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(National/Consumer Reports) August 17, 2006 - Students returning to Clemson and USC this weekend will make up part of the two million kids heading off to college this year, and as many as 90 percent of them will be taking along a computer. And if you haven't found the right computer yet, this might help get you up and running.
Anne Agostino has kids in college. Her youngest son starts this fall, and she knows from experience he'll need a good laptop.
"My middle child used it all the time, everyday, for homework and classwork," she explained.
Most college students these days have their own computer, but it can be tough to figure out which one to buy.
Consumer Reports just tested 21 laptops and says the good news is that they are less expensive than ever.
Tester Rich Fisco says laptops are also offering more features, like a glossy display screen, "Glossy screens are great, especially if you're looking at a movie. The colors pop. It's very vibrant. It looks really, really great. The downside is the reflections could be a little bit of a problem."
Wide screens are another feature that is now standard on most new laptops. They're better for watching movies, and for viewing documents side-by-side.
Fisco says, "A typical student's going to be writing their papers, doing their homework, surfing the web. But you also have to consider that in their downtime they're going to be watching movies and playing games on them as well."
For a computer that can handle it all, testers recommend the Dell Inspiron E-1505. It costs about $1,100.
Consumer Reports says in general, tech support offered by most computer manufacturers can fall short. So you may want to consider skipping the extended warranty, opting instead for independent tech support.