Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

Best 5 Laptops Under $200 Shopping Guide

Best-5-Laptops

Great news! I’ve done some of the work for you. If you only have $200 to spend on a laptop, your options are far better than they used to be. While these machines aren't built for hardcore gaming or video editing, they're more than enough for web browsing and writing papers.

These days, sub-$200 laptops commonly ship with HD displays, full Windows 10 (rather than something more limited, like Google's Chrome OS), and a decent chunk of internal storage. Many also come with a free year of Microsoft Office 365—perfect for the students they're targeting.

To find the best of this affordable bunch, we put the most popular models through a series of performance and display tests in our state-of-the-art labs. Then we put them to the test at our desks, to get a feel for real-world factors like keyboard feel, trackpad responsiveness, and build quality.

The result? We can tell you with authority that if you want the best affordable laptops available today, these are the ones to buy.

Asus E402SA – Best Overall - The Asus E402SA (also known as the EeeBook E402SA) won us over right away. While it's not much faster than its competition, its 14-inch screen is bigger than most. The display is a mere 1366 x 768 pixels, but it's glossy, looks great, and isn't a major drain on the battery. Its $249 MSRP is a little above our target price, but we've seen it on sale as low as $179. (Amazon $191.00)

Dell Inspiron 11 3000 (2016) - The Inspiron 11 3000's biggest flaw is the included McAfee install, which can be a real hog on system resources and annoys with frequent popups. But all things considered, Dell offers up a package that's colorful, modern, and just fast enough for schoolwork or surfing the web. It may not be inspiring, but this Inspiron is worth its asking price. (Best Buy $169.99)

Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11 - While you can find a 16GB version, you should avoid that one at all costs; our test model had 32GB of storage and even that filled up right away. You can add more memory with an SD card, but since it's not microSD, it'll stick out the side of the machine. In our opinion, your best bet for inconspicuous extra storage on the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook 11 is probably a low profile USB drive. (Amazon $148.00, Best Buy $206.99)

Lenovo Ideapad 100s 11.6" Laptop - Inside, it has an older Intel Atom Z3735F chip. It may be quad core, but it's still slower than the Celeron N3050 dual-core processor found in rival machines. The 100s is also stuck with USB 2.0 ports, which can't keep up with the 3.0 ports on better machines. It's not all bad though. You can add storage through the compact microSD slot, the hinge rotates a full 180 degrees, and it had the best battery life of any of the sub-$200 models we tested. (Amazon $158.38, Best Buy $199.99)

HP Stream 11 (2016) - The worst part of using the Stream 11 is its iffy trackpad, which isn't nearly as responsive as we'd like. The screen also seemed a little duller than the rest of our test group. Unfortunately, HP also bundles McAfee with this computer; it's a pain, but you can uninstall it to speed things up. (Amazon $208.77, Best Buy $199.99, HP.com $199.99)

To get a better idea of the authors pitch: Check-Out the Video

Read Article (Staff | laptops.reviewed.com | 05/11/2016)

Now let’s do some serious shopping, here are rankings from 3 other review sites for “Best 5 Laptops Under $200”:

  • Wiknix – 1) HP Stream 11-r010nr, 2) Acer Aspire One Cloudbook, 3) ASUS VivoBook E200HA-US01-GD, 4) Lenovo IdeaPad 100s 11.6" Laptop, 5) HP 11-p110nr x360 Convertible
  • Best Laptop Advisor – 1) Acer Chromebook 11.6-inch HD, 2) HP Stream 11-r010nr, 3) Samsung Chromebook 2 XE500C12-K01US, 4) Acer Chromebook CB3-111-C670, 5) ASUS C201 11.6 Inch Chromebook
  • Best Buy – 1) Dell - Inspiron 11.6", 2) Dell - Inspiron 14", 3) Lenovo - Ideapad 100s 11.6" Laptop, 4) Lenovo - IdeaPad 100s 11.6" Chromebook, 5) Samsung - 11.6" Chromebook

Notice that the HP Stream 11-r010nr and Lenovo IdeaPad 100s 11.6" Laptop is ranked in 3 out of the 4 reviews. If you are seriously considering the purchase of an inexpensive laptop, I would start by checking-out these two. Although my personal choice would be the Asus E402SA but you need to check-out the video to see why.

