Buying a Computer
Choosing a new computer.
You may never have bought a computer before or you may be wanting to replace an existing but aging beloved model. So what should you do? There are a lot of options - desktop computers, laptop computers, notebooks and computer tablets. There are choices over the operating system - do you want a Microsoft Windows system or an Apple MAC system? There are choices over processor type and speed, memory size, disk size, screen size and media capabilities. The brand and the guarantee may also be important to you.... and of course the price!
How to choose.
Desktops: These are the separates. The computer in one box with a separate screen, keyboard and mouse. You also need to buy speakers if they are not built into the screen. Desktops can be the most comfortable to use having a full-sized movable keyboard, so desktop computers are usually the preferred choice where you intend to sit at a desk to work for longer periods.
Laptops: The chief benefit of a laptop is the portability and lack of cables. You can use them in any room and take them with you when you visit places. They can also be quite powerful so can substitute for a desktop if you need the mobility. TIP: get one with a full sized keyboard - many do not have the number pad to save space but it is worth paying extra for the convenience. Also check there is a DVD/CD rewriter if you need to read or write to optical disks.
Netbook/Notebook: These look like small laptops. They have the convenience of being carried easily but are not a substitute for a laptop or desktop. They often have very little disk space especially the SSD models. They are great for Internet access and dealing with email but do not cope well with heavy processing due to having smaller processors that can cope with the lack of cooling. You will probably need to store your music and photo collection in the “cloud” if this is all you have. They do not have a DVD/CD player!
Tablet: These are brilliant for Internet browsing, emailing and streaming media. They are not a substitute for a laptop or desktop, but you can edit documents so these may be useful as an additional device for those times you cannot get to your main computer.
So now you know the type of computer you want - so what next?
Processor: For desktops and laptops you will often see core i3, core i5 and core i7 for sale. These are all Intel chips. A core i3 is fine if you use your computer for mainly Internet browsing and emailing. To future proof yourself though it is better to buy the highest number you can afford. If you are likely to be editing photos, making music, or have extensive data needs you need to go for i5 as the minimum. You may also see AMD processors used. These tend to be rated as A6, A8, A10, A12. Very loosely an A12 is quoted about the same as an i7 likewise and A8/A10 would be expected to perform like an i5. However there are other things that affect performance. In my experience my core i7 laptop is seriously outperformed by my A6 desktop. A simple rule of thumb is get the highest number if it is not much more expensive and then get the device set up properly!
Disk Size: many desktops will now come with 1TB (1000GB) disk drive. Most people will take some time to fill this. On average people have around 250GB of stored information. Laptops again may have 1GB but often will be 500GB or 350GB. Disk space on these machines is not a deal breaker as additional external storage can be purchased and plugged in when needed. This is recommended anyway so you can have separate backups of your data. Netbooks have much less space - sometimes as little as 30GB on an SSD. This makes them faster but there is only just enough room to store Windows with very little room left for you!
Memory: A lack of memory can affect speed for processor intensive operations therefore on desktops and laptops I advise a minimum of 8GB. On my development PC I have 12GB and an AMD6 processor and as I said before this thrashes my i7 6GB laptop!
Screen Size: Laptop screens are approximately 14”, 15” or 17”. The bigger sizes cost more and the laptops are heavier so this is purely a personal choice.
Media Capability: Many desktops have very good sound capability installed on the motherboard. If you have special needs then it is easy to fit an additional sound card inside. Many desktops still have a DVD/CD writer installed – but some do not - so check this if you intend to use one for playing music and films or you need to store things on a DVD. Laptops may have a DVD/CD installed but quite a lot do not! Notebooks/Netbooks do not have a DVD/CD player. It is possible to purchase external DVD/CD writers that plug in by a cable to the PC or laptop.so you may be happy with that.
So now you know which computer features you need - what next?
The best deals are always changing. Sometimes the bank holiday sales from the major retailers do have a good deal hidden away but watch out for the cheap stock that they can't sell normally. Many online retailers have good pricing and service and companies like mine get invited to buy stock daily. Computers-in-Kent often take advantage of open-box computers. These are new computers that have not been sold by the retailers usually as they are ex-display stock. Refurbishments can also be a good option for some devices provided that they are as new and guaranteed. I have new stock listings daily so it is always worth a call to me if you are thinking of buying a computer. See this page for an explanation of the different kinds of stock available: Open box & refurbished computers