Telepractice Technology Recommendations – Late 2017
Seth Koster, M.S. CCC-SLP
Why is this list different from other lists? What makes these computers better for telepractice? Well, first, the aspects of the computers I focus on are those aspects most important for telepractice: Internet connectivity, video ability, multiple monitors, security, and overall processing. I will happily drop a computer from this list if it favors a faster hard drive but has no ethernet port or can’t handle multiple monitors!
Super Budget Laptop – Under $250
In the Super Budget range you’re not going to get much, but you can get a reasonable starter computer that can handle the needs of telepractice. My recommendation in this range is a refurbished HP Elitebook 8470p Laptop with an Intel i5 processor, 8GB of ram, and a 500GB hard drive.
- Complete connectivity – Ethernet and b/g/n wifi
- 8Gb of RAM
- 500Gb hard drive
- Small screen – 14.1”
- Older technology for external monitor – VGA (but the monitor will be cheaper too)
- Refurbished – I buy refurbished with no problems, but your mileage may vary…
Buy it because it’s cheap and get an external VGA monitor. Upgrade later!
Budget Laptop – Under $500
In the Budget range you’re actually jumping up quite a bit in technology and you can get a capable computer that you can consider a long term solution if you don’t mind the negatives. My recommendation in this range is a ASUS P-Series business standard laptop with a 15.6” screen, 8GB of RAM and a 7th generation Intel i5 processor.
- Good processor – Can handle most computer needs
- 8 GB of RAM – Can run a reasonable amount of programs or browser tabs
- Built for business – Good security features
- Good video outputs – Can run 2 external screens at once
- Slow hard drive – Long starting times for the computer and programs
- Integrated graphics card – I prefer dedicated
This is a good laptop if you’re starting telepractice but not ready to spend a lot to get started. This computer can give you years of use even if it is not the fanciest looking machine on the block.
Be prepared for the fact that the 5400 RPM hard drive is slow, so starting the computer and loading programs will take extra time. Have your activities already loaded up before your sessions so you don’t have to wait for them to load while in session with a client/student/patient.
**BONUS** Because this is a business laptop, it is designed to be easily upgradeable. If you find that, over time, you prefer a faster hard drive or more RAM, you can easily have these parts upgraded to allow you to get extra years of usefulness out of this machine.
Mid-Level Laptop – Under $850
In the Mid-Level range you’re getting into machines capable of doing everything telepractice related and beyond. My recommendation in this range is an HP Pavilion Power laptop with a 15.6” screen, 12GB of RAM and a 7th generation Intel i7 processor.
- Excellent processor – Very fast!
- 12 GB of RAM – Lots of memory for lots of tabs and programs
- Dedicated video card – Takes some work away from the processor
- Faster hard drive – The computer and programs will start more quickly
- Not an SSD – SSD hard drives are the fastest, but more expensive
This is an excellent laptop and it checks just about every box for me for a super capable machine for much more than telepractice. Honestly, unless you really see a need to spend this much, my recommendation is to go with the Budget level laptop above.
The only areas I’d like to see improved would be a bit more RAM (16GB would be nice, more is better), an SSD hard drive to make sure things load super fast, and a 17” screen since that really reduces my want for an external monitor.
None of the above is absolutely necessary, though, and the vast majority of people will be well served at this level or lower… But if you really want to see the top end, read on!
High-End Laptop – Under $1000
In the High-End range you’re really buying more than you need for telepractice, and often more than you need for the vast majority of computer usage. However, if you really want to spend the money and have a machine capable of doing just about everything you could want, from video editing to programming, to gaming and more, I recommend the MSI GL72M 7RDX-800 with a 17” screen, 2 hard drives (1 very fast SSD for your operating system and one slower but much bigger HDD for your pictures, videos, etc.), i7 processor, and GTX 1050 dedicated graphics card.
- Excellent processor – Very fast!
- Dedicated video card – Not the best, but very high quality
- 2 hard drives – 128GB SSD for your OS, and 1TB HDD for media
- 8GB of RAM – Enough, but not stellar… A very minor complaint
- When your computer is getting this fast it’s using a lot of power, so battery life starts to drop significantly – Keep it plugged in!
This is, frankly, much more than I would spend on a telepractice machine. If I *really* wanted the 17” screen I’d compromise on something else and spend less. In fact that’s what I did for my mom, who is a telepractice SLP like I am and wanted a big screen.
I mention the 8GB of RAM as a con but realistically it is enough for the vast majority of what you’ll do.
Can you spend more? Sure, but there’s really no reason to even spend this much. I played with the idea of showing you an ultra-high-end laptop, but it would just be for fun anyway. If you really want to spend several thousand dollars on a laptop let me know and I’ll give you a personal recommendation.
Macs are expensive. That’s a given. When looking at a telepractice laptop one of my core beliefs is that having a screen less than 15” is a poor choice. I spent quite a while working on a smaller screen and the compromises with that are significant in terms of usability and how tired the eyes get. Due to that, my recommendation for an Apple laptop is the Apple Macbook Pro with a 15.4” screen, i7 processor, and 16GB of RAM.
- It’s a Mac, if you love Macs, you’ll probably love it
- 16GB RAM – Though surprisingly of the older, slower DDR3 variety – No big deal
- 256GB SSD hard drive
- Not a ton of storage, but probably enough if you don’t save lots of videos, etc.
- Very expensive for hardware included – about $1800
If you love Macs I’m not going to talk you out of one. Though I do want to give a bit of history so you know why I don’t recommend them anymore.
Many years ago Apple was a truly independent hardware company. Parts for Macs were specific to Macs, the entire way the processor worked was different. Not all better, but all different (often much better). If you wanted a high-end machine you bought a Mac. Over time market pressures (and losing key people) sent Apple in more of a run-of-the-mill direction. They now use parts sourced from Intel and other places that supply other computer manufacturers as well. They’ve also been caught planning obsolescence in order to push or force consumers into buying new models. They’ve become more style than function.
At this time the only thing that makes Macs stand apart is the Operating System, which you either love or don’t care about. I don’t judge, if it is worth it to you then I say buy the Mac and enjoy! 🙂 That said, I don’t recommend them otherwise.
Well, that’s my set of recommendations for late 2017. Please tell me if I missed anything or if there’s anything you’d like me to improve for next time!
Thanks so much!