I am often asked by friends and family for advice when they are ready to buy a new computer, so I thought I’d write up some of the points I hit and see what kind of things you might add to this.
- Mac or Windows? I advocate buying a machine with the operating system you are most comfortable with. If you have used Windows for years but are intrested in a Mac (or vice-versa), make sure you have realistic expectations about the learning curve. There are lots of subtle differences.
- Desktop or Laptop? I doubt I’ll even buy another desktop computer, I’m 100% switched over to laptops. It’s really important to me to be able to take my work with me and I like being able to work in the living room while I’m watching a game on the weekend. That said, you get a lot more computing power for your money buying a desktop machine. Also, you can usually keep your existing monitor if you want to.
- If you are buying a desktop, buy the biggest and best flat-panel monitor you can afford, even if it means spending less on the computer itself. No one ever complains about having too much screen real estate and the monitor will last you through several desktop computers and you use it all the time. Flat panel monitors are much easier on the eyes when you’re looking at it (no flicker), use less power and take up less space on your desk. They are worth it, period.
- Don’t buy extras like RAM or additional software as part of the computer bundle unless you: A) have shopped around and know the price is fair and/or B) aren’t comfortable installing the RAM/software yourself.
- Know the difference between different types of processors so you can accurately compare different models. If you don’t know the difference between G3 and G4 or Pentium, Celeron and Centrino, you can’t accurately evaluate which system is a better deal.
- If you’re fairly tech-savvy and comfortable reading and following directions, go with wireless networking. It’s pretty reasonably priced these days and no one ever complains about being able to move their computer wherever they want it.
- Be realistic about your needs. Do you need that 120GB drive instead of the 80GB drive if all you really use the machine for is e-mail and web surfing? Maybe one of the closeout machines is plenty of computer for what you need at half the price.
- Are you paying for extras you don’t need? If you’re buying a package deal, make sure you really want all the stuff you’re paying for (or have priced it out individually and know it’s cheaper to get the package).
What advice do you give when someone asks you about when buying a computer?
I would replace #1 with.
1. If this is your first computer _ever_ – ask a friend, co-worker or anyone with decent computer knowledge to literally buy one for you. Give them a budget to work with, and let them have at it to get you the best machine possible (following the below guidelines). Oh yeah, and save a few extra bucks for a computer course, every location has them, and they are worth it.
My rule of thumb for the last 20 years for getting the best value and longest lasting has been to buy one model below the top of the line. That way you don’t pay the premium for the very best, but what you buy probably won’t be obsolete for a while.
Also, always buy a bigger hard disk than you think you need. I have always filled up mine, and with digital pictures, music and video, it has become easy to fill them up again.
I used to follow (and recommend) that advice, but I don’t anymore. I found that when I get the top of the line I keep it twice as long as when I got the “one below”.
Anyway, this advice is geared towards peple who are buying a home computer for occasional use.
How many “occasional use” computer users stumble across your website?
My pc just died (controller issues… methinks). I really want to get one of those 64-bit Athlon laptops (with rebates around $1300). Anybody have recommendations on that purchase?
I was actually trying to ask what advice you guys give to friends and family when they ask you what computer they should buy. I’m not intending to give you advice on what to get – you already know.
As a Mac consultant I often advise clients on buying Macs. I generally try to get them to closely define exactly what it is they intend to use the computer for over the next year, two years and even five years.
Although I’m totally a Powerbook user myself I recommend always getting a desktop unless they have a compelling reason to buy a laptop. Compelling reasons would include needing to carry it round and saving space. As you say, a desktop is cheaper for what you get and doesn’t have the hassles of dealing with a battery.
I always advise getting more RAM and getting the dealer to install it. Here in New Zealand we just don’t have the same buying opportunities as you guys in The US seem to have.
You can’t order from Crucial in New Zealand? 🙂
Heh. Hadn’t heard of them, but I see, like many US companies, they ship only via DHL – US$30 per package!
Besides that the whole RAM thing is really confusing and then the physical install can be harrowing and tricky.
I won’t do it and most of my clients certainly wouldn’t install RAM themselves.
Uhm, is there actually a website explaining the differences between Pentium IV, Celeron etc.?
Anyway, over here in Germany, the best thing you can do if you don’t want to build your PC yourself is waiting until ALDI sells one again. They usually sell PC’s twice a year. Usually a desktop and a laptop. And they always get the best ratings for their MEDION PCs. Another thing to do is buying at LIDL… 😉
(At least for the lazy ones. :D)
They sell computers at ALDI? I always thought they only sold canned goods.
For the past year now I have told everyone that I’d kick their booty if they bought a desktop (cpu alone) for more than $1000. I’d rather keep buying $500 machines every two years than buy one $1500 machine for four years.
Half the fun is buying these things right?
Well, at least in Germany.
Need a notebook for 999 Euros? 😉
please advise for someone wanting to buy a desktop that’s good for playing games and editing movies?