I think it’s fair to say that personal computers have become the most empowering tool we’ve ever created. They’re tools of communication, they’re tools of creativity, and they can be shaped by their user…….Bill Gates
When buying a computer have you ever wondered whether you are buying the best computers in the market or buying what is best for you? Either way determining your new computer can be an overwhelming task, specifically when there are as many overt and not so overt variables influencing your decision. Here is a simple and quick navigator that may be helpful
Firstly, what are all the top of mind variables at play? surely they would include the brand names, price, warranty, performance and aesthetics. Big brands often make the decision easy. Nested in the (big brand) names is significant imagery and equity that persuasively appeals to you. They influence the buying decisions to be made basis perceived experience, reliability, advocacy and peer group acceptance. However it’s likely you may be buying something that is either over engineered/top end and/or quite expensive, e.g., Mac books) or something that is sub optimal/ less expensive and doesn’t fully allow you to max your outputs, whence you find the much needed high performance factors to be missing/ muted, e.g., net books). Either way you have not got good value for your money …, and you start looking for another computer as a trade-in or possibly a new buy…. I am reminded of the typical saying here that ‘if you don’t know where you are going, any road can take you anywhere.’ Ergo it is worth doing some home work to reflect and define what is best for your needs, and not necessarily what is the best in market. Let’s look at some typical use criteria and factors that could help aid your decision:
1. Define your portability needs and/ or the weight you want to lug around: Accordingly you can arrive at choosing between net books, laptops or desktops.
- Laptops and net books are great if you need a computer anywhere and at all times. Laptops weigh more than net books by almost 3-10 times but pack in relatively superior performance and ergonomics.
- Laptops in general have wider screens (11-inch to 19 –inch) are more expensive than net books (7-inch to 9-inch). However if you tend to value lower price(s) and are seeking a lighter machine than do go for the net books. Also these are not taxing on your shoulder and spine (something you should be conscious of, if you are a regular anytime/ anywhere laptop user, for it has a direct bearing on your long term spinal health)
- Net books by definition are stripped-down versions of computers that don’t have a disk drive or sufficient memory. They are functional devices largely meant for web surfing, checking email and for simple/ casual computing. Net books typically come with smaller screens and cramped keyboards. They should not be considered as replacements for laptops or desktop computers, but merely an add-on companion to these devices.
- Desktop computers on the other hand are options to choose when you work out of home or office and are not in the need to carry your computer at all times with you.
2. Identify the screen size you are most comfortable with: Most screens offer similar resolution and clarity regardless of size.
- However when opting for a large screen size, please note this will mean more battery consumption and shorter battery life (typically 15-16 inch screens and above).
- Also larger screen size means, more maintenance/ surface cleaning to keep better clarity.
- Larger screens however make audio-visual viewing more entertaining and are also recommended for developers/ techies and/ or for those having cervical issues (for lessening the strain on the neck – specifically when spending long hours in front of the screen).
3. Be in the know of the processors that are deployed in different computers: Processor is the core element of the computer and serves as the brain of the computer. It controls and directs the speed and performance of computers
- Processors are measured in speed units as gigahertz (GHz) – and are indicative of speed a computer can avail for its computing. Higher the processor speed, faster the processing
- There are two leading companies that supply most processors – Intel and AMD. Intel processors (such as Centrino, Pentium and Core) have a larger market share be it for laptops,netbooks or desktops
4. Choose a computer with adequate RAM: Random Access Memory, otherwise known as “RAM,” is like the heart of the computer. Memory is what the computer uses while you are working and switching between programs to run applications like i Tunes, MS Office, browser and the operating system (Windows 7 or 8, XP, Apple).
- For routine applications like web surfing and email 2 gb RAM would do. But if you were to do more complex applications (aka games/ graphic applications, technical work involving multiple tasks, etc) choose at least 3-4 gb or even more as needed
- Net books typically have lower RAM (1-2 gb typically) and do not allow for scaling up of same. So choose net books only and only for routine applications like email and browsing.
5. Determine your storage space / Hard Drive needs: When you create or download files, music, and store photos and videos you are taking up your computer’s memory. The hard drive determines how much storage capacity your computer has. Generally you should be looking for 80 gb of memory at the very least. But if you do store music and photos/video, you should choose a computer that has at least 320 gb.
6. Ensure your computer has a good battery life: As a rule always check the type of battery and the battery life for any laptop or net books!
- Do remember when choosing, the larger the screen, keyboard and computer, the lower will be the battery life. It would need frequent power charging.
- As a general rule, you should aim to buy a laptop with at least three hours of battery life.
- When buying a refurbished laptop do check to make sure there is at least 1 hour of battery life. Else buy a new battery to ensure optimum output.
In addition, here are some handy pointers to keep in mind while buying your best computer:
- Make sure if you are using windows software, to use either windows 7 if not windows 8 (windows XP will be stopped soon). Also, always use licensed software. Windows give special concessional packages to students and Microsoft authorized refurbishers
- Authentically refurbished laptops ‘work just like new’ and give you ~ 40% savings
- When/ where budget is not an issue – apple clearly takes the podium as is the magnum opus of all computers and possibly also has the longest error free life – rarely you hear a Mac crashing. But this option is for the privileged few who can afford it or for the corporate few who have earned it.
- If you like to video chat with friends and family do make sure your computer has a webcam. And, if you are actively into using digital camera, you’ll want to ensure that your computer has a built-in digital media card slot.
- In general desktops are widely extendable and contrary to popular myth, laptop computers can be upgraded too. Typical upgrades include RAM, HDD and more powerful CPUs.
- Also if you are contemplating an easily upgradeable system, then better to buy a less powerful computer today (save that money) and later spend selectively/ wisely to upgrade the desired components as and when you power up.
- Choose your computer so that it has at least one spare USB ((Universal Serial Bus) port. Most peripherals or externally attached accessories can be easily connected and or swapped around using USB – such peripherals include webcams, printers, scanners, portable storage drives, music players, speakers and even DVD drives, all devices that in some way either provide for entertainment or enhance your productivity.
- Finally always remember to buy or download security software to protect your devices from viruses – this is very important
In sum, decide your best computer decision based only on what is ‘best for you’. Remember refurbished computers are great options to consider as they work ‘just like new’. Refurbished computers not only give you speed, power and flexibility, but also great savings to merit them being called ‘smart choice’.
Example of some (India) usage cases:
1. Home Computer Users:
2. Student (School/ College) Users:
3. School Computer Lab Usage:
4. SME/ Corporate Users:
Some Key Points to Note:
- When choosing a refurbished desktop, look for warranty terms. Refurbished computers can provide on avg. ~ 40% savings Vs branded new.
- Seconds and assembled computers come with risk of unreliability, viruses, improper data erasures and poor/ non performance issues.
- With refurbished computers you are not only being smart, eco friendly but also saving good money.
- Please note assembled and second computers are not same as refurbished computers.