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Microsoft Brings Back Their Back-To-School Deal– But Is It Worth It?

windows xbox college deal

Well it’s that time of year again. Yup, the school year is almost over, summer vacation is just weeks away and you know what that means: time for back-to-school deals to begin. Last year at this time Microsoft was just taking the wraps off of their back-to-school Windows PC deal and it was so good that this year their bringing it back. Yes, Microsoft will be giving away free 4 GB Xbox 360s with all new PC purchases of $699 or higher as well as a $15 upgrade to the all new Windows 8 when it comes out later this yearAnd like last year this deal applies to both high school and college students and all you gotta do to get this offer is show your Student ID if your buying in a store or a enter your .edu email address if you’re buying online (this is the email address your college gives you once you enroll).

Unlike last year however, this deal is available in more stores than just the Microsoft Store and Best Buy. In fact Best Buy,, Fry’s Electronics,, Microsoft Stores, and are all partaking in this years deal.

windows 8 samsung series 5 hybrid 1The Samsung Series 5 Windows 8 Hybrid– one of the many new tablet/laptops you can expect later this year (pic via The Verge)

Now here’s the real question– is this deal worth it? Usually we’d say its a pretty much no brainer of a deal– I mean, you’re getting a brand new computer AND a free Xbox– but with Windows 8 coming later this year things are a bit more complicated. Windows 8 is a major upgrade over Windows 7, with one of its biggest updates being it’s completely optimized for tablets. Now that’s not to say that it doesn’t work well on “traditional” mouse and keyboard computers that don’t have touchscreens, just that later this year we can expect all new computers that look to combine the best of a tablet and a laptop (like the upcoming Samsung in the pic above. Think of it as having all the best of a tablet– apps, awesome battery life and really thin designs– combined with all the power of a normal Windows PC). So for $700-$800 you can get a full Windows computer AND a very good tablet in one.

The downside to this of course is that Windows 8 PCs and tablets aren’t expected to come out until September or October (or around the time school actually starts), so if you’re looking for a new PC we really would recommend to try to wait until then (and if you’re planning on buying a Mac we’d also recommend waiting a week as Apple is rumored to be updating its entire Mac line next Monday at their annual WWDC conference). If you need a new computer right now and can’t wait, then by all means this is stll a solid deal, if not for the Xbox then for the fact that you’ll get Windows 8 for just $15.

Again though, if you can, try to hold out a couple more months– trust us, it’ll be worth it.

The Teens Guide to Back to School: What You Need To Know For Picking Your Next Computer

teens back to school computer

We know, we know– it feels like summer is only just beginning why are we starting to think about the next school year? Unfortunately as we all know all good things like summer must eventually come to an end and we have to return back to our regular ways of life and school– which we all know comes back way too quickly. As the back-to-school sales really begin over the next few weeks we want to help make sure you go back fully prepared, well, gadgets wise at least.

One of the toughest things today in back-to-school shopping is finding a new computer/tablet/phone that isn’t just cheap or good, but right for you and what you want and need it to do. We want to try to make this easier for you, and over the course of the rest of the summer we plan to have a whole bunch of posts and guides on good deals we see, some of our recommendations for a new computer, tablet or phone etc. In short, we’re here to help.

So with all that in mind we’re gonna kick off this back-to-school “series” with some tips on what you should look for when your out shopping for a new laptop for school and what are the basic specs that any 2011 computer you buy should have.

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Apple Announces Back To School Deal: Buy A New Mac And Get A Free $100 iTunes Gift Card

apple back to school 2011

Apple today finally took the wraps off its annual, highly anticipated back to school deal with a major new twist: the traditional free iPod Touch has been replaced with the new deal being the usual discounts on all Macs and a free $100 iTunes gift card that can be used in any of Apple’s iTunes stores (iTunes, App Store for iPhone/iPad, Mac App Store and iBookstore).

While we don’t know why Apple decided not to do free iPod Touches again this year (or even better, some discount on an iPad with the purchase of a new Mac) the deal, which runs from today, June 16th,  through September 20th, is still pretty good in our opinion. Think about it, most of us have iPods– or are using our phones as our iPods– now anyway so unless you really needed a new one, getting $100 to spend in iTunes and getting apps for your new Mac can be very valuable (as Apple puts it: “so you can get Pages, Numbers and Keynote for your studies. And still have plenty left for your study breaks.”). Oh, and the brand new, upcoming OS X Lion will be free to anyone who buys a new Mac now and before whenever the official launch date is, so you don’t have to worry about buying that for $30 next month either.

