3 Questions When Buying a New Computer

These days, buying a new computer can be a little frustrating. What do you need to look for? Are you worried about buying too much or not enough?

When customers ask us what they should look for in a computer, we never have a simple answer. There are many variables to consider and as individuals, we all have our own wants and needs with regards to computer choice. If you ask around, each person will give you advice on what they prefer and use. This may be different from what you want or need. Let me run through some of the topics we cover with our customers when they present this question and see if any of it helps you with your current dilemma.

Should you buy a desktop or a laptop? (We will get to tablets later.)

When considering whether to buy a desktop or a laptop, you need to ask three questions:

  • What do I want the computer to do?
  • What am I going to use it for?
  • Where will I use the computer?

The answers to these questions will determine what your user type is.

Let’s look at the different types of users:

Casual user: This is someone who primarily uses their computer for surfing the Internet, this includes checking email and Facebook. The casual user will also do light online gaming such as Candy Crush, Clash of Clans or Words with Friends. Most students will fall under the casual user category unless they are working with highly specialized graphics software for class.

These casual users do well with the following system attributes: Windows, Mac or Linux operating system, 500 GB hard drive, 4 GB RAM, and a dual-core processor. Desktop or laptop will work fine.
Is portability a necessity or a comfort? Most new laptops have a battery life of 6 or 7 hours. This time is affected by the type of use. A gaming laptop battery will have a shorter life than a casual surfer. Desktop systems will need a wireless card or wireless USB in order to jump on WiFi.

Home office: This user will do much better with a desktop as a base of operations with possibly a laptop as your backup. The home office user also falls into two sub-categories: data heavy and graphics heavy.

For the data heavy office user, look for these system attributes: Windows operating system, 1TB hard drive with an external or flash drives, 8GB RAM, dual-core processor @ 2.5 or 3.0 GHz minimum but quad-core preferred, and let me emphasize: backup software is a must! Don’t skimp on your backup system and use it regularly! This could mean your livelihood one day.

For the graphics heavy office user, look to these system attributes: Windows or MAC operating system (this will depend on who your business partners are and which systems they are using), 1TB hard drive with a 2 TB external hard drive, quad-core i5 processor at a minimum, and a specialized video card (your level of work will determine which one.)

Again, let me emphasize: Backup software is a must! And don’t skimp! And use it regularly!

Gamer: This user’s system attributes will vary depending on the games you will be playing. Some PC games are CPU heavy while others are GPU heavy, also some need more RAM than others.Currently, one of the hottest CPU heavy PC games is Fallout 4 and one of the hottest GPU heavy PC games is Star Wars: Battlefront.

Another important facet of the gaming rig is an appropriate cooling system. You will need to choose between traditional air coolers and water cooled systems. Each has their pros and cons. We will cover these in a later article. Make sure that your cooling system is capable of running your rig at high power for long periods of time. You don’t want a meltdown to take out your rig.

Also, keep in mind that your power supply needs to be more than adequate. Don’t skimp on your power supply as this will only frustrate you later on.

All-in-one desktops, Tablets, Or Tablet & laptop-In-One?
Tablets really should only be relied on for moderate surfing. Most won’t support an external keyboard or mouse and usually only have a single USB-C port so peripherals aren’t supported.

All-In-One desktops and Tablet-Laptop-In-Ones (such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro or Lenovo’s Yoga): These systems are very expensive to buy and expensive to repair – some traditional repairs are not even possible due to cost and construction.

Some final considerations when buying a new computer:

  • Some newer laptops come with few USB ports and no DVD drive or LAN line (network port). Keep in mind how many ports and what types you will need.
  • The smaller the device, the greater the risk of overheating or short lifespan due to heat issues.
  • Desktops are actually more versatile than laptops in the area of upgrades and the type of programs they can run. Desktops also have more power usually at a lower price. If your needs change over time, chances are, you can upgrade your desktop rather than having to buy an entirely new system.
  • If you choose to go with an Apple device, verify that any programs you need to run are compatible with Apple products. Usually, you will only find Mac repair shops in major metropolitan cities. Otherwise you will need to send the device back to Apple for repairs. Also, the new MacBooks only come with one USB-C port for power and data, so you are limited on the peripherals that you can run. You will need to order a USB-C Digital AV multi-port adapter separately. This will give you three additional ports: HDMI, USB, and USB-C charging port.

Computers are a gateway drug. Once you buy your first computer or smart phone, you are always planning on what the next one will be like. If you take the extra effort to examine your needs and wants and do some research on the current brands and models available, you will be much happier with your decision later on down the road. Don’t let your purchase be a spur of the moment event and don’t let a salesperson make your decision for you.

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