Buying a New Computer
Since we do service only, and don’t sell equipment, you might think that we would like to keep on repairing your old computer forever. Not so; eventually, there are problems and frailties that accumulate to the extent that what was state of the art such a short time ago has to be replaced. Here are a few bits of guidance on a new purchase. There have been many developments and changes since our last column two years ago on this subject. The following refers to both laptop and desktop models, unless specifically noted.
Manufacturer: There is not currently a manufacturer that we would automatically rule out. Evolution and the marketplace have narrowed the field. Everyone makes a lemon now and then – that’s where online reviews can be helpful. A business as small as ours can only judge anecdotally, but we consider Asus, Acer, Lenovo, Dell and Hewlett Packard to be solid choices. Apple, of course, has a stellar reputation for hardware, with a stellar price to match.
New or Refurbished: In the case of desktop computers, a refurbished unit is often a worthwhile consideration but there are fewer refurbished laptops available and therefore they are not quite such a bargain.
Price: A so-called “bottom of the line” ($500 – $600) machine has the specs to handle easily most people’s needs and much more. It would take a very convincing argument about a specific need to convince us to spend much more than $600.00 these days, even though this might mean having to wait a bit sometimes while stores replenish their stock.
: The great majority of new computers will have the Windows 10 Operating System. Although this OS is quite different from previous versions, it is not as tough to master as we originally feared, and most people learn to like it quite quickly.
: 4 Gigabytes of RAM is adequate; 6 or 8 are a bit better. More is probably overkill.
: 500 Gigabyte capacity hard disk (file storage) is enough, but a 1000 Gigabyte (1 Terabyte) machine might not be more expensive.
: An Intel processor has a bit better reliability record than AMD, the major competitor. We would not refuse to buy a machine with an AMD processor – it’s not a big difference. The majority of users should seriously consider the Intel i5, or one of the AMD equivalents, because it is powerful enough that it will be adequate for most users for many years to come. A lesser processor might not stand up well into the future for some users, but more is probably overkill and unnecessarily expensive for most of us.
: Note that most laptops no longer have a DVD drive. An external USB drive is an inexpensive alternative.
: 15.6 inches (diagonally) is the standard display for laptops. You may choose larger or smaller depending on preference and need, but you might have to pay more. (Smaller might not be cheaper.)
: Windows 10 is meant to be optimized with a touch screen and it’s fun to use your fingers to manipulate things, but many people find it awkward to set aside their mouse and reach across the keyboard to swipe the screen. This is another feature that you really should test for yourself, to decide whether or not the extra $100 or so is worth it.
Source and Warranty:
: Staples, Best Buy Canada Computers and Costco are the commonest sources. Most people prefer one or the other, but they are pretty close. Dell might be the first brand people think of if they are buying online, but Costco (online or in the store) is also a strong contender, because they offer an extended warranty at no extra cost.
: Laptops, tablets, printers, cameras and phones are just about the only equipment for which we do recommend considering the extended warranty, for several reasons. Expect usually to pay approximately 20% of the laptop’s purchase price, for a 3-year warranty.
: New computers nowadays take about 3 hours of a technician’s time to set up when they come out of the box. They are not ready to use as shipped. Most stores are anxious to do that job for you but (maybe not surprisingly) we small businesses like Compu-Home or Tony Garcia at Computer HouseCalls, are convinced that we do a good job too.
: You must also consider whether or not data from your old computer will have to be copied to the new one. That can be done at the time of setting up, or you can do that yourself bit by bit later on if you prefer.
Feel free to call for our 2-cents’ worth when you find a machine that interests you.