you can get so much more usability out of a desktop, it's insane. And the screens, for gods sake, the screens.
  • Taft12 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Someone needs to show you and your luddite buddy Chinoman the VGA port on you laptop that lets you use the big display that stays parked in your room (a USB port for the full-sized keyboard and mouse too!) Reply
  • AssBall - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    That's funny, I remember having 2 CRTs, 2 full and one micro atx cases, and a 32 inch CRT TV with a stereo, playstation, n64 hooked up to it all fit fine in our 8x12 room (no we didn't throw out the beds lol). Reply
  • kepler - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Get a Windows laptop, half the price and it will work with anything you need it. 80% of Mac users end up having to install Windows to use SAS and other software anyway, let alone gaming consoles.

    Lots of Universities have 802.1x and have port security enabled for ethernet, which Apple doesn't allow connection sharing with, and consoles (which are undeniably popular) don't support.

    Not to mention Apple has crap 802.1x profile managment in 10.6, and actually made it worse in 10.7.

    Don't get things based on what you think other students will have, that is the absolutely retarded idea.

    Just for some insight:
  • prdola0 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    It's obviously an Apple troll or a paid PR person. I live in Europe and have recently finished Bsc. and desktops are quite common. Also, I don't recall ever seeing a Mac of any kind - at least not where I lived (there were mostly electronics and computer sciences people). Reply
  • Zoomer - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Macs are rather popular in the computer science dept, but in engineering not so much. Many engineering apps don't run well on macs, and virtual machines may not work either as hardware interfacing is sometimes required.

    I had a friend go thinkpad + linux after his macbook pro's battery failed the second time.
  • steven75 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Funny that you submit a troll picture as "insight." Reply
  • Ratman6161 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    1. If your usage is primarily web based research, email, and typing term papers, the entire Mac Vs. PC Vs Linux flame ware is completely irrelevant. It does not matter what computer you buy, they will all do those tasks just fine.

    2. It is about finding something that fits your needs and not what "75% of your classmates are using" The majority of your classmates will fit into point #1. But if you are an engineering or science type that needs to do modeling and simulation, mathematical analysis, etc you are going to want to find out what software your professors expect you to be using for those tasks and get a computer that will run that software. Likewise for any other more specialized area. What 75% of your classmates are using makes no difference if you are not performing the same work they do.

    3. 75% of your classmates talked their parents into buying whatever tech they have. If you have to get a job and buy it yourself, the cost will suddenly become a much more important factor for you.

    4. The people spending mom and dad's money rather than their own general got what they got because it was cool and the cost/benefit relationship was irrelevant to them.
  • SoCalBoomer - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    I agree with you, techhhhhy, however I would not recommend anything less than 14 or 15" - just because working on a long paper on a tiny screen is maddening.

    Portability is good, but usability is still more important and a good size keyboard and monitor are extremely important since a student's life will be spent writing on this thing.

    I also don't necessarily recommend a Macbook. If you're a Mac person, then definitely; but if you're a Windows person, then get a Windows machine. If you're on a budget, then think twice about a Macbook - not saying DON'T, just saying think twice. If you're going into certain fields, think about what you should get: some mandatory programs do not work on Macs (and yes, you can run Windows on Macs, but again, for MOST users I don't recommend it and it is more expensive than "just" a Windows laptop).

    Again, I'm not recommending against a Mac. I'm recommending against the blanket recommendation FOR a Mac - I'm saying. . . "THINK" :D

    I don't GO to college, but I run the student support arm of IT at a top ten liberal arts college so I do know something. . . well, maybe! LOL
  • Uritziel - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Anandtech needs an Amazon-like comment system, such that worthless posts like yours can be 'minus-ed' until they just show a subject line plus a "most people don't find this post contributes helpful information" -esque line. Reply
  • blueeyesm - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Sure, get a MacBook and discover that you overpaid for a computer that can't run a required application for your program.

    How do I know this? I work for a university where I have seen this time and again. As StormyParis said, you should try being what you do, not what you own.

    Sure, install Parallels and Windows. But you need to pay for your copy of Windows. More money spent where it could have gone to books or food.

    Portability became "key" due to a trend where it was "cool" to have something lightweight and you could take it with you. A convenience that was turned into necessity. Before that, students along just fine with desktops.

