Welcome to part one of Geek with Style procrastinated Back to School Tech series! Okay, truth, not really procrastinated, instead more of an idea borne last night, but "procrastination" sounds more catchy right? Its the best time to find a mobile computer for the post-secondary students in your life, so here are a few suggestions of what to look for, including my early impressions of an ASUS Transformer T100 2-in-1 netbook that I recently had the chance to play around with.
Post-secondary (University and College) students need to pack a lot and lug around their stuff in the easiest way possible. Their multiple text books and course-kits take up so much room on their own, limiting the weight of any other tool in a student's bag can be a necessity.
Luckily, mobile computers are getting smaller and smaller (I wound up dragging a fairly heavy 17" laptop back in the day!) There are so many laptops, netbooks, 2 in 1s, and tablets with available bluetoothed keyboards on the market, it's impossible to list them all.
The ASUS Transformer T100 is one such light device that will easily fit in any school bag (or purse, if you're me.) It also has the added benefit of being exactly what you need, when you need it. If you need a word processor for an upcoming paper, it has all the tools (including and easy to use keyboard,) to help build your hypothesis without technical frustration. Alternatively, once you're done that paper, the Transformer keyboard can detach for an equally easy to use tablet, which makes watching movies or playing games all that more comfortable when you're not sitting at your desk.
What To Look For in a School Computer
As I mentioned above, size/weight of the computer should be one of the main features to consider, and here are a few more things to keep an eye out for:
- Operating system (OS): the first thing many students say is, "I want a Mac." and its more to do with the fact that all the cool kids have one than the actual functionality. Before deciding to get a Mac or a PC, determine if the program(s) you'll need are available on for the OS you want to use. 99% of the time a Windows OS (like Windows 7 or 8.1) will easily install the any program needed without hassle. I can tell you from experience of watching my sister attempt the last two years of her post-secondary and graduate studies on a Mac was a complete headache. She needed specialised programs that weren't readily available for her Mac platform, and wound up having to lend her one of my PC 2 in 1 netbooks for half a year, just so that she could complete the work required.
- The ASUS Transformer runs on Windows 8.1, which is so much more stable than Windows 8 (don't confuse the two OS' as the first one was quite buggy and slow. Win 8.1, paired with a great processor, like Intel's Atom is quite fast - no need to wait to get online.
- Processor: a great OS needs a great processor, and I'm all about Intel. Every computer I own has Intelinside, and they just keep getting better with every new chip. If you're looking at a laptop, try to get at least an Intel i5 processor for super quick speeds (from simply turning your computer on, to running bulky programs like Adobe Photoshop, or your online graphic heavy game when you're taking that much needed break.) Intel chips can process your needs with ease.
- If you're looking for a netbook/tablet 2 in 1 computer, like the ASUS Transformer, look for the Atom quad-core processor for quick and easy access to tablet apps, games, etc.
Find out more about Intel 2 in 1s
- Software: the following programs are a must for any student.
Microsoft Office - there are alternatives out there, some of which are even free, but if you're going to spend so much time writing out papers, presentations, and possibly even data formulas, go with the industry standard which is Microsoft's Office suite. There is even a free online version, but make sure you still have a suite installed on your computer so that you don't have to worry whether you can access Office.com by WiFi at any given moment. Check out Microsoft.com to see if your school is partnered with them for a great student deal on their suite.
- Or better yet, Microsoft Office & Student 2013 is pre-installed on the ASUS Transformer, so its one less purchase for you or your student to have to worry about.
Virus Protection - I entirely recommend purchasing your security software from Norton, but there are a ton of paid and free choices out there (such as McAfee, Avira, etc.) Again, like your computer's word processor, do not leave your computer vulnerable to computer hackers with subpar (free) virus protection. if the school you're attending this fall has an excellent computer/technology program, you can easily bet that those students excel at finding security holes through the campus WiFi and there will always be a group of students looking to exploit those errors, just because they can.
- Ease of Use: it's hard to determine which features are the most essential when buying a new computer, but feeling comfortable with the tech should be in the top 5. When making your purchase, don't just look at whether or not the tech looks pretty; spend a few moments to test out the basic components that you would use everyday (power button, keyboard, speakers, USB ports.) Probably the most important component to check would be the keyboard, as you'll definitely be getting full use out of each and every key. Make sure that your fingers aren't tripping over certain letters/functions; while probably the best choices for size and weight, 2 in 1 and bluetooth keyboards can be the hardest peripherals to work with if you don't find the right one for you.
- The ASUS Transformer has one of the best compact keyboards that I've ever used. The keys are well balanced and have enough spacing to easily determined the identity of each key (if you're QWERTY trained.) Quite a few of similar tiny board keys have been found to easily stick in such ways that I'd entirely struggle and have to correct every third word that I'd type.
- Battery Life: it's so cool how long batteries can last these days if treated properly. When looking for a mobile computer, ensure that the battery will last for at least 10 hours, as school days can be quite long.
- The ASUS Transformer has an 11 hour life span, for every full charge, which would hopefully be enough to keep you going through every class without ever having to worry about finding an outlet for charging.
If I haven't made it clear yet, 2 in 1 computers (netbook/tablets) are the best bets for a student to get the most out of their tech budget and limited space. As one student pointed out to me earlier in the week, these 2 in 1 computers are "top heavy", where all the weight is found in the tablet portion of the computer. This is because nearly all of the computer's hardware components are built into the tablet/monitor (for when you don't want to have the keyboard attached, you still have full functionality.) Top heavy computers are fairly difficult to balance on your lap, if you're not reclined in any way, but the other benefits of using a 2 in 1 netbook far outweigh this one drawback (pun totally intended.)
There is just so much to look for when finding a new computer, I hope the general functions above will help you find the right bit of tech for your needs. Please, by all means, ask me below with any concerns/questions I haven't addressed here yet.
I'm required to disclose a relationship between Geek with Style and Intel Canada.