Now that school's officially begun, it may be time to purchase a computer, either for home use or for your student's purpose. (Hopefully, you took advantage of last month's tax holiday for this or any other allowable school acquisition.)
With such a myriad of brands and models, deciding upon the best computer for your needs and budget can be mind-altering confusion.
Thanks to www.pcworld.com and other sources, I'm able to come up with what I think is a pretty good wish list from which to choose. Let's first check out computers for mainly home use.
* My personal favorite is HP, and the HP Pavilion p6500z series is great for everyday use. It's not expensive - starting at about $300 - and you can configure your own at www.hp.com, where you also can select whatever upgrades you desire. I've bought HP for years and haven't been dissatisfied with either the product or the service. (And for Mrs. Ultimate
Complainer Watchdog, that's really saying something.)
* Gateway is another good brand, although a good bit more expensive. Starting at around $850, the Gateway DX4840-15 offers top-quality audio and graphics execution. Another feature for today's tech user is software that provides slide shows at one quick click of your mouse.
OK, so you only use the Internet and don't need any big power. However, you do need a computer with long battery life and approximately 160 GB of hard drive space, assuming you want to enjoy photos and/or music.
* The least expensive scaled-down laptop is one I'd never heard of: the Asus Eee PC 1001 from www.pcmall.com. At $299 and weighing 2.8-pounds, this baby will go anywhere you go. Its 10-inch screen and 11-hour battery life makes it a perfect companion and, even better, the case comes in different patterns and colors.
* The more pricey of the "Internet-only" line is the Acer Aspire One AO532G for $499 (www.newegg.com). Not only does the Aspire contain a 10-hour battery life, it also has a built-in webcam.
Say you travel a lot. Regardless of whether you're on the road, in the air or sitting at the local wireless café, sometimes you simply need a more powerful laptop and Sony and Apple sell two of the best.
* Sony presents the less pricey in the form of the VAIO W series (www.sonystyle.com). As a second computer, the $450 and up pricetag makes it pretty reasonable. With a 10-inch screen, webcam and microphone, and an eight-hour battery, it's also blessed with a free Web browser, and, among other niceties, childrens' games, Web sites, photos and videos.
* Step-up model No. 1 is the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch from www.apple.com for under $1,200. At 4.4 pounds and in an aluminum case, the MacBook also includes a DVD burner.
* Step-up No. 2 for $1,000 is the HP Envy 14 from www.hpdirect.com. A powerful processor, weighing in at a bit more than 5 pounds, it features a backlit keyboard, webcam, advanced graphics and a 14-inch screen, among other desirable traits.
(To be continued. In the meantime, have a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend.)
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.