Sometimes purchasing a new computer can be frustrating and intimidating. With all the terms and acronyms, it can make your head spin. I have put together a list of the top four things you should be paying attention to when purchasing a computer. Hopefully armed with this knowledge and some research on your own, you will be able to pick up the computer of your dreams. Or at least a decent priced one :-)
As a general rule, you should be paying less than $600 for a desktop and less than $700 for a laptop. This is for general computer use and does not take into account special additions or features for gaming-type laptops. This also does not take into account the software you will need to purchase. Check back in January for our blog of free software to make you more productive.
The first thing you want to do is figure out what you are going to use the computer for, and then figure out what you need to make that happen. Are you going to be using the computer for e-mail, to browse the Internet or to download and listen to music? Or are you going to be doing a lot of photo and movie editing? How about playing the latest games? Photo and movie editing or playing the latest games would require a more powerful machine than browsing the web or checking e-mail. So put together a list of the tasks you would want the computer to perform and keep it handy as you shop.
Also remember that the biggest and most powerful machine may be overkill for what you are looking for and you may just be wasting money by thinking more of everything equals a great computer.
- CPU. The CPU (central processing unit) is the brains of the computer. The two major companies that make CPUs are AMD and Intel. Intel's latest CPU offerings are the i3, i5 and the i7. The i5 and i7 models offer what is called turbo boost, which can add horsepower as needed and scale back to save power when not needed. You may also have heard terms like dual core and quad core. Don't be confused by these terms, for most users a dual core machine will meet and exceed all of your needs. A quad core machine will surpass most home users needs, but be adequate for working with movies, photos and gaming. AMD should not be overlooked as a good CPU and in most cases will save you some money. Again, look for at minimum a dual core CPU.
- RAM. You should be looking in the neighborhood of 4GB (that is gigabytes) of RAM or greater, but if you have to scale it down, don't get any less than 2GB. This is where a lot of the programs that are running on your computer get stored. So if you are the type to have a lot of programs running at once (word processor, web browser, chat program, etc.), then you want to have more RAM. RAM also is upgradable later in the computer's life. So if you can't afford a large amount of RAM now, it can be added later.
- Hard Drive. There are many terms like bits and bytes, megabytes and gigabytes when talking about digital storage. Here is what you need to know: A smaller-sized desktop hard drive is about 300GB (again, gigabytes). That equals about 75,000 songs (mp3) or about 300,000 photos from your digital camera. You will more than likely find desktops have about 500GB or larger. This should be more than enough for the average home user. If you store a lot of photos or are a digital pack rat, then you may want to look for hard drive sizes in the 1TB (terabyte) or greater range. 1TB is equal to 100,000 GB (sorry about math before the holidays). Again, assess your needs and purchase accordingly.
- Graphics and sound. Most computers come with a standard graphics adapter and standard sound. Unless you are looking for a high-end machine for gaming or editing, the standard devices will be more than enough to handle whatever you throw at it.
Don't rush into a purchase. Make sure you do your research and talk with computer professionals to get your questions answered before going in to make your purchase. If you spend a few minutes on research, you could have a computer that will last you a long time.
Don't forget to check back after the first of the year for our free software blog. We will have all the software you need to be productive with your new machine at a great price–FREE! Please leave any questions you have about purchasing a computer in the comments section below and we will try to respond accordingly.