The following article was written by Shirley Robinson. You can find out more about her at her blog at SurelyWords.blogspot.com
Advice from a former computer repair technician
Get Your Money’s Worth, Computer Consumer!
Desktop for Him, desktop for Her, family computer, laptop for each college student; The list goes on. Most Americans have access to a computer, if not their own, and like all things in life, computers die. They fail, they become obsolete and we have to dip into savings for a replacement. Big sigh, I know we all cringe at the idea of yet another big expense. The good news is, buying a computer doesn’t have to be just another drain on your wallet; It is actually a worthwhile investment! On that note, I have a compilation of things you should consider while you’re buying new personal computer.
For starters, do not be deceived by the pretty stickers plastered all over your computer choices. When companies list off the stats of a certain model they use exclamation points and exciting phrases to lure you. But look deeper, if you don’t know what the phrases are talking about, find out. For example, in a store you may see something that claims “1 Gigabyte of Memory!” Here’s the skinny, “memory” is misunderstood. It has nothing to do with how much data your computer can save, or where it is saved. Memory, alternate term “RAM,” is one of two hardware parts that controls how fast your computer will run while you are using it. It is important to know that the lower amount of memory, the slower your computer will run. I recommend buying a PC (Personal Computer) with at least three gigabytes of memory (RAM) although two would get you by.
The other piece of hardware that controls the speed of your computer is the processor. Usually when describing the processor, alternate term “cpu,” it will be phrased something like, “Intel dual core processor 1.3 GHz.” When looking at the CPU description of a particular PC it is wise to look at two things; First the terms “dual core” or “core two duo©” (or even newer, “quad core”) are good things. Always look for a processor that is a dual core. The speed, in this case 1.3 GHz, should be considered too. For family or personal use 1.3 GHz is fast enough.
Keep in mind, almost all computer hardware (parts) are upgradeable. Ram or memory can be upgraded for a very low cost, while the processor will be a bit more expensive to buy. It is sometimes a more frugal route to buy a computer with low advertised memory, and then buy and add memory yourself. (With the help of someone who is knowledgeable about the inside of your PC or at a local repair shop.)
Another rule of thumb for computer consumers- You get what you pay for. Steer clear of Wal-Mart specials that advertise a whole new computer for a cheap ticket price. I have shopped at Wal-Mart hundreds of times and hold nothing against them, but in the world of computers cheap prices equals cheap parts. Cheap parts equal mechanical failure. A common trick to lower the price of PC’s is offering a cheap brand hard drive or a low amount of disk space. The hard drive, alternate term “disk space,” is the part of the computer that stores all your data, documents, files, pictures, music, and the operating system (Windows) itself. If this part is damaged in any way, you could lose valuable data.
Tip: Don’t spend more on extra disk space; a hard drive with 160 (or even 320) Gigabytes of storage is plenty. However this applies only when you back up pictures and files (on CD’s or DVD’s) and then delete unnecessary things from your computer. This is wise not only to save space but also because hard drives can fail at any time, and when they die you will lose all data not backed up.
One scam common to retailers is what I call “grabbing with graphics.” Many stores will rattle off the graphics statistics claiming all sorts of displays and capabilities. The important thing to remember is an amazing graphics card or even a fancy monitor, are not necessary unless you plan to use the machine for computer gaming. Choose a model with “on board” video. This is the wiser choice because it will save money while providing a good product. Remember if you decide later on that you want a better graphic card you can upgrade this by visiting a privately owned PC repair shop. (Check your prices don’t just take their word for it. I recommend NewEgg.com for parts and PC shopping.)
Finally, pick the computer that is the right for your needs. For businesses I recommend avoiding box brands (i.e. HP, Dell, and Gateway.) Instead choose a private label or have a computer custom built. I’ve used and recommended Nexlink Computers by Seneca Data. If you are looking for a family or student computer, I recommend buying a Gateway or Compaq desktop. Keep in mind that cheaper computer means cheaper parts. If you are a traveler looking for a laptop, stay away from laptops that advertise ultra thin design or net-books. The smaller the laptop the more likely part failure will be. Instead choose a sturdy Compaq or Asus 15.6 inch or larger laptop. Don’t forget a thick, padded case to protect it! Take it from someone who knows, the warranty process for a laptop is grueling.
Remember, when it comes time to decide, it’s your money. So before you open your checkbook make sure the price tag matches your needs. An overkill of parts, features, “upgrades,” and accessories will tab your bill higher and higher, but in the end most of those added resources won’t be utilized. Research and comparison shopping are the key to getting your moneys’ worth, and eye-catching stickers or over-excited salesmen are retailers’ tools to dip deeper into your wallet. Keep in mind, while flashy makes for good conversation, sensible is a good investment.