Your Next Computer

Interested in getting a new computer? How do you know what to get? How do you know what you need versus what you want?

First, always think in regard to your budget, and what you plan on doing. Are you going to just go on the Internet, email, store pictures and music, and do some word processing? If so – this article is for you.

Realistically, unless you’re doing something specific (like editing digital video, creating multimedia websites, or any kind of artwork) – you don’t need to spend more than $700 – $800. You can probably spend a lot less. Don’t worry about your friend who just spent $1800 on a MAC and loves it. You’re going to save $1,000, and buy a machine that’s faster, better, and will run all the software you could possibly want. Take that extra $1,000 and go on vacation.

Once you’ve determined your budget, ask yourself how you’ll use the machine. Probably at home, at a desk right? Would you ever think of a reason to want that computer to be a little more mobile? Maybe you’d want to surf the web from the couch. Or maybe you’d like to take your computer out to show someone else your pictures that you took with your digital camera. Or maybe you’d like to bring it on vacation to download all the pictures you’re taking as you travel. Or maybe you’re worried about the security of your place while you’re away.
All of those things are good reasons to consider a laptop.

Invariably, I hear – “but I like a large screen, with a nice keyboard and mouse!” No problem. You can get all those things as extras if you insist – for under $200. Take that out of the $1,000 you’ve saved so far and you’re still way ahead. In fact, I’ll recommend some other extras before we’re done – but you’ll still be able to put a good chunk of change aside.

Laptops today come with nice 15 inch screens, sometimes 17 or 18 inches are available. A few years ago, a 15 inch flat panel monitor was great to look at – and today, a 15 inch laptop is workable. Many laptops today come with large keyboards, complete with numberpads to the right (for those accountant types). If you want a large monitor, plus a regular keyboard and mouse – no problem – they all connect to the laptop for daily use, and unplug for when you’re travelling with just the laptop. These days, a 22 inch monitor can be found for $160 – $180, and a great wireless keyboard and mouse combo kit can be found for $50 or $60. Suddenly, you’re working like an executive! (I’ll do another post soon on how to connect all these things.)

The most important consideration when purchasing a computer is memory. Memory (also called RAM) is more important than anything else.  If you are willing to spend up to $700 – $800, you can get a laptop with 4GB of RAM. I’ll explain more what RAM is later, but rest assured – the more RAM, the better. Do not buy anything less than 4GB. If ignore me, and decide to save money buy going with less – RAM is an easy upgrade. As I like to say, putting in RAM is easier than changing the oil in your car, but slightly harder than getting out of bed. (We’ll do an article on how to add RAM soon.)

So let’s sum up.

  • Decide what you’re going to do with the computer.
  • Find your budget. No more than $800, if it’s for general use (Internet, word processing, email, storing music/pictures/video).
  • Don’t buy a MAC unless you’re a graphic designer, web designer, or video editor.
  • Laptops make more sense in this day and age, due to portability and similar pricing to desktops.
  • If you don’t like laptops because of screen size, the feel of the keyboard/mouse, or anything else – get an accessory to address that issue.
  • Get the maximum amount of RAM you can. 4GB of RAM is definitely necessary. If you are forced to get less, plan on upgrading soon.