I am considering purchasing a laptop to be used for various worship leading tasks including:  storing chord charts, arrangements, MP3s , and visual backgrounds, etc.  Anyone else have experience with this?  Can you recommend the basic requirement for this unit (memory, etc.).  Thanks for your help!

 

Thanks to all. Some very helpful comments.

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I think the most important thing you should look for is RAM (memory) to be as big as you can afford, especially with the newer operating systems. Don't go below 2GB, but I would recommend at least 4GB if you want to keep it for a reasonable amount of time. Size of the hard drive doesn't matter so much anymore because most computers come with about 300-500GB of storage, which is probably more than double you will ever need, but good to have just in case you have a large audio or video collection. If they make them this small, don't go less than 100GB, 200GB is probably better limit on the low side. You'll probably want a wireless card as part of the purchase, nowadays they are usually included automatically. I am sure others could advise you better, but that's a starting place. I personally like Macs, but there are ups and downs to both Macs and PC's.
Ooh, touchy subject with me. We used my spanking new laptop for powerpoint words for the first time ever, and it's still in for repair weeks down the line - some kind of power surge I am told.

Seriously, don't be put off by what I have said, I am looking forward to seeing the replies so's I can gain a bit of knowledge for myself also.

God Bless.
Overall, our church has decided to become a 'Mac' church. The operating system takes a little time to get used to because it's a bit different from windows, but the transition is relatively easy if you decide to go that route. And if you do, I highly encourage you to purchase the latest iWork for Mac. It contains Pages (like MS Word), Keynote (like MS Powerpoint), and Numbers (like MS Excel). They're all great programs and we use pages for traditional documents, chord sheets, etc, Keynote for the presentation aspect like showing the worship songs on Sunday morning services and presenting scriptures and notes that go along with the Pastor's message, and Numbers for the financial aspect of the church itself. There are some major differences in orientation and some plusses and minuses comparing each one, but they each get the job done. And if you don't feel comfortable trying out a new program to start, they do offer Microsoft Office for Mac.

Additionally, buying a typical Mac will usually come with iTunes for your mp3s, iPhoto for your pictures/backgrounds and GarageBand, a great recording program that allows you to record using its built in microphone (or explore other recording options if you feel you'd like to go down that path). I've tried using PC's in the past and as there are some amazing programs to aid worship leaders (Media Shout, ProPresenter, etc.), we as a church have found that Macs fit our specifications the best. I'd encourage you to first look into what you want out of a laptop specifically. Write it all down, and go into your nearest Best Buy (or mac-authorized dealer) and speak with them about what you're wanting and ask them to do a comparison based on your needs. Don't feel pressured to buy anything right away because I'm sure you'll need time to think about and pray about your options. I hope this helps and if you have any questions, I'm sure many of us around this site have some wonderful tips and ideas! Via con Dios!
Oh and by the way, the only major downside to Macs are the price, but I would say they have come down in price in the last several years.

The last thing that you want to do is to buy a laptop configured for budget, in order to save money. The reason is that this stuff becomes outdated really quick and if you buy something super cheap, you may end up pulling your hair out faster than you can play your instrument because it's not compatible with newer software in a year from now...or perhaps it is super slow...or worst of all, dies a month after the warranty expires.

Sorry I don't mean to scare you, that's just my opinion.

Granted, there is such thing as being good stewards of God's money as well without buying the top of the line.
I say bite the bullet and get quality that will last so you don't have to buy another one a shorter time from now. Ask several people who know computers if they would buy whatever product you are thinking of and ask several people. When your head is about to explode, close your eyes, pick the one your gut is leaning toward, and never look back. I recently bought a laptop (I went with a PC because I needed Microsoft Access which is sadly not part of the MS Office for Mac) for the same sorts of stuff and my price range was in the neighborhood of $800-$1,000. I do all of my MP3 stuff on my personal Mac and ipod, but I put EasyWorship on it in case there is a problem with our primary computer, we will have a backup for displaying lyrics on the screen.

And when you are budgeting, don't forget to consider the price of the software...you can easily spend more on that than the computer itself! The cool thing is, some of the software companies are getting creative and offering the same software for cheaper price because it might be without technical support or without the packaging (Download required), or it's licensed for only 1 computer. If you are ok with taking those risks, that's an option to save money.

Definitely go with either Microsoft Office (PC or Mac) or iWork (Mac) to store your sheet music. There's also something called open source software (it's a type, not a brand) that is essentially software that is developed by volunteers and offered for free. Many of these programs are fully functioning pieces of software, like Open Office or Neo Office, and they do all the same things as Microsoft Office (or most) but they are FREE. I have tried Neo Office, I prefer MS Office to it...but there's something enticing about a free product.
Good point, Carl. When my wife and I were hired as the worship leaders of our church, we ran into so many of our churches 'quick fix' solutions (applied by previous worship leaders at our church) it got crazy. After rounding it all up, we now have boxes upon boxes of equipment that was purchased to enhance the music ministry, only to have broken within months (or weeks) of purchase. Just because you save money on the purchase itself, doesn't mean it will be beneficial to you. Make sure you make wise purchases on items that will hold their value over time and hopefully keep working for you years down the line. Applying this to computers, I'd say to review the practical value of the computer/software/hardware you're planning on purchasing.
There's nothing 'special' about such a machine: it just needs a reasonable amount of memory, both RAM and hard drive wise, plus a reasonable graphics chipset. Look for good connectivity: plenty of ports, and of the kinds you'll need i.e. USB, firewire, gigabit ethernet, and high speed wireless.

As a Macbook owner I'd strongly recommend avoiding Macs - they aren't any more reliable than 'lesser' PCs, but they'll cost you around 30% more. There is also much less free software available than for windows machines (although you could run windows on it too, slightly defeating the object of owning a Mac - that OS).

I'd also recommend an external hard drive, to store stuff you don't need right now and for backing up.

I'd probably pick either Lenovo or Dell, depending on the deal I could get.

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