Question I volunteer at a charity whose client asked us for help getting a laptop for their homeschooled teenage son. He dropped out of school after the first Covid lockdown and is unwilling to return or socialize. He will be helped with these problems. Parents are keen for him to study the Leaving Cert at home. Can you please recommend us the most suitable laptop that will help this boy and his parents? — BC (full name with editor)
First of all, my condolences and thoughts are with this family. It’s a more common challenge than has been widely pointed out.
In this particular case, things like portability (and lightness) may not matter as much as they do for other types of buyers. That makes the selection a little cheaper.
Otherwise it is difficult to make a specific recommendation. Would a faster laptop engine make a difference? If it’s just about the leaving cert, no; However, if the child spends more time at home and is looking for a creative outlet, they may benefit from a laptop designed for slightly more intensive uses. Maybe he will find an outlet in gaming, for example. (I’m not one to believe that video games are inherently bad or mind-wracking; there’s plenty of evidence that they can be a constructive alternative for people who don’t find it easy to socialize in real life.)
Similarly, if he’s an artist, he might benefit from, or at least enjoy, a laptop with a touchscreen that works well with graphics applications and a physical pen. If that’s a preference, he might also consider an iPad Air or iPad Pro along with a matching keyboard case, as these are great for design and drawing apps and perfect for Leaving Cert materials.
As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, if the laptop is going to be used overwhelmingly in one place without having to carry it around in a bag, save money for a larger, heavier 15-inch model with the same specs as a smaller, lighter 13-inch or 14-inch model.
Taken together, I would recommend one of two models. At the budget end is HP’s 15-inch Pavilion 15-eh0507sa (569 euros at Currys). This has the absolute minimum engine specs plus a touchscreen in a viable home laptop that will do the job for Leaving Cert and most other normal purposes.
Lenovo’s 13-inch Yoga 6 is a bit more powerful and flexible, but also costs a bit more (819 euros).
But a really good option is Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 4, which is currently available from Microsoft’s online store (€969 for the 13.5-inch version, €1,269 for the more powerful 15-inch model). Not only is it a generally good laptop, but it also has a great touchscreen. The Surface Slim Pen 2 from Microsoft costs 135 euros separately.
Recommendation: Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 (969 € in the Microsoft Store online)
I’m a senior and I’m considering getting a smartphone for the first time. What do you think of the Emporia phones in terms of ease of use? They are mainly advertised for my generation. They seem to have a very good instruction manual, or is that their main selling point?
I think they’re fine, but my tip is to go with the type of smartphone that the person you correspond with most often has, whether it’s an iPhone or an “Android” smartphone. They’ll show you how to use things like WhatsApp, Google, news sites, radio stations, and Facebook much faster than any instruction manual. It doesn’t have to be the exact same model and they don’t have to be phone experts. If you don’t have that type of person on hand, the Emporia S4 is fine. Otherwise, I’d get something like an iPhone 11 (€609 or less from a reputable second-hand retailer like Mint) or a Samsung Galaxy A22 (€239 from Currys).
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Tech two reviews
Apple has updated its entry-level iPhone. By the standards of flagship models, it’s dated with a small 4.7-inch screen and only one rear camera. But Apple has put its top chip under the hood, meaning this phone will last for years. A good upgrade choice for those familiar with their current iPhone 6, 7 or 8.
iPad Air (5th generation)
If you are looking for a “cheap iPad Pro” then this is it. Apple’s improved iPad Air (5th generation) now has its ultra-powerful M1 chip under the hood, giving it the power to handle almost any graphics-intensive task and get the normal stuff done very quickly. The only downside is that the screen isn’t quite as good as the iPad Pro.
https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/laptops-for-the-leaving-cert-and-smartphones-for-the-elderly-41461569.html Laptops for the Leaving Cert and smartphones for seniors