Now a lot of you want to know what’s different between this new 2011 Apple back-to-school deal and Microsoft’s offer of a free Xbox 360 with any new PC $699 or higher. There actually is a lot. Beyond the fact that Microsoft’s deal is cheaper (you can buy a PC for $699 and get the free 360 whereas the cheapest MacBook– the one from last year and not the new MacBook Pros— is $899 even after the $100 discount), Microsoft’s deal is also open for any current high school or college student unlike Apple’s which looks to be only college (the official language is “college students or students accepted to college” so incoming college freshmen you’re still good. Parents of college students and teachers of any grade are also eligible so if you’ve got a sibling in college or a nice teacher you can still get in on this deal). Microsoft is also giving away more in terms of the free add-on (an Xbox 360 4 GB is $200 whereas even if you include Lion in the Apple deal you’re still at $130).

I guess what it really comes down to which would you rather game on: Xbox 360 or Mac/iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch? Let us know your pick of which deal you think is better in the comments.

Info from Apple

Microsoft Shows Off Windows 8– What You Need To Know

windows 8 mockup logo

As we slowly approach back to school season we know a lot of you are debating between getting a new computer or perhaps continuing to use your current one and looking at the thinner, more portable tablets (like the iPad 2, Xoom, Galaxy Tab, PlayBook etc.) instead. Microsoft hasn’t really had a good tablet OS to answer to the iPad and those other tablets, and while they won’t have an answer for those looking for a Windows tablet for this back to school season, last week they showed off the first glimpses of Windows 8, the next generation of Windows and the first version of Windows to really focus on being completely used by touch.

So what exactly is Windows 8 and what does this mean for anyone buying a new Windows 7 PC today? Read on.

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The Teens Guide to Back to School: Tips for Buying a New Computer– The Basics

Unfortunately, in life all good things like summer must come to an end and we have to return back to our regular ways of life and school– something that is now approaching rapidly as the calendar turns to August. With schools starting to begin over the next few weeks, we want to help make sure you go back fully prepared (gadgets wise at least). Over the course of the rest of the summer we plan to have a whole bunch of posts and guides on a whole bunch of ways to survive– and possibly even enjoy– the coming school year, and we’re gonna kick off this “series” with some tips on what you should look for when your out shopping for a new laptop for school and what are the basic specs that you should have.

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HP Slate – the iPad Killer?

Back in January, we caught a short glimpse of the HP Slate, HP’s new tablet. Last week, Engadget uncovered some “unofficial” specs of the new tablet compared to the iPad. Later that day HP released a trailer of the Slate doing things that the iPad can’t do, including video chatting and taking pictures (that’s right, two cameras– one on the front for video chatting and one on the back for taking regular pictures), as well as:

  • 8.9 inch multi-touch screen, with stylus support— While this is a drop smaller than the iPad’s bigger 9.7 inch screen, the ability to use a stylus for writing on it is very interesting, particularly for use in school.
  • A USB slot— shown ironically through connecting an iPod cable to the Slate, which can run iTunes because…
  • The Slate runs on Windows 7 (with some custom HP Touch software thrown in as well)
  • Available with either 32 or 64 GB of  storage— Like the iPad, just you can also add even more storage via an SD card slot with room to add up to a massive 128 GB! (Though don’t run for that 128 GB yet, as it probably right now costs about as much as the whole tablet, though still awesome for future use.)
  • WiFi and optional 3G for $50 more– meaning that for $600 you get a 32 GB Slate with 3G, compared to $730 for a 32 GB iPad WiFi+3G (this is even cheaper than the 16 GB WiFi+3G which starts at $630). No word on what data plans for this will be like (if they’ll be like the iPads $15 for 250 MB a month and $30 for unlimited or like the usual $60 for a laptop data plan).
  • Output to an HDTV through some sort of dock– so you can share your photos and videos on your big HDTV.
  • A base price of $549 for 32 GB Slate and $599 for the 64 GB model (both without the optional 3G), whereas with the WiFi only 32 GB iPad starts at $600 and the 64 GB start out at $700.

