It may be your first foray into PC ownership, or simply time for an upgrade; regardless, buying a new computer can be a stressful and often unnerving experience considering the vast array of options. Not only must you consider the name brand but also parts, peripherals and operating systems. In an attempt to alleviate some of these anxieties, we have put together a small list of options that should be considered before making a decision on the right PC purchase.
What will you (really) use it for?
Before jumping on the web or stepping foot in a store, take a good hard look in the mirror and honestly decide what the new computer will need to accomplish to be worth purchasing. Avoid presuming that pure objectivity will prevail while perusing the local Best Buy or Fry’s. In the fervor of buying shiny new tech, even the most hardened consumer is liable to break down and fork out the cash for a flashy new super computer that is way outside of their budget.
As a precaution, take the time to determine what activities will be performed on the computer: Will it serve as a simple web-browser and document creator? Or the foundation for a home entertainment system? Gaming unit? Photo- or video-editing workspace? Each of these options requires its own unique combination of hardware and software, which will need to be considered when evaluating various PCs' specs. The ability to determine these requirements will assist in finding the right PC that both meets one’s needs and budget.
What’s under the hood?
While I will save all the heady computer jargon for those with serious experience in the field of computer technologies, I will recommend taking the time to learn a thing or two about the components of a computer in order to determine what upgrades should be invested in. A few key pieces of hardware to consider are the RAM, the processor and the graphics card. Additionally, if shopping for a laptop, features such as the battery life, Wi-Fi capabilities and various Bluetooth features will also be important.
The key concept to remember is the bigger the number, the better the hardware (I’m sure somewhere out there an IT manager just felt a chill run up his or her spine).
When evaluating processors, there are two numbers to consider: 1) the number of cores in the processor and 2) the speed of each processor, which is represented by GHz or gigahertz. The speed of the processor defines how much information the computer can process at a time, and the cores serve to multiply the speed.
For example, a single-core 2GHz processor is slower than a dual-core 2GHz processor. Similar considerations can be made for the quality of RAM and the graphics card. While it may seem obvious to choose the computer with the most advanced hardware, keep in mind that this will also increase the price. Finding the right balance between high-end and standard components will help to avoid spending money on unnecessary hardware upgrades.
Does size matter?
When deciding on a computer, especially a laptop, size is a crucial factor to consider. While most laptops only weigh a few pounds, those pounds can begin to feel like a real burden when lugging them around all day. As with the other factors on this list, careful consideration should be made regarding how the computer will be used. While a more powerful laptop may seem appealing, the added weight of a larger battery or superior hardware may become less satisfying when carrying it around all day.
Do you want a printer with that PC?
While customers may be conscientious of the amount of money they are willing to spend on the actual PC they plan to purchase, there are often a number of additional costs that are overlooked. First time buyers may need additional peripherals such as printers, ink cartridges, external hard drives, mouse, keyboard, monitor, computer bag, necessary software (like Microsoft Office), etc. These are often presumed to be inclusive costs, but may in fact need to be purchased separately. These costs can be alleviated by deals that work in conjunction with new PC purchases, but should never be assumed to be available at the time of purchase.
Therefore, it’s important to create a total budget for all necessary components that will be purchased with the computer. Also, some retailers will require that customers have their new computer ran through a gauntlet of ad-ware installations and warranty programs. These will often incur additional charges on the computer, and should be reviewed before purchase. While almost every retailer will want you to pay in for these additional protections, most of the ad-ware installed is cumbersome and unnecessary, and in some cases the product manufacturer will have their own warranty programs that are less expensive or included with the computer.
What does all of this translate into?
The short answer is more cash in your pocket. While the old mantra is that customers will get what they pay for, the key concept here is to know what one needs to get. Rather than viewing a PC as one complete unit, consider them as a collection of parts, and each part has a price. Being able to identify which pieces need to be prioritized over others will create the most cost-efficient PC that meets your demands. Rather than splurging on all the high-end features, find those necessary components and find the cheapest laptop that has the essentials you need.
Browse the web for the best deals
It is common practice for retailers to offer a slew of deals on computers and accessories to attract customers to their stores, but trying to explore every nook and cranny of each stores’ website is tedious and may lead to uncontrollable fits of banging one’s head against the keyboard.
To obviate the needless destruction of one’s sanity and technology, these websites provide consolidated lists of discounts and offers from a variety of first- and third-party retailers. Websites like Newegg; Gawker’s kinja deals webpage; Dealnews; and of course, our very own Deals.ClarkHoward.com provide robust search options for great deals on PCs and accessories in one place. Utilizing these websites will help to save time searching as they work to find all the deals and compile for quick and easy searching.
While this is certainly not a comprehensive list of factors to consider before buying a new computer, it will help to determine the qualities to look for when perusing the aisles. Not all computers are made the same, and the ability to evaluate them based on personal needs will help to save money and find the perfect match one’s demands.