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Discussion Starter #1
Forgive me, for I am a Mac guy and don't follow much of what happens in the PC world :p

My parents (in their 60's) need to replace their PC tower due to age, viruses, extremely slowness, etc. I'm tired of them paying somebody at least once a year to repair and/or upgrade it. They are also doing more travelling in their retirement and would like a computer to take with them. They currently have the following peripherals connected to the PC: LCD monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers, webcam.

What would suit their situation best (keeping in mind they are not good with technology in the slightest) - a netbook or a laptop? Or, should they just get another tower and get a cheap netbook?Is a netbook powerful enough to be a main household computer for basic websurfing, email, word processing, uploading photos from a digital camera, etc?
 

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Is a netbook powerful enough to be a main household computer for basic websurfing, email, word processing, uploading photos from a digital camera, etc?
Yes. A newer netbook with a dual core atom and 1GB or more of memory should be more than sufficient for light computing tasks.

Question to ask is do you need portability.

If no, then go desktop with full size mouse keyboard, and monitor. Bigger is better for older fingers and eyes.

If yes, then laptop or nettop. I'd go laptop for the larger screen and keyboard.
 

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I can relate to this. Avoid a netbook due to small screen size. A light, thin laptop with a larger screen is probably what they need. For home use, get them a 24" monitor (minimum), a backlit keyboard (Logitech has a good one) and a good mouse (such as the Logitech M505.) They can be attached to the laptop when not traveling.

A good firewall and security software can help eliminate those annual trips to the repair shop. Good backup software and an external USB drive can also help.

OTOH, you could set them up with a Mac laptop. ;)
 

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Depending on their needs, perhaps a tablet might also be a viable option? A touch-screen also tends to be more intuitive i.e. easier to navigate around with. If your parents are anything like mine, the combination of screen size (and perhaps more importantly) pixel pitch are extremely important, which kind of rules out netbooks.

I'm very fond of ultra-light laptops, and recommend them as more functional alternatives to netbooks.

If portability isn't an issue, then a small form-factor atom-based PC would be a good choice as well, I think.
 

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I just convinced my luddite parents to get an 11" MacBook Air - pricey, but lightweight, solid, reliable, no viruses. Set it and forget it - they love it! (And I love not having to do PC maintenance every time we see them.)
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Great info, thanks guys.

I've been pushing for them to get a 13" MacBook but they're reluctant to learn a new OS (even though our first family computer was a Mac) and the initial cost is too high (even though that LCII was $5000+, but I digress).

I agree that the netbook screen & keyboard are too small. For various reasons they are looking at Dell and they offer a 14" laptop which would be a nice middle ground.

For those who use a laptop as a desktop (w/ ext. monitor/keyboard/mouse/etc.), are there any quirks or issues with resolution, connections, etc? I use my MacBook in a desktop setup and there are some inconveniences that I'm willing to put up with but I'm not sure if my parents would feel the same.
 

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I think Nuje has the right idea, with a Mac Book.

I just did the same for my Sister in England, it has become second nature for her to use it after years of PC's. The time NOT chasing Virus and Malaware she used to learn the OS.

Apple's web site has refurbs, with the same warranty as new and they normally save you 20+% and are slightly higher specs.
 

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For those who use a laptop as a desktop (w/ ext. monitor/keyboard/mouse/etc.), are there any quirks or issues with resolution, connections, etc? I use my MacBook in a desktop setup and there are some inconveniences that I'm willing to put up with but I'm not sure if my parents would feel the same.
Once setup it should be trouble free.

Here is another perspective.

I have a mini tower desktop, and a 15" laptop which goes with us on our frequent travels. It is a 5lbs laptop but is 8+ lbs with charger and case, and even more when I put reading material in the bag. This is slightly heavy side, and I look for something lighter when it is time for replacement. For just keeping in touch an iPad might be an alternative for the casual user, but we are tied to our email data and files so that is not an option. A netbook is a possibility, but is a compromise for regular home use. Maybe I should get it as a third device.

