Shocked by Laptop! Advise ?

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Shocked by Laptop! Advise ?
By Angstridden (Angstridden) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 02:17 pm: Edit

Just opened the laptop for D. and per discussion here bought her a lightweight. I am stunned by the lightness and small size! This baby is little - a 700m..awfully cute though. I think the keyboard is 92% of full size.
Anyway...I just wonder if kids tote them to class cus this will be GREAT if thats the case..but if they dont then perhaps we need the bigger one!

By Sc_Dad (Sc_Dad) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 04:33 pm: Edit

In my opinion and experience, most students leave the laptop in the dorm room.

The laptop is not very efficent for note taking anyway. Difficult to accomodate drawings, flow charts and doodling by the prof.

By Jenniferpa (Jenniferpa) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 04:49 pm: Edit

If you think the keybaord size is an issue, it's easy to add a full size keyboard (at least I assume it is, it is on Apples).

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 05:22 pm: Edit

Well, I think although students don't tend to bring it to class unless the course somehow requires it, they do bring the laptop to the library.

By Michuncle (Michuncle) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 07:16 pm: Edit

Bigger is not always better.

The typical student classroom desk (those with the "arm" on the right) haven't changed in decades. A 14" laptop would take up all of that real estate. Typical 15" and larger laptops simply wouldn't fit.

For corporate road warriors, think about balancing a large laptop on an airplane's fold-away tray in coach.

Students don't bring laptops to class because of their bulk, short battery life and their limited ability to actually take notes.

If you're a liberal arts student, notetaking on a laptop is a possibility. However, in the sciences, math and engineering, a typical laptop is useless.

For those reason, parents ought to consider tablet pcs (laptops with a screen that you can "write" on). These tablets use a stylus much like those for PDAs. Tablets are more expensive than typical laptops, but for notetaking, tablet pcs can't be beat. Tablet pcs are the electronic replacement for the old pad of paper and pencil.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 07:37 pm: Edit

My H has been trying to convince me and our S to try a tablet PC. Do they run conventional software- word, powerpoint, etc...and how good is the recognition, or do you need a different script as with the old palms?

For the OP, if the keyboard or screen are an issue on the smaller laptop, just augment with a desktop docking situation...easy to do. I wouldn't give up on the lightweight laptop...

By Michuncle (Michuncle) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 08:58 pm: Edit

Tablet Pcs are Windows based laptops running an extended version of Windows XP Pro. They run any Windows based software plus new programs that recognize "digital ink".

The handwriting recognition is good, but is much better after installing the new Microsoft Service Pack 2 update (released on Aug. 25th).

Re keyboard/screen: most Tablet PC keyboards are decent enough for typing. You can always attach a full size keyboard via the USB port. You can also attach a regular monitor to them as well...either through a docking station or via a VGA port located on most Tablets.

Most Tablets weigh in from 3lbs (10 1/2" screen to 6 lbs (14"). The Toshiba M205 Tablet PC has a 12 1/2" screen and weighs in at 4.5 lbs. And battery life typically runs around 4 hours or more.

If you are looking for a laptop for school purposes, you should check out www. This software is designed specifically for students. Think of an electronic yellow or white pad with a search capability... All of your classes are totally organized.

If math classes are important, look at's MathJournal program. Literally, use the Tablet PC's stylus to write down an equation inside the program which uses a white pad lined paper or graph paper background. Click on a dialog box and you get your answer...

If there is a drawback, it's that Tablets are more expensive than most laptops. Prices should start to drop as new models are introduced.

Hope this helps!

By Concerneddad (Concerneddad) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 09:09 pm: Edit

I bought my son the lighest Toshiba. For $60.00 at Costco, I also bought him a wireless full size keyborad and mouse. Best of both worlds, and he loves it.

By Patito12 (Patito12) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 09:11 pm: Edit

i am a very technology oriented kid, and also bringing a laptop to college.
but let me tell you right here and now that nothing beats a pen and paper when taking notes and organizing your life. its quicker, simpler, and there is ALWAYS (and i mean ALWAYS) something that you can do with a pen in 15 seconds that would take you 15 minutes on a computer. like draw a diagram, or anything unconventional.
that being said, the only reason i have a laptop and not a desktop is so that i can take my computer around to study/do homework/write papers. so i could take it to the library, outside on a sunny day, or simply away from the dorm.

By Dadx (Dadx) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 09:29 pm: Edit

Sounds like the old pencil and notepad may win out.

