July 14, 2024
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What Device Should I Get for My School-Age Student?

Although the new school year will already be on its way by the time this column is read, I feel parents may still be on the fence as to what device to buy their student.

As someone with experience managing school networks for 20 years and sometimes serving as IT director, there isn’t a perfect answer to this question.

One thing to note is you will be handing these devices to tweens and teens. It’s important to explain the costs of the device and explain your child’s accountability if the devices are broken or abused. One of my prized students back in the day worked the whole summer to earn enough money to buy his own Mac. He took great care of the unit, as he paid for it himself.

Also, don’t let your kids put pressure on you by saying, “Everyone has a new MacBook.” It’s not the case, regardless of what you can afford.

With that aside, Chromebooks can’t be beat for the price. However, if your student needs Adobe Suite, or native Microsoft products, Chromebooks will not work. A Windows PC will need to be purchased. I can’t deny I am not a Mac fan, due to the price and certain limitations that Windows does not have currently.

The biggest trend I am seeing is that students want lightweight PCs. This is a tough one as lightweight is usually more expensive. The argument is that it’s hard to schlep a huge laptop in a knapsack.

All laptops pretty much do the same thing. Years ago this was not the case. With online storage one can get away with smaller hard drives.

Here is what I would stay away from: used or refurbished PCs. Students will beat these devices up. Purchase the warranty with the unit. Do not try the hand-me-downs, as your student will suffer and you will suffer with constant complaints.

I am not a big fan of buying laptops from Costco or Walmart, as those PCs may be at the end of life (discounted deeply with a new version coming soon) or have some other reason they are that cheap.

One store locally for the Bergen County area is MicroCenter, on route 80 at Exit 60. It’s open seven days a week and one pays only 3.5 percent tax. At MicroCenter one can put one’s hands on 50 or so models, all brands including Mac products. Purchase the warranty; it’s great because it’s more like insurance than a warranty. It’s rare that I recommend a store’s in-house warranty. However, here I do. There are great staff, still working “old school,” by commission, and it works.

The minimum specifications for a student’s PC are the following.

  • Windows 10
  • Solid state drive (do not go cheap on this)
  • 8 Gigs or RAM Memory
  • Web cam
  • HDMI
  • USB ports

Software: Your student probably has a free Office 365 and/or Google Apps account. Adobe is one of though few apps that are expensive and need more RAM. Regarding anti-virus technology, if you read my column you know I feel as many IT pros do: anti-virus on its own really isn’t effective. Use Windows Defender, which comes
free with Windows 10.

A solid state drive will last a lot longer than old SATA drives. This is not complicated, but if you take your kid with you, be forewarned they will always go for the top of line.

What I would add to the purchase is a good carrying case, extra extension cords for dorm rooms and a spare power cord for the laptop. You can more affordably buy extras like power cords and carrying cases on Amazon.

Printers can be purchased really cheaply nowadays; just ask your kid not to print books on the printer, and don’t let them allow all their friends to use the printer. Get a wifi-enabled printer with a USB connection. This will ensure every student in the family can print wifi or wired.

PCs will make a definite difference to your student’s success at school. Really push them to store all of their data on Google Drive. I used to get way too many calls and emails when my company did house jobs, when a parent and student would be frantic that a critical file was lost. Today this shouldn’t be the case, as long as you save everything on Google Drive or any other kind of cloud storage.

Have a great year at school.

By Shneur Garb

 Shneur Garb is the CEO of the The Garb IT Consulting Group. Questions can be sent to [email protected].

 

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