Consumer Reports lists best buys for computers and printers

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.

  • Match a desktop to needs. Full-sized desktops are feature-laden but take up lots of space.  A slim or compact desktop will save space.  All-in-ones are the most compact but often cost more.
  • Pick the right laptop size. If portability and price are priorities and workload is light, consider a 10-inch netbook.  For heavier work, a 13-inch laptop is a better choice but will cost more.  Most people find the best balance of price, power, and portability in a 14- to 16-inch laptop.  A 17-inch or larger model works well as a replacement desktop.
  • Weigh a laptop’s ergonomics. Try a laptop out in a store if possible and pay special attention to the keyboard size and layout.  The touch-pad should be large enough for the finger to traverse the span of the display without lifting.  Make sure the touchpad buttons aren’t too difficult to press.

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.

Desktops

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.

Netbooks

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.

Printers

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.

Follow me on Twitter @atlbargains and on Facebook at AJC Atlanta Bargain Hunter

7 comments Add your comment

Jack Booted Thug

August 5th, 2010
12:18 pm

Use BestBuy to do your research then make purchase elsewhere.

cisinc

August 5th, 2010
7:13 pm

Use http://www.cnet.com to do your research – see both editor’s and user’s evaluations….and the lowest prices nationwide.

Debbie Palmer

August 6th, 2010
1:34 am

Enter your comments here

Eric

August 6th, 2010
1:39 am

Just go to dealnews.com as they will tell you where to go to get the best prices.

radio shackle

August 6th, 2010
10:53 pm

just go to frys and buy the cheapest laptop they got. You are too stupid to recognize any difference in any of them.

Jack Booted Thug

August 9th, 2010
7:50 am

radio shackle

August 6th, 2010
10:53 pm

AHH HAHAHAAAA!!! LMAO!!

Mendel Potok

August 16th, 2010
11:49 am

I’ve always used Consumer Reports when purchasing my computers. They typically get it right most of the time, and it’s worth the subscription in my opinion.