Buying Mom and Dad a Computer? Read This First

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Buying a computer for mom or dad doesn’t have to be a chore. As long as you understand their basic computing needs, it will be easy to choose the perfect device, whether mom or dad needs something portable while on the go, or something more powerful for a dedicated home office. TechnologyGuide has compiled not only a list of the best notebooks, tablets, hybrids, and all-in-ones, but also explanations of the device options to make it easier going forward.

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Google Chromebook

There are a few different models of Google Chromebooks from manufacturers such as Samsung, Acer and HP. They make a great option for mom or dad since they’re often inexpensive, lightweight, and feature automatic updates. The Chromebook shines on Wi-Fi, and it’s perfect for anyone mostly interested in basic web browsing. However, for users on the go that are worried about having consistent access to Wi-Fi, there are 3G and 4G models available, and Google has recently upped its offerings of offline apps in the Chrome Web Store.

Pros: Fast and often inexpensive, typically feature attractive designs that are lightweight and portable.

Cons: Previously, the Chromebook was mostly useless without a data connection, but Google recently released a host of offline apps. The only downside is that users only have access to the apps provided by Google, and won’t be able to download or install other software that isn’t offered through the Chrome Web Store.

Consider: Samsung Google Chromebook

What makes the Samsung Google Chromebook different from the average notebook is that it only features 16GB internal storage, since everything is backed up to the cloud via Google Drive. Users don’t have to worry about paying for storage, at least at first, as the Chromebook comes with 100GB of free cloud storage for two years. However, after two years, users will have to invest in a paid account.

The Chromebook is somewhat like a tablet with the convenience of a traditional notebook design and access to apps in the Chrome Web Store. Don’t expect to get apps from Google Play, however, since it runs Chrome OS, and not Android. The Samsung Google Chromebook also features an 11.6-inch screen, weighs only 2.42 pounds, and has around 6.5 hours of battery life.

Once again, it’s important to note that the Chromebook is at its best when connected to Wi-Fi or a cellular network, so it’s not a great option for anyone looking to use it sans internet. The new offline apps are still fairly limited compared to traditional Windows offerings, so it might be best to check out what’s available before making the jump, just to be sure mom or dad can have access to the apps they want while offline.

The Samsung Google Chromebook retails for around $250 at the time of this writing, making it budget friendly. The 3G version retails for $329.99 and includes up to 100MB of Verizon 3G data per month for two years.

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If mom and dad aren’t big on computing, but they want to browse the web, play a few basic games, use apps, and watch streaming content, why not go with an iPad? While it doesn’t feature traditional Windows software, the iPad is very user friendly and is a great option for anyone with other Apple devices, since iCloud makes it easy to sync across all iOS and OSX platforms. Unlike the Chromebook, iPad users can still use plenty of apps while offline, so being disconnected for a little while isn’t a huge issue.

Pros: User friendly and great for basic web browsing, apps, and streaming media; also features compatibility with other iOS devices.

Cons: Limited in terms of computing abilities. Also, the lack of keyboard or touchpad means it isn’t a great option for anyone interested in heavy word processing.

Consider: iPad 2

If the budget is tight, the iPad 2 16GB is still a big seller, and it retails for $399 while the 3G model starts at $529, not including a data plan. The 9.7-inch display on the iPad is a comfortable size for reading web pages or eBooks as well as for watching streaming content. It boasts a battery life of up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi and 9 hours on a cellular connection. It weighs only 1.44 pounds and measures .37-inches thin.

Apple only sells the iPad 2 with 16GB of storage, which can fill up fast depending on the type of apps and media stored on the device. For instance, many movies in iTunes are anywhere from 1-3GB in standard definition and 3-5GB in high definition. Add on some games, photos, music, and other apps, and that 16GB quickly fills up.

Also Consider: iPad with Retina Display

The iPad with Retina Display is the latest full-sized iPad from Apple and it features an A6X chip, which Apple claims is twice as fast as the iPad 2. The Retina Display describes its 264 dpi resolution and IPS technology. In comparison, the iPad 2 has a 132 dpi resolution. The boost in resolution on the Retina Display can also make it easier on the eyes if mom or dad have a hard time reading small text.

Also, considering storage is important too, If mom or dad plan to use more than 16GB, it’s time to look at the Retina models. The iPad with Retina Display starts at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model, and goes up to $799 for the 128GB version, and the 4G version starts at $629 for the 16GB model, and goes up to $929 for the 128GB version.

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Android Tablet

For those looking for something outside the iOS ecosystem, Android tablets are the next best thing. Cheaper, more versatile, and available from multiple manufacturers, Android tablets offer a different level of flexibility for users. While not as “user-friendly” as Apple devices, an Android tablet can do just about all the same as an iPad, if not more.

Pros: Android tablets are more versatile than the iPad, and typically cheaper.However, not all Android tablets are created equal, for instance the Kindle Fire is an Android tablet, but the changes Amazon has made to the OS bar access to the Google Play store. For anyone with an Android smartphone, getting an Android tablet also means apps will sync across devices, saving users from repurchasing their favorite apps on another platform.