    Dorms provide desk space, thus yes it DOES work. It is not 0 chance, nor retarded.
    If you are worried about theft, get a Kensington cable lock and lock it all down.
  • antef - Saturday, August 06, 2011 - link

    I only graduated undergrad in 2009, so definitely during a period where laptops were plenty affordable, yet I got through college just fine with only my gaming rig and no laptop. I even had a 5.1 sound system and lived in a super cramped, wedge-shaped room one year with a roommate. Yes it was crowded but completely fine. I never had a need for a laptop - they only distract you in class and a notebook and pen work fine for notes. I didn't go the library much as I found it no better a place to study than my own dorm or apartment, but when I did there were public computers available. If you need/want a desktop as I did, you can definitely save money by not having a laptop also if you don't need it. However, I realize most students love going to the library or coffee shops or whatever to do work, in which case you'll want one. Also, if you have no need for a desktop, the laptop is a better option because it's less of a hassle when moving. Reply
  • shellcrash - Saturday, August 06, 2011 - link

    There is also a common denominator issue going on: not everyone is expected to have a laptop. If one is required, the prof borrows one from the IT department.

    I graduated in 2006 & laptops were affordable, but they have durability issues that show up when in frequent transportation or use. In random work meetings having a desk & environment designed for work is much better than trying to do serious work in a laid back coffee shop environment; I stopped using my laptop when I started using my Palm (or was it lol TI-89?) & flash drive effectively. It also didn't help that the fans on the laptop died and some keys stopped working on the keyboard.

    The reviews didn't cover phones, although it is the 2nd most crucial instrument in college. Needs to be able to be backed up to computer and do fast assignment scheduling.
  • anishannayya - Monday, August 08, 2011 - link

    75% (really closer to 50%) percent of my classmates didn't have to spend a dime for their computers.

    50% of my classmates aren't CS/Engineering majors.

    The 20% of CS/Engineering majors that have a Mac inevitably end up having to install and use Windows.

    The only Mac worth the money is the Air. For everything else, your better off with a Thinkpad.

    Lastly, Macs look great, but durability is very important when you take your device everywhere.

    And RE desktops: Many gamers bring their desktop.
  • Neo Elemental - Monday, August 15, 2011 - link

    I had a desktop all the years I was in college. To some, having additional horsepower is a non-negotiable (think games). I did end up caving and getting a netbook in my senior year.

    I don't see how the desktop+netbook combo is any less feasible or attractive for someone at an equivalent price (except that not everyone can build their own desktop).

    This isn't the site for those who are just going to get a Macbook because they can afford it. A majority of the things mentioned/reviewed on this site are focused towards desktops and non-Apple systems.
  • mfenn - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    You make a big deal about constrained space when you talk about the PC itself, but you seem to completely forget about it when you recommend dual monitors. A tower can easily be tucked under a bed or desk, a second 22" monitor cannot. Reply
  • Kaboose - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Wall mount :D

  • Friendly0Fire - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    "And given the limitations of the 400W PSU, I wouldn't add a GPU that's more power-hungry than a Radeon HD 6970."

    Surely you meant a 6790? The 6970 isn't exactly sipping power.
  • Gigantopithecus - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    Nope, the 6970 is not exactly a power sipper, but at peak during gaming it draws less than 200W. The rest of the system at stock without more components added isn't going to draw more than another 120W or so, and that leaves 20%+ headroom on the PSU. The link to Bench I gave with that line shows the 6970 using 340W from the wall, and the Bench test platform is a more power-hungry system than the one in this guide. A friend of mine is rockin' a GTX 560 Ti (a slightly less power-hungry card than the 6970) with a mildly OC'd AMD PII X4 (a 125W CPU vs the 95W CPU in the guide), two fans, one HDD system on this same PSU with no issues. It's a good PSU. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Well, I've run a single 5870 off of a 500W PSU, and power draw at the outlet never got about 380W. Accounting for efficiency, a 400W PSU should still handle a 6970, but you wouldn't want to load it up with other extras or extreme overclocking. Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    After thinking about this and on the advice of Ryan, our GPU guru, I edited the article to recommend nothing more power-hungry than a 6870. That's a more comfortably conservative recommendation, and I think it's better to err on the side of caution. Reply
  • mariush - Saturday, August 06, 2011 - link

    That's indeed better.

    A lot of the pre-built computers still come with very cheap power supplies based on old designs with lots of amps on 3.3v and 5v and not so much on 12v, so those 220 watts could be a bit too much for these power supplies.

