Taking a Laptop to England

Archived Q&A and Reviews

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My daughter is going to grad school at Cambridge and at the moment has her heart set on getting a Macintosh laptop computer for her papers and research. Has anyone had any recent experience studying and writing in England, Cambridge in particular, and any thoughts about what might work best? Becky

I have relatively recent experience with this, as a professor I work with went to Cambridge last fall.The residences, at least, have Windows NT installed.

However, if you got a G4 (not an ibook) you'd probably be fine, since interoperability is good. The G4's are incredibly good machines and work nearly flawlessly, so once set up she should have no problems. The iBooks are less reliable (and a lot cheaper). It's almost always a bad idea to make a Mac user use a PC since it makes them less productive for a somewhat unforseen time and makes them cranky in general.

If you decide to get a PC make sure you get a good one (either Dell or IBM) because any failures will be annoying to deal with in a foreign country, not because they don't have a place to fix them, but because you don't know the place and have an added level of complexity. .

I advise graduate students on this sort of thing all the time.. They always regret not spending the extra money and getting the reliable machine. And, if she's done well enough to be doing graduate work at Cambridge, her work will mean a lot to her and she deserves it. Myriam

I worked in a university setting in London, and everyone used Macs (science setting). American Macs are compatible with everything regarding network and modems. What isn't compatible is the voltage (you need a transformer, DO NOT use a high wattage transformer that they sell for hairdryers, get a low wattage transformer for electronics, it is perfectly safe) and the phone plug for the modem (a simple adaptor is necessary, otherwise a modem here works the same over there even though the ring is different). A good place to buy this stuff is a shop on the right hand side of University Avenue when you are driving to the freeway, around 6th street, it has a bunch of signs in front. The shop owner has lots of good advice. Computers, like everything else in England, are overpriced. THen again, the transformer necessary to bring 220 volts to 110 is a heavy little brick (not much larger than a notebook power supply, but heavier) and makes portability an issue. i guess you could have two, one at home and one at your work desk so you wouldn't have to lug it around. I can't speak specifically about Cambridge. Joe