Choosing the best device for the dorm

2014-08-09T00:00:00Z Choosing the best device for the dormMcClatchy Newspapers The Billings Gazette
August 09, 2014 12:00 am  • 

As back-to-school shopping ramps up this month, the top Internet retailer could be a good gauge for what technology students are buying.

Students of all ages embrace technology like never before. Recent studies say the average college student owns seven technological devices, such as tablets, computers, smartphones and, of course, video game consoles.

And today's students have immense buying power -- whether through their own money or their parents' -- controlling more than $100 billion in discretionary spending. So what's a hot item right now?

Amazon's top-selling computers the second week of July included the Acer Aspire 15.6-inch laptop ($280) at No. 1 and the 11.6-inch Acer Chromebook ($200) in second place followed by the ASUS Transformer 2-in-1 laptop ($400).

By mid-July, the 15.6-inch Dell Inspirion ($250) replaced the Acer Aspire as the top seller, with the 11.6-inch Acer Chromebook holding second and the HP Chromebook ($200) in third.

Not familiar with Chromebook?

Launched in 2011, Chromebooks are laptops using Google Chrome as its operating system. Chromebooks have built-in connectivity and primarily store applications and data material "in the cloud" versus on the device. They are an example of a "thin client," which is a computer or program relying on its server to perform applications.

Ahead of the 2014 school year, HP is releasing several devices from June to August.

"Customers have made it clear that they need devices that better adapt to work and play the way they do," said Mike Nash, vice president of Product Management, Consumer Personal Systems, HP in a June 1 press release.

Among the new models are a few 2-in-1 laptop/tablet combinations such as the 13.3 inch HP Split x2 laptop, which debuted July 16 at $600. HP Envy x360 and the Precision x360 have touchscreens and a swivel hinge that can change the clam-shell laptop style to a stand, tent or tablet.

The Envy came out in June and the Precision is scheduled for release Sunday. Both cost more than $600.

In picking the "right" device, there seems to be no wrong answer.

It comes down to more of a matter of memory capacity, the student's course of study and preference.

Local colleges offer guidelines on ideal device memory capacity rather than pointing students toward a specific model.

UNH recommends different combinations of hardware and software based on a student's major.

The only university department listing tablets as appropriate for a primary device this year is the Thompson School of Applied Science.

Rivier University Chief Information Officer Bill Schleifer said the school doesn't recommend a specific brand of computer to avoid putting additional financial pressure on students.

In terms of devices, Schleifer's recommendations were oriented toward laptops.

"We are primarily a PC school, but we support Macs as well," he said. "If a student or parent is going to buy a new laptop, we suggest only that they purchase one with 8GB of RAM ... and as much disk space as possible -- at least 500GB. When it comes to screen size or type of screen, again, it's whatever they can afford and with which the student is comfortable," he said.

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