Getting a new computer is an exciting experience. The promise of brand new technology is hard to stifle. Unfortunately, that excitement can quickly wane if you find you didn’t get the computer you need. The vast number of choices can be daunting, but this guide can help steer you towards technical bliss.
Evaluating Your Needs
Ask yourself what you need your computer for. The
main functionality of your computer will dictate the kind of computer
that you need. By pinning down the role of your computer early, you can
save yourself some serious money down the line.
- Will you be using the computer mainly to check email and browse the web?
- Are you planning on doing a significant amount of office work on your computer?
- Do you enjoy games and plan on spending most of your computer time playing the latest and greatest releases?
- Are you an artist or musician? Do you anticipate using the computer to create images, music, or videos?
- Is your computer going to be used by everyone in the family? Is your
computer going to be an entertainment hub for the living room?
Decide between a laptop or a desktop. Laptops are portable, and are great for students or office workers, but they are typically less than stellar when it comes to gaming. Desktops are typically much more powerful than laptops, but can also end up more expensive. They also take up significantly more space than a laptop. Ask yourself how tied down you want to be to a desk. Laptops will allow you to work from virtually anywhere that you can charge or get a Wi-Fi internet connection.
- If choosing a laptop, pay attention to the advertised battery life, as your battery will dictate how mobile your laptop can be.
Compare Apple to a Windows PC. A lot of this comes
down to personal preference. If your business runs mainly Mac computers,
having a Mac at home can make work more convenient. Apple computers are
typically more expensive than an equally powerful Windows PC, and
Windows PCs can run way more games than an Apple computer (though more
and more games are coming out for Mac as well). Although these are the
most commonly available choices, you can save money by going with a
Linux distribution like Ubuntu.
- Apple computers are preferred for musicians and artists, as they
typically run content creation programs much more efficiently than a
- Linux is an alternate Operating System that is free from costs,
copyrights, and viruses. If you are buying a computer with Linux, look
out for a System76. Ubuntu is a good distribution to start with.
- RAM/Memory – This is specialized storage that programs use to keep temporary information. If you don’t have enough RAM, you’ll find programs running sluggishly or even crashing. 8 GB is a good baseline number for RAM, though gamers and graphics designers will want at least double that.
- CPU – This is the computer’s processor, and what makes your computer run. There are two major manufacturers – Intel and AMD. AMD is typically a little cheaper than Intel for comparable performance, at the cost of some quality and support. Be sure to research which CPU you are planning to purchase, as the market changes frequently.
- Video card – If you aren’t running games or doing 3D development, you most likely won’t need to worry about your graphics card. If you’re a gaming enthusiast, however, then the video card is a crucial component of the computer.
Getting a Desktop
Take a look at the pros and cons to both building and buying. One of the oldest traditions in the computer world is building your own machine. Desktops are modular and are designed to be easily constructed and upgraded. Building your own desktop can also be significantly cheaper than buying a prebuilt computer. The drawback is the lack of support for your computer; all replacements and technical issues will have to be handled by yourself.
Look at available prebuilt computers. If building your own computer seems a little intimidating, you can find prebuilt machines from all of the major manufacturers. Make sure to compare specifications across brands, and to avoid computers that have for more features than you’ll ever use. On the flip-side, don’t buy a computer just because it is cheap, make sure that it has the features that you need.
- Popular desktop manufacturers include: HP, iBuyPower, Acer, Dell, Lenovo, Gateway, and more.
Apple desktops run Mac OS X instead of Windows, and are often much less
customizable or upgradable. The upside is their unified hardware means
programs designed for much typically run much more efficiently, and OS X
has to worry less about viruses. Linux computers such as the System76
are cheap and do not get viruses. Although, a Linux computer may not
have many applications. But, there are equivalents that work just as