Cons: Operating system can be a bit more confusing, especially for those not used to Android, and sometimes certain devices won’t have access to the latest Android OS, which can cause cross-platform confusion.

Consider: Google Nexus 7 (2013)

While there may be plenty of 7-inch Android tablets, they are not all created equal. One of the best Android tablets on the market is the Nexus 7 tablet from Google, a 7-inch tablet that weighs around .66 pounds with an estimated 9 hour battery life. Users can opt for the 16GB or 32GB Wi-Fi models for $229 and $269, respectively. Google also offers a 32GB model with Wi-Fi and LTE from T-Mobile for $349, and data plans start at $20 a month for 500MB; users are given up to 2GB of 4G data free for one month upon purchasing the tablet.

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Hybrids

Hybrids combine the ease of keyboard and touchpad with the simplicity of a tablet experience. They come in all shapes and sizes, some with separate keyboard docks, which mount to the tablet display, and others with swivel or hinge designs, in which the keyboard rests on the back of the display. Whatever the format, hybrids give users the option of both a tablet and a notebook, and just about all of them run Windows 8, though there are some Android hybrids.

Pros: Lightweight and portable with the benefits of a tablet and the flexibility of a notebook.

Cons: Some models, like the Surface Pro, can be a bit clunky due to the nature of their design. They are often expensive, given the specs.

Consider: Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11s

A notebook/tablet hybrid, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11s is an attractive and portable option for anyone on the go. Moms and dads can get the luxury of an easy-to-tote tablet, with the flexibility of a full style Chiclet keyboard, both running the full version of Windows 8. The keyboard offers the convenience of a touchpad, while the 11-inch IPS LED HD touchscreen display with 142 dpi resolution makes for an excellent Windows 8 user experience. The IdeaPad Yoga 11s is a great device for using Microsoft Office, surfing the web, playing basic games, using apps, and streaming media.

Hybrids like the Surface Pro also run the full version of the Windows 8 operating system, allowing users to switch between a desktop mode and the tile layout. But compared to the Lenovo, the Surface Pro is clunky and less comfortable to hold. And when compared to the Surface RT, which runs a less feature-filled version of Windows 8, Windows RT, the Lenovo Yoga IdeaPad 11s offers the full Windows 8 experience on a sleeker hybrid design.

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All-in-One Desktop

All-in-one desktops look kind of like a tablet on steroids and they are slowly replacing classic desktop computers setups. If mom or dad has a dedicated home office that they are looking to outfit with a mostly permanent device, an all-in-one is the way to go. Most all-in-one desktops on the market run Windows 8 and feature touchscreens, so operating the tiled OS is a breeze. Most of them are also portable to some extent, or at least more portable than the old tower and monitor setup, so if the need arises, they can be moved to another room easily.

Pros: Desktop experience without all the added hardware.

Cons: Not as portable as a notebook or tablet, making it better for a mostly permanent home office set up.

Consider: Dell XPS 18

The Dell XPS 18 is boasts a generous 18.4-inch display, far more real estate than the average notebook or tablet has to offer. It also boasts a battery life of about 5 hours, an Intel Core CPU, HD 4000 graphics, and up to 8GB of RAM. The battery life outweighs that of most other all-in-one desktop models, so while it’s not as portable as a notebook or tablet, it at least gives users the option. It features a sleek and slim design with a kick stand to keep it upright on a solid surface at various viewing angles. The Dell XPS all-in-one can be found for as low as $949 with special offers as of this writing.

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Windows laptop

And of course, there is the traditional clam-shell notebook. Mom or dad might be traditionalists in their computing style, and there are there are a number of Windows 8 notebooks available on the market now, and they are good for the user looking to store videos, photographs, files, and more. However, due to the tile-based Windows 8 UI, many users will agree that a touchscreen is necessary, as navigation is very swipe-centric. Consider that when choosing a model, otherwise mom or dad might be left frustrated with the user experience.

Pros: Traditional notebook experience with more versatility with photos, videos, storage, and word processing. Traditional notebooks often present a real value in terms of specs for the price, especially compared with hybrids and Ultrabooks.

Cons: Models without touchscreen might be frustrating for users, as Windows 8 shines on a touchscreen.

Consider: Dell Inspiron 15R Special Edition

The Dell Inspiron 15R Special Edition is a multimedia notebook boasting an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, 6GB memory, and a 750GB hard drive. It is a bit bulky, especially compared to tablets and Ultrabooks. However, it’s powerful, and will suit any user’s multimedia needs with its boosted RAM and graphics, especially compared to the standard 15R model.

Its weight of 6.4 pounds makes it light enough to transport room to room if mom or dad plans to use it mostly at home. The 15.6-inch display with 141 dpi resolution looks great, especially for the price, and will come in handy for those that want to watch Netflix or stream other online content. The speakers won’t disappoint either, which is something lacking on most tablets and notebooks. The Dell Inspiron 15R Special Edition is available for as low as $599 at the time of this writing.

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