    Someone might get mixed up and think that any kind of 400w power supply would be capable of this, which is of course not true.
  • Hrel - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    I would like to add a set I've had some personal experience with that are excellent. Sound is crystal clear, I'm not kidding. NO distortion even at max volume! Satisfying Bass.

    It's got a 1% THD rating, so you can believe me when I say there really is no distortion. The bass isn't quite as good as those klipsch, which I've also used. But it is full and satisfying for 90-99% of uses. Not quite as penetrating as the Klipsch so your neighbors will thank you. Also doesn't get quite as loud as those Klipsch, but more than loud enough for realistic uses. Especially in a dorm/apartment. Has a night time mode that's actually usefull and many settings. And unlike all the other systems you linked it has a full receiver built into it. Full HDMI support and all the hookups you could ever want. That way you can get your game system and pc and laptop all running through it. With a remote so you don't have to get up every time you want to change devices. On top of that it supports 3 more speakers than the ones included so you could have a full 5.1 surround sound set up down the road if you chose to. Maybe after college, or once you get a bigger apartment or house or something. I often find them on newegg for 250 or less. Right now they're 230 on amazon. Really amazing deal for everything you get. Chintzy controller, but at this price all that matters is it works, and it does. If that matters to you get a Logitech universal remote.

    Personally I use this when I want music streaming from my computer but I'm playing a game online over xbox. I don't really care about the explosion sounds of the game, but I need to visuals going to the tv. But I can have the sound coming from the computer without ever getting up or moving any cables. Pretty convenient and very fairly priced for everything you're getting.

    If you're building a dedicated home theatre room you need to spend more; period. But if you don't want to spend more than 250 or so. Or you have limited space or don't want to fuss with cables or just want quality sound and bass without too much hassle or money; that's what these are for. The only other option I think is the Klipsch, which have slightly superior sound but have no receiver, and don't even have optical audio. That last one was a bid deal to me; too much distortion over RCA. I think the Onkyo offering a full receiver with every connection you could ever want, remote, 2 quality speakers with a good sub-woofer and the option to go 5.1 surround sound later more than makes up for the "just slightly" inferior sound. I mean, honestly unless you're completely OCD about sound like I am, you probably won't even notice a difference. Anyway, I think they're a great set of speakers and wanted to spread the word where the word just might be listened to, and appreciated.
  • Chinoman - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    I agree with getting a system which has a low-powered sub for decreased penetration. As a current college student, it seems to me that a lot of kids who move on campus don't realize that their 10" subwoofers can be heard just as well on the other side of the wall.

    Leave the "loud music" to the clubs, don't bring it to the dorms where people next door might be trying to sleep or study.
  • Zoomer - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    I would recommend picking up a cheap but decent receiver from craigslist for $50++ and using that. It just needs to do at least 2 channels (or 5), and there are many receivers out there that are good quality, but doesn't support hdmi switching or what not. It's not really necessary anyway. Save the money for the speakers; you'll find that HDMI switching, crazy fancy features and what not doesn't matter as much as the speakers. Reply
  • Roland00Address - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    They were planning to but they removed it before it was released (May of 09 they removed the 3 app limit, windows 7 starter like the rest of windows 7 was released to oems in July of 09 and to the general public in Oct of 09.) Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    Thanks Roland! Edited the article accordingly after confirming with a friend who just got the 1001P. The first thing I do when I buy a new machine (or as happens more often, a friend brings me their new machine) is install one of those heavily discounted W7 Ultimate licenses. Admittedly I have little experience with W7 Starter. ;) Reply
  • Roland00Address - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    If you are a student and you can get W7 Ultimate or W7 Pro for cheap through your campus book store, then you will want to hop onto it.

    W7 Premium, Pro, and Ultimate add back the Windows 7 Media Center functionality.
    W7 Pro and Ultimate add the remote desktop so you can log back on in your Desktop at the Dorm and grab the file you forgot to save, and have it sent back to your netbook.
  • Zoomer - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Or Pro for free through MSDNAA. Reply
  • johnnywa - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    I find it wrong to assume that you can't get a desktop-like experience out of a laptop, but the article does seem to reinforce this notion. With a laptop, you can still purchase a monitor (or small TV), keyboard, and mouse, and you can end up with essentially a desktop that you can unhook and take around with you when you need to. I tried this solution for the last 2 years (minus monitor, although sometimes I hooked my lappy up to our apartment's 37" TV), and it was a very comfortable setup. Of course this isn't an end-all-be-all solution, but I'd say it's another alternative to desktop + netbook. Reply
  • frozentundra123456 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    That sounds like a quite good idea. Can you just hook up a USB keyboard to a laptop and use it seamlessly, or do you have to somehow tell the laptop which keyboard is active??

