Are budget Dell computers a good buy? (Part 1)

Dell Inspiron

Episode 1069

Ron from Los Angeles, CA

Ron is looking to get a Dell computer and he's on a budget. Leo says that Dell makes two levels of computers: consumer grade and professional grade. The pro computers are made with better components, high resolution touch screens, etc. Then there's the lower grade budget line, like the Dell Inspiron series. They start at $500 without a monitor. The i3 is usually included, but for only $50 more, he could bump it up to the i5. Ron will want to get at least 4GB of RAM as well. He should also get the biggest monitor he can afford.

Should I get a Dell or Lenovo PC?

Dell XPS laptop

Episode 1068

Richard from Placentia, CA

Richard is ready to upgrade his Gateway XP desktop to a new computer. Should he buy a Dell or Lenovo? He bought his daughter a Dell Latitude. Leo says that Dell is great, and the Latitude is a great business model PC. In fact, Leo's entire business office uses Dell.

Will he get the same TV directly from Dell than the big box store? Leo says that getting it from will be the most recent computer and that's better. The Big Box Stores will have older, year old models.

How can I activate Windows without the activation key?

Episode 1054

Mike from Glendale, CA

Mike bought a Dell Latitude and had to replace the hard drive. Now he doesn't have a serial number to activate it. Leo says that Dell puts a sticker on the bottom of the laptop that has the activation code on it. Mike says it wasn't there. Leo says he should contact Dell and tell them that he can't activate the machine.

The chatroom says that Dell puts the serial number in the BIOS, so that may be a place to look. There are also programs that will provide the key from the installation.

What laptop should I get?

Episode 1049

TJ from California

TJ is looking to buy a new laptop and she wants to know the minimum requirements she should be looking for. Can she update her old Windows ME computer? Leo says that TJ could put Linux on it, but that's about as best as she can get with that. Leo says that for what TJ wants, she could look at the Microsoft Surface 2, which comes with Windows RT and a free Microsoft Office suite. Since it comes with a keyboard, it's a nice hybrid. It's a tad small at 10", but it's a great mobile option. TJ wants a 15" screen, though.

How can I use a tablet as a blind user?

Episode 1047

Steve from Nashville, TN

Steve got the Dell Venue Pro tablet for Christmas and he says it's great and very fast. He's blind and uses JAWS. Leo didn't know you could use JAWS on a tablet! It supports some touch gestures, but not all. Is a tablet better or worse for a blind user? Steve says it's worse. Far more challenging, but for the size and battery life, it's worth the challenge. Does he have to install Security Essentials? Leo says no, Microsoft has included that with Windows 8.1, and it's called "Defender."

What's the best laptop for a student?

Episode 1035

Stan from Temecula, CA

Stan's daughter had her computer stolen at school and he wants to know if there will be any great deals for Cyber Monday. Leo says not likely. They're about as low as they can get already now. Acer is a good third tier brand, but he shouldn't get the cheapest one. A touch screen is a good idea to factor in moving forward for Windows 8. Leo says that Dell has great prices for Stan's budget. It's what he uses. He should get the best that he can afford.

What's a good gaming PC?

Episode 1035

Paula from Temecula, CA

Paula's son wants a PC to play Minecraft on for Christmas. Leo says that for Minecraft, any PC will do because it's not very demanding. As her child's tastes in games matures, though, he may require a more powerful computer that can handle the graphics. There's a lot of choices for her budget of $600. Leo likes Acer for entry level computers. For gaming, PCs are generally better and she'll likely want a desktop over a laptop. Asus and Dell are good options as well. Avoid going to a "big box" store because they usually are selling older models.

What's the best laptop for a student?

Episode 1035

Mike from Orange County, CA

Mike needs to buy his son a laptop for school, and wants to know how he can get the most "bang" for his buck. Leo says that the Dell i5 for $549 is a pretty good price, especially since it comes with Microsoft Office. Mike is wondering if it will handle gaming via Steam? Leo says maybe not with the lower end hardware. Laptops are rarely fast enough for high performance gaming. More RAM helps, though. But he'll likely have to tone down the graphics on the game itself.