A lot of our clients ask us for advice on how to choose a new computer. With so many options – desktop or laptop, Mac or PC, RAM, USB ports – there’s no wonder making a decision is so difficult. You want to make sure you get a machine that is affordable, will last you a long time, and has the features you need to work and play. Here are some important factors to consider that will hopefully steer you in the right direction.
If you’re still unsure if you’re ready for a new machine, take a look at our blog on the lifecycle of a computer to see if now is the right time.
1. What do you want to use it for?
Are you going to use it for the basics, such as email, web surfing, or possibly connecting to your office computer, etc.? Do you need a lot of storage on the hard drive for things like photos, videos, music, etc.? These types of files take up more space than documents, and so require a bigger hard drive. Do you do any high end video production, photo or graphic editing, or gaming? If so, you will need a more powerful machine to run those sorts of applications.
2. Do you need a desktop or laptop?
Most people like the idea of a laptop because of its portability. They are slightly more expensive and are prone to being lost, stolen or dropped when compared to a desktop. Whether it’s for business or home, consider why you would want or need a laptop. Generally, a desktop is less expensive though lacks the portability of a laptop. If you choose a laptop, you should consider what screen size would be ideal. A 13-inch screen is small and won’t be easy to view several apps at once. A 15-inch screen is the most popular because of it’s size and weight. Laptops are available with a 17-inch screen but the added size makes them heavier.
3. Do you have a preferred Operating System?
When it comes to PC vs. Mac, it really is a personal preference. While there used to be many differences between the 2 operating systems, they have evolved to be more alike than ever. Macs are more expensive and have the “cool factor” for some people. Windows machines, particularly Windows 10, are very good also and generally less expensive. For some specific industries, a Mac is just more suitable. For example, for graphic design, publishing or other creative industries, there are several programs that are better designed for Macs. However, if you need to run engineering software, then Windows is likely better.
From a PC perspective, Howard Tech has standardized on Dell. They have the right combination of quality and price in our opinion, but others claim the same thing about HP or Lenovo. All of these are fairly comparable and generally good.
4. The Important Tech Specs
Whether PC or Mac, we encourage two things. First, get a ‘solid state’ hard drive. A solid state drive (SSD) is more stable and performs faster than a traditional hard disk drive (HDD). It may add $75-100 to the cost of the computer, but is worth it. SSDs start quickly, load programs in seconds, and are more durable over time than HDDs.
Second, make sure you get at least 8GB of RAM. This will make your machine run faster. For home use, you don’t likely need a huge amount of storage on the hard drive, but that’s up to you to decide. The operating system and web browser are what use most of the RAM. There is not much you can do to make your Mac or Windows OS use less RAM. The more RAM you have, the more browser tabs and programs you can have open at once. Some websites use more RAM than others. A simple text or news article is light on RAM usage, while Netflix and other streaming services use more. When it comes to programs, the more complex they are, the more RAM they will need. A Microsoft Word document or Adobe Photoshop project could use more than a GB of RAM alone. In other words, your need for RAM is dependent on the programs you use.
If you choose a PC, the latest generation processors are i7, and the prior ones are i3 and i5. The i5 processors are very capable for 90% of people’s needs. It’s hard to imagine needing an i7, but of course maybe you are doing some cool online gaming or something!
5. What ports, drives or other accessories do you need?
A laptop is limited on what ports and drives are available. A USB port is pretty important for a laptop. It helps with the portability of information that may be too large to store on the hard drive. Do you need a CD drive? Most new laptops do not have these built in. You can purchase an external CD drive, but it’s an extra piece of equipment to carry and be responsible for.
For either machine, you may consider dual monitors. These are inexpensive and help maximize productivity. The extra monitor is about $150 more, but gives you twice the display space. Think about it, you can be gaming and planning your family reunion at the same time.
There are a lot of things to take in to account when purchasing a computer. You want this computer to last 5+ years, so choosing certain components might be helpful in that regard. Of course, price is always a consideration. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions.
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