Special Computer Buying Guide

by | Dec/13/2013

Many executives have been asking what to look for in computers for their home use, and as gifts to loved ones. There aren’t that many shopping days left…

So this newsletter is an “extra bonus” for you who still plan to search for a new computer. If you don’t want to click on the “for more information” links, it is ok to just read the text since you’ll still get what you need to know.

FORM FACTOR: Unless you are sure the user will only use a computer at a single desk and not benefit from moving around, buy a laptop. Laptops are fast, have excellent monitors, and some are very portable.

You can easily connect a world of peripherals at the office, at home, and any other “fixed location.” Using a “real keyboard,” mouse (for those monitors that aren’t touch enabled), printers, etc. is common at “desk” locations. And being able “to be mobile” is essential for people who are on the move. As you plan to connect to those external devices, read “Docking Stations are Dead

You already know my affinity to the Microsoft Surface Pro which is a laptop and tablet combined: “When a Surface Pro Computer is Better than an iPad” and “Ditch the iPad and Get the Surface Pro?” And many other manufacturers make beautiful convertible tablets with similar features to the Surface Pro. Shop around.

OPERATING SYSTEM: You’ll find Windows 8.1 installed on new computers – and that is a fine way to go. Despite what you’ve heard, you can run Windows 8.1 in a way that looks a lot like Windows 7. See “Yes, Windows 8 Looks like Windows 7

MONITOR: Get a Touch Screen – That’s where the world is going. If you will use the computer at a desk, then you need more than one monitor. Large monitors are inexpensive these days – get one of those. And, no, one large monitor is not a replacement for multiple small monitors. See “Are Your Employees Still Using Single Monitors?” for more information. This is a blog entry where a posting uses the word naked with multiple monitors in the same sentence: “Still Using Just One Monitor?

You can connect multiple monitors to a laptop: “How to Connect Multiple Monitors to Your Computer” The only problem is that, so far, with multiple monitors only one of them can be used as your “touch screen” in Windows 8.1. The other monitors can support “touch screen,” but you have to choose which one to use as “touch.”

If you are buying for a “gamer” then you’ll want to max out on everything and maybe buy a specialized machine like those at Falcon Northwest or iBuyPower

RAM: For the rest of us, get a computer with at least 8G of RAM. If you think you’ll run many programs at once, or use memory hungry applications such as editing photos, then splurge on 16G of RAM.

DRIVE: Be sure that, unless you need to store an incredible amount of pictures, music, or movies, to get a solid state hard drive. Sometimes they are referred to as SSDs.

Yes, there are times that “old” hard drives (HDDs) with moving parts are better than SSDs., They have less capacity and are more expensive per gigabyte than drives with moving parts, SSD drives are faster, use less electricity (your laptop’s battery will last longer), resist magnetism, and better resist movement (such as a computer being dropped or used on an aircraft or train with lots of vibrations).

A good strategy is to use a SSD in your computers, and use mirrored external USB 3.0 HDDs for backup. Please contact me if that sentence makes no sense.

PROCESSOR: You needn’t go for the “top of the line” processor. They tend to be “priced extra high because some people will pay that much” and they use more power. Power saving is important in a laptop.

PRINTER: Be sure you get a printer that supports easy printing from your iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, and other devices.

MOUSE: For goodness sakes, get a mouse that is designed to be used “anywhere.” They work great on just about any mousing surface.

KEYBOARD: If you type a lot and don’t know about them, check out Das Keyboard

Please ask additional questions and/or post your advice below…