Choosing a laptop computer for back-to-school

5:59 PM, Aug 26, 2010   |    comments
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  • MINNEAPOLIS -- The University of Minnesota is actively helping students ease into the school's electronic requirements. The U's Office of Information Technology opened a "Tech Stop" on the first floor of Coffman Union.

    "We want to make sure that students get a computer that is going to last 4 years for them and we want to be make sure they have the right software on that computer," explained Steve Cawley, Vice President of Information Technology.

    A major factor for students at all levels of education is the cost of study-oriented electronics, including computer hardware and software. The "Tech Stop" office resembles a café, with vinyl-covered bar stools, but it is laptops, not lattes that lure the computer curious inside. The Tech Stop staff offers deals on hardware and software.

    "When they buy the hardware 'bundles', we actually put the software necessary (on the computer). So, Microsoft Office and then we also put the appropriate anti-virus software on that computer. We also make sure the computer is already pre-configured to work on the University's network," explained Cawley.

    "If a student comes in and wants to buy a Microsoft Office (program) for a computer that they already have, we have that for $40, which is a significant discount from the retail price," Cawley added.

    U of M senior Sean Gordhammer agrees. "I build my own computers so when I have to buy an operating system, it is usually $300 to get it. For this (at Tech Stop), it was only $35. So, it is quite a big savings," said Gordhammer.

    Gordhammer and fellow senior Brandon Lattin share their own expertise behind the computer-crowded counter at the Tech Stop. "Windows 7 we sell here to students for $35. It is 'Windows 7 Ultimate', which normally retails for about $200. So, it is quite a big savings," said Lattin.

    Lattin's laptop was not purchased through the U. He said he bought it on-line from Dell. "They have student deals there as well that are worth looking at, especially for high school students."

    Many high school students are taking the advice and searching on-line for bargains. Apple offers discounts on-line as well. Eden Prairie High School junior Joe Vergeront, 16, took that route 2 years ago. With two children in school, Vergeront's parents asked the in-coming high school freshman to research new hardware.

    "Nowadays, the text books are on line, tests are on-line, everything's on line and with a limited amount of time each evening to study and access a computer, we needed to have one for each student," said Tammy Vergeront, Joe's mother.
    Her son rolled up his sleeves and went to work on line. "We had a home computer, a desk top, that we had before and it was getting older, so I wanted a faster computer.

    "I decided I was going to look on and look through (mail) fliers that came. Eventually, I found a computer that I liked and that met our needs. I read customer reviews on the computers and decided what I needed and then went out and got it."

    The teenager repeated his search when the family decided to upgrade their other computer. "You know, kids know more about what is new and what is out there than we do. So, we just trusted his judgement," explained Tammy Vergeront.

    The discount help for student electronics varies from school to school. The University of Saint Thomas, for instance, offers no on-campus discounts for hardware, but does help students link to on-line bargains elsewhere. They offer software help similar to that at the U of M.

    (Copyright 2010 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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