Your Complete Guide to Choosing a Computer

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Depending on who you talk to, there are between seven and 10 types of computers. There are servers, mainframes, supercomputers. One of the most common computers is a personal computer. This is what changed the world when they were first developed in the 1970s.

Computers are everywhere and we certainly can’t live or work without one. Now, if you’re on the market for a new one, you need to know how to choose a computer. There are hundreds of models, acronyms, and technical specs that are difficult to understand. How can you possibly figure that out on your own and make sure you don’t get a clunker of a computer?

Fortunately, we have you covered. We’re going to break down the mysteries of computers and give you the tips you need to buy the perfect computer.

Computer Usage

Before we get to RAM, processing speed, and tips that show you how to choose a computer, you need to know what you’re going to use the computer for.

  • Do you need to take it on the road?
  • Do you plan to use it for gaming and personal use, too?
  • Do you like to have a lot of tabs open on your browser at the same time?
  • Do you tend to hop from one program to another?
  • Will you do a lot of cloud computing?

The answers to these questions will help you figure out your basic needs. As you drill down further into the world of computing, you can figure out what to look for in a computer.

Computing Platform

Do you remember the commercials Mac vs. PC? These were great ads that compared the two main computing platforms. Both are great platforms. It comes down to what you’re already used to and your personal preference. Computer programmers, developers, and fans of open-source software can use the Linux platform.

Laptop vs. Desktop vs. 2-in-1

Computers are more portable than ever, but do you really need that portability? It depends. With desktop computers, you have a separate computer and monitor, or you can have an all-in-one computer. These are good because you get more computing power for less money.

This set up allows you to do your computing in the office and leave it there. You can use cloud programs that have mobile apps, so you can check email and do a little work on your phone when needed. For business owners that work in temporary spaces, you may find that you need to get a laptop. There are 2-in-1 laptops as well. These use touch screens that you can flip around to turn your laptop into a tablet.

Hard Drive: SSD or HDD?         

You need to figure out how much storage you need. Remember that even if you keep everything in the cloud, you still need to have storage space. HDD drives are the traditional hard drives. These can store up to 1TB, giving you plenty of storage space. The problem with HDD drives is that they’re slow.

If you really need speed, consider an SSD drive. You’ll notice the difference in speed as soon as your computer boots up, which will happen in seconds instead of minutes. SSD drives are expensive, and they don’t hold that much space. Most will hold between 250GB and 500GB. You’ll need to compliment that with an external hard drive for extra storage.

RAM

RAM stands for Random Access Memory. It’s a temporary memory that your computer relies on to perform basic tasks and open programs. You need to have a lot of RAM installed if you do a lot of multitasking and you use programs that use a lot of resources.

In most cases, 8GB is enough for business computers. For real heavy users, get between 12GB and 16GB and make sure you are able to expand that.

Processor

The processor is the brain of the computer. This is the CPU, and this is what tells your computer what to do. The faster the processor, the faster your computer operates. Is processing speed more important than RAM? A faster processor could make a big difference in your computing speed. At the same time, if you don’t have enough RAM installed, your computer could still slow down. It’s best to have a balance between a fast processor and a lot of RAM.

Graphics Card

A graphics card is hardware that turns binary code into a visual display on your screen. You usually don’t need to worry about a graphics card if you’re doing basic business tasks. Basic business computers will have the graphics card integrated with the motherboard. That’s fine for things like writing, working on spreadsheets, email, and internet surfing.

For businesses that are in advertising or creative work, then you should invest in a computer that has a separate card. This gives you a better display for things like video editing and graphic design.

Budget

Of course, money is going to be an issue when you’re shopping for computers. Today, you get a lot more computing power than you did over 30 years ago. In 1982, a Commodore 64 cost $595. In today’s dollars, you’d spend more than $1,500 on a computer that had 64KB of RAM.

Compare that to most computers today, where the low-end models have at least 4GB of RAM. You could get a computer for under $300, but you have to look at the specs and your needs. Will the computer handle all that you need it to do?

If not, you either have to raise your budget or lower your expectations. The danger here is that if you lower your expectations and needs, you’re going to end up frustrated with what you get. A good budget for a basic computer that handles office tasks, multitasking, and email will cost between $500-$700. A reliable gaming computer will be between $1,500 – $3,100. For Apple computers, you will pay more. A MacBook Air starts at $999 and an iMac starts at $1099.

If you’re struggling to come up with a budget to pay for the computer that you really need, you do have options available. Retailers and manufacturers often offer financing, where you pay for the computer in monthly installments.

Some of these offers come with no interest, so you just pay for the computer as long as you make your payments on time. If you don’t do that, interest is tacked on and you could pay much more than you wanted.

Narrow Down Your Options

At this point, you should be clear on what your computing needs are and what kind of computer you need. Now you want to narrow down the models to a couple of specific models. It makes sense to have two types of computers in mind when you’re shopping for one. The first model is based on your present budget and the manufacturer’s retail price for the model. This way you get what you need and still stay within your budget.

The second model is the next step up from your first model. This is the model that would be an upgrade, and it should be something that you’d pick up if you see a great sale for it.

How do you narrow down your options? Start doing online searches for brands that you’re familiar with. Look for models that fit within your specs.

Read the reviews of the different models because they tend to reveal flaws that are dealbreakers. One model may be a great fit, but it doesn’t have expandable RAM. You won’t be able to upgrade the computer as your needs change. You’d have to buy a new one.

Another model seems like it’s a great fit, then you find out that the battery life is awful. These are the reasons why you need to do your homework before you set your mind on a couple of models.

Computer Shopping

By having two models in mind, you have more flexibility and shopping options. You can get a computer now, buy the first model, and get what you need. If you don’t need a computer right away, you can look for specials and sales for the best computer deals, so you get a better model within your budget. Look at Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals for computers.

Keep checking sales folders from retailers and manufacturers periodically for sales and discounts. You don’t want to wait too long. You probably learned in your research that computers change quickly and you would need to revise your models in 2-3 months to adapt.

How to Choose a Computer That Meets Your Needs

Did you learn enough in the computer buying guide, so you feel confident enough to buy a computer with ease? There’s a lot to consider when you learn how to choose a computer. You need to know your needs, the different computer specs, your budget, and what platform you want to use. Ideally, you end up with a computer that will last for more than just a couple of years.

For more insights for small businesses, head over to the home page of this site.

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