Laptop for Mom

Laptops, PDAs, Cell Phones, and all other tech that you carry with you.

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Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Mon Sep 19, 2011 11:10 am

Hi, Mom needs a laptop. Can anyone recommend one around $500 or less that fits her needs?

She will primarily use it for reading/sending emails, internet browsing, and storing and viewing pictures (not editing); she's very basic.

She needs a laptop because she is retired and travels a lot.
2-3 hours of battery life would be good.
She'd like to spend $500 or less if possible.
A 13" screen or there abouts is preferred (balance between screen size and weight).
Digital Media Card reader (like SD) would be nice but not required.

I was looking at the Toshiba Portege R835-P70 based on CNET review http://reviews.cnet.com/laptops/toshiba-portege-r835-p70/4505-3121_7-34850357.html?tag=contentMain;contentBody but it sells for $729.99 at Best Buy http://www.bestbuy.com/site/Toshiba+-+Portege+Laptop+/+Intel&%23174%3B+Core&%23153%3B+i5+Processor+/+13.3%22+Display+-+Blue/2836126.p?id=1218354840911&skuId=2836126&cmp=RMX&ref=06&loc=01&ci_src=14110944&ci_sku=2836126; concerned it is too pricey for her needs.

Thanks for your insights and recommendations.
truearrow
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Mon Sep 19, 2011 11:24 am

Would a 12 incher be suitable or would it be too small?

The Acer 722 with the C-50 (and sometimes C-60) is quite competent and reasonable priced.
ChronoReverse
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Mon Sep 19, 2011 11:26 am

12" is the ball park, I'll give this a look, thanks!
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Mon Sep 19, 2011 12:04 pm

If she can do everything she needs to do without Flash support, I would consider getting her an iPad rather than a laptop. Very little that can go wrong. Very intuitive. When iOS5 is released in a few months, no need to sync to a PC. My mom is 67 and I switched her to an iPad2 a couple of months back. Best decision I've made in recent history.
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Mon Sep 19, 2011 12:12 pm

I never understood the point of recommending a more expensive, less capable solution that honestly requires the same amount of training to use if it's for basic things like web browsing or reading emails.

What makes it worse is having to use an on-screen keyboard which is the very opposite of ergonomic (even compared to cramped laptop keyboards).

On the other hand, the novelty of a tablet does change the mindset of the user. I've seen it where the user will automatically blame themselves for not being able to figure out something on an iPad whereas it's the opposite on the laptop. Will certainly save support headaches.
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Mon Sep 19, 2011 12:42 pm

A Chromebook would be pretty good for that workload. You'll get tons of battery life, instant (5 seconds or so) on from sleep, and virtually no support will be needed once she learns the basics because it's so locked-down that not much can go wrong.

http://www.google.com/chromebook/

http://www.amazon.com/Samsung-Wi-Fi-Chr ... 792&sr=8-2
http://www.samsung.com/us/computer/chro ... 0C21-A01US

or an 11.6" one that's largely identical except smaller:
http://www.amazon.com/Acer-AC700-1099-C ... 792&sr=8-3


Can do email? Check, as long as it's webmail (and pretty much everyone has that now; if not, set up Gmail to download it from the other service).
Browsing? That's what it's best at.
Storing and viewing pictures? Oh yeah. Probably you'll want to back them up on a USB stick or SSD card, or you can use a Web-based service.
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Mon Sep 19, 2011 1:05 pm

If going with a Chromebook, make sure she's comfortable with the webmail interface to her email, or with gmail. When I switched my mother over to a Windows 7 desktop (Dell Zino HD), she missed Outlook Express and didn't like her ISP-provided webmail (and found gmail really confusing). Eventually I got her happy with Thunderbird that I tuned (with some custom CSS) to give her large fonts and a look she liked.
cjcerny wrote:If she can do everything she needs to do without Flash support, I would consider getting her an iPad rather than a laptop.
I have thought very carefully about this with respect to my elderly mother. There's no way I'd ask her to type on a touchscreen -- and since email is by far the dominant use for her computer (aside from solitaire), the iPad by itself isn't a good choice. However, there are hardware keyboards that can be paired with an iPad. The only one I'd consider for my mother would be the standard wired one from Apple, which puts the iPad in the vertical/portrait orientation (which she prefers) and doesn't require separate a separate charging cable (and support phonecalls to me when inevitably the batteries didn't get charged or the bluetooth pairing failed or whatever). For a mother who was comfortable with using a small laptop, this might be a reasonable solution. It has some negatives, though: it's more costly than a cheap laptop, it's potentially more limited (depending on usage -- eg Flash, windows apps like turbotax, etc) and the screen size is quite small. This last point makes it a non-starter for my mother, who loves her large, low-DPI screen (19" 1280x1024). My mother is also not the sort that spends a lot of time browsing the web, so the utility of having something she can use in her lap or from bed is pretty low. She also has no interest in getting online when she goes out, which is why she's never had a laptop and is still happy with a small, cheap desktop. Obviously the tradeoffs are very different for someone who wants something mobile.
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Mon Sep 19, 2011 1:10 pm

Thanks, good discussion here and I"m considering them all and will run them by her. She does use Yahoo Web mail. Appreciate everyone's input :D
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Mon Sep 19, 2011 1:15 pm

bthylafh wrote:A Chromebook would be pretty good for that workload. You'll get tons of battery life, instant (5 seconds or so) on from sleep, and virtually no support will be needed once she learns the basics because it's so locked-down that not much can go wrong.

