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Description: A PC primarily for use by a student in high school or college. The student will use this system for two very different purposes: things he or she has to do ("school work") and things he or she wants to do (everything else.) :^) I'm generally going to consider mostly the "necessity" aspects here, though every system should also be designed under the assumption that it will also be used for entertainment purposes to some extent. Still, this isn't intended to be the definition of the ultimate gaming machine. :^) I am also assuming that the student isn't particularly computer savvy.
Typical Applications Used: For school work, a word processor is a necessity. Basic planning tools such an organizer are also useful. Educational resource software such as encyclopedias are also important. Internet connectivity may be provided by the college through a local network so networking may be something to pay attention to. Entertainment software and games are highly used. Also, students in some college programs will be using specialized applications particular to their work. These may be able to be used on students' PCs (as opposed to a computer lab) in some situations.
More Important Requirements Factors: Cost, reliability, performance, upgradeability (to allow the initial system to be purchased for less at the start), service.
Less Important Requirements Factors: Availability, expandability, ergonomics, usability.
Performance Priorities: For doing routine homework, multimedia programs and other "work" tasks such as word processing, performance is only of moderate importance. Entertainment software generally requires the most performance, especially 3D games, requiring good CPU and video performance.
Recommended PC Types: New retail PC, configure-to-order PC, build-to-order PC, refurbished PC, used PC. Another option is a notebook, but see the caveats about notebooks (also, notebooks are generally poor performers for gaming purposes.)
Recommended Sources: Consider purchasing from a local PC shop in the city where the student will be attending school (if college age). Some colleges will have their own computer store that may offer discounts--worth exploring. Mail order PCs often offer good value for this type of system.
Budget: $1000 to $1500 is plenty for this sort of system, again, unless getting a high-performance system for gaming. A notebook will generally cost $500-$1000 more unless you get one that is lower performance to keep the cost down.
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