Technology is advancing at an exponential rate, inevitably the day will come when even millennials will be unfamiliar with the latest technology. And ownership doesn’t always translate into Intuitively knowing how to fully use it to ones’ best advantage.

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FCC Crafting New Consumer Internet Privacy Rules

New-Internet-Privacy-Rules

The Federal Communications Commission will craft new privacy rules on how Internet service providers can use customer data.  The agency voted 3-2 Thursday to develop new rules requiring Internet service providers (ISPs) to gain customer permission before using or sharing their data.  “It’s the consumers’ information,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, “and the consumer should have the right to determine how it’s used.”

New privacy regulations dovetail with last year’s passage of Open Internet, or net neutrality rules, Wheeler said in a March 10 Huffington Post editorial and a speech at Georgetown University March 21st.  He forwarded the proposal to the rest of the commission in preparation for a vote at Thursday’s regular commission meeting.

“Our ISPs handle all of our network traffic” on home and mobile networks, Wheeler said in an official statement released after the meeting.  “Even when data is encrypted, our broadband providers can still piece together significant amounts of information about us – including private information such as a chronic medical condition or financial problems – based on our online activity.”

As Wheeler envisions, customers would be able to opt out of marketing from their Internet service providers and their affiliates and must opt in for any external use of their data.  FCC staff will prepare a notice of rule-making for online publication and will then take public comments on the issue from companies, groups and individuals for +0 days after its release online, prior to crafting the rules.

Opponents to the measure, including trade groups ‘USTelecom’ and free market think-tank ‘Free State Foundation’, have argued that the FCC’s privacy provisions may be different than those the Commission uses to regulate sites and services on the Net.

“It is disappointing the FCC is pursuing a new privacy framework that will impose onerous requirements on broadband providers and will mistakenly leave consumers with the impression that they are receiving meaningful new protections," said Mobile Future Chairman Jonathan Spalter.

Commissioner Michael O’Reily, who along with fellow Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai voted against the privacy measure, said that it sets the agency off “on a statutory fishing expedition” and represents “an alarming display of doublethink.”

Congress directed the FCC to create privacy regulations for traditional phone companies and now must do so for Internet connectivity, said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.  "There is absolutely no comparison" between the information that could be gathered by today's ISPs and traditional phone companies, she said.  "Times have changed and we need to ensure that our rules are updated to reflect these technological transformations," she said.

The commission also voted 3-2 along political lines – with Democrats Clyburn, Wheeler and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in favor – to expand the Lifeline program, which for more than 30 years has provided discounted telephone service to low-income Americans, to include mobile or fixed broadband service.

Read Article (Mike Snider | usatoday.com | 03/31/2016)

I just got a notice from AT&T about the privacy of my customer proprietary network information they’re going to share with their affiliates. To allow this requires no action on my part, but if I don’t want my information shared I must submit a form or call a number. This is backwards, “silence” should not be used as consent.

Statistics show that only 1 in 10 will “go to the trouble” of not allowing this to happen, and they know this statistic very well.  I, for one, am not going to allow it.

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Governments’ Cheaper Internet Access Isn’t Enough

Access-Isn't-Enough

The Internet just got a little cheaper for some families – but experts say lowering the price is not enough to help low-income Americans get online.  In a 3-2 decision, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) agreed on Thursday to grant a monthly Internet subsidy to Americans who already receive certain federal welfare benefits.

The ruling updates the decades-old Lifeline program, which helps subsidized communications services for poor Americans.  Those eligible for the new subsidy of $9.25 per month can use it to buy stand-alone broadband services or bundled voice and data packages, according to the FCC.

Currently, about 15% of Americans don’t use the Internet.  for many, that’s out of necessity, and this update can help them.  However, it won’t be enough to bridge significant inequalities in digital technology use, warn experts such as Blanca Gordo, a senior researcher at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.

The ruling “is a step in the right direction,” she told the Huffington Post.  “But it’s insufficient to address what is a much more complex problem.”

When low-income Americans have Internet access, it’s often very slow or shared among too many people.  Many poor Americans use the Internet exclusively on smartphones, which can make it difficult for them to perform complicated online tasks like submitting job applications, analysts say.  And many in that 15% haven’t had much experience using the Internet, so they can’t really take advantage of access when they do get it.

“That’s the division (Digital Divide) here,” Gordo said.  “What [people with low incomes] don’t have is the training, assistance and teaching needed to enter a complex system that is thought of as easy to use from the perspective of a long-term user.”

