Perspective: So You Need a New Computer?

It used to be that people (family & friends mainly) would often ask me what kind of computer I would suggest that they buy, as soon as 2 years ago buying a computer was a mystery to most people. In the past year I think I have only been asked once and that scares me. The difference is not that people don’t know more about computers (most people know as little as they did when they bought their first computer) the difference is that the price of buying computers has become so low that people are willing to take the chance on a computer because the price is so low (not just talking about Net books here).

This has me scared – too many people I care about are using crap computers because they didn’t want to listen to me recommending a computer that may be more expensive than what they saw at Costco. So I thought I would write a quick tip list of what to look for and buy when you are getting a new computer.

The List

  1. Spend as much money as you can afford to spend, and plan on using the computer for 3 years, before you have to replace it. This goes for both Mac and Windows. It used to be common to spend $3,000 on a laptop (circa 2002), now people are buying net books for $399. What they are don’t realize is that price they are paying when they have to upgrade. If you buy a computer on Woot! say a 17” HP that always seem to pop up on the site for around $799, you are buying a computer that is probably already a year old (at least) and usually refurbished. This is a great way to go if you can’t afford anything else, but not if you plan on relying on the computer for work or school, or keeping it past a year or two. Buying the most computer for your buck is of critical importance from the get go, it will make the computer last you as long as possible.
  2. Buy for the screen and processor, forget about the RAM and HD space. I know this sounds silly, but get the fastest processor with the nicest screen you can afford. The RAM and HD can be upgraded later at a cheaper price by your kid, or someone you know that is “into computers” (many tutorials online). You will probably find that you won’t need to upgrade the HD (harder of the two to accomplish) and that for $200 you can max out the RAM and do it yourself in 10 minutes (most laptops, excluding many Macs).
  3. Mac or PC. That is a huge debate and depending on who you ask you are going to and entirely different answer. I will make it simple. There are only 3 reasons to buy a PC at this time. Reason 1: You are a serious video gamer. Reason 2: you or your company has software that has no Mac counterpart and you must run this software on this computer. Reason 3: you have all the latest and greatest Office programs already purchased for the PC (meaning you have Office 2007 for Windows). Unless you meet one or more of those criteria (and really #3 is a stretch) then there truly is no reason to buy anything other than a Mac. If you are buying this as someones first computer it is a no brainer. Macs may look more expense but I have 5 year old Macs that I still use daily – these computers last. In addition they come with all the software you really need out of the box, no worries of viruses. You can learn to use one in less than a day (tested this theory on my 70+ year old grandfather).
  4. Size is the next important factor, should you go laptop or desktop? This is personal choice, but for 90% of the people out there a Laptop will be your best choice with an iMac your second best. If you plan on leaving it on a desk 90% of the time get the biggest screen you can afford. Otherwise by the smallest computer that you think you will be able to use (no smaller that 13”).

That is it, my simple buyers guide for May 21, 2010.

Originally posted for members on: May 21, 2010
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