Because of the nature of the coursework in a flipped environment, you may decide that a mobile computer — such as a laptop, netbook, or tablet — is the best tool for the job. However, given the array of available options, how do you decide which one to purchase?

In Discovering Computers: Essentials, Misty E. Vermaat, Susan L. Sebok, and Steven M. Freund present a “Mobile Computer Buyer’s Guide,” which describes some of the factors you should consider when you’re evaluating which computer is best for you. Below, we’ve summarized some of the most salient points. By bearing these practical considerations in mind, you’ll significantly increase the likelihood that you’ll ultimately be satisfied with your decision.

  • First, consider how you’ll be using the device. If you’ll primarily use the computer to access Internet-based applications and your email, a netbook or tablet will likely suffice. However, if your time will largely be spent creating and editing documents, presentations, spreadsheets, graphics, or other media, a laptop offers more processing power.
  • Be cognizant of screen size. In general, most laptops have screens eleven to eighteen inches; on the other hand, tablets’ and netbooks’ screens are typically seven to ten inches.
  • Determine the keyboard and touchpad that feel most comfortable to you. Some people find netbooks’ smaller, condensed keyboards too crowded. Others find tablets’ touch screens and on-screen keyboards complicated. Try several different options to find your best fit.
  • Know the processor power your work may demand, as well as the amount of memory and storage you may need. If a memory or storage upgrades are available, consider buying them when you’re ready to make your purchase, as this may save you money (and hassle) later.
  • Assess whether the computer offers a sufficient number of ports and slots to handle any additional hardware, devices, or cards (such as printers, monitors, camera memory cards, and flash drives) that you want to connect to it.
  • Battery life is an additional factor. If your work requires you to be away from an electrical outlet for a long period of time, you may wish to purchase a second battery. However: if a computer only has an internal battery (as most tablets do), explore available options such as external battery packs or power sources.
  • Protect your investment with a proper carrying case. Look for ample padding, comfortable straps and handles, and pockets and sections to securely store your papers and accessories.
  • If you’ll be using external equipment such as a projector, ensure that the computer you choose can support this equipment. Also make sure it has the proper ports and jacks to accept the equipment’s cables and plugs. (pp. 110-111)

Reference: Vermaat, Misty E., Sebok, Susan L., and Freund, Steven M. 2014. Discovering Computers: Technology in a World of Computers, Mobile Devices, and the Internet, EssentialsBoston: Course Technology, Cengage Learning.

Have you recently purchased a mobile computer for use at school? What factors did you take into consideration while making your decision? What recommendations would you make to others in the same situation? Share your experiences below, or submit them to thinktank@cengage.com.