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ABC of buying a laptop for your kids

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These days, a paper based A4 notebook for your child at school is so out of fashion. What he or she needs is a laptop, but which one do you choose? NTOMBEZINHLE MODISELLE of Intel provides some advice.

Whether your child is starting high school or is well into their tertiary education, a new computer or an upgrade if they’ve had it for more than four years should top their list of back-to-school necessities for the myriad of tangible benefits. But which one do you pick from the dazzling array of new technology available?

Buying the right machine is not that all that simple for us non-techy parents. To make the best purchase for your child you need to consider how it will be used for the next four years and consider all areas of functionality.

Entry level laptops are perfectly sufficient for primary school learners who only need basic computing functions – but keep in mind that it takes a maximum of four years to outgrow technology completely, and lately even faster.

Older students will benefit more from a faster device with more memory, better graphics and sound, which will allow them to create media-rich content along with homework activities such as charts and graphs, write reports and do research. Teenagers will also of course be excited and engage with the ‚fun’ side of using a laptop, like downloading music and movies and play games.

Before hitting the shops to buy back to school computing devices, consider the following tips:

Broadband bundles

Over the last few years, South Africa is awash with bundled broadband product deals. Data service providers typically offer a PC, laptop or Netbook with a standard data bundle. These packages are an affordable way for any South African parent to purchase a computing devise equipped with a good broadband service.

Security

We all want our kids to have the edge by giving them access to the best technology ‚ both at school and beyond. We want them to access information whenever they want to. Problem is, we’re terrified of letting them roam free on the internet. There are products such as a Vodacom 3G card which is embedded with parental control, specifically designed to help parents keep their kids safe online and protect them from being exposed to illegal and inappropriate adult content. Solutions such as these let you, as a parent, block any inappropriate or adult content such as gambling, violence and sexually-based content at no extra cost, for your peace of mind. It is therefore worthwhile to check with your service provider if they offer it.

Software packages for learning

Make sure the computer you buy has enough memory and processing power to download a host of excellent educational software packages such as Microsoft Learning Suite or LeapFrog’s LeapPad software. Kids can have hours of educational fun by using applications such as Bing Maps to do online searches, MovieMaker to make movies or documentaries, Songsmith to record their self-written songs and StickySorter to organise brainstorm notes. Not only does this enhance their educational independence it also makes learning fun.

Portability

Face it, the best feature about a laptop is that you can carry it with you to places ‚ campus, school, even on holiday to finish that project ahead of time. If your child needs to carry it around extensively, I suggest that you consider a laptop with a solid-state drive (SSD), as opposed to a traditional hard-disk drive (HDD). A laptop with a SSD is more durable, quieter and faster.

Primary school learners may benefit from the smaller Netbook because they won’t necessarily mind the compromise in functionality. If functionality is high on your wish-list, rather invest in a PC that will give you that performance.

The Ultrabook is the star attraction in the portability category this year, boasting features such as being ultra-thin, ultra-light, an impressive battery life, more power efficient than any other device and having impressive processing capabilities. Your kids will love you for not only getting them the best technology available to date, but its stylish look is a hit too.

Memory, processor speed and hard drive space

A general rule of thumb to share when it comes to processing speed, memory and hard drive space is to buy the computer with the most memory and storage space you can afford, with the fastest processor you can afford. The best on the market right now will be outdated in two years.

Graphics

Your child is sure to spend hours surfing the internet doing research and will be using software that requires higher-end (and lately, built-in) graphic cards. If the majority of children are anything like mine, they will eventually want to do some gaming with friends in their spare time.

Ports, slots and extras

Make a list of all accessories needing a slot on the machine itself, and look for a device to match your needs. Remember, a smaller laptop means fewer items can be plugged in. But make sure at least one USB 3.0 port is present. Your child will thank you for the enhanced speed, which is 10 times faster than older devices with the 2.0 version.

Warrantee

This may seem insignificant, but being able to go back to the vendor who offered an extended warrantee may prove a godsend should something go wrong. Peace of mind is everything, especially if your 19 year old is living on campus, away from your watchful eye.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @gadgetza

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