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Buyer Guide

Computer Buying Guide | So you have decided to buy a new computer… what should you consider?

You first must decide, “How will you use the computer?”
Do you plan to write papers for a class using word processing software, keep track of your finances or will the computer be used primarily for business? Are you simply going to surf the web, use email and social services – if so, then an inexpensive entry level computer will do the job just fine. However, if you plan on doing video and graphic editing, AutoCAD and other intensive software applications, you will need more “juice”. Knowing how you’ll use your computer will help you determine what type of minimum requirements the computer needs to have.

Our checklist will allow you to quickly compare different computers side by side…

How to Choose Computer?
If you’re not sure whether you want a PC or a Mac, this is the first decision you have to make. Both types can do just about anything. Here are some pointers, but for each point you’ll find people arguing differently. (Some people get pretty emotional about this issue.)

  • Think of all the uses you will have for your computer and check out the software programs available for those uses. There is more software available for PC’s, but still a lot available for Macs.
  • Ask people you will be working with what they use. A major consideration is being able to share information with others. For example, if you need to share data from a database program with people using Microsoft Access, you will have difficulties if you are using Filemaker Pro on the Mac. ( Microsoft doesn’t make Access for the Mac.)
  • About 95% of businesses use PC’s. The niches for the Mac are graphics and education. Therefore, if your main uses are for business and you need to share information with people at other businesses, you probably want a PC. On the other hand, if you will be doing desktop publishing or graphic design and sharing files with others in the same field, you probably want a Mac. Again, ask others in your field what they use.
  • If you’re buying the computer for your child’s use, see what kind of computer is used in his or her classroom. .
  • The hands-on difference between the two is not great. Both use a GUI, or graphical user interface. That means they have menus that drop down, windows that open and contain programs and documents, the ability to run multiple programs at the same time, and a standard user interface for the programs they run, which makes it easy for a user to move from program to program.
  • If you’re new to computers, try out both kinds. Ask friends to show you how they work.
  • The advantages of a Mac are its ease of use and its graphics capability. More speed, superior software, and better color matching make Macs better for desktop-publishing, web page design, video rendering, and other graphical applications. The major disadvantages are its incompatibility with the PC world even though there are some ways around that. (You can buy software that emulates Windows.)
  • Don’t forget that your decision isn’t cast in stone. In 3-4 years, you will probably be buying a new computer, and you can change then.
  • Compare costs for comparable computers and check out student or educational discounts if they may apply to you.

How Much Memory Do You Need?
Keep in mind that the size of the software you plan to run will dictate how much memory your computer should have. Consider how you will use your computer, then ask about the software you’ll need. A sales person should be able to tell you how many gigabytes (GB) of memory you’ll need based on your planned computer use. Typically, you’ll need a minimum of 8 GB of memory to adequately run most programs. Most computers today come with a minimum of 4 GB. If you will be using more than one program at a time, you should probably get more.

How Big of a Hard Drive Do You Need?
Everyone loves have a big hard drive. The bigger the hard drive, the more storage you have. If you love storing pictures and videos, then you should look for the biggest hard drive you can find or even consider getting a separate external storage drive. Most new computers will give you a minium of 1TB (terabyte) of storage. That’s a lot of storage! In addition, new hard drives are using a technology called solid State Drives. Unlike older hard drives that rotate like a record player, these new hard drives have NO moving parts. They are amazingly fast!

What Software Comes with it?
Most computer systems come with preloaded software. Be sure to check the inventory of what’s on the computer, so you know what you’re getting. A good software offer can make a big difference in the final price of your computer. You may be able to purchase additional software when you buy your computer, preloaded, at significantly less than if you bought the software separately.

How Much Should You Spend?
With computers, it’s a good rule of thumb to buy as much as you can afford. Depending on your needs, be prepared to spend between $300 for an entry-level computer to $2,500 and up for a higher-end computer. You don’t have to buy the biggest, fastest or most powerful computer on the market, but you should buy the best system you can — that includes monitor, microprocessor, memory, hard drive, keyboard, printer, etc. You might want to hold off buying any software until you’ve had a chance to take a look at the software which comes with your new computer.
If cost is a problem, consider buying a used computer. Of course, you won’t have a warranty or service contract. Try the computer out before buying.

Laptop vs. Desktop Models vs All in One
After you’ve made all the decisions about what you want in a computer, you also can choose what type of model you’d like: laptop or desktop. Laptop models are portable, and if you travel a lot and need to bring your computer along, this is the obvious choice. Desktops have larger screens (although you can use a larger screen with a laptop model) and are more easily expandable (to add more peripheral gadgets). Laptops are now powerful enough to be your primary computer. Laptops are quite a more expensive than desktops for the same features, so you pay for the convenience.

Personally, we do not like All in one Computers.  We have seen to many issues where the monitor goes and it prevents people from accessing their computers. In addition, All in One computers are almost impossible to upgrade or replace individual components.