OU Staff Development Handout 1 – Hardware

Dell are the largest direct providers of PCs in the world.  They did have a reputation for poor quality, but in recent years seem to have the balance right between cost and quality.  They have regular offers in newspapers and on tv – make a note of the ‘offer code’ or specific web site in the advert.  Their base models, both desktop and laptops, offer good value, but be wary of the extra cost of on-site warranties.

If you are looking for a cheap, low specification laptop, then student-laptops could be worth a check.  Ensure that you get a laptop which is at least ‘Internet enabled’, either for wired or wireless access.  Be wary of other cheap laptop deals, through eBay or friend of a friend, they could be stolen.  When buying a used laptop, you’ll never get the same battery life as a new machine, and warranty will be limited.  Laptops will always be harder to repair than desktops, it’s unlikely you’ll be simply able to replace many of the main components.

In the last year a number of SCC (small, cheap computers, or laptots) have come onto the market, and you may be tempted to buy one of these.  However, note that they have small screens, and many run Linux… the OU eTMA file handler will not run under this operating system.  There are machines which run Windows XP, but the small screen and limited disk space make these impractical for the length of time that ALs need to use their machines for.

Many people use machines made by Apple, and though they may at first appear expensive, their basic specification includes items which are usually only available on more expensive computers.  They can run the Windows XP operating system, but this needs to be purchased separately, and the setup can be tricky.  Note, that the Open University does not yet support or sanction the use of Apple computers.  If ordering on-line, use the HE Contract Store for discounts of from
8% – 12% (including iPods!) by calling 0800 039 1010, and be prepared to have proof of employment (payslip, contract etc.).

There are still advantages to buying hardware from a store, you can easily return to if there are any problems, and they are generally more amenable to answering ‘silly’ questions.  Some now have a ‘call-out’ service, and the days of the premium rate support may be numbered.  The largest dedicated stores are PC-World, their offers change regularly, but they do ‘pile them high and sell them cheap’.  You can also reserve stock online, and collect from a store – saving a wasted journey (and the hard sell!).  One store frequently overlooked is Staples, known for their stationery and office supplies, but they have a competitive range of hardware and peripherals – their web site is business focused but provides a taste of their range and offers.


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