Buying a new computer can be a daunting prospect. I just went on Dell’s website and counted 14,000 different computers to choose from. Not really, but I’m sure you understand the problem: Your computer is broke and you need a new one. What to get? Desktop or laptop? What speed? What model? And how to distinguish between them all. We have created a brief guide that should be able to help guide you through this madness. Our goal is not to tell you exactly what to buy, or this post will be outdated in three days, but to give you some things to consider that should make the decision easier.
Yes, the first and most important thing to consider is the warranty. If your computer breaks in six months, what will your experience be like when trying to get it repaired. With warranties, you definitely get what you pay for. You may never need the warranty, but if you spend more on it, you will definitely have a better experience. Typically when you buy a computer at a store, it comes with a 1 year warranty, and you will have to ship your computer to the repair depot to get it fixed. If you ask for a better warranty, they will be happy to sell it to you. When ordering directly from the vendor you often have more options with warranties. We usually splurge and get a great warranty. What we look for is 3 years of support with next business day onsite service, which means that they will send out a technician to your house or business with the spare parts to fix it right there. No waiting 2 weeks for shipping and repair. The other thing you can get with a more expensive warranty is unscripted support by native English speakers, which tends to result in a less frustrating experience when on the phone.
2. Form Factor
The next thing to consider is whether you want a desktop or laptop (tablets are another discussion). Let me be very clear on this: desktop computers are better than laptops in every way except convenience. Desktop computers are big and bulky and can’t move around very easily, but they are superior in terms of quality. They have a longer expected lifespan, they are easier to fix, easier to upgrade, and are less expensive than laptops. Laptops are great for moving about with and showing cat videos to friends, but if you don’t need the portability then you should seriously consider a desktop. Most office computers are better suited to desktops than laptops. Home users typically prefer the convenience of being able to sit on the couch and watch TV while on their computer.
3. Class of Computer
Most manufacturers have dozens of models of computer, but two or three major classes of computers: home class and business class (and sometimes an extra high performance class). The home class of computers are made with lower quality parts, and are therefore less expensive. The rationale is that people only use their computers at home for a few hours per day, so don’t put as much stress on it as business users who are on it 8-10 hours. Examples of this class are Dell Dimension (desktop), Dell Inspiron (laptop), and the HP Pavilion (desktop and laptop). These computers are more likely to have the latest and greatest in terms of technology and features. Business class computers will typically come with fewer features and be more expensive, but live longer and break down less often. They are made with higher quality components, and with technologies that have been more thoroughly vetted by the market. Examples in this line are the Dell Optiplex (desktop), Dell Latitude (laptop), HP ProDesk (desktop), and HP ProBook (laptop).
Now we get to the potentially most confusing part: what to get inside the computer. People’s eyes tend to glaze over when salespeople start talking megabytes and gigahertz. Let us simplify things. There are 3 major components in a computer: CPU, Memory (also called RAM), and hard drive space (also called disk space). First, the CPU: Don’t worry about it. Seriously. Several years ago this was a major decision point, but technology has gotten so good that you will never find a new computer with a CPU too slow for what you want. Next, memory. This is measured in Gigabytes (GB). As of 2013 when this post was written, don’t get anything less than 4 GB. If the computer comes with less than 4 GB, get a different computer or ask the salesman to put more memory in it. As time goes on and computers require ever greater resources, this number will change. Ask your nearest tech-head what a good amount of memory is and get that. Finally, the hard drive. This is also measured in Gigabytes (or Terabytes, TB, if you want a really big hard drive). Go onto your current computer and look at the C:\ drive. That is the hard drive. See how much it is using. Consider this when buying your new computer and deciding how large of a hard drive you will need now and for the next 3-5 years. Most hard drives in modern computers will be plenty big enough, but if you store a lot of pictures, videos, phone backups, etc. then you may need a larger one.
Software is something people often forget about when buying a computer. But without those programs, what good is it? Large and expensive programs like Adobe Acrobat Pro and Microsoft Office are often significantly less expensive when bundled with the computer than when buying them off the shelf. Sometimes you can use the version installed on your old computer if you still have the disks and license keys. Check for these first before throwing your old computer out. Many other programs you can download for free on the internet. Just be aware that they have probably been updated since you last installed it, so things may look a little different now.
And, as a special bonus, a 6th consideration when purchasing a new computer. This is perhaps the most overlooked, yet most important, thing to consider when buying a new computer: someday it will break. And when it does, if you haven’t been doing regular backups, your data will be lost. At home, buy a large external hard drive and do regular backups to it. At the office, all of your important files should be backed up to the server and from there backed up to the corporate disaster recovery system.
If you would like help with purchasing a new computer or setting up a world class back up system for your business, please call us and we would be happy to guide you on the best path. 888 44 STRIVE.