We are now into 2012, and your old computer just quit. Do you fix it or buy a new computer? If the computer is 5 years old or older, then probably buying a new computer is the better strategy. Many computers manufactured 5 to 9 years ago have hardware components that fail mandating replacement of the computer. Please read on to understand how to buy the best computer for your needs.
The first decisions to make in buying a new computer are very basic. By answering these questions you determine your basic purchase strategy:
1. Please ask yourself “How much can I spend?” The computer prices range from $200 to $400, $450 to $800, and $900 and up.
2. Next determine the computer type (or style) that works best for you. The types of computers are desktop, laptop, and tablet. These types of computers differ in their size, portability, and functionality. Desktop computers are the least portable. They are good for using multiple displays and heavy workloads. Laptops vary in size and portability. The big ones have 17-inch display making them luggable for occasional trips. Big laptops have most of the capabilities of a desktop but the computing horsepower is lower than a desktop in order to conserve laptop battery power. Similarly, the display is smaller with lower resolution than displays used with desktop computers. Tablet computers are the most portable. They can do a lot, but with a much smaller display. The tablets are a powerful, portable information tool that is one step above a smartphone.
3. Finally, the timeless question is: Do I buy an Apple or another computer? The other computer main selections are Windows 7 operating system or Android operating system computers. There are also Linux computers. Linux is free General Public License software operating system. Linux computers are equivalent for everyday users to Windows and Apple computers. The single difference between Linux and Windows is that with a Linux computer you only pay for the computer hardware which is a huge savings over Apple and Windows computers.
The market for Apple computers is tightly controlled. This means that Apple computers work very well with few problems. They are seldom attacked by malicious software. Everything an enthusiastic Apple owner says about their Apple is true. They are also beautiful looking computers. The down side is that they are expensive. When an Apple does malfunction, you have a big problem. If the Apple computer is under warranty, then you schedule a visit to the Apple store and wait in line to get it fixed. Also, you pay a lot for the repair.
In contrast Windows 7 computers are like the Wild West. In the Wild West anything can and does happen. There are many competing hardware and software products for Windows 7 computers. Windows 7 computers are the most malware, spyware, and virus attacked computers. Because there are more Windows computers sold than any other computers, Windows computers are the biggest target to attack. Apple computers also get viruses, but much less often than Windows computers. Windows computers can be cheap computers but they are not cheaper than Linux computers.
4. The final question is: What computer manufacturer do you like? Each manufacturer has its approach to selling computers. My preference is manufacturers that do not add fancy frills beyond the basics that come with Windows or the computer operating system. Most of the frills try to sell you something, provide functions that a redundant with the operating system, they occupy screen space getting in the way of what you are doing, and they overload and slow down the computer. For example, HP computers are like Big MACs, they taste great but come with a lot of software fat. Lenovo computers are like a bank vault. They secure your data but are miserable to fix because of the security. It seems that all computers come with an annoying “dock” or application launcher. It takes up a lot of screen space and really adds little beyond what Windows itself provides. It is always cheaper to purchase a package than to build a custom computer. Purchasing custom computer parts is always more expensive than buying a packaged system from a manufacturer because the manufacturers purchase computer components in such high volume.
Once your basic strategy is determined, then it is time to find a computer. The approach here is to use the Internet to perform the initial shopping and then go to the store to make the final decision and purchase. Please go to the web site of a computer retailer near you such as Best Buy or Staples. Search their site based on the type (or style) of computer that works best for you. The site should produce a list of computers from which to choose. Sort them by “Best Selling” and check the “Customer Reviews”. Please determine how the price compares to your budget. Most retail store sites permit comparing the features of three computers side by side. Carefully select three computers for comparison.
This approach was used to compare from one retailer three desktop computers moderately priced. They ranged from $429.99 to $699.99. The $429.99 computer used a 3.3 GHz Intel i3 CPU chip, had 6 GB RAM, and a 1 TB disk drive. The 549.99 computer used an AMD 2.4 GHz CPU chip, had 8 GB RAM, and had a slower 5,400 rpm 1.5 TB drive. The $699.99 computer used an Intel 3.0GHz i5 CPU chip, had 6 GB RAM and a 7,200 rpm 1 TB drive. The differences between these systems are not likely to make the most expensive system perform that noticeably better to a user than the least expensive system. As long as the hardware features are generally in the same range the performance seems to be the same for each computer.
All systems used the latest DDR3 RAM. The computer with 8 GB of RAM may perform better than those computers with 6 GB of RAM. One thing is certain; all these computers would be decidedly faster than a Windows XP system with 2 GB of RAM. While special performance test programs can measure the performance difference between a 2.4 GHz AMD CPU chip computer and a 3.3 GHz Intel i5 CPU chip computer, people barely notice the difference. What people do notice is that AMD chip computers usually are cheaper by $100 or more than Intel CPU chip computers.
The Windows Performance Index is a measure of the combined performance of all the components of a Windows Vista or a Windows 7 computer. The Windows Performance Index is a single number that varies between 1 and 7.9. Low end systems have Windows Performance Index numbers in the 3.4 to 4.5 range. A computer with a 3.4 score perform the same as a computer with a 4.5 score to a human. To see a performance difference the Windows Performance Index would need to go from a 4.5 to a 7.5.
The Windows Performance Index is not mentioned in any advertising to my knowledge. It is found on Windows 7 computers by opening START, clicking the right mouse button on the COMPUTER menu selection and then selecting PROPERTIES from the drop down menu that appears. To see Windows Performance Index you would need to have a store sales person fire up the computer and help you view it.
Apple computers usually have hardware operates at slower speeds and has smaller capacities than Windows computers. The Apple computers perform as well as or better than their Windows competitors because they use a different and tightly controlled operating system. The software interaction with the hardware makes up for the slower Apple hardware.
The final comparison area is in the display. Monitors today use Light Emitting Diode (LED) backlighting. The LEDs use little power and should last seemingly forever. Monitor physical size contributes to visibility. A character on a 14-inch monitor is smaller than the same character on a 24-inch monitor. The bigger monitor images are more easily viewed. Monitors resolution is expressed in horizontal by vertical dots or pixels. Typically they are something like 1600 by 900 dots. Monitors with a larger number of dots of vertical resolution have a better display. Often monitors will be advertised as 1080p. The 1080p resolution is 1080 dots of vertical resolution with each line refreshed on each scan cycle. On a 1600 by 1200 monitor you can see a full 8.5 by 11 inch page when it is viewed at full size or 100% zoom. Monitors with 900 dots vertical resolution often cut off the bottom of the page when it is viewed at full size.
The final bit of wisdom to consider in purchasing a new computer is not to purchase the most expensive computer. Here is why. A client asked me to get him a computer. At the Dell web site I configured a computer with what seemed to be modest features. This computer cost $3,000. At Costco they offered a computer package that had somewhat lower performance features for under $1,000. If the client purchased a new $1,000 computer every year for three years, at the end of three years he would have better computer than if he purchased the $3,000 Dell computer. Only purchase the most expensive computer if you must absolutely have the features and performance it provides. Otherwise stay with more moderately priced computers and purchase them more often. Buying two $400 computers is better than going for a single $800 computer in the long run.
There is not the “best computer” to buy. But using the strategy presented here anyone can find a great computer for themselves.
Pete the Nerd
“Your Friend on a Technically Challenged Planet