Some of the most common questions I receive from district staff and students involve advice on home computer purchases. It has been several years since I first blogged about this question. With the new school year approaching, it is time to update my recommendation.
Most staff and students have similar needs: web surfing, email, social media, digital photos, word processing and music management. Based on these general requirements, the purchase decision typically boils down to two major choices: Mac vs. Windows and price.
My long-standing staff recommendation, the 13″ White Macbook, has been discontinued. The absence of a lower cost alternative in Apple’s product lineup certainly doesn’t help those seeking a quality laptop on a budget. I’d like to offer an affordable non-Apple product for consideration: the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 430.
At approximately $599, the 14″ Edge 430 offers excellent specifications at half the cost of a 13″ Macbook Pro. Beyond price, the Edge 430 boasts an outstanding balance of portability, battery life, durability and features. Plus, the model includes a spill-resistant, comfortable keyboard which makes typing a joy.
So what about compatibility with district systems? Years ago, a significant chasm between the Apple and Windows worlds existed. Sharing files across platforms was often cumbersome. Fast forward to 2012: the growth of cloud services and open formats has rendered compatibility issues a moot point.
In the past, our personal files were typically maintained on our personal computers. The Internet is now largely a cloud-based platform for our music, movies, photos, applications and documents. Consider that, today, the essential file management application is a modern web browser such as Chrome or Firefox. This, in turn, flattens the compatibility curve for Mac, Windows and Linux computers, along with iOS and Android mobile devices.
Finally, I recommend that staff and students stick with Windows 7 for the time being. Windows 7 is a solid system and arguably Microsoft’s finest work. Windows 8, due later this year, is a radical reworking of the classic system. For many, it is too soon to dive into what is essentially version 1.0 of a totally new direction for Microsoft.
In light of the forthcoming changes in Windows 8, it may be a great time to side-step the Windows OS issue and consider an alternative operating system such as Linux. Ubuntu, which is loaded a large number of the district student laptops, is a stellar Linux-based system that would satisfy the vast majority of one’s personal home computing needs.