Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tips for Buying a New Computer

Buying a new computer can be daunting - especially if you're not familiar with all the terms and specs that are listed.

This article will help you help you understand those terms and what's important in making a computer buying decision.

Whenever you buy a new computer, you first have to decide if you want a laptop or desktop computer. Below is a list of pro's and con's for each.

Laptop Pro's:

  • Portability (which is great if you travel a lot)
  • Wireless connections allow you access to your email away from home
  • Less space is needed

Laptop Con's:

  • Smaller keyboard, and monitor
  • No mouse (but one could be attached)
  • Only one internal hard drive and CD/DVD drive (some people need more)
  • Printers, scanners and such are usually not connected all the time
  • Harder to fix and upgrade
People who use the computer a lot, don't like the smaller monitor and keyboard. There's no number pad on a laptop keyboard - and for some people, that's a bit of an annoyance.

Also, some people prefer the mouse over the touch pad or pointer. You can always hook a mouse up to a laptop, to solve that problem, but it's an extra step.

One way to solve all those problems, is to get a docking station and connect a full size keyboard, monitor and mouse to it. That way when you're home and want to work on the laptop, you can attach it to the docking station and have it function more like a desktop computer.

However, using a docking station means that you need more room and extra peripherals (monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc.). It also means that you need to have a permanent place set up with this equipment.

Desktop Pro's

  • Full size monitor, keyboard, and mouse
  • Usually more processing power and speed than laptops
  • Ability to have extra drives installed (hard drives, CD/DVD drives, etc.)
  • Printers, scanners, etc. are always connected
  • Better sound and speakers
  • Easier to fix and upgrade (not necessarily true with laptops)
There are many more advantages to owning a desktop computer. But the biggest downside is that you don't have the portability. And if you travel a lot, this can be a problem.

Minimum Requirements

We all have different computer needs. Therefore, what I look for in a computer may not necessarily be what you need in a computer. But there are some general guidelines that you'll find helpful when shopping around.

Before buying a new computer, you need to know what you intend to use it for. For example, if you only see yourself doing some word processing (writing letters, etc), and email, then you don't need a lot of processing power.

But if you see yourself wanting to store a lot of digital pictures, music, or do a lot of graphic work (photo and video editing), then you do need a larger hard drive and more processing power than most people.

If you're a gamer (you'll also need a lot of processing power).
When buying a new computer computer, keep in mind that the following things will affect the speed of the computer:

  • CPU speed (I'd recommend a minimum of 2GHz to everybody)
  • Memory (the more RAM, the better, but at a minimum, you should have 1 GB)
 There's a couple of things that affect the speed of a computer, but nothing that most people need to be concerned with. The main thing to keep in mind, is that you always want to get the most memory and fastest CPU you can afford.
These are the two things that will affect the price of the computer the most.
I also usually recommend getting the largest hard drive you can and to make sure you have at least a CD-RW drive installed.
So regardless of your intended use, this is my list of minimum requirements for every computer user:

  • 2 GHz CPU (I personally prefer Intel or Celeron over AMD)
  • 1 GB RAM (but more is better if you can afford it)
  • 500 GB Hard Drive (you'll want more if you do a lot of graphic work - especially video)
  • DVD-RW drive (you'll want a DVD-RW if you work with video)
  • Network card (sometimes listed as LAN or NIC)
  • Wireless card installed (if buying a laptop)
If you're buying a desktop computer and like to add a lot of extra stuff (like more hard drives, CD-Drives, etc.) then you'll want to get an ATX desktop computer as opposed to a micro-ATX.

Also keep in mind that most new computers today, do not come with a floppy drive. Getting a thumb drive (or flash drive) will make things a lot easier if you want to swap files between computers.

While it's true that computers can become outdated fairly quickly, I usually tell my clients to plan to get 5 years out a any computer. So when buying, it's a good idea to have a 5 year vision in mind of your computer needs. This will help you get the most for your computer.

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