Buying a computer system/System Requirements for Laptop

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Question
Hi, I'm looking for a new laptop computer for my son. He's in college and his Toshiba laptop no longer has any sound. He is a music composition major so sound is quite important for him.

In addition to needing sound, he wants a system that is good enough to play games on. (His career goal is to compose music for movies and video games.) He said he doesn't need to play Skyrim on it - which I understand needs a powerful system - but he does need one that will play some decent games.

I have no idea what kind of system to look for. We can't afford the best system on the market, but we also don't want to buy a computer that needs to be replaced in two years.

Can you offer any advice on what to get?

Answer
I can certainly offer advice, however I think it's worth pointing out that two years is a pretty reasonable time-frame for replacement of a laptop. Even if you did spend many thousands of dollars on a top of the line system, you likely would be replacing it within two or three years either due to hardware damage (it is a mobile device being used by a college student after all), or as it becomes outdated or otherwise inadequate over the course of time.

I would have a few questions for you before making any suggestions though:

- Can you better define "decent games." Skyrim is indeed a relatively demanding game, but it's not the only kind of game on the market, and certainly not indicative of the system requirements of all games. It's also becoming relatively dated (it came out in 2011), and there are many newer titles that will eclipse its systems requirements in a number of ways.

- What kind of software and hardware needs does your son have in terms of music composition and production? Does he use software that requires Windows? Or Apple OS X? Does his college program have a preference or recommendation for a certain kind of computer? Is there any specialized hardware that he needs to connect (such as an external audio interface)?

- What kind of budget do you have? And is there any manufacturer that you receive an academic discount through? (For example many colleges and universities partner with Apple and students receive a moderate discount on hardware purchases; generally they also partner with at least one PC maker like Dell, HP, etc). My goal in asking this is that if you can receive a better price from one manufacturer over another, we can focus on that maker if they make appropriate hardware, as a means of saving money.

The final question I would have, and this is perhaps a more personal one: does the system absolutely need to be a laptop? The reason I ask is that with a desktop computer you would have far more options for expansions and longevity, and will generally spend less money for the same level of processing power. Overall desktops can make a better value proposition, but if the system must be mobile that's certainly understandable, and that would make a laptop far more attractive. There really isn't a right or wrong answer to this question - it's just a matter of what a specific user needs, and it's worth considering your own specific needs in this context before purchasing a new machine.

-bob

Buying a computer system

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Bobbert

Expertise

I have nearly two decades of experience in IT, computer repair, and related fields and will attempt to provide the most solid, brand-agnostic advice when it comes time to purchase a new computer, or upgrade an existing machine. I can answer anything from the seemingly basic to the downright complicated - and will do my best to provide this information in a clear and concise manner.

Experience

I have been an enthusiast of PC's for many years, and can answer questions about the purchase/use of a new computer or the purchase, installation, and use of upgrades for existing computers. There probably isn't a whole lot related to the home computer that I haven't seen over the years.

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15+ years of experience

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