BTW, in our son's orientation, as we were visiting a sample dorm room, one of the orienteers volunteered that he had a roommate who didn't bring a computer at all, and he did better academically than everyone. Seems it meant he had to leave the dorm to go to the computer labs to do all his work, and forced him out of the illusion that anything productive would occur in the dorm.

We didn't have the courage to emulate that.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 10:24 pm: Edit

Michuncle..thanks for the information. Sounds worth checking into, for me anyways!

By Angstridden (Angstridden) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 10:33 pm: Edit are you all thinking this is tooo small..or should I get the wireless full size keyboard? BTW what is the mouse with that..we ordered a mouse with the computer.
This baby is about the size of a piece of loose leaf paper and no bigger then my thumb joint..
guess its up to her..she will see it this other D. thought it was awesome!

By Michuncle (Michuncle) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 11:30 pm: Edit

Robyrm: Glad I could be of service!

Patito12: Tablet PCs are like pen and paper! The convertible models like the Toshiba have the LCD screen mounted on a center hinge. You rotate the screen and it lays itself back against the keyboard with the screen facing upward. In that position, it's like writing on a thick legal pad or spiral bound notebook.

Using MS OneNote or MS Journal: both MS programs come standard with Tablets, the screen is like your paper legal pad. You write on the screen just as you would on a piece of paper. You can draw or sketch to your hearts' content and then select the "erase" function from the tool bar and delete your doodling (or not). You can select different colors for your "pen". You can even select a yellow highlighter function!

In the Gobinder program that I mentioned, you can link your handwritten notes to articles that you import from the web; scan in from a class handout or from MS Encarta! You can circle or highlight over the imported pages and link them to your notes.

Write down "George Washington". Highlight it with your "pen", and it will search all of your notes for "George Washington" Handwritten notes, web pages, articles from Encarta... Can't do that with ordinary pen and paper. No more, "I know I wrote that note somewhere in this pad".

A program like Xthink's Mathjournal gives you a graph paper background. Charts, math questions, etc. can be "written" directly onto the screen. Tap the solution button with your "pen" and you get the answer.

In MS Journal, there's a recording and timestamp feature. You're in class, you tap the "recorder" button in the Journal toolbar as your professor starts his lecture. You start taking notes. When the professor makes an important point, you use your stylus to "paste" a timestamp in the margin of your note. Back at the dorm, you tap on that timestamp and the recorder will play back that portion of the lecture! Can't do that with pen and paper...

Give Tablet PCs some thought!

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 11:32 pm: Edit

my daughter j/ust bought the 12 inch powerbook with combo drive, it came with a rebate so she also bought an ••••. ( why didn't the mp3 player that apple makes show up?) weird
We only use laptops and are used to the keyboards, the 10 key addition can be useful though if you are dooing lots of number crunching but keyboard can also be configured to your specs.
The resolution on the powerboook is good enough that is same as a larger monitor ( at least for those people with good eyesight!)
My daughter takes hers to class and labs, mostly labs, if you dont haul it around with you and use the wireless access on campus you are missing out.
I wouldn't get anything extra, see if she can get used to it first.

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Wednesday, September 01, 2004 - 11:38 pm: Edit

S got 15" powerbook. he was told to wait until he started school before buying lots of software, because he can download for free.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:09 am: Edit

Just one more question. You mention scanning in data from class handouts. The tablet has scanning capability for typed information as well??

Any downsides besides cost??

By Mom2003 (Mom2003) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 04:33 am: Edit

If you child ends up using a computer for more than notetaking and typing papers, tablet PCs may be inadequate due to slower processor. Also, tablet PCs don't always come with a CD writer and your child may need an additional CD writer to back up his data (increasing the chances of loss & cost). Most kids also like to play computer games on their laptops and here a tablet PC is totally inadequate (ok, in our family parents like to play games too..). I just bought a Sony notebook with 13 inch screen, good memory and a built in DVD player/write and the whole package is only 4.2 lbs. A built in DVD player allows me to watch DVD movies on long international flights. The keyboard is smaller than I am used to but I am getting used to it and don't really need an additional keyboard.

I use my notebook to take notes in meetings and use microsoft onenote without the digital ink capabilities. It works out well enough since I am a fast typist.

Good reviews and discussions can be found on I was really really attracted to a Tablet PC for myself and after much exploration decided that I needed more of an all purpose notebook computer than a Tablet PC.

