The following are three factors that I would consider in buying a ‘back to school’ laptop/notebook:

1. How easily are repairs available? – As a student you don’t want to be without your laptop. Ask if repairs are done locally or if the machine has to be shipped. Sometimes, shipping is not a bad option. The warranty may include shipping the laptop away to be repaired. And having it couriered back to you may be covered too. Local service may not be fastest, if parts are not available. Find out what the expected ‘down time’ will be.

2. What is the RAM capacity? – The school work may test the presently available RAM on the laptop. Increasing the RAM is a relatively inexpensive upgrade. However, if the RAM capacity of the machine is limited, you may be stymied and regret the purchase. Think of increasing RAM as part of your future plans.

3. Is an extended warranty available? – You will be lugging the laptop from class to class, to the library, to study hall… it will be bumped and jostled along the way. It will test the durability of the machine and its flaws will show up at the most inappropriate moment. The price of an extended warranty may be a saving in the long run. You don’t want this to be a machine that lasts just one year – and you don’t want to be stuck with a huge repair bill because the warranty has expired. The laptop will be used extensively – for work and play – and its weaknesses will show up eventually. Spend the extra dollars on the extended warranty if it is available.

Others may have further suggestions. These three probably reflect my own buying errors and horror experiences. ‘Down time’ during the school year is just too costly. And you don’t need the computer angst.

Catherine Forsythe

[tags]laptop, notebook, repairs, ram, extended warranty[/tags]