“The learning curve is huge,” she added.

Internet providers for people using the subsidy must offer a minimum download speed of 10 Mbps, which is what most consumers use, according to the FCC.  The updated Lifeline program’s budget is capped at $2.25 billion, which officials say is enough to support increased participation in the program.

Read Article (Casey Williams | huffingtonpost.com | 04/01/2016)

Internet availability and access is important without a doubt, but knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the Internet itself, is an issue just as important if not more. This is the reason we campaign; this is the reason we ask for your support.

‘Master Level High-Tech Webinars’ is a service created to assist individuals in the process of learning to use digital devices that connect to the Internet; a computer, gaming console or mobile device (Smartphone). This Hybrid Webinar Service was specifically designed for easy access and effective instruction by utilizing proven Internet Communication Innovation and methodologies.

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Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook Portable Powerhouse

Ultrabook-Portable-Powerhou

If you're looking to purchase a powerful, portable and attractive laptop, the $799 (£849, AU $1,799) Dell XPS 13 is a top contender.  This notebook features a sleek design, lightweight chassis and a revolutionary display that makes it the smallest 13-inch Ultrabook in its class.

In terms of size, this little beast is actually closer to an 11-inch ultraportable, but it’s a powerhouse outfitted with an Intel Core i7 Skylake processor and a fast PCIe solid-state drive (SSD).

The XPS 13 won the title of “the best laptop and Ultrabook on the planet last year, and several worthy competitors have risen to challenge the claim.  Lenovo has perfected its 2-in-1 laptop, the $1,199 (£1,449, AU $2,199) Lenovo Yoga 900, and equipped it with enough power to rival Dell’s champion.  Likewise, Apple has given the $999 (£849, AU $1,549) 13-inch MacBook Air a fresh set of internals and an even longer 12 hours of battery life.

Any of these laptops would make for an excellent buy.  However, the XPS’s innovative display and master class design differentiates it from what is an already-exceptional Ultrabook market.

Design

The Dell XPS 13 truly is a revolutionary device, considering it packs a 13-inch screen into a much smaller frame.  Both the top and bottom of the notebook are built from sheets of machined aluminum with a silver anodized finish, similar to the MacBook Air, in sheen and durability.  The palm rest and keyboard deck are made with an exquisite carbon fiber composite that’s delightful to touch.  The materials weave is visible, but Dell has coated the entire surface in a rubbery resin.  Unlike some other laptops with plastic or metal, the XPS 13’s palm rest doesn’t heat up over time and wicks away moisture.

Small fry

Firstly, in order to make the XPS 13 as small as it is, Dell relocated the webcam to the lower left edge of the bezel.  From this position, the camera captures you face from the chin-up.  Not only is the angle unflattering, your nose hairs will be in full view of your virtual correspondents, and you’ll terrify them with your massive hand if you try typing during the call.

Secondly, because the screen goes all the way to the top edges of the device, there isn’t room for your fingers to grab the top panel without pressing directly on the screen.  The base of the laptop doesn’t even include a little lip for you to slop your finger underneath.  Instead, the whole device folds into one seamless block that looks very clean but it’s an absolute pain to pen as you run your fingers along the perimeter of it, looking for someplace to pry it open.

Specifications and value

The XPS 13 doesn't only offer less space along its borders – it's more compact in general. It's only 0.59 inches (1.5cm) tall, 11.97 inches (30.4cm) wide, and 7.87 inches (20cm) long.  Compared to last year's model, the new XPS 13 has exactly the same chassis but it weighs 0.13 pounds (0.6g) more, thanks to its denser battery.

By comparison, the MacBook Air seems like a needlessly large, 13-inch laptop measuring 12.80 x 8.94 x 0.67 inches (32.5 x 22.7 x 1.7cm).  Also, compared to slim and small Yoga 900, Dell's Ultrabook is 0.78 inches (1.98cm) narrower and nearly an inch shallower 0.15 inches (0.38cm) but equally as thick.

The XPS 13 is also one of the lightest devices on the market.  The standard, full HD model weighs only 2.7 pounds (1.2kg).  Meanwhile, the touch-enabled, quad HD model weighs slightly more at 2.93 pounds (1.33kg), thanks to the added digitizer and cover glass.  To put the XPS 13 in perspective, the Lenovo Yoga 900 weighs 2.84 pounds (1.29kg) and the 13-inch MacBook Air weighs 2.96 pounds (1.35kg).