My wife uses the desktop at home and I use the laptop. The data between the two is automatically sync'd at logon by the laptop. There are some unique apps on each so I occasionally need to use desktop. Incidentally, we are fairly heavy users and are both retired, but active with volunteer work.
 

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Depending on their needs, an iPad may be a good solution for traveling. Despite the small screen size, the interface should be suitable. Then there are the apps. Not sure if the iPad can take a webcam though. That means they might also need a desktop for home use.

I've been pushing for them to get a 13" MacBook
I would go with something larger.
 

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Netbooks definately have enough power for basic computing tasks, however I would be a bit concerned with the small screen on them. The price difference between a netbook and a cheap laptop with a much bigger screen is usually within $150-$200. A laptop will also give you the advantage of having a bigger keyboard.

I would also agree with Hugh, in agreeing that if they don't plan on travelling with their computer, a desktop would likely be a much better alternative.

I'd also state that the “myth” of Apple products not being able to contract viruses or malware is simply not true. They do make some solid products but are way overpriced IMHO.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks for the help guys, and not to sound rude, but some people aren't reading my first post very carefully.

Here is what we know:

-new computer will act as main PC in a desktop setup
-will be travelling with computer to typical retirement destinations such as Mexico and Arizona, and possibly Europe
-iPad or similar tablet is not an option
-Apple is not an option
-Dell is preferred due to ability to purchase with reward points

I've offered to accompany them to local stores to test out netbooks (they've never used one) to get an idea of screen & keyboard size, and also to compare it to 14-15" laptops. I will also get them to try my MacBook in a last-ditch effort to get them to consider a Mac.

A good firewall and security software can help eliminate those annual trips to the repair shop.
Can you suggest some products? Right now they use AVG free but they're not diligent in ensuring updates are being done, and I doubt they're interested in learning how to better protect themselves from viruses. I mean, other than the switch to a new OS and the higher initial cost, they are prime candidates for a Mac. Maybe it's time to dig out the LCII again! :p
 

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Well, then why not just buy them a Dell desktop with a full size mouse, keyboard, and monitor? They deliver a lot of capability for very little money, and doesn't involve the miniaturization of components (e.g. keyboards, displays) that older people tend not to like.

If I were in your shoes, and based on how you describe their needs I'd go with one of the inexpensive Dell desktops or I'd get a budget 17" laptop for them.

The value-added service you can provide is uninstalling the crapware for them and installing stuff like Chrome (a browser that updates itself behind the scenes and negates the need for a Flash install or a Adobe Reader install) and installing Microsoft Security Essentials (updated automatically via Windows Update) instead of whatever flavor of trialware that would come with the Dell.

Setup GMail, Picasa, and Facebook accounts for them (if they don't already have these things) so that they can communicate with the grandkids, send pictures of the grandkids, and Facebook-stalk the grandkids. :)

edit: something like this perhaps?
 

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DSgamby said:
The OP is not looking for a desktop as a desktop is not portable.
Did you not read this part of his most recent post?

cooper83 said:
-new computer will act as main PC in a desktop setup
Or in his OP:

cooper83 said:
What would suit their situation best (keeping in mind they are not good with technology in the slightest) - a netbook or a laptop? Or, should they just get another tower and get a cheap netbook?
I don't see him saying "the solution cannot include a desktop pc".

I suggested a large laptop or a all-in-one desktop and linked to an example of what I was thinking when I said desktop since there is a range of form factors in desktop PCs.
 

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As for a portable desktop, there are a number of small cases available now. A few even have handles. For the uses outlined, a compact case with mATX motherboard and the basics is all that is required. I believe Dell has a line of light, slim desktops as well. For true portability, a laptop is still the best bet. Lugging a PC case, monitor and all the accessories on a vacation is not my idea of a good time. Then there are the setup issues for non-technical people.

