New Computer Buying Guide

By | April 7, 2019
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New Computer Buying Guide

One of the most frequent questions we are asked is: “What should I look for in a new computer?”

Now with Windows 7 reaching its end-of-life, many of you using Windows 7 are contemplating whether to try to upgrade the old Windows 7 PC to Windows 10 (you can still do that free) or just go out and buy a new Windows 10 PC.

We prepared this guide for those of you thinking about buying a new Windows 10 computer. Computer prices have never been lower than they are right now  – so it’s a great time to buy.  This guide is for average computer users – those of you who use your computer mainly for browsing the Web, email, having fun with graphics using PaintShop Pro or similar, using Facebook and/or Skype, chatting, etc. If you’re into high-end gaming or high res 3D rendering or work with very large databases or CAD drawing, your needs will certainly be different.

1.) CONSIDER A LAPTOP RATHER THAN AN ALL-IN-ONE OR DESKTOP PC

At one time laptops were expensive and underpowered, but not anymore. Laptops have the same features and as much or more power as desktops and all-in-ones, with one big advantage: You’re not tethered to one spot in your home.  And right now laptops are exceptionally inexpensive. You can get a laptop for less money than an equivalent desktop or all-in-one.

2.) RAM RAM RAM (AKA “Memory”)

One of the most important things to consider is RAM – your computer memory. The more memory the faster your computer will run. OK, we’re generalizing. But generally the more RAM you have the more you can do with your computer – and the more responsive your PC will be. You’ll see a lot of low-end computers with 2 GB of RAM, but unless you’re not planning on doing much multi-tasking, you’re probably not going to be happy with 2GB of RAM. We suggest that you don’t buy a computer with less than 4 GB of RAM.  If you can afford a few dollars more, look for 6 GB or 8 GB of RAM.

For example, here’s a Dell laptop with Windows 10 Home (64-bit), a decent Intel i3 processor, a 15.6″ display, 8 GB of RAM, and a 1 TB hard drive for $368. (Price and link valid as of 4/7/19.) Just a few years ago, this laptop would have been in the $500 to $600 price range. If you have to cut corners to meet your budget, cut corners on hard drive size or processor type, not RAM. The amount of RAM your new computer has is your most important consideration.

3.) HARD DRIVE

It would be hard to find a laptop or desktop with less than a 500 GB hard drive these days. 500 GB or 1 TB hard drives are standard these days. If the price is a consideration, computers with 500 GB hard drives are going to be cheaper than those with 1 TB hard drives, and 500 GB is still a substantial amount of storage. So grab a PC with a 1 TB hard drive, unless it strains your budget. Most of you will find a 500 GB HDD is adequate.A word about SSDs (Solid State Hard Drives): They’re nice. They’re super fast. But they cost more than a standard HDD (regular hard drive). To get the same space on an SSD as an HDD you’re going to have to part with more money. If you’re on a budget, you’re probably going to be looking at PCs with standard hard drives (HDD). And that’s OK. Most people will be happy with HDDs –  that’s what most of us are using right now.

4.) PROCESSOR

Your processor is the brain and heart of your PC. But if you’re an average computer user, and just using your computer to do the things we mentioned at the beginning of this article, then the kind of processor or the speed of your processor, will not be a major consideration for you. Most low-end computers are going to have AMD processors and there’s nothing wrong with that. If that new computer you’re looking at doesn’t say “Intel inside”, don’t worry about it. Most of us would never know the difference between an AMD and an Intel processor unless we’re benchmarking freaks- but we’re not, right? Intel or AMD? If you’re the typical PC user, it won’t matter to you. Any computer you buy running Windows 10 will have a processor that is adequate to run Windows 10. Generally, you’re going to want at least a dual-core processor that runs at 1.6 GHz or faster. But when it comes down to buying a PC by brand or type of processor or the amount of RAM it has – choose the one with the most RAM.

