Time to upgrade your computer? With tax season among us, many people will be using their refund to buy a new computer to replace their old one, or add a new one in another location. For some people buying a new computer can be somewhat confusing. If you go into your local retail store, often times the sales person will know as much or less than the person who is shopping for the computer. Hopefully this will help to make your next computer purchase a bit less stressful and less confusing.
The most common mistake people make when looking at the computers spec is the size of the hard drive. This is one sales tactic’s a salesperson will use to catch an unsuspecting victim into there trap. I cannot count the number of times someone with a new computer has told me “I just bought a new computer and it is a good one. It has a 1TB hard drive”. Just because the computer has a 1TB hard drive does not mean it is a good computer. The fact is, the hard drive in a retail computer can be the least expensive part in the computer. There are many factors that should be considered before determining the worthiness of the computer coming home with you.
The first is the name brand of the computer. I will not make specific recommendations as to what brand you should consider, but there are plenty-full resources across the web that does product reviews, Top Ten Laptop Reviews or for Desktops look into PC Mag Desktop Reviews.
Second you will want to consider the size of the memory. Memory is also very cheap, but very effective. Really when it comes to memory the more the better. For most people anything over 4MB should be sufficient enough to run word processors and web browsers. However if you plan on doing graphic editing or video editing you would want to look into around 8MB.
Third, the processor. The processor is the brain of the computer. I remember when an Intel Pentium III with an 500 Mhz speed was the big thing. Now there are so many models of processor from Intel and AMD it is even confusing for me. If you are looking at buying a budget computer I would recommend one of the lower end Intel Processors “Celeron or Pentium” or any of the AMD processors. You are very unlikely to notice a difference across any of these. However, if you need more power I would recommend a Intel i3 or Intel i5. The Intel i7 processors are very powerful but the fact is most of that power will go to waste unless you are putting really heavy loads on the computer. For most people the i7 is not worth the money. It would be better spent getting more memory, or even a SSD hard drive option.
Getting back to the hard drives, the factor here is speed. Most of the cheap computers with really big hard drives have really slow speeds. Mechanical hard drives found in retail built computers come in 3 common speeds; 4800 rpm, 5400 rpm, and 7200 rpm. With that being said a 320 GB 7200 rpm hard drive is going to hands down out preform a 1TB hard drive that has a speed of 4800 rpm. In fact the 7200 rpm hard drive is going to be almost twice as fast as the 4800 rpm hard drive. What is this good for you might ask? Everything that is stored on your computer is on the hard drive. Therefore, anytime you boot, open a program, or open a file the other components communicate with the hard drive to open and load that specific task, and as expected the faster the hard drive spins the faster it will open and load. If the computer specs does not specify a speed, you can assume it is often times a 4800 rpm hard drive.
On many netbooks the mechanical hard drive has been replaced with a SSD or solid state drive. These are the most desirable if you can get your hands on one. These function much like the memory on your computer functions. This gives you super fast boot speeds along with file and program access speeds.
One of the last things is the screen size of the computer if it is a laptop, specifically the resolution. If you are looking at a bigger screen you are going to want a resolution capable of providing the best viewing experience. For instance, a 17 inch screen with 1366 x 768 is going to bloat everything on the screen, and after a while it will become uncomfortable to look at. That resolution would however be fine for a smaller size screen. The best thing to do here is take a look at the display models and play around with them.