Computer Buying Guide
Looking for a new computer? If so, what you choose to buy could be the best decision you could make...or the worst. How do you know what you need or what you're looking for? You could go to Best Buy and just trust everything the employees there tell you, but who knows if they're knowledgeable or not? Even if they do know what they're talking about, how do you know that they have your best interests at heart? The truth of the matter is, you don't. The safest thing is to do your own research. I wrote this guide for those who really don't know much about computers or what they need. If you'd rather talk to me than read this guide, feel free to call me. I'm always eager to help those who don't know much about computers.
Common Myths About Buying a Computer
There are many myths about computers that are simply not true. The biggest myth is that computers are obsolete after a year or two. In actuality, even a cheap $400 computer that you can buy from Wal*Mart will last at least eight years if properly maintained. Now if you're into heavy gaming and such the computer does in fact get obsolete in about three years but for regular use, a computer will last a long time before needing to be thrown in the gutter. Before going out and spending money on a new (or used) computer, consider repairing and/or tuning up your existing one. It can save you a lot of money in the long run and get you exactly what you're looking for.
Another common myth is that you need to spend a lot of money on a computer to have it last a long time. In actuality, even a really cheap computer can last a long time if properly maintained and restored. Only people that really need the power should buy a new computer. Most people can easily live with five to eight year old computers. Now you might be thinking that sure it might work, but is it slow? No! It's not slow. On rare occassions, a hardware upgrade might be required for optimal speed, but 99% of the time the computer will be capable of being a nice fast machine for many years if properly maintained.
The worst myth of all is the myth that because you play games that you need some extreme computer. Most games can run on a $250 used computer if its specs are high enough. Any computer listed here for $200 or more is capable of playing most games. Now if you're going out and spending $80 - $120 per game then sure you need an extreme computer. But 98% of the games out there don't require much. Games like WOW (World of Warcraft) and other popular games will even run on a 2.0ghz Pentium 4. We'll talk more about processor types and speeds later on but sufficed to say, you don't need to spend a fortune in order to play computer games.
An Overview of Things to Consider
Okay. So you've explored the possibility of repairing and/or tuning up your existing machine (if you have one) and you've decided that it's best to purchase a new computer. There are many things to consider. The first is rather you want a desktop or a laptop. There are many advantages and disadvantages of both. The second most important thing is the processor speed and type. Some other important factors is the ram (amount, type, and speed), hard drive (size, type, and speed), optical drive (type), and a few other final brand decisions.
Desktop or Laptop?
So you've decided to purchase another computer, but should it be a desktop or a laptop? Many people are turning to laptops nowadays, but are laptops really worth it? There are many disadvantages to a laptop. The most notable disadvantage is a laptop's limited potential for expandability and the expenses of repairing a laptop if something goes wrong with it. Laptops cost an average of 250% more to fix and cost about 80% more to upgrade and expand - not to mention that there's really only two things that can be upgraded on a laptop; the ram and the hard drive. In addition to this, if you get a laptop with a screen and it's either too big or too small for your liking, there's really nothing you can do about it. If you have bad eyesight, getting a laptop with a big screen isn't enough due to the large screen resolutions that are put into those large laptop displays.
$1,000 laptop has the same specs as a $400 desktop, so you're really not getting very much computer for your money. That in addition to the exorbitant costs of repairing laptops and the limited potential for expandability, laptops aren't really the best choice unless you absolutely NEED a laptop for work or school. Their only real advantage is being portable. You'll have to decide whether or not it's worth the cost of buying (and maintaining) a laptop.
Processor Type & Speed
There are many different types of processors. You've probably heard of some of them. There are Intel Pentium 4 processors, Celeron processors, AMD and AMD x2 processors, dual core processors, quad core processors, core2duo processors, core2quad processors, core i7 processors, and many other types of processors. What does all this mean? What processor is right for you? Simply put, if all you do is surf the web and do other basic tasks, a Pentium 4 is what you should strive for. They're inexpensive and offer enough power for the basics. Some higher clocked Pentium 4's (2.4ghz and above) can handle things such as photo/video editing and games with enough ram. Not many people can use more power than a Pentium 4. If you have a better/faster processor than a Pentium 4 and it's not serving you well, you should have the computer looked at. It should be able to handle just about anything.
Ram Amount, Type & Speed
The type/amount of ram and its speed are important factors when deciding on which computer to buy. There are four main types of ram at the moment; PC100/133, DDR, DDR2, and DDR3. You should try to stick away from PC100/133 if possible, even if it's in higher quantities than the DDR family. PC100/133 is okay for the absolute basics, but it lacks the necessary speed for modern applications. DDR and DDR2 are the most common types of ram in both new and used computers. DDR3 is moer of an extreme type of ram for gaming machines than anything else. It will be standard in a few years but for now, you probably don't need it unless you're an extreme gamer. So what's better; DDR or DDR2? The "2" after DDR2 signifies that DDR2 is the second generation of DDR. In English, that means that DDR2 is faster and better. For the basics, 256mb - 512mb of ram is fine. Most people don't need more than 1gb (1,024mb) of ram. Most games don't even require more than 1gb or ram. Now is there a significant difference between DDR and DDR2? Yes. But is it worth the extra cost? If all you do is the basics, then no. If you want to edit photos/videos or play games, you might want to consider spending a bit more for a computer with DDR2 ram.