    If you did this, you would save the cost of buying a laptop and separate desktop, but if you are very space limited, I am not sure that a laptop, external keyboard, and external monitor wouldnt take up as much space as a desktop. And you can set a desktop on the floor, while I am not sure you would want to do that with a laptop.

    But I am not trying to put down your idea. It is a very valid and original alternative.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    The problem is, a laptop that can compete with a desktop for performance will cost twice as much. You can build a $750 desktop that will outperform $1500 laptops. So, there's flexibility in getting a $750 laptop and $750 desktop in place of a single $1500 "do everything" laptop. It's not that you can't do it all on a laptop, of course, but there are certain things that will always be faster on desktops for less money (e.g. gaming). Reply
  • frozentundra123456 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link


    What you say is certainly true. However, if you only want to surf the net, do office type apps, and listen to music or watch videos, a 750.00 or even cheaper laptop is probably all the power you need. And I hate to admit it, but for gaming, a lot of college students probably use a console instead of the PC.
  • frozentundra123456 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    BTW, sorry about the misspelling of your name! Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    No worries, and you're absolutely correct: if you don't care about gaming, honestly, Intel's IGP is perfectly adequate for 99% of users. You can watch videos without issue on any laptop made within the past four years (excluding Atom, of course), doing office work reached the point where a faster CPU didn't matter much back in the early 2000s, and surfing the net will generally be fast enough even on CULV and Brazos processors.

    If you're a parent buying a laptop for your college kid and you don't want them playing games? I'd recommend Brazos or an entry level Sandy Bridge as a good $400~$600 laptop -- or get a Llano laptop if you want gaming to be better.
  • TrackSmart - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    At the very least, the option of a light-weight laptop plus external monitor should be part of this discussion. There are significant advantages to having only a single computer with all your files and programs always available.

    **Potential options if you expand your guide:**

    Thinkpad X220 + External monitor
    Toshiba Portege R835 + External monitor
    13" Macbook Air + External Monitor

    (These all weigh in around 3 lbs and have good performance, build quality, and battery life. I didn't list any of the Acer or consumer-level Sony laptops b/c I don't have confidence that they would last for 4 yrs...)
  • TrackSmart - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    One more thing. Yes, this precludes PC gaming, but that's less of a trade-off in these console-dominated days... Reply
  • johnnywa - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Of all the laptops I've tried this with, both the usb keyboard and the laptop keyboard would remain active, so both can be used at the same time.

    I agree that this wouldn't save much space over just a regular desktop, but I think some people, like me, only want one computer (one single laptop as opposed to desktop + netbook), and don't want to worry about having to keep files synced across multiple computers using USB drives, Dropbox, etc. Thanks!
  • overseer - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    If only the mini-ITX DIY setup consists of A75 ITX + low power Llano...

    Actually I've seen an ASUS A75 ITX MB the other day, so it just boils down to when AMD launches the 65W A8s and A6s.
  • Gigantopithecus - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Hi overseer - Where did you see a Llano ITX board?! I check Newegg, Ewiz, Amazon, etc. every morning and haven't seen one available yet. And I completely agree with your second sentiment - I can't wait for the 65W A-series APUs to be released! Reply
  • overseer - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    What I saw was the ASUS F1A75-I Deluxe, however I didn't confirm the stock with the etailer.

    ASRock has an A75 ITX board around the corner as well. I believe those will be available at major channels in a week or two.

    But 65W Llano SKUs... might be due out in Sep. (along with Bulldozer?) Umm this whole year has been about waiting AMD new arrivals.
  • frozentundra123456 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Great article by the way.

    I have a question regarding the AMD E-350 APU. The first machine I saw this in was the HP dm1v, and I thought it was great. Thin, light, good battery life, and both better CPU performance and graphics than any atom.

    However, I am seeing a lot of 15.6 inch laptops in local retail stores with the E-350.
    Does anyone have any experience with this platform? It seems like an ideal fit for a netbook, but underpowered for a full size laptop.

    And I also question the abiity of the Llano laptops to play all the games he mentioned at decent settings even at a 1366 x 768 resolution.