At first glance it seems like a great idea but Chromebooks seem awfully pricey when AMD Fusion laptops at the 12" range run at $300-$400 dollars.

It's not much trouble to set a limited user account in Windows 7 and only have Chrome running =)
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Mon Sep 19, 2011 1:27 pm

ChronoReverse wrote:It's not much trouble to set a limited user account in Windows 7 and only have Chrome running =)
Yeah, that's essentially how my mother's machine is set up (with MSE and everything on auto-update; plus TeamViewer running so I can remote in and check on things, though other than her accidentally closing a desktop gadget and not being able to find it again, I haven't had to use it to fix anything)
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Mon Sep 19, 2011 2:12 pm

That's certainly true, but Windows is still much more complex than Chrome OS; you might get an updated driver through Windows Update that breaks something, or a bad update, and even with a limited user account you can get a virus that's nasty enough to require the user profile be wiped.

Contrast with Chrome OS that is so small that each Chromebook's got two complete copies and can automatically switch to the backup one if something goes wrong, and it's basically invulnerable to viruses.

I don't know about you, but $100 extra is well worth having an operating system that will never break, at least for naive users that I would have to remotely support, and will be automatically updated in the background in perpetuity.

Now if she decides she wants to print something, that could be a problem. The only way she could do it without having a second machine that's always on just for printing is to buy one of those HP printers with the ePrint feature:

http://www.hp.com/united-states/campaig ... oud-print/

and hook it up to a router.
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Mon Sep 19, 2011 5:33 pm

bthylafh wrote:I don't know about you, but $100 extra is well worth having an operating system that will never break, at least for naive users that I would have to remotely support, and will be automatically updated in the background in perpetuity.

A hundred dollars is enough to purchase a copy of Acronis TrueImage and have the same functionality. But you don't even need that as the built-in System Restore (based on Volume Shadow Copy) is also well suited to handling this.

Besides, how many new viruses nowadays go about deleting local profiles instead of simply trying to hijack your machine and steal information? MSE will cover all the old-school stuff only breaks things.


Of course, if you have the user only do what he/she would on the ChromeBook, that is, use purely web apps, then there wouldn't any issue at all! Obliterating a profile and setting a new one up would take 2 minutes tops since they'll just work in Chrome anyway.
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Mon Sep 19, 2011 6:24 pm

ChronoReverse wrote:
bthylafh wrote:I don't know about you, but $100 extra is well worth having an operating system that will never break, at least for naive users that I would have to remotely support, and will be automatically updated in the background in perpetuity.

A hundred dollars is enough to purchase a copy of Acronis TrueImage and have the same functionality. But you don't even need that as the built-in System Restore (based on Volume Shadow Copy) is also well suited to handling this.


Not automatically. The mom will have to either follow directions (which may not work, depending on their skills) or you'll have to come over and re-image it yourself. Then you have to worry about data.

Also, your image will be months or years out of date, so the computer could get reinfected before updates are applied.

Besides, how many new viruses nowadays go about deleting local profiles instead of simply trying to hijack your machine and steal information? MSE will cover all the old-school stuff only breaks things.


:lol: You don't know how wrong you are. The viruses I'm thinking of, it doesn't matter what they /do/, what matters is that it's impossible to get rid of them without yourself backing up data and then nuking the profile directory. Gets past Symantec Endpoint Protection & Malwarebytes. Exploits /something/, maybe Flash, that on COS is automatically updated & sandboxed, which doesn't happen on Windows.

Also, your faith in AV programs is cute. Did I mention Chrome OS doesn't run viruses? At all?

Of course, if you have the user only do what he/she would on the ChromeBook, that is, use purely web apps, then there wouldn't any issue at all! Obliterating a profile and setting a new one up would take 2 minutes tops since they'll just work in Chrome anyway.


You've really never had a user get a drive-by infection, have you?

I'm not trying to be a fanboy here, but you're being dismissive without understanding.
Last edited by bthylafh on Mon Sep 19, 2011 6:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Mon Sep 19, 2011 6:30 pm

Not automatically. The mom will have to either follow directions (which may not work, depending on their skills) or you'll have to come over and re-image it yourself. Then you have to worry about data.

Open TeamViewer, start Acronis, begin Restore. System reboots and it's done.
You don't know how wrong you are. The viruses I'm thinking of, it doesn't matter what they /do/, what matters is that it's impossible to get rid of them without yourself backing up data and then nuking the profile directory. Gets past Symantec Endpoint Protection & Malwarebytes. Exploits /something/, maybe Flash, that on COS is automatically updated & sandboxed, which doesn't happen on Windows.

