One of the most perplexing purchases for consumers: computers. What’s right for you and how much should you spend? What’s appropriate for a college student?
Consumer Reports has attempted to unravel it all with the release of its ratings of 200 models of laptops, desktops, netbooks and printers. Since the difference in speed between laptops and desktops are minimal, consider other factors like ergonomics when making a selection.
Now is a good time to get a deal on a computer without sacrificing performance and key features. Because changes to newer model desktops, laptops and netbooks are mostly cosmetic, buying a slightly older version may save consumers some money.
So, which way do you go? Here are the tips from Consumer Reports.
Laptops for Under $600
Consumer Reports recommends the Toshiba Satellite T235-S1352, $580. It was an excellent performer in tests, had a battery life of seven hours, a generous hard drive and a large 16-inch display all at a low price. Another good choice is the Compaq Presario CQ62-209WM, $400. It’s a bare-bones model with good performance and a price that can’t be beat.
Consumer Reports tested full-sized, compact and all-in-one desktop computers. The Compaq Presario CQ5320Y is a great deal at $350 – it’s a bare-bones computer that performs well and has a large, 500 GB hard drive. For a compact desktop, Consumer Reports recommends the Dell Inspiron 580s, $500, which has excellent performance, however, the brand has had the worst tech support. Another good choice is the HP Pavilion Slimline s5310y, $460, which has a lower price and more storage. The Apple iMac 27-inch MB952LL/A, $1,700, was the top-performing all-in-one — it’s pricy but has a large, excellent display.
The models Consumer Reports tested are all suitable as secondary computers for performing routine tasks. The best offer lighter weight, larger keyboards and trackpads and longer battery life. The Toshiba Mini NB305-N442BL, $380, has better ergonomics than most other netbooks, so it’s more comfortable to type on and battery life was a respectable 7.25 hours. The Asus Eee PC 1015PEB-RD6O1, $330, also had a long battery life at 9¼ hours and its light weight (2.7 pounds) makes its portability excellent.
Consumer Reports recently tested 112 printers and found several speedy, economical all-in-one printers for less than $150. They produce high-quality photos and text and can save space and money compared with a separate printer, scanner and copier.
When shopping for a printer, consumers should assess all costs. An inexpensive printer can be pricey in the long run if print costs are high, so factor that in when choosing. All-in-ones copying function is fine for casual use. Their scanners should be adequate for print originals. Most of the models Consumer Reports tested were very good for scanning.
The HP Photosmart Premium CD055A#ABA, $140, is an all-in-one inkjet that is very good for printing photos and text. It has a large LCD, which is helpful for cropping photos without a computer. The Lexmark Prospect Pro205, $120, another all-in-one inkjet, prints photos quickly and cheaply and has a built in fax.
Four tips for printing cheaply with any printer
1. Avoid the Arial font which uses more ink than Times New Roman and other fonts.
2. Print in draft mode on both sides of the paper.
3. Printing in grayscale or “use black only” mode minimizes the use of color ink.
4. Recycle spent cartridges for a refund or credit at an office supply store.