    Granted, they are way better than intels integrated graphics, but can you really get a decent gaming experience with the titles listed without a discrete card?? (Decent to me would mean over 30 FPS at medium settings at native resolution.)
  • andymcca - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    I've only had it for a day, but I just got a low-end Llano laptop (A4-3300M, the cheapest one they have at the moment), and I'm already impressed with it.

    I realized after playing with my settings that I was on battery power (for an hour, and still ~70% battery after gaming!), so performance may have been scaled down. Even so, I was getting 25-30FPS average in WoW and SC2 on medium. I was not in huge battles or anything, though.

    I imagine the more capable models must kick some medium-setting butt. Most of the reviews seem to indicate this, too.
  • Taft12 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    However, I am seeing a lot of 15.6 inch laptops in local retail stores with the E-350.
    Does anyone have any experience with this platform

    It's an idiotic platform. Toshiba, HP et al. are only doing it for the sake of putting a $350 price tag on a full-sized laptop. Most laptop shoppers are looking at the price only and don't know or care about any technical specs.
  • Chron79 - Saturday, August 06, 2011 - link

    I recently purchased an E-350 Lenovo from BB for $300. This is basically a test purchase to see if I want/need anything more once the fall semester begins.

    It handles internet video fine up to 720p I would say. 1080p YouTube and Netflix streaming HD content can get choppy at times, but those are both luxuries. I loaded Office 2010 and have put Acrobat through its paces with my summer seminar work and everything seems responsive. Also tried WoW, and would call it passable in low-to-medium settings but nothing to write home about. If you plan to game at all on a laptop the E-350s are not for you anyway.

    What I love is the overall package and battery life. Fingerprint/face recognition, media card reader, hdmi out, 4 gb RAM and anywhere from 6-8 hours of use depending on your video use. Also the base stays super cool - just a tiny bit of warmth in the upper left quadrant the quiet fan handles. If you are a basic college student who does not game or has a desktop for gaming I really don't see where you would need more than this. To me the next logical step up is $600-700 with BR drives and/or the new A6/A8 cpu/gpu functionality. If you can afford these then more power to you, but for those looking to make ends meet this $300 model is a great deal.
  • yourwhiteshadow - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    i made the mistake of buying just a laptop. its not comfortable to do your stuff on a laptop. best bet is to get netbook + desktop. get high productivity in your room, and be able to take notes or do whatever in the class room.

    honestly though, note taking on the laptop is overrated. i don't remember taking that many notes on my laptop as a science major. my $1200 macbook pro was honestly a big waste of money. should have bought a $500 laptop and upgraded my rig, imagine how far $700 would have went when you already have a case, PSU, fan, etc...
  • frozentundra123456 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    No one mentioned Windows Live Skydrive for cloud storage. You get a really large amount of storage (25 Gb I believe) for free.

    Is there some reason not to use this, such as lack of security or difficulty transferring files??

    I used it to store some photos that I did not care if anyone saw, but I am not sure you can load entire folders at once or if you have to upload one file at a time, which would be impractical.
  • duploxxx - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    It's hard to defend any atom based netbook these days, even the Ontario based APU is way better in the lower end netbook area.

    for the Asus EEE pc 1001P there is a much better solution called 1015B with a c30 apu

    its even cheaper....

    A series LIano are in the range between 500-700$ its artificial OEM prices that keep these solutions expensive, the cost price of the A series liano is less expensive then the new intel i3-i5 series, yet priced higher.
  • mtwardochleb - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    I'm heading up to Cal Poly SLO next month with a gaming desktop and an iPad 2. I used them together for the last few months of high school and quite enjoyed the experience. Being a tech-savvy user I'd like to share some experiences and recommendations.

    Having a fast computer paired with a 24" monitor seems essential to me for productivity since it enables one to comfortably read a web browser while using Word. It's also fantastic when editing video and watching movies in full HD, or browsing the web without having to minimize chat client windows. I use a SSD for my boot drive and a 2TB green HDD RAID1 array for hardware failure-resistant storage. A backup and image of the SSD are run daily and everything is copied to a 2TB external once a week. I consider this to be a very comfortable level of data redundancy and highly recommend it for anyone who has a lot of data.

