AIt’s the time of year when we start shopping for laptops for the next school year. For the 2008-2009 school year we selected the Toshiba Tecra A8 laptop. However, the students haven’t been very happy with it because of the weight. The 15.4” WXGA screen makes for a large, heavy laptop – can’t say I blame them. Apparently many of the laptop companies have decided that 15.4” wide screens are the way to go, and are making them the most affordable units in their line. A few years ago a 14” screen was the de facto standard, now it’s a premium product that companies like to sell as an “upgrade” to their now standard 15.4” wide screen. We decided that Toshiba’s brand new Satellite Pro U400 which has a 13.3” wide screen (just like a MacBook) was the unit to buy this year. Unfortunately by the time we added a 3-year warranty the cost was $1150+ per unit. That’s pretty hard to swallow since we bought a Tecra A8 last year with a 3-year warranty for $800 each. We have been told we got the “buy of the century” on the Tecras. I have a sneaking suspicion that Toshiba doesn’t manufacture these new Satellite Pro U400 units, they have someone else OEM them. The reason I say this is because they wouldn’t deal at all on price. If we selected a Tecra, they were willing to negotiate on price.
So we started shopping for a new vendor, I hate doing this. I hate the fact that we have to shop for a new unit each year, but since we only have our students (and laptops) for 2 years, it doesn’t make sense to spend $1100+ per laptop. We gave some very serious consideration to Apple, but we just couldn’t make it happen. With all of the software we use in our labs, we need to run Windows. Most of the programs have a Mac equivelant, but the big one that doesn’t is AutoCAD. We have over 100 students taking classes that use AutoCAD, and that means running BootCamp and purchasing a $140 OEM copy of Windows XP or Vista for them. Financially it doesn’t make sense for us. We would have to transition the entire network over to Mac, but that would take a few years.
We looked at the Acer TravelMate series of notebooks. These laptops appear to be built very well. The only problem is that we can’t find many schools using Acer laptops, and the service kind of scares me. There are no Acer service centers, everything is depot.
We ended up purchasing a HP nc4400 laptop that has a 12” screen, and an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0Ghz processor. This has been a very speedy unit in our testing, and the students love the fact that it is only 4 pounds. Furthermore, it boasts a 5.5 hour battery. The students should be able to use the laptop most of the school day.
Our next major decision, what laptop bags to buy.