As far as software is concerned, almost everything out there can be set to automatically update. That may not include a few trial or freeware options but they are the exception. Going with all MS products, such as WSE, is probably the easiest route but carries a little more risk since they are the most common targets for hackers.
 

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DancesWithLysol:
You must have stopped where you left the quote as the very next line states
-will be travelling with computer to typical retirement destinations such as Mexico and Arizona, and possibly Europe
You want seniors to bring a desktop tower, monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers and everything else to these places and set them up.

A Desktop is fine for being at home but not for portability even the All In One that you linked too.
 

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DSgamby,

Our little debate here is pretty simple. You're saying that based on his criteria he excluded the possibility of buying a desktop. I'm saying that he specifically included the possibility of using a desktop in his list of alternative solutions. If you re-read his posts you'll see that he is considering a desktop as a potential solution, or part of the solution.

I recommended a large laptop or a all-in-one desktop, and gave an example of the type of desktop that I had in mind with that recommendation. I also stated that given the stereotypical preferences of people in the older generations, a desktop would be easier (i.e. more ergonomic) for them to use.

DSgamby said:
You want seniors to bring a desktop tower, monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers and everything else to these places and set them up.

A Desktop is fine for being at home but not for portability even the All In One that you linked too.
You should note that Dell advertises that the system I linked can be "Set up by just simply plugging in one cord". If they are traveling snowbird style (rent a house in Florida/Europe/etc 6 months less a day every year) then this type of system should be fine, especially if they keep the original box. I'm just pointing that out because you didn't seem to grasp that detail when you said "You want seniors to bring a desktop tower, monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers and everything else to these places and set them up."

If they are traveling more frequently (e.g. new destination every week or so), then absolutely, get a laptop.
 

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In my opinion, 60's are young so I'm guessing they have finger mobility. I have many desktops, laptops, netbooks. My last netbook was a good deal. $300 for a Acer that has Windows 7 Home Premium, HDMI, with a built in webcam and microphone. I loaded Office 10 with no problems. Heck, it even runs Windows Media Center. It has a 11.6" screen. Plenty of USB ports.

With HDMI, you can plug it in a desktop monitor or a large LCD TV at a hotel or resort. The netbook is light, and easy to pack in a purse of small bag.

I use Microsoft Security Essentials (free) for anti-virus. At the above price they may also want a desktop, but this may be enough. Four years from now, something else will come along.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I'm getting a kick out of this :D

you'll see that he is considering a desktop as a potential solution, or part of the solution.
Yes, but not the only solution. It can be a cheap desktop & a cheap netbook, or a decent system that kills two birds with one stone, which is home use + portability. Simple as that.

I recommended a large laptop or a all-in-one desktop
Neither of which is suitable for travel.

60's are young so I'm guessing they have finger mobility.
My father has the arthritic hands of an 80-to-90 year old, based on recent x-rays.

With HDMI, you can plug it in a desktop monitor or a large LCD TV at a hotel or resort.
There's not a chance in hell my parents will ever do that. That's why they keep me around, so I can do that sort of stuff :p

The only peripheral I can see them bringing along while travelling is a mouse. They're just learning Skype, and most new laptops & netbooks have built-in webcam.

Sorry to interupt ...as you were.
 

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DancesWithLysol: I never said that he did not want a desktop with a netbook as that is what the OP suggested. I said that he did not want a desktop by itself as it is not portable.

Your All In One PC in your link, sure it is one plug in if they spend the extra money and to get the wireless keyboard and mouse as the basic one comes with USB ones plus that it doesn't come with a case. Keeping the box is fine, if you also keep the styrofoam pieces as well or else the All In One PC could get damaged easier than a laptop due to the screen being exposed.

When I said,
You want seniors to bring a desktop tower, monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers and everything else to these places and set them up.
I was referring to a normal desktop not an All In One PC like the one you linked too.
 
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