    The NoteTaker HD app on the iPad is exellent for notes on the go, especially since it lets you annotate PDFs and pictures you take with the iPad cameras. I used this feature to take pictures of handouts in class to consolidate everything in one location. For PDF textbooks I use iBooks and for all other books I find Stanza to work extremely well, especially since it can download books wirelessly off your hard drive when paired with Calibre. There's also a wonderful app called Splashtop HD that gives very good remote desktop functionality over the Internet that's smooth enough for videos or playing Starcraft (albeit clumsily). For EE majors I also found a great app called iCircuit which allows you to design and simulate circuits in real-time.

    As for other peripherals, I can say having a more expensive printer is very nice. I have an iP4300 which has automatic duplexing, a very large black ink tank, and a paper cartridge. The cost for text printing is pretty low and the picture printing is superb. Printing 8x10 pictures and other odd sizes also comes out cheaper than having the work done at a lab, which is nice if you enjoy photography. A wireless mouse and keyboard are a must for reducing clutter. If you're a serious musician or just really appreciate music I highly recommend splurging for the Audio Technica ATH-M40fs studiophones. They can be had for around $80 and provide excellent sound quality with great responsiveness to equalization settings (I prefer a bump in bass since I'm used to my Logitech Z-2300 system). Be aware of the 10ft cord and 1/4" professional TRS plug, both useful features in certain situations and annoying in others.
  • Blaze-Senpai - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    I don't know about you guys, but I don't mind a slightly bigger laptop that can do everything I need it to do decently, although I can understand people not wanting large computers.

    I still think its weird people complain about laptops being too heavy, do people notice that much of a difference between 6 and 7 pounds? Just get a backpack that can hold it.

    ...actually, why aren't bags included? You need a way to carry around all of that stuff, after all :3
  • The0ne - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    I think the recommendations covers too broad the general view of a college student. Many of these aren't even needed as a good 15" or even a 17" will do just fine. If you want to game, that's a whole different area to pursue with even more accessories to consider. It's not as if you are going to lug around all those equipments with you on campus nor have all the time in the world to do everything.

    I also vote for the inclusion of a very good bag to lug around books and your accessories!
  • Fujikoma - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Given how most students live, I'd recommend a desktop for durability. Most really don't need the extra power and could get by with a laptop, but most aren't careful enough when it comes to long term care. There were three of us in a 12'X12' room (largest on campus) and we shared one desktop (early 90's and two of us couldn't afford one) instead of going to the eng. bldg. With the exception of the music student (Apple fanatic), everyone owned an intel/amd custom build with one atari (800XL) and one commodore (don't remember) thrown in for good measure. Maybe it was because we were all science/eng. majors. The laptop, a friend lent me, didn't help during class. It was much easier taking notes. Of course, playing games during a boring lecture was a bonus, but the laptop really had no value. A laptop really serves a student that goes home regularly and needs to work on their classwork while away. Of course, I don't think graphing calculators should be allowed in any math class prior to differential equations. Same thing with the iPads the local middle school is buying instead of books... it has no place in a school. Call me old fashioned but learning how to solve a problem the hard way with repetition is far better than just entering data and letting a gadget do all the work (our interns (and a few of our engineers) are idiots who have very little comprehension of why things don't work).
    I have a 17" screen on my laptop, because it's as small as I'll go when I visit family out of state and I need to work on graphics stuff. Otherwise, it's my excessively large tower (very old, but easy to keep cool) with a much better and larger monitor.
  • andymcca - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    I just bought a Llano machine for $400 after a $50 rebate. It's an HP G6-1b60us, and while historically I've not been an HP fan, I'm impressed. Granted, its based on an A4-3300M (lower end Llano), but the few games I've tried so far (WoW, Starcraft 2) play great with a mix of "ultra" and medium settings. It might be worth mentioning that there are some Llano machines well under $700.

    I am annoyed at certain retailer, though. We will call it "small center". The sales person was trying to tell me that it might not even launch old games or something. I tried to let him know that integrated no longer means total crap, but I don't think I got through.
  • Taft12 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Oh, you got through. He was using an upselling tactic that usually works on non-tech-savvy customers. Reply
  • weiran - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    If there are "legions" of Android tablet fans, why aren't they buying them? Reply
  • chedrz - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    I started my time at college with a laptop that was a few years old at the time. It lasted one year before it died. Unfortunately it was pre-Centrino, so it really wasn't very portable. After it bit the dust I switched to a desktop and had no problems typing/working with it. My last year or two I also added a netbook so I did have that portability factor. If you're able to manage file storage well with multiple systems, then I'd highly recommend the desktop/netbook combo route. You don't need a lot of processing power while you're sitting in a lecture hall taking notes/web browsing/scrolling through PowerPoint, and then you have the extra power (if needed) back in your room on your desktop. Reply
  • rageguy34 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    I purchased a 13" macbook pro for my sister to take to college. I live in Texas and she decided to go to college in Minnesota! The main reason I chose the macbook was for the warranty, with the apple care plan she can take it to any apple store and have it repaired since I won't be anywhere near her for support. This way she doesn't have to deal with calling a 1800 number and shipping/receiving her laptop if anything goes wrong.

