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Tricky decisions and tough choices…

Alex Christie

9 July 2008

As my time at Tamar comes to a close (roughly about 7 weeks now) I have the daunting prospect of finally starting University.

One of the standard purchases every student seems to make before starting, especially for those reading Computer Science such as myself, is a trusty laptop. But with student loans being relied upon to get you through drinking the year away, budgeting is crucial… Yet you need to get something that won’t be keeling over before the end of the next 3 years.

So where to start? The first decision is the standard Mac versus. Microsoft.

As Kristian would say, if you’re gonna spend money on something that will last, go for the Mac. They’re reliable and sturdy and of course, beautifully engineered. They won’t fail on you last minute (unless you completely lose it and throw it out of a window), and if you really do need to run Windows on it, Leopard comes with Boot Camp. So assuming you have a copy of XP or (God forbid) Vista, you can run your Mac alongside with Windows with ease.

Now of course all of that is lovely and wonderful – but the cost is something you have to consider. The standard MacBook will burn a hole in your bank balance – at the lowest price of
£699.00. With that you will get a 2.1 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 1GB of memory, 120GB hard drive and a Combo drive. Not much for your money considering, but the cost does contribute to the software you receive with your MacBook. Add an extra £130, and you’ll get an extra GB of RAM, 40GB more hard disk space, and dual-layer superdrive.

At this point I’m starting to wince at the price. I had set myself a budget of £800/£900 but that was to include any software or accessories I’d require to completely kit myself out.. And I was sort of hoping it wouldn’t have to reach that much.

So keeping the possibility of a Macbook in the back of my mind, rather than getting rid of it completely, I started to looking to alternatives.

I thought I had found the perfect thing… The Toshiba A300-1BZ. With a spec of 3GB memory, 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor, 15.4" screen, 250GB hard drive… With a cost of £649.99, how could you go wrong?

I’m not one to be obsessed with looks… Not much anyway… But this thing is sinfully ugly. It looks pretty nice on all the flashy photos provided by Toshiba… But in real-life the speakers look like something out of Alien, and they appear to have pinstriped a design across the base surface.

Now that’s not a very strong negative argument, but to later find out it shares its memory for its graphics, instantly put it in the ‘Not for me’ pile. To some people this may not be a crucial turning point on decision making, but the finer print of my degree is ‘Computer Science with Games Technology’.

Accepting I may have to actually reach my budget in order to get something worthwhile, I had a glance at the Sony VAIO. The screen is a little smaller than I’d have liked at 14.1", but it does undeniably make the whole thing lighter to carry around. The specs are almost identical to the Toshiba, but 50GB less hard disk space. The hard drive space is almost irrelevant as I had planned on investing in a MyBook external hard drive for around £64.99.

Unfortunately, their after-purchase support is pretty poor from previous experience, and I don’t know if I’d be prepared to be stuck on a support line for hours on end, in the middle of night when I am desperately trying to complete coursework due in 5 hours time. However it’s arguable that if I treat it with the love and care it deserves, it won’t flip out on me and break in the first place.

Of course HP is always a winner when it comes to entertainment and quality, but unfortunately the extensive time they spend on the inside of the laptop doesn’t stretch to the outside, and their products still remain bulky and ugly. The cost for such a high-quality product is also generally beyond my budget… So I won’t bother making myself unhappy by browsing their site in full detail.

So I am still undecided… If you have any thoughts, please let me know!

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