What you need to know before you buy a new computer

Since your present computer no longer supports your needs or constant problems are driving you crazy and proving costly to repair, you have decided it is finally time to buy.  It has probably been several years since your last purchase. Now, the number of choices available are staggering.

No doubt when buying a car, you think about how you will use it, price, brand, size, etc.  You don’t just walk into a dealership and drive out with a car.  The same is true when buying a computer.  So many models!! What do all those specifications mean?

Before walking into a store, you need to think about your needs.  Here are some things to consider.

Desktop or Laptop?  First, consider that whatever your choice, for the average home user, you are not giving up functionality by choosing a laptop.  If the computer is going to be stationary, then you probably should consider a desktop:  Big screen, and larger keyboard.  If you want mobility, then you need to think about a laptop.  However, what type of laptop?

There are 3 basic types of laptops.  1) A desktop replacement – Up to a 17 inch screen, larger in size and heavier.  Not meant to carry around with you, but a good choice if you have a space problem.  2) Standard Laptop – Usually up to a 15 inch screen, portable, compact. 3) Netbook – The most popular models have 10″ inch screens.  Small keys, but the ultimate for the mobile traveler.

When selecting a laptop, you must consider screen size, keypad and weight.  Go into a store and look and feel several different types.  You must be comfortable with each of three items.  Keyboards vary by vendor; some have raised keys like  standard keyboards, while some are flat.  If you plan on taking the computer with you regularly, consider the weight of the machine.

PC or MAC? The Windows 7 operating system and MAC’s Snow Leopard operating system are now quite competitive from a performance standpoint.  The PC still has a 90% + market share, primarily because Microsoft’s focus has been on the business community.  Home users are buying more MACs every year.  PCs are far less expensive than MACs, with entry level price points in the $300 range.  You will probably have to spend a least $1,000 for an entry level MAC.

MACs are more reliable, start up quicker, have fewer maintenance issues, and so far, not prone to viruses and spyware. Plus, Apple often scores higher on surveys of customer support.  MAC  built-in software is considered excellent.

Regardless of your choice, PC or MAC, desktop or laptop, there are certain specifications that are a must.  Don’t be fooled by price as bargain prices do not always mean you are getting the best machine for your needs.  Here are some of the more important specifications to consider.

Operating System – With a PC, insist on Windows 7.  With a MAC, go with  Snow Leopard.  Most machines come with 64 bit system and will enable programs to operate faster.

Speed – You do not have to go with the fastest.  Get one level lower, you will not be able to tell the difference and save some money.

RAM – Probably the most important and least expensive component – 2 GIGs is a minimum but go with 4 GIG, if possible. The more RAM, the faster the computer operates.

Hard Drive –  At least 250 GIG and more if within your budget.

There are many other items to consider, but these are the most important.  Most computers come with built in Wi-fi for wireless networks, a video camera for video chats, and several trial programs such as Microsoft Office and an anti-virus program.  You will probably want to purchase the basic version of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, however there are free similar programs available online.  Same with anti-virus programs, there are quite a few good ones online for free for the PC.

These are just some points to consider before you purchase your next computer.  If you are interested in a more comprehensive discussion, you may click on the link below which will take you to my Radio Program.  Click on the April 30th show.

The Net Radio Show