Of course, it’s no competition for the lightweight champion, the Lenovo LaVie Z, which only weighs 1.87 pounds (.085kg).

As you'll soon see, this year's XPS 13 is brimming with the latest high-end laptop components.  From the newest Skylake Intel Core i7 chip to gobs of RAM and storage, the setup with which I wrote this review should see you through well into 2018 and possibly beyond.

Spec Sheet

  • CPU: 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U (dual-core, 3MB cache, up to 2.8 GHz with Turbo Boost)
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520
  • RAM: 8GB LPDDR3 (1,866MHz)
  • Screen: 13.3-inch QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) InfinityEdge touch display
  • Storage: 256GB PCIe SSD
  • Ports: 1 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 3.0 w/PowerShare, 1 x USB Type C and Thunderbolt 3, SD card reader, headset jack
  • Connectivity: DW1820A 2x2 802.11ac 2.4/5GHz; Bluetooth 4.1
  • Camera: 720p widescreen HD webcam with dual array digital microphones
  • Weight: 2.93 pounds (1.32kg)
  • Size: 11.97 x 7.87 x 0.35 – 0.59 inches (W x D x H) (30.4 x 19.9 x 0.89-1.5mm)

Priced at $1,449 (£1,149, AU $1,999), what you see above is the second best configuration that the XPS 13 you can put together. The UK model is slightly different in that you can't get the QHD+ screen upgrade without automatically bumping up to an Intel Core i7 CPU.

Verdict

The Dell XPS 13 is a brilliantly-designed laptop that outperforms its competition under the hood.  The Infinity Display should soon cause a ripple effect in laptop design and, on a personal level, dramatically improves your experience with the device.  Fortunately for us, the XPS 13 isn't all beauty and no brains.  This laptop features the horsepower to make work and play enjoyable, and it has just enough battery life to never leave you in a lurch.

Regardless of whether you choose to upgrade to the touchscreen, quad HD+ version or stand pat with the full HD model, the Dell XPS 13 will be a joy to use for years to come.

Read Article (Martinez & Lee | techradar.com | 01/20/2016)

Laptops and Desktops will reign forever, contrary to some that have limited vision.

Having the device to connect, Internet availability and access are all important without a doubt, but knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it, are also an issue.  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and indeed Digital Literacy but we need your support.

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CSU Students Teach Seniors About Technology

CSU-Students

At the exponential rate that technology is advancing in the 21st century, it is inevitable that there will come a day when even millennials will be unfamiliar with the latest technology. For older generations of today that aren’t as used to technology like iPhones, computers and tablets, there is help –and that help may come in the form of a Colorado State University Human Development and Family Studies student.

CSU students enrolled in Professor Christine Fruhauf’s Perspectives in Gerontology class volunteered to help seniors better understand their devices at the Fort Collins Senior Center Saturday morning (11/07/2015). Gerontology is the scientific study of age and the aging process. This event was also sponsored by the Front Range PC Users Group, which is a “learning resource for all things digital,” according to their website.

Senior citizens who brought their tablets and phones were able to sit one-on-one with students at workshops and were shown how to save and take pictures, create photo albums and upload photos to iCloud and social media sites and upload mobile pictures to a computer, among other things. Photos are often the best way that the elderly can stay connected with their family members, especially on social media.

“it’s important because older adults become isolated.  If we help them to become tech-savvy, then they’re able to stay connected with their family even if they can’t physically be with them,” said Shandell Leyba, a senior social work major. “Personally, I use photos to stay connected with my grandparents.”

For the senior citizens who attended, they were happy they did.

“The younger generation grew up with these machines and have been on the front end of the evolution of these machines, while I’ve been on the back end of the evolution of these machines,” said Fort Collins resident Glenn Riedell.  “I’m still very logical and sequential, so learning the intuitive side is a big plus.  The students (here today) have a fresh perspective and have been very accommodating. They're not judgmental."

Read Article (Clarissa Davies | collegian.com | 11/01/2015)

As you read, “even millennials will be unfamiliar with the latest technology” --this is an indication of how the digital divide is actually widening as America’s population ages.  And as it widens, the number of individuals requiring help with technology will continue to overwhelm our valuable, highly appreciated volunteers.

Without a doubt, the service we campaign for is needed now more than ever before. Please consider a small donation.

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