    I do a ton of RMAs for work and I wouldn't want my sister to have to go through anything like that.
  • f4phantom2500 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    There's a Gateway laptop (model #NV55S04U) on Best Buy's website with an A6 3400M, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD and a 15.6" screen for $479.99. There's also an HP laptop (model #g4-1117dx) with an A4 3300M, 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD and a 14" screen for $399.99. Both of these look like solid deals (the Gateway moreso, obviously), for budget laptops with a "good enough" CPU and reasonably capable graphics, all things considered. Reply
  • aliasfox - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    I went to school with (what was then) an ultraportable PowerBook G4 - with the exception of the hard drive, I used four seven years (PITA to replace, btw).

    Definitely an advocate of a laptop for most users.
    - Roommate comes back with a girl, you want to be able to scram without having to wonder if you have all your stuff with you
    - Notes in class
    - Writing papers in the library

    These are all things that are much more functional with a full size keyboard and/or somewhat-faster-than-netbook performance.

    Most important factors, in my opinion:

    - Nice keyboard and external mouse. My PowerBook has a phenomenal keyboard that few laptops match. Thinkpads, MacBooks, and some Dell Latitudes have them, but most consumer level machines don't. This matters a lot when you're trying to write a 20 page research paper in about 12 hours.

    - Portability. Not talking about weight, but sheer size - 15" and 17" laptops are just harder to fit into shoulder bags or smaller backpacks, as well as the tiny desks some classrooms have. Also, when you're flying back home for the holidays, that behemoth won't open on the table in coach.

    - A reasonable graphics card. No, you don't need a 6970m, but a Sandy Bridge level GPU minimum for when your friends want you to try something. I can't tell you how often I saw people playing slideshows of WoW, SimCity, or some other "low end game" on their Intel 950 graphics...

    - External HD - like it or not, college kids will "accumulate" lots of media that will fill up an internal HD. Also good for back up.

    - Video outputs - there are TVs in lounges and projectors in classrooms, hooking up your laptop is a good way to watch movies or give presentations. I could output VGA and S-Video, throwing in DVI/HDMI (and the right cables) would cover almost any base.

    An external monitor would be nice too (especially considering that PowerBook had a relatively dim 12" XGA display that showed relatively little of the color gamut), but that (as well as speakers) should wait until you understand how you're comfortable setting your room up.

    Just my opinion.
  • indianidle - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    I had expected see a mention about Tablet PCs. Sure they're bigger, heavier and more expensive compared to iPad/Android tablets, but they also faster, more capable and can actually be used for productive work. Looking at future compatibility, Windows 8 will have a good touch interface and you'd be able to run it comfortably on these systems. I also think you should also add SkyDrive (25GB!) to the list of cloud storage options. Reply
  • steven75 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    "and can actually be used for productive work."

    Translation: All those doctors and Fortune 500 companies using iPads are just using them for playing games.
  • Evil_Sheep - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    Great back-to-school gear guide, nice to see a focus on students for a change (you know, the ones on a budget eating out of the chef boyardee tin)....unlike the usual chaff we get from other publications where they toss out a list of overpriced frivolous toys and call it a day.

    The only question is, where are the smartphones? Every student either has one or wants one. This surely has to come before printer recommendations...who still needs those? The Age of Paper is history (the few times a semester you still need to print stuff, you go to the library.)