So? You're running Chrome on this hypothetical system. Automatically updates itself and runs a self-contained flash module (that doesn't even have to be enabled). Since we're going to limit the machine to the same functionality as a ChromeBook, it's not getting owned.
You've really never had a user get a drive-by infection, have you? I'm not trying to be a fanboy here, but you're being dismissive without understanding.

Drive by in what way? USB infections are ridiculously easy to prevent (the necessary step was done by anyone with a lick of savvy since the Windows 9x days). Limiting the user to what they can do with the ChromeBook (web apps running in Chrome) means there's pretty much no way they can get owned in a meaningful way (has Chrome ever been cracked in the annual Pwn2Own contests?).



You're basically missing the whole point here. You can get a laptop for cheaper than a ChromeBook and limit it to ChromeBook levels easily. In which case, the vulnerabilities don't really exist since the user simply isn't allowed to install or run programs outside of Chrome. Furthermore, if you're absolutely paranoid, you could simply slap in Ubuntu running Chrome even!
Last edited by ChronoReverse on Mon Sep 19, 2011 6:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Mon Sep 19, 2011 6:34 pm

I'm not going to waste my time on a person who doesn't even know what a drive-by infection is. :roll:

Hint: it's not something spread by a USB stick.
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Mon Sep 19, 2011 6:37 pm

bthylafh wrote:I'm not going to waste my time on a person who doesn't even know what a drive-by infection is. :roll:

Hint: it's not something spread by a USB stick.

So you mean the other part of my paragraph of where I implied the random infections you can get from visiting sites on the Internet?

Did you bother reading the part about using Chrome then? Or the extra bits about how it'd be trivial to simply use Ubuntu? Or are you simply all too ready to dismiss things because your point isn't quite a stable as you thought?

Normally Ubuntu wouldn't be an ideal solution if the user is used to a certain experience already, but if you're going to limit the user to web apps, then it no longer is an issue. This is the crux of the problem with ChromeBooks: if the experience is going to be web apps, then any fast modern browser (but especially Chrome) will work (and you'll be secured enough if it's under Linux).
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Mon Sep 19, 2011 8:07 pm

...which only gets you into drivers and updating again. Cheap new systems with random cheap components (hi Broadcom!) are not what I would expect Ubuntu to do well with. Besides, then you've got a whole operating system which gets in the way of browsing and whose interface is subject to random changes between versions.

I've been using a Cr-48 for the better part of a year. I'm quite familiar with this stuff, and with Windows, and Ubuntu. If my needs were limited to email and viewing pictures, I'd choose this every time.
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Tue Sep 20, 2011 4:28 am

At the risk of being the opposite of helpful, I'd reconsider the $500 price point. I tend to think that with cheap computers you get less than what you pay for, and a buggy, slow machine can be very, very frustrating - especially to a non-technical person (techies usually know when they're computing using a POS). Please ignore the hell out of me if $500 is really all the budget can spare, but I'd up the price if you're just trying to save money for the heck of it.

Now I'll just go for flames and recommend a 13" Macbook Pro. Yes, it's 140% over budget, but it could easily last 5+ years and still be an excellent computer. My mom had both an el-cheapo desktop and a Mac Mini, and the mini definitely won her over :-).
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Wed Sep 21, 2011 12:46 pm

I'm in the same situation my mother was just about to buy an electronic typewriter for £179.99 and £9.99 per ribbon... I stepped in and reminded her that it was 2011.

So she asked me to look at cheap and basic (mobile) computer for her with two requirements: word processing and ease of use - she's 60 and not computer literate, clearly. My first thought for my mum was a MacBook Air too, the only drawback being the price (£849 cheapest model). So I've been looking for one that fits the bill and I came across the Lenovo Ideapad S205 for £279.99 (11.6" - 1366 x 768, AMD E350, RAM 2GB, HDD 250GB, Windows 7 Home, 5 hours battery life, 3lbs). That's almost entry-level notebook prices but at 11.6", 3lbs in weight and a very respectable CPU/graphics combo it's probably closer to a £700 ultraportable then a Celeron-M based 7lb el-cheapo laptop. I looked at the Acer Aspire One 722 but was put off by the reviews and the C-50 processor not being as fast as some Atoms. The reviews for the Lenovo are much better, the keyboard is well praised and Lenovo build quality is generally highy regarded. I'm still looking but I think that's the one I'll end up recommending (Open to suggestions if you've got any, I will be monitoring this thread).
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Re: Laptop for Mom

Postposted on Wed Sep 21, 2011 2:44 pm

I also found the AMD e-350 to be perfect for anything short of heavy processing. We got ours for $400 USD at costco with 4 GB, 500 GB drive, wireless, and dvd/cd. We got the 15.6" screen, but they had 11" at the time also. It's great for word processing, email, and to offload pictures with the SD card (very high speed) slot. We've used it up to 2 1/2 hours on battery.

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