5.) Screen Size

Size matters? Yes, it does – kind of. We have laptops with 17″ screens; we have laptops with 15.6″ screens. Both are great for all the things we do. The laptops with smaller screens are easier to tote around, they’re smaller and lighter. So, if you’re going to be traveling or moving around with your laptop, you might want to opt for the smaller screen. Screen size, though, is a personal choice. Choose the screen size that you like best and that suits the way you use your computer.  If you’re going for an all-in-one or desktop PC, the same applies. Get the screen size that works best for you.  Generally, the smaller the screen size the less expensive the computer. Touchscreens: Touchscreens are nice. I’m using a 17″ touchscreen laptop right now. Well, actually I have one right now. I’m using a mouse. I’m old school. I keep forgetting I have a touchscreen. It’s great when I remember I have one. Computers with touchscreens are generally more expensive than computers without touchscreens, although the price difference is getting smaller and smaller. Someday, we imagine, all PCs will have touchscreens.

6.) BRAND OF COMPUTER

The brand name of the computer you buy is not one of the most important considerations. Most brands you recognize should be fine. Some people hate certain brands because they have had trouble with that particular brand in the past. However, all brands have good and bad reviews.  HP, Dell, Acer, ASUS, Toshiba, Sony and Lenovo all have their fans and detractors. We’re not going to recommend one brand over another. All brands can are good and all brands are bad. It depends on who you ask. If you have used a brand in the past that you’ve been happy with, then buy that brand again – but only if the price fits your budget. But don’t be “brand-blind”.  Don’t be afraid to try one of the other major brands.

7.  ) Windows 10 Home or Professional?

Most home users are not going to need the additional features of Windows 10 Professional. Besides the fact that Windows 10 Professional costs about $100 more, it has features most home users won’t need – unless you’re a computer geek. 

32-bit or 64 bit?

We recommend Windows 10 Home 64-bit rather than 32-bit. There is no difference in cost. Windows 10 32-bit computers can use only 4 GB of RAM, whereas Windows 10 64-bit computers can use virtually unlimited amounts of RAM. The amount of RAM a 64-bit computer can use is limited only by the computer’s motherboard limitations.

8.) YOU HAVE MANY CHOICES

If you’re on a budget, you’ll have to make choices.  That’s OK – there are a lot of computers to choose from.  You’re going to have to choose between screen sizes and types, hard drive sizes and types, processor brands, speeds, and types, computer brands, and RAM. In our opinion, RAM is the most important of these. If you buy a computer with inadequate RAM, your computer will be slow and multi-tasking difficult, and none of the other things will matter much.

Get a computer with as much RAM as you can afford.  Get a 64-bit computer (Windows 10 64-bit) so you can take advantage of more than 4GB of RAM.

Most of us who have been using Windows for years remember the days of 540 MB (MB not GB!) hard drives and RAM that was measured in MB, not GB. A typical PC in the year that the much exalted Windows XP was released had 2 GB hard drives and 1 GB of RAM. Cheap, low-end PCs in those days cost $700 to $800 or more.

We’ve come a long way since then. Shop around. You’ll find great deals if you spend some time and look around. We found that aforementioned Dell computer for $368. It comes with Windows 10 Home 64-bit and has a decent Intel processor, a 1 TB hard drive, 15.6″ display and 8 GB of RAM. Most of you would find it to be quite adequate for your needs. If you take your time and shop carefully,  you will find a PC that does everything you need it to do at a price that fits your budget.

If you’ve been using Windows 7 for years and you’re concerned about the learning curve involved in learning Windows 10, we can help. We can make your Windows 10 PC look and work a lot more like Windows 7. See this page for more information.

 

4 thoughts on “New Computer Buying Guide

  1. Yvonne

    Thank you ONCE AGAIN! I need this information because I will have to get a new computer once Windows 7 is no longer supported. And I will need your help once it’s been purchased to set it up to look more like Windows 7.
    The two of you are irreplaceable Gems in our world!

    Reply
  2. Judy Jennings

    Thank you for this information, am just in the process of looking at updating my computer. Thanks to your information I am armed with the necessary information rather than just picking “a pretty face”. So many thanks for this information.
    Regards

    Reply
  3. Mae Watson

    My current laptop works fine but the keyboard limits my choice of keypad OR Home, end, page up and page down which are only on the 7, 9, 1, and 3.

    Reply

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