Finding the right computer

computers

Finding out what you need

Everyone is different when it comes to hardware and software needs. For instance, if you are someone that loves music and you will be syncing music and other media to your iPod, smartphone and tablet, then you will most likely need a large hard drive. If you play games, you’ll need a fast CPU and a quality video card. If you are using it for work, then you’ll need to be sure that you have Microsoft office installed and any other software you need. Document the most important functions that you will be using the laptop for. This is the initial step in your search.

Laptop brands are not among the most important thing

Time and time again, I am asked “What kind of computer should I get?”, usually meaning the brand (Dell, HP, etc). I always answer by saying that the brand is not all that important. It is what’s inside. You need to check out specs, not brand labels. You can get a great laptop by any brand. Dell, Acer, HP and Sony seem to be the most popular. Obviously, a Mac is a different animal all together. This article is on PCs only.

Ok, so what is essential?

As I said, everyone is different in terms of needs, but here are the specs you should be looking for and what is considered “good”.

Memory

types-of-computer-memory                                                                  Desktop RAM (left) Laptop (right)

In 2013, the average amount of memory is around 4GB on a standard mid-class laptop. Unless you are gaming or you are running 3d applications, 4GB will probably fit your needs. For someone like me that does run games and software such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, might benefit from a little more. I have 16GB of RAM on my everyday desktop and 8GB on my laptop. That may be considered a lot but I run multiple graphic intensive programs at a time. I have even seen gaming desktops with as much as 128GB of memory and as much as 64GB on a laptop, which is definitely excessive in my opinion. Before purchasing parts for your computer always remember to check the specs or your computer with manufacture site to check for compatible parts. Example is knowing if you need ddr, ddr2, ddr3, or ddr4, laptop (short) or desktop ( long).

recommended places to purchase memory: Amazon, TigerDirect, or Ebay

CPU

cpu

 

Your processor is probably among the most important. It is the main workhorse of any computer system. This is one area where I do prefer a brand. There are 2 major brands in the world of processors and that is Intel and AMD. At this moment in time, I would suggest an Intel based processor for most people. The only reason to choose AMD is price. They are generally cheaper than Intel units.
The top CPU at the moment would be the Intel i7 chip. They are usually around $300-$400 (yes the chip only, not the computer). If you are looking for power, the i7 is the way to go. You can get an i7 based computer for $750 to around $1100. Just know that if you get a laptop with an i7 chip for $750 or less, it is probably lacking in another area like drive space.

The next one down would be the i5 processor. You could get a laptop with an i5 processor for $500 to $700. The lower end of the series is the i3 CPU which would be in low to mid range laptops. If you are just using the laptop to surf the Internet, social media, etc then the i3 would be just fine.

Hard Drive

hard-disk

There are 2 kinds of hard drives to select from. We have standard internal computer hard drives and we also have SSD’s (Solid State Drive). SSD’s are much faster and reliable but have very low storage for high prices. These are meant for the operating system only. They are not meant to store music, movies or other forms of data (not yet anyway) because there just is not enough room.

seagate_laptop_sshd Laptop Hard Drive (above)

The optimal setup is to have an SSD for system files and operating system and then a standard internal drive for your data. You can get a 128GB SSD for around $130. You can get a standard drive with 1TB (1000GB) of data for less. With that said, if you are looking for a good deal but also enough room to store your music, pictures and videos, you want a laptop with at least 500GB of space. A 1TB drive would be sufficient for most people. It would store thousands and thousands of songs and images.

hdd internaljpg

Graphics/Video

If you wish to run modern high graphic performance games, then you should be considering the graphics card. The Dell XPS series and Alienware systems are great for gaming laptops. Some great laptop graphic cards today are the Nvidia GT series and AMD radeon series.

graphics-cards-2

Software

For someone that is very tech savvy, the software is not a big deal because they can just get the software they want and install it themselves. For some people, it is a good idea to look at what comes with the laptop they are buying. Most laptops in May of 2013 have either Windows 7 or Windows 8 installed. I would definitely suggest Windows 7 at this point. The tabbed interface of Windows 8 can be somewhat confusing for some people. There are also less bugs with 7.

The majority of people if not everyone uses Microsoft Office, so that should be something to look for. You also might want to look at what kind of virus protection comes installed and how long the subscription is. I prefer Norton when it comes to premium anti-virus but I actually prefer AVG over most of them, which is free. If you are into design, look out for Adobe products such as Photoshop.

Best Resources for Laptops

There are many great places to buy laptops at great prices. It is possible to find a good deal at Best Buy for a laptop with the specs above but I would suggest an online retailer, especially if you want a great price. My top choices are newegg.com, tigerdirect.com and amazon.com. You can also get great deals on Ebay but just be careful if you are buying used laptops.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you have gained some knowledge from this article when it comes to what you need in a laptop. The main things to look for is memory, storage and processing power. Good luck in your search!

Just know that if you get a laptop with an i7 chip for $750 or less, it is probably lacking in another area such as drive space.

With that said, if you are looking for a good deal but also enough room to store your music, pictures and videos, you want a laptop with at least 500GB of space. For some people, it is a good idea to look at what comes with the laptop they are buying. You can also get great deals on Ebay but just be careful if you are buying used laptops.

Hopefully, you have gained some knowledge from this article when it comes to what you need in a laptop.