Nervous Dad on laptop purchase for middle schooler

I'm horrifed to even be considerring buying a computer for my soon to be 12 year old, but she's using our family PC for homework. She does iTunes, web browsing, IM/email, and some low end graphics (power point) and will likely watch the occasional DVD. To connect to the household network, we'd need a wireless card-are these standardized or are there different types that need to matcht he router's system?

I live in the US, was mainly considering a Windows system, am less concerned about portability and battery life as this would mainly be used by my daughter lounging on her bed, rather than on the road.

Any suggestions on what to buy (RAM, processing speed, video) and how much is a reasonable expectation of what to pay?
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  1. A laptop for such a young kid? I think you're asking for trouble. Just get any cheap desktop solution. It's cheaper, easier, more robust, and she can't get it lost/stolen/damaged (kinda). Plus, you don't have to deal with all the wireless networking hassle, especially if you don't know how to set up and secure it.
  2. For basic office/school needs you really don't need much. 2.00ghz CPU (either Intel or AMD, won't make much difference), 2gb of RAM, Integrated Graphics and HDD space of your choosing. Most laptops come with Wireless cards in the a/b/g frequency range which is what most home networks use.

    You could most likely find something that would easily fit the bill for under $800.

    At the same time, though, I think I agree with Frozenlead. If you are truly concerned about the system getting damaged or lost/forgotten, just buy a cheap system from Dell or HP, or build your own for that matter.
  3. I would agree that you're asking for trouble with a laptop. There are too many issues with unintentional abuse. The power connector may get damaged, the unit will be susceptable to overheating and damage from sitting on the covers, and the screen and hinges will be highly susceptable to damage from being dropped or picking it up by the screen. I've been through this with my teens and even the young adults. You're much better off, as the others have said, by investing in an inexpensive desktop and installing a wireless card. You can get the computer at any of the big box stores and can have them install a wireless card or you can do it yourself. It's not difficult at all. With a desktop, you don't have the hassle of the computer going to someone elses house where you can't control the programs or content. You will definately want to invest in some strong virus and spyware protection it you're going to let that computer share files with your home network. Kids end up using all sorts of sharing and bit torrent networks that can junk things up pretty bad. With a desktop, you can also establish the computer and desk as a place for homework with a specific location. Add a printer and you can monitor paper and ink useage to somewhat verify the effort spent on actual homework and useful creativity. Just wanted to throw in some of my experiences as a parent. Remember that with a laptop, if it falls off the bed or couch with the lid open, you could be looking at repairs that can cost as much as a new computer.
  4. guys I have 3 laptops I have no worries I have a 3 to 4 year old dell and has been droped many times woke fine
  5. Sure. But I'm going to assume you're not in middle school. You don't spill things on your computer, you can't be intimidated by other people, and you have sense to protect your things. Not to say his kid doesn't in any way, but we all know that the young ones screw up sometimes.

    This would be a very expensive sometime.
  6. Thanks everyone for the suggestions. I expect the laptop will not leave the house.
    I ended up getting a what I assume is an older model compaq presario at Office Depot on sale model c771us. No frills but it's got 2 gig RAM, DVD writer, Duo core 1.8 Ghz (I think processer), network card, integrated sound and graphics, Vista SP 1 all for 400 after rebates. I hope good enough for word processing, web browsing, some simple graphics projects (power point, cards) music downloads for her ipod. Any thoughts?
  7. That's fine for her, and for $400 its almost like stealing it.
  8. Should be plenty for writing papers and the power point and all that. . . especially if you can "decrapify" it. Also, sometimes buying an extended warranty from the manufacturer (HP) and not the store is significantly cheaper. I recommend at least a 3 year warranty on new laptops. Four years if for business. In other words always take the default warranty from the store and extend it online when you get home.

    On a side note, I've been rolling with IBM ThinkPad T22 and T23 as my primary home PC for the last three years (after I sold my T22 I just have the T23 before that was a ThinkPad 600X-- see a pattern here?). I have a high tolerance for bargain basement performance.
  9. Decrapify? Remove start up programs, go with a less memory gobbling virus scanner, tweak Vista to run lighter? Is that what you meant?

    I'll be new to Vista and understand it's a memory hog. Anyone have a good link for Vista (or XP for that matter) to make it run better on a low end machine?
  10. splunge said:
    Decrapify? Remove start up programs, go with a less memory gobbling virus scanner, tweak Vista to run lighter? Is that what you meant?
    Yeah. Exactly. linky

    Good tweak guide:

    I just want to reiterate what has already been spoken of by others in other threads: memory consumption is not necessarily a bad thing. As long as that memory is allocated and being used wisely. But how are we to know, really?
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