The holidays are here and you want to purchase a new computer as a gift. Great! With a plethora of prices, models, styles, accessories, and various other options the concept of purchasing a computer can be overwhelming and downright confusing. So where do you start and how do you know what to buy? Here are some tips for you to make your technology purchase easier.
1. Establish a Budget
Before starting your shopping, make a budget. Consider what you want to spend and stick to that amount. It is very easy to start with a budget and stay within it when buying the actual computer. However, when you add in the extras, upgrades, accessories, and warranty plans before you know it, you’ve doubled the amount you wanted to spend. Take stock of what is important to the initial purchase and budget in for what you need and want to spend. Remember, extra accessories like that fancy mouse or extra keyboard can be purchased another time (perhaps at an after Christmas sale!)
Be sure to shop around. Look at online as well as in store specials. Although Black Friday and Cyber Monday boast fantastic deals, this doesn’t always apply to purchasing a computer. Take some time and watch for fluctuations and discounts that are offered and take advantage of those.
2. Consider the Needs
When looking for a computer, first consider how the computer will be utilized. A computer used for school will have different needs that one used for gaming or an individual who simply wishes to go online to surf the internet or check emails.
First, you will need to consider the type of processor. “The simplest way to explain the processor is that it’s the brain of the machine” (CheatSheet.com). Most people who use their computers for things like simple text-based programs (i.e. Quickbooks or Microsoft Office), or who primarily email and surf the web would benefit with an i3 Core processor. The majority of users will fall into this category.
However, the user who likes to game or uses heavy graphics programs like movie maker will require a computer with an i7 core processor. This type of user would also likely need a more powerful graphics card.
The next component to consider is the amount of RAM (Random Access Memory). This detail is important to consider as the amount of RAM in a computer can affect how many programs can be open at once and how fast it will be. So consider if the individual using the computer will be using many programs at once or just a couple at a time. The amount of RAM in that computer can affect how quickly that computer runs.
Considering the peripherals of a computer can be an influencing factor in which computer you purchase. Consider whether you will need a CD drive. How many USB slots will you need? Is it necessary to have an HDMI port or SD slot? Will your computer need to connect to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth? All these items are things to consider when choosing the peripherals of a computer and can impact the cost. Knowing what you want to put into the computer can help avoid extra items you don’t necessarily need and can keep you from forgetting those that you will need.
4. Mac or Windows Based PC
Simply stated…choosing your type of computer and type of operating system basically comes down to user preference. Oftentimes, if you are familiar with one type of computer (i.e. PC or Mac) then it can be easier to stay with that type of computer when purchasing new. Do keep in mind, that new computers will often mean a newer operating system.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t switch from a PC to a Mac or vice versa, just be aware that there will be differences. Take the time to look into what type of operating system you would prefer, be patient when learning the new computer. It does get easier with time.
5. Laptop or Desktop
There are advantages and disadvantages to both using a laptop and a desktop. Here are some things to consider when deciding which type of computer you wish to purchase.
Laptops offer portability. For the user on the go, a laptop can be a great decision. This convenient device can be setup on a regular desk with the use of an external mouse and keyboard, a docking station, or even an extra monitor. This will allow the computer user to have a standard home desk setup without the bulk of a desktop tower. This makes it convenient as the user can simply disconnect from the extras and take the computer with them. Do keep in mind that if you plan to invest in a quality laptop, expect to spend around $500-$700 or more.
Desktop computers can offer much of the same qualities of a laptop with the main downside of lack of portability. On the plus, it can be less expensive to put upgrades into a desktop and the overall purchase of a desktop can cost less than a laptop. It might not make sense that a laptop would cost more than a desktop for the same upgrades but it’s easier to change out parts and upgrade components in a desktop as there is more room in a tower to fit the components.
6. Research, research, research
Before taking that leap there is one more step you should always take. Do your research. Look at “editor’s reviews, user opinions and manufacturers information – each has a different perspective” (Today.com) so review at them all to weigh in on your decision.
Don’t just shop online, visit some stores to get a physical look at the product. This can help give an idea of the size of the screen on a laptop or the size of the tower for the desktop.
Be sure to research what programs come with the computer. Computer’s sold today, both online and in store will not include programs like Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, or QuickBooks so you may want to consider these in with your purchase.
Now comes the fun part, accessorizing! There are many types of accessories one can purchase to go with your new computer. Mice, keyboards, printers, and external hard drives are just to name a few. There are various styles and brands. Some can connect wirelessly to your computer, some items come in fun colors. Like all other areas, shop around, do your research to find the best accessories for your needs.
Overall, shopping for a computer can seem like a lot to tackle but knowing what you want in a computer can help ease the stress. Make a list of your needs, write down the activities the user would need the computer for, and talk to people in the know. By taking a little time to figure out your specific needs, shopping for a computer can be fun!
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