Ask Adrian: Our technology editor tackles your trickiest tech problems
Question: I am in the process of purchasing a new laptop and wondering what is one that you would recommend? I am a primary school teacher and use the internet and Microsoft Word for both work and personal purposes. So my usage of the laptop is quite simple.
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Based on your criteria, it sounds like you need something that doesn't need much storage or a great deal of power, but enough for you to rely on it for up to five years.
I'm also going to assume that you're looking for something somewhat budget-friendly without being bargain basement.
With this in mind, I'd recommend a HP that's currently on sale at €599. It's a 14-inch model (the model number is 14-cf1599sa) with a decent chip and engine power,- an Intel i5 processor and 8GB of Ram. It has a pretty good battery life, too.
And it has a (relatively, for the price point) good amount of storage (256GB), which means that you can use it to download Netflix movies or tunes from Spotify or Apple Music and not have to worry about running out of space.
A 14-inch screen is also an ideal size, as it's small enough to feel portable but big enough for you to have no problems making out anything on the display.
To be clear, you can get laptops that are around €200 cheaper than this that look and feel similar. The main difference is that they're using older, weaker technology. This is important to consider because while they may work fine now, websites and online application are getting more and more power-hungry. So it's a sensible move to make sure that your laptop has a fighting chance of still being able to operate at a reasonable pace - and not slowing to a crawl or getting 'buggy' - in a couple of years' time.
The Microsoft Word element is important - without you specifying that, I might have recommended a Chromebook (which is always budget-friendly and is generally very good as an internet laptop).
You probably already know that Microsoft Word generally needs to be purchased separately to the laptop. For a PC, it's either a one-off charge of €135 or €69 per year (in perpetuity) for the full Microsoft Office package. However, you may be able to get it for free as a teacher under Microsoft's education subsidy - you can check on Microsoft.com (which will ask you for your school email address).
It goes without saying that if you have a bigger budget, you'll have more buying options. If this is the case, I'd consider either a 12-inch Microsoft Surface Pro 6 (€1,260 with teacher discount) or a 13-inch Apple MacBook Air (€1,279). Both are excellent. The Surface Pro 6 comes with a detachable keyboard and a year's Office 365 (which includes Word).
Recommendation: HP 14-cf1599sa (€599 from Currys); Surface Pro 6 (€1,260 with teacher discount from Microsoft Store)
I would appreciate advice about how to permanently block pornographic emails from my junk email box. I have a Microsoft Outlook account.
- Carmel McG, via email
This is a tricky problem. Most actions you take to block various type of emails don't actually prevent them landing altogether - they just route them through to your junk email folder.
And like all of us, you obviously sometimes need to check your junk email because some legitimate emails occasionally end up there.
You don't say what device you're using Outlook on. This matters a little: you're more restricted if you're using the Outlook app on an iPhone, iPad or Android phone than if you're using Outlook that has been installed on a PC or that you're accessing through Outlook.com. (This is a real pain in the neck and is a throwback to Microsoft's complicated past.)
You can only really vary the controls on your junk email if you're using it through Outlook.com in a web browser (like Chrome, Safari or Internet Explorer) or through the desktop version.
The Outlook.com website, though better than the app, has weak controls. You can block or 'always trust' certain senders, but there's no deeper control to stop seeing those blacklisted emails in your spam folder.
But if you're using installed Outlook software on a PC, you have significantly more control over rules which will permeate your account, no matter what device or platform you access it on.
In the settings ('junk' followed by 'junk email options'), you can choose between levels of strictness and also consider a nuclear option: to delete all suspected junk messages instead of moving them to the junk mail folder. Obviously you need to consider this carefully.
As mentioned above, we all tend to get the odd legitimate email that winds up in the junk folder.
But if you're not worried about this and just want to clear your junk mail folder from unwanted email, this is the way to do it.
Email your questions to email@example.com
€159 from retailers
What's the best budget smartphone? Motorola has a new contender. Its just-announced Moto E6 has improved rear cameras (one 13-megapixel and another depth-sensing one), 64GB of storage and a 6.1-inch screen. A cheaper version costs €20 less but, with only half the storage and Ram, it's a false economy.
Lenovo Smart Display 7
€129 from retailers
Lenovo's Smart Display 7 is a nice bedroom or kitchen smart speaker that also has a seven-inch touchscreen for seeing news clips or YouTube videos. It connects to Google's Assistant voice control system and has a good speaker on it, despite its small size. It's a direct competitor to Amazon's Echo Show.