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Downsizing for school

Students prefer small laptops, tablets

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Personal computers continue to be a necessity for students, but a growing number are looking at tablet computers in preparation for life on campus.

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Raven Smith (center), who will be a freshman at Augusta State University, talks with Best Buy employee Kandace Layton (right) about purchasing a new laptop. Raven was doing some back-to-school shopping with her cousin Keena Smith (far left).  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Raven Smith (center), who will be a freshman at Augusta State University, talks with Best Buy employee Kandace Layton (right) about purchasing a new laptop. Raven was doing some back-to-school shopping with her cousin Keena Smith (far left).

According to a survey by PriceGrabber.com, a consumer research firm, 49 percent of back-to-school shoppers who plan to buy a tech-related item will be buying a tablet. And 50 percent plan to buy a laptop.

Raven Smith, who will be a freshman nursing student at Augusta State University this fall, was shopping at Best Buy on Tuesday for a new laptop. She has a long list of things she has to get before school starts, she said, but a laptop was her biggest purchase.

“There’s such a variety here,” she said as she looked around at all the laptops on display.

She chose a Sony Vaio, saying that price and portability were the most important things to her in the decision.

Her cousin, Keena Smith, was shopping with her, and even though she isn’t heading back to school, she bought an iPad2.

“I have no excuse, except that it’s the new one,” she said. “That’s enough for me.”

Brad Kline, the manager at the Augusta Best Buy store, said students are migrating from traditional laptops to tablets because they are easier to use and are more portable.

“A lot of students are using them now because they’re lightweight,” Kline explained.

Tablets also usually have high-quality screens for reading, and Kline said the streamlined style fits into a backpack more easily than a laptop.

“The battery life is usually way longer than a laptops’,” he said.

Shopping for college is pricier than when she would go back to high school in past years, but Raven Smith said that going to school locally has cut down on her list considerably.

“It’s not as much as it could be since I’m staying at home,” she said.

Darryl Peck, who owns the Peach-Mac chain of Apple retail stores, said his stores gear up for big sales of iPads and laptop computers before school.

“Apple laptops continue to be extremely popular,” he said.

A survey from Hudson Square Research found that 60 percent of computers purchased by students are Mac computers.

Peck said younger customers especially value Apple products because they are easier to use, more powerful and less susceptible to viruses and malware than PCs.

“The whole Mac versus Win-dows war has been going on for ages,” he said. “We have a saying though, that once you go Mac you never go back.”

Peck said iPads are also selling well with students because their lighter weight and smaller size make them easier to carry around.

“You can put a 1-pound iPad right in your bag,” he said.

The weight trend carries over to laptops. Peck said he is seeing more students choosing smaller laptops rather than ones with a big screen.

Students are still buying laptops, he said, and the growing tablet trend is a slow one. iPad sales are growing more significantly than laptop sales, he said, indicating that it may take some time before the growth is noticeable.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the iPad is changing things,” he said. “I think it’s a subtle shift.”


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