So it’s time for a new computer is it? That can be a very challenging experience. What’s the difference between the $399 model and the $799 model? Why should I buy this one and not that one? What was the sales guy talking about? Lots of questions, lots of decisions. But I’m here to help. Here are some simple questions to ask yourself that will narrow down your decision.
1. What am I going to use it for?
Internet? Email? Videos? Music? Just word processing? Games? The more media types you use (videos, music, games) the more power you’re going to need. Generally the low end models of computers aren’t designed to run online games and store your top 500 favourite movies of all time. They also aren’t meant to stream large quantities of video. Don’t get me wrong, they will do one here and there but it probably won’t have enough power for a movie buff.
2. What’s my budget?
$400 or $1500? There’s a big difference in price and features between a $400 computer on sale at your local computer shop machine and the $1500 top of the line model that does everything but the dishes. You can narrow the list down considerably just by deciding how much to spend.
3. How much do I need to spend to get what I want?
The gap between what you need to spend to get what you want and what you actually have to spend may be wide. Think about what you can live with for now and what you really have to have. Many computers, particularly desktop computers, are upgradeable. You can buy more parts as the budget allows for it. Things like video cards, sound cards, RAM and storage are easy to add after the fact. Look for a computer that gives you the room to grow that you need but that still fits within your budget.
4. Laptop or Desktop?
Laptops and desktops these days are mostly equal in terms of power. Technology has advanced enough now that we can squish all of that power into a machine that’s rather small.
There are lots of pros and cons between laptops and desktops, but speed and power aren’t on that list anymore. Decide whether or not you might need to be portable and go from there.
Portability doesn’t always affect the price either. It depends on what brand you choose and how much power you actually need.
Within that you also need to decide how much room to grow you want to have. Laptops don’t allow for the same amount of part changing that desktops provide. Is this something you intend to trade up in the next couple of years or do you want to keep this machine for a while and would like to be able to add a bigger hard drive, a new video card or increase the memory?
Laptops also tend to be disposable. Once they break they are done. They aren’t easily fixed and are often more expensive to fix if you decide to go this route. This is an important consideration for those that may want to keep their computer for more than a couple of years.
5. What did the sales guy mean when he said…?
Yep, computer sales people can be worse than car salesmen at using all that fancy terminology to talk you into buying something you don’t really need. Here are the big things to think about.
- 1. RAM (Memory): Get at least 4 GB if not more. That’s standard these days and it will last you a while. Extra is cheap to buy and install. Don’t get talked into a more powerful computer when you can buy a stick of RAM for $40.
- 2. Hard Drive space: If you’re like me a 500 GB hard drive is impossible to fill, but for some of you that take a lot of pictures or download music or videos, you’ll eat through a 500 GB hard drive in no time. If the computer with the bigger hard drive is too expensive, think about external storage. External hard drives are under $150 now. It’s definitely cheaper than upgrading the computer solely for the space.
- 3. Video and Sound: Onboard video and sound (as it’s called), is just video and sound that is built into the motherboard. It’s good, basic quality video and sound for not a lot of money. If you want amazing graphics or professional quality sound, spend the extra money to buy yourself a video card or sound card. The computer tech at your local shop can install it for you.
Laptop users remember that you probably can’t add a sound or video card to your computer. You have to get a laptop with that already in place. You can upgrade hard drives and RAM however.
There you go. Whether it’s a Christmas present for someone you love or a new computer for business, there are lots of things to think about when buying a new computer.
I am Laura Bungarz, owner of Laura Bungarz Computer Training which I started in January of 2012. I am a certified teacher and English as an Additional Language instructor in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I specialize in helping women small business owners who are terrified of technology but know they need to learn. Teaching, computers and helping people are my three favourite things to do and I get to combine them every day in my business helping other women succeed in their businesses.