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Before school starts: Here is the buying guide to help you choose the right computer

August not only means the end of the holiday season for the vast majority, but also a new school term for children and young people.

Some parents choose to fit in a computer purchase just in time for the start of school. But what should you consider before the purchase? PC for All guides you with twelve questions you might have.

1. Portable or stationary?

There’s a certain charm to old-school desktops – they’re more durable, you don’t lose them, and you can build your very own to suit your needs and tastes. But for a student in 2016, there is really only one option, the laptop.

The advantages are many. With a laptop you can work regardless of where you are. Even internet connection is no longer an obstacle – more and more schools, cafes and department stores offer free internet via Wi-Fi. If you instead want to have your own mobile subscription, many operators offer solutions via the 4g network at favorable prices.

Nowadays, many laptops are also so powerful that they are good for everything we might want to do.

For the film and game enthusiast, it is also perfectly possible to connect a laptop to larger screens, alternatively projectors. In short – almost all the advantages desktop computers have, but significantly more portable and accessible.

2. Windows, Mac or Chromebook?

When it comes to studies, the question of which system to choose is about taste, but above all about budget. The most necessary programs for word processing, calculation, presentation and image processing are available in some form for all computers. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a versatile computer, maybe you should think before you buy a Chromebook – the low price is there for a reason.

HP is one of the computer manufacturers investing in Chromebooks.

Namely, the Chromebook uses its own operating system and relies mainly on cloud services. Google Drive offers a number of tools for this purpose, provided you are connected. However, Android applications are available via a version of the Google Play Store, which should increase the computer’s uses.
Regarding the Mac, there is another point to consider. If you are going to use your computer for gaming in addition to studying, you need to install Windows alongside or emulate it. Although more and more games are appearing in Mac version, the range is still sparse compared to PC.

3. Hybrid or regular?

The big advantage of so-called hybrids, i.e. computers that can also be used as tablets, is convenience. This applies especially if you are currently only going to watch movies, display pictures or surf the net. However, there are a couple of drawbacks. However, unlike tablets, the hybrid also contains the same functions as a regular laptop, which can affect the size, price and performance.

Another detail to keep in mind is if the hybrid has a removable screen or not. Models that only flip over can feel a bit clunky compared to pure tablets.

4. How big should it be?

The idea is to use the computer both at home and outside. Therefore, it should be sufficiently portable, but at the same time offer good performance at a reasonable price. Between 14 and 16 inches is enough for most purposes, 17 inches if you are looking for something more powerful. Just keep in mind that more power means components that draw more battery and that the weight of the computer increases significantly.

What is a comfortable keyboard is a personal thing. Therefore, you should test before buying.

A laptop should also be equipped with a comfortable keyboard. Well-placed, easily accessible keys make it easier if you have to write notes or work for long periods without cramping your hands.

5. Does the screen matter?

Here it is important to choose the option that is suitable for everyday use, namely the ips screen. Among other things, it offers better color saturation and viewing angle than the alternative, the TN screen, which is mainly intended for gaming.

The resolution should be in full HD, i.e. 1920×1080 pixels. The new 4K format is intended for games and movies in the “ultra-resolution” 2160p, but is not yet standardized and therefore not a must in this context.

6. What components are needed?

The processor is the most important part of the computer and is also the one that decides on instructions and calculations. Intel and AMD are among the most reputable manufacturers, and currently Intel’s Core processors based on Skylake are considered the very best. Also keep an eye out for the number of cores, better models usually have between four and six.

What hides inside the shell of a computer is becoming less and less important – at least for those of you who are not going to play powerful games.

If you plan to edit movies or play graphics-heavy games, an extra processor in the form of a graphics card is recommended. Here, there are two names to watch out for – Nvidia and AMD. If, on the other hand, you intend to use the computer only for studies, net surfing or other “normal” programs, cheaper, integrated graphics circuits will suffice.
The more ram memory (also called working memory or internal memory) the computer has, the more its ability for multitasking increases – without becoming slow. At least 8 GB of memory is recommended. However, this process is relatively easy to carry out yourself afterwards.

