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 post on this subject. The following refers to both laptop and desktop models, unless specifically noted. Subjects marked * describe the newest developments.
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.
* SSDs, or Solid State Drives are disk drives with integrated circuits to store files, which is the same technology as the USB Flash Drives that we have been familiar with for more than 15 years. SSDs are often now installed in computers instead of (or along with) traditional hard disks (HDs). An SSD is many times faster than an HD and has the significant advantage of being more robust, due to the fact that there are no delicate moving parts. On the other hand, solid state storage technology in the form of computer hard disks does not yet have a long proven track record for life expectancy and reliability. Until recently, SSD drives were much more expensive than equivalent HDs but their price has dropped radically in the past year, which means that it is now possible to have a reasonably priced laptop with an operating speed quite a bit faster than you might have expected just a short time ago. We predict that SSD will soon be the norm.
* USB ports that have been common on desktops, laptops, and even some tablets and phones have gone through generations 1, 2 and now USB-C. This is the first USB port to have a different shape from previous versions and it has the advantage of being symmetrical, meaning that there is no fumbling from trying to plug it in upside down – a deceptively important improvement when the ports are often located in a place on the computer that is hard to see. Far more important, however, is the speed of data transfer. USB-C speed rounds off to 10 times faster than USB 2 and several hundred times the speed of USB 1. This may not make much difference in your connection to a printer, but it is huge for any sort of data transfer. For example: copying videos or large numbers of photos or data backups may now take seconds instead of many minutes or even hours. Expect computers to have both older and newer USB ports during this transition, and for awhile you will have to put up with adapters to make the old and new versions fit, but we predict that it will not be very long before you will definitely want to have USB-C ports on your new equipment.
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 and 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 laptops 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.
Our blog post on the subject of Chromebook: https://compu-home.com/2017/02/is-a-chromebook-in-my-future/
Feel free to call or write for our 2-cents’ worth when you find a machine that interests you.