Obviously, the Skype and camera features could make the HP Slate a thorn in the iPad’s side and we will see if these features will make the HP Slate more customer-friendly than the iPad (just as a note: HP hasn’t officially released a spec sheet of the Slate nor announced pricing, things– like pricing– is still very much rumor and subject to change). Check out one of the HP promo videos of the Slate, as well as the leaked iPad-Slate comparison sheet after the break.

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Windows 7 Ultimate– Our Review

Windows 7 is here, and boy is it awesome

Ok, we know it’s a little late, but without further ado, here it is, our review of Windows 7.

So in a couple of words how are we liking the new Microsoft OS after using it in it’s final form for over a month? We love it, and just keeping it short—it’s a thousand times better than Vista (yes that much better).

Want some more details on why we like it so much and what things about it we don’t like? Read on.

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Five Different Versions of Windows 7–Which Is Right for You

windows 7 logo 3

So let’s begin our Windows 7 coverage with trying to simplify the many different versions of the OS. Unlike with Apple’s Snow Leopard, where it’s more of a one-size fits-all approach, with Windows 7 you got a nice selection of editions: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate and Happy-Go-Lucky… Ok, fine, we just made up the happy go lucky part, but as you can see, there are a whole lot of different versions, and so let’s try to simplify that into what you should looking for when getting a Windows 7 upgrade or when looking for a new PC, and what you should be looking for specs wise to make sure whatever version of 7 you get works well.

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Windows 7 Out Now!

windows 7 logo

Today is October 22nd, and you know what that means: Windows 7 is out! This is the day anyone using Vista has been waiting for. Microsoft has officially made Windows 7 available for purchase. In the coming days we’ll be doing a ton of coverage of Microsoft’s awesome new OS (it is truly awesome– I’ve been using it on a couple different PC’s for a few months now, and am really loving  it. It’s just so fast and easy, and not Vista) and how it relates to you.

In the meantime however, go on and check out our first thoughts that we posted a few months back, and if anyone out there already got 7 and wants to share their thoughts on the OS, or if anyone has any questions about 7, feel free to post them in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them in the coming days.

You can get Windows 7 now from your local Best Buy, Walmart, or other local computer store now, or order it online from Amazon and Microsoft‘s own sites among many other online retailers.

Live From IDF: Hands on with the Archos 9 Windows 7 Tablet

archos pic 1

The Archos 9 Windows 7 Tablet

For what seems like forever, there’s been talk of Apple making an all touchscreen tablet for the Mac. Now see, if you’re a Windows user (even though now there is talk of Microsoft making their own tablet…. but we’ll cover that another time), you can pretty much point and laugh at every Apple “fanboy” who freaks out with each Apple event and rumor hoping for said inevitable tablet—as thanks to Archos, you got a real, and really nice looking Windows tablet that’s ready to make full use of the upcoming Windows 7’s improved touch features.

archos pic 2

Playing Hearts with your fingers!

At IDF, we made sure to stop by Archos’s booth and check out the Archos 9 for ourselves, and we came away pretty impressed. The Archos 9 tablet looks great and is insanely thin and light that taking it around wherever you go should be a breeze.

Archos did though do a couple things interesting with the tablet—for one, it doesn’t use a capacitive, more finger friendly touchscreen like those on the iPhone and iPod touch, instead going with a surprisingly very responsive resistive touchscreen (usually with resistive screens they only work well if you use a stylus or pen like object to tap the screen– but if we hadn’t known before that this was resistive we would have definitely thought it was a capacitive screen. That’s how good it is with just using your fingers! Though that lack of a capacitive screen also means no gestures like “pinch to zoom” etc). It also has a lot of the netbook type specs like 9 inch touchscreen, 1 GB RAM, 1.2 GHZ Intel Atom processor, 1.3 megapixel webcam, Bluetooth, 60-120 GB hard drive…, but all this isn’t a terrible thing, as Archos is planning to sell this at a very solid price of $499 when it launches with Windows 7 on October 22nd.

Oh, and if your worried about using an all touchscreen device like this to write long reports or take notes in school, don’t be. Archos plans to be selling a very thin wireless Bluetooth keyboard along with the Archos, which also is pretty solid and will definitely make things a whole lot easier.

archos pic 3

For more info on the Archos 9, see Archos’s site here.

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