5 On Your Side

Laptops Include More Features At Lower Prices

Posted August 17, 2006

— For most college students, laptops are the computer of choice, but figuring out which one to buy isn't so easy.

Consumer Reports recently tested 21 laptops, and testers said prices continue to go down as the number of features, such as a glossy display screen, increase.

"Glossy screens are great, especially if you're looking at a movie. The colors pop. It's very vibrant. It looks really, really great," Consumer Reports tester Rich Fisco said. "The downside is the reflections could be a little bit of a problem."

Wide screens are now standard on most new laptops. They're better for watching movies and for viewing documents side-by-side on the screen.

"A typical student is going to be writing their papers, doing their homework, surfing the Web," Fisco said. "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 recommended the Dell Inspiron E-1505, which costs about $1,100.

Dell this week issued a recall of 4 million Sony battery packs used in Inspiron and other laptops because they could overheat and cause a fire. For more information, visit the

Dell Battery Program

Web site.

But, Consumer Reports said, tech support offered by most computer manufacturers can fall short. Because of that, testers said students and their parents might consider skipping the extended warranty and opt instead for independent tech support.

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