7. What finesse might I need?

In our connected world, it is important that the computer also has good communication capabilities. With a built-in bluetooth receiver, you can easily connect headsets as well as printers and speakers.

Another important function that should be present is a built-in camera that simplifies examinations via the Internet – but also to keep in touch with other classmates via Skype.

8. How do I connect the computer to other gadgets?

The more external ports, the more prepared you are. The most important thing is to have access to storage media in addition to the internal hard drive. Communication to these takes place via the USB port, therefore make sure that the computer has at least USB 3.0 for faster transfer. An external hard drive should be purchased for backing up important files. More modern variants also manage the power supply entirely via the USB connector – stylish and convenient.

One port that is probably present on your chosen computer is the sd card reader, a standard that has lasted for many years. If the computer lacks one, it is not fully operational – external card readers are for sale for easy connection via USB.

Various optical devices, i.e. disc readers, are in today’s situation unnecessary and cumbersome. For those occasional cases where, for example, you need to digitize your record collection, there are external DVD or Blu-ray readers that are easily plugged in via the USB input.

If you need to use the computer together with projectors or larger screens, special cables are needed. The standard today is hdmi, i.e. the same kind of cable used in today’s game consoles and Blu-ray players. PCs are usually equipped with such an output, but sometimes thunderbolt or mini display port adapters are needed depending on the model.

9. Hard drive or ssd?

The issue of storage varies depending on the computer’s purpose versus budget. SSD, or solid-state drive, fulfills the same function as a regular hard drive – but has both advantages and disadvantages compared to these. To begin with, the ssd disk has no moving parts at all, which results in a quieter computer even with complicated processes. You also get improved loading times for games, faster start-up of operating systems and programs, and smoother copying of files.

An ssd disk also means lower power consumption and is also not vulnerable to magnetism or shocks, which in the case of ordinary hard disks usually results in the loss of saved information. The negative aspects are instead about storage capacity and price. As a rule, ssd disks are significantly more expensive than mechanical ones. The technology is simply more costly to produce.

The most common variants are 128 or 256 gigabytes each, which may seem to be on the small side if you also intend to install more modern games on it. If your computer is delivered with an SSD of 128 gigabytes, it may be a good idea to purchase a separate external USB hard drive.

Usb hard drive
If you choose a computer with limited storage space, an external USB hard drive can be a good choice.

There is also a variant that mixes the best of traditional hard drives and ssd, called the hybrid drive. Briefly explained, immutable data is stored on the mechanical side while current data is found on the sdd side. The result is a faster hard drive with plenty of storage capacity.

10. How long does the battery last?

Anything between five and fifteen hours, depending on how heavy the load is. Manufacturers usually print estimated battery life, but this rarely matches reality. However, it may help to turn off features you are not currently using, such as wifi, bluetooth, and keyboard lighting.

The screen brightness also does not need to be set to full power and you should also close programs that are running, but not in use, in the background.

When the battery has done its job, it may be a good idea to replace it with a new one. However, note that some computer models have batteries fully integrated, while other models have removable batteries for easy replacement.

11. What programs are needed?

The Office package contains programs you might need for schoolwork and is now often sold as a subscription. In other words, you pay an annual sum that gives you access to Office for both PC and Mac, mobile phones, tablets.

Students and learners can get Microsoft Office at a deeply discounted price. Make sure you select the correct version.

Other important programs are antivirus programs such as Norton Security Deluxe and image processing programs such as Photoshop Elements. If, on the other hand, you want to test free alternatives that work at least as well, we have compiled a list of free programs that save you extra expenses, which can be much needed after the computer purchase.
As we previously established, Chromebooks run a peculiar operating system and thus have fewer applications available. Google offers web-based programs via Google Drive and your work is then saved in the cloud. An online version of Microsoft’s Office is available as an option and soon the operating system will receive more applications with the introduction of the Google Play Store.

12. Finally, which computer should I buy?

There is a large selection of computers, and we regularly test the most interesting models. Here you will find our two most recent major comparative tests:

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