    Also, more 13" (as opposed to 15") laptop recommendations would've been welcome as Apple has really set the bar here...most are coming to see 13" is the perfect compromise between portability and useability.
  • buzznut - Saturday, August 06, 2011 - link

    Curious to note the absence of A8 budget desktop. Seems like a natural for dorm room work/entertainment. Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Saturday, August 06, 2011 - link

    $140 for the A8-3850 + $75 for the least expensive FM1 board = $215. The X3 CPU & board I recommend here sum to $130. That $85 difference is enough to cover a 6770 after rebate, when it's on sale. I do not think the Llano desktop APUs are priced low enough to dethrone AM3 CPUs as value kings for those interested in gaming. Reply
  • Chron79 - Saturday, August 06, 2011 - link

    To me the best $700 laptop on the mass market right now is">HP's new A8 offering. Crossfire A8 GPU for gaming goodness, plus a Blu-ray drive, 6gigs RAM, 2 3.0 USBs and 5ish hours of use in a 6lb package. I would hazard a guess and say this is the best value for laptops period atm short of the occasional XPS deal + coupon code. If you want top gaming capability you'll be spending at least $500 more for 1080p screen and top tier DGPUs, but for your normal mobile gamer this A8 packs plenty of punch. Reply
  • Chron79 - Saturday, August 06, 2011 - link

    code links disabled I guess - here is the direct:
  • Shadowmaster625 - Monday, August 08, 2011 - link

    Why is college is a black hole of debt? With articles like these it isnt any wonder. All a college student needs is a dm1 with a 64gig SSD and a portable hard drive tucked under their desk. No way would I carry a notebook with all my important documents and notes around with me everywhere if it had a spinning platter hard drive.

    As for tablets, I spent some time playing with a bunch of different kinds, and the problem with all of them is they are just too damn slow. It is orders of magnitude below what I find acceptable in a pc. An 800MHz AMD duron is faster than these pieces of crap. What gives? What am I missing? How are these things $500? Try bringing up a google map and actually scrolling around... ha! Forget it I'd rather pull my teeth out with pliers.

    As you stand there tapping the hell out of the screen wondering why the link wont open, all the sudden poof the link instantly opens and I end up clicking right thru to the link on the next page then i have to wait another 30 seconds for that one to open...
  • SSquirrel - Monday, August 08, 2011 - link

    I'm really surprised more mention of Apple's Mini, iMac and laptops lines weren't included. Yes they may be more expensive, but considering that 70% of all incoming freshmen are packing Apple gear, it might have been good to include them. Or even just have a separate Mac page for the review.

    I actually just bought the Mini w/the discrete video and it's been great since picking it up Friday. It's pretty snappy, runs WoW great and the ONLY time I hear it working is when the drive spins up from sleep.
  • anishannayya - Monday, August 08, 2011 - link

    I can't believe that you guys forgot the X220 or the X220 tablet by Lenovo.

    The x220 is essentially a smaller and lighter 420T.

    And lets not forgot Windows tablets. I own the X201T, and it is an excellent note-taking tool. One can do wonders with OneNote and a tablet.

    Most professors use .PPT. Rather than printing them out (too add drawings and the like), you can import them, and write/draw directly on them.

    Those who are math-based majors also have the ability of digitizing their notes.

    Of course, all this allows you to be neat, organized, and have everything digital. You only have to carry around one device, especially if you purchase digital editions of your books (or scan them).

    Lastly, the best part is that since the X220T is a convertible tablet PC, you can always flip the screen around and get typing (since most can type faster than they can write).

    And for the gamers, add in a DIY ViDock, and you have something capable enough to handle modern games at decent settings. It'll have to do until real external solutions become possible.
  • Belard - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - link

    The Fractal Core 1000 is a pretty generic looking ugly case, might as well get a real Antec 3000. But the lower height is handy.

    The HP and compaq cases do look better.

    I wouldn't recommend these pre-built systems.

    Lenovo desktops have almost NO crap-ware pre-installed. They are clean inside and out and cost the same as an HP pretty much. They have bottom end $350 desktops with a decent X2 AMD for $430 and i5 Core systems at $550.
  • Freakie - Saturday, August 27, 2011 - link

    Kind of surprised to see you guys leave out higher end ASUS computers and Clevo barebones. ASUS has the best warranties out there, hands down, and their prices for the whole package are amazing when you factor that in.

    And then you have bang vs buck. You get much more when you go with a Sager and buy Windows with your student discount (Win 7 Pro direct from Microsoft, not the school, for $30). And the repair-ability of Clevo barebones makes any problems after your warranty a LOT cheaper and they are built to be user-serviceable. ASUS laptops also have a noticeably higher amount of user-serviceability than most other OEMs. Buying from a OEM in general when it comes to laptops is just a bad idea, from Apple to Voodoo, your overall experience is gonna suck a majority of the time when compared to ODMs.
  • harth234 - Friday, August 09, 2013 - link

    Could we get another one of these for 2013? Reply

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