My son is a serious computer gamer and for him my kind of notebooks are simply not adequate. He is taking our old computer to school and will decide in 6 months what to buy for himself after figuring out his needs.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 05:13 am: Edit

Mom2003...confession time, son has a just gotten a new notebook, I am now thinking of this for me-love my Toshiba notebook but... I take copious notes (in a situation where I can't be using a computer) that I end up retyping..think this might be a solution? don't need it for games, movies, but the CD writer issue is probably significant. DOes it have USB ports?

By Angstridden (Angstridden) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 06:44 am: Edit

Emeraldkity..this keyboard is 92% the size of a regular laptops keyboard. The whole set up is the size of a piece of note paper and thick as my thumb joint.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 07:58 am: Edit

ya I got that part. It is the same size as the powerbook. I like the smaller keyboard myself. I have small hands and my daughters are even smaller. It is pretty easy to get used to it. The last time we had a desktop computer with a full size keyboard was when Apple allowed clones. I wouldn't get the tablet pc as replacement for laptop, I just bought a palm and while they have folding wireless keyboards they are kinda cheesy for taking lots of notes. Whether or nt you need a laptop for notes depends on class. I like taking notes on a keyboard much better than by hand, but then I have creaky fingers and they get tired easily.You can always bring a small pad to sketch drawings on if needed or use the drawing program.
I think my daughter brought her laptop to labs but used pen and paper for lecture. The desks in lecture halls were often tiny and it is awkward to type on your lap.
Size is a factor but also expandability depending on major. My daughter bought an old clamshell ibook after high school for college which physically is a bigger computer but then bought this new one for her senior year cause she needed a bigger processor for stat crunching, but if mostly you are going to use it for word processing, then a big upgrade is overkill.

By Michuncle (Michuncle) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 10:03 am: Edit

Robyrm: You will need a scanner for handouts, books and magazine pages. Once a document is scanned and imported into your digital ink enabled software, you can use your pen to highlight, annotate or circle relevant passages and create links to your notes. Many schools have course materials online that can be downloaded. Imagine being able to dowload a PowerPoint presentation and being able to add notes to the slides in digital ink...

My nephew started college this week and we got him a HP 1350 inkjet printer, copier, scanner. The printer is the size of a small breadbox and fits on his student desk.

Re optical drives: Most Tablets do not have onboard dvd/cd-rw drives in order to save weight. On the Toshiba, the drives are external and plug into the Tablet when needed. Depending on the user, this may be a good thing or not.

Re processor speed: Almost all Tablets use Intel's Centrino chips which are rated between 1 to 2 Ghz. Many people think that this is underpowered as compared to standard Intel chips running at 3 Ghz and faster. A typical 1.5 Centrino chip compares favorably to to a Pentium 2.4 Ghz chip. What is more important than processor speed is the amount of memory in your computer. You need at least 512 if not 1 gig of memory for real world speed.

Intel has just released their newest Centrino chip named Dothan. Toshiba has just started using these chips in their Tablets. They use even less power than the earlier Centrinos for better battery life and increased their real world speed.

Re gaming: if you're a serious gamer, then Tablets are probably not for you. From the parent's perspective, that may not be a bad thing! The Toshiba and the HP1100 Tablets have 32 meg of separate video ram and can play games at lower resolutions and frame rates. Your call...

For a real world perspective, go to

There are 29 pages of student comments about using Tablet PCs good and bad....almost all good.

Happy reading!

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 10:11 am: Edit

I think if my professor used powerpoint to teach a class I would want my money back.
Thanks for reminding me though, I have been attending too many board meetings where the presentation consists of oversimplified bullets of goals so generalized that no one can tell if they are met or not.
Powerpoint should be a tool not the whole thing

By Sdfsd (Sdfsd) on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 10:24 am: Edit

I bought a Dell Inspiron 9100...the thing weighs nine pounds. I decided to completely ignore the entire lightweight issue and just go for a really powerful laptop that would be both a laptop and an adequate substitute for a desktop. I packed my laptop with things like a 128 MB ATI videocard. Basically, I'll be able to play graphics-intensive games, but I'll still be able to carry it to class and all that. One of the reasons I decided to do this, strangely enough, was because of the price - my laptop, which is definitely more powerful than the Latitudes offered by my college, cost the same directly through Dell as the lower end D600 would through my college! I had been pondering whether to get a laptop on my own or through the school, but when I saw the deal I could get I just couldn't resist.

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