What to look for when buying a new computer

When customers come into our shop looking for a new computer, we ask them to consider the following before buying:

1) What do you use the computer for?
Is your machine a family machine or just for you? Is the machine used for work or pleasure? Is the computer used for writing documents or editing the families’ video collection — the latter requiring significantly more processing power and memory? If the computer is used for multiple purposes, to what extent is your time divided up between those purposes.

Word processing uses up little computer processing power; however, if you want to use instant messaging, Outlook, Excel, an antivirus and surf the internet whilst word processing – that’ll require much more processing power and memory.

If you use the computer for work, remember that an hour wasted waiting for a slow computer is an hour of free time lost – time is money.

Similarly, if you wish to use your computer to play games or watch videos, you’ll need more computer processing power.

2) How often do you use your computer?
The more often you use your computer the more you should consider investing in something that is above your current needs to minimize time wastage and frustration. Consider your computer an investment for the next 3 -4 years.

3) How long will you keep this new computer for?
Most people keep computers for three or more years, and over this time period your needs are likely to change – how for example have your computing needs changed over the last three years? For example, you may be watching more video online than you used to, or using the computer more hours in the day. If you plan to keep your computer for the long term, it is better to spend a little more now, to allow for changes in your computer usage over time.

4) Do you find it stressful waiting for computers to perform tasks?
Computers are designed to organize and perform series of simple tasks; however, often they are a source of frustration for one of two reasons – lack of technical know how or a lack of processing power. The former requires more education, training and practice – the latter, a little more investment in hardware. You may not pause for thought about spending an extra few dollars here and there on a lovely meal out or a new game – but that extra expenditure on a new computer system is normally far more critically considered than perhaps it should be.

To our thinking, the avoidance of as much stress and frustration as possible over the life time of a computer is worth the extra $150 or so on a better processor and more memory to buy slightly above your current needs.

5) What type of computer & which CPU (processor)?
Once you know what you’d like to use your computer for, you will find it easier to establish what sort of computer to buy. Here are some key things to remember regarding computer parts for your desktop or laptop computer.

For most users a standard mid-range computer will do everything you require. Most users do not need the latest/fastest computer, the increased price does not justify the small gains in performance…but don’t buy the cheapest! There are two main brands of processor, AMD and Intel. Both of these processors are great – just make sure it’s at least a “quad-core” processor.

6) How much RAM (memory) should I get?
Your computer memory is one of the most important components for performance. 4GB is the suggested minimum for a new computer – 8GB will ensure that everything runs very quickly.

7) Will it be compatible?
Make sure your existing software and hardware, like for example your camera and printer will work with your new computer.

8) Graphics & video capabilities.
If you use your computer for playing games, video editing or graphics applications, you should get a computer with a separate graphics card rather than an inbuilt graphics card. This way you won’t be disappointed by slow graphics and poor image quality.

9) Backup!
Buy an external drive to back-up all of your valuable photos, videos and documents. They can be purchased from $99 upwards and will give you the security of knowing you won’t lose your irreplaceable files.

10) Should I get a Laptop?
A laptop will be much more portable, but you’ll generally get more for your money (a faster computer) if you buy a desktop computer. Also, a laptop is more compact than a desktop, and for some is more difficult to use. Laptops are ideal for those travelling a lot, but if you are planning to use the new computer at a desk most of the time, we usually recommend a desktop PC.

When purchasing a laptop you need to bear in mind that many components within laptops are not upgradeable – so it’s really important to identify exactly what you need before you start shopping. 

When you buy a laptop, the decision you need to make is: do you want a small-screened portable laptop or would you prefer a larger-screen laptop? A portable (lightweight) laptop means a smaller screen and keyboard but easier to carry around, while the large-screen laptops are heavier but have a more comfortable keyboard and are generally easier to use.
Laptops also have two main brands of processor, AMD and Intel. Laptop processors are specially designed to balance the best performance with great battery life. This means laptop processors are generally slower when compared to the same spec’ed desktop processors. Processors are set out in Ghz (1.6Ghz, 2.2Ghz, etc), so go for the highest number Ghz you can afford. Whatever laptop processor you end up choosing, just make sure the processor is also at least a “quad-core” for useable speed.
New laptops will be sold with Windows 10, which needs at least 4GB of RAM to function correctly – if you can afford to spend a little more you should get a laptop with 8GB of RAM. Also check that the laptop you buy comes with both a DVD burner and wireless network technology. A lot of laptops nowadays come with no DVD drive, so you will need to decide if this is a problem. It is always worth checking the specifications just to make sure.

Finally, also make sure your existing software and hardware, such as your camera and printer will work with your new laptop.

11) Windows 7 or Windows 10?
When looking around for a new computer, you will come across a specification that we get asked about regularly – Windows 7 or Windows 10? This is refering to the operating system that will come with your new computer, and here is a couple of pointers between the 2 versions of Windows.

Windows 7 is still the main operating system used, and has very few issues with compatibility or ease of use. Windows 7 has been around for years, and as such most software and drivers for your hardware such as printers and cameras are available. Contrary to some information out there, Windows 7 will remain supported by Microsoft until 2020, so it is not about to expire any time soon. Should you go with Windows 7? Ultimately the decision is up to you and your circumstances and level of computer skills, but we are recommending for existing users who are upgrading to a new PC or laptop, stay with Windows 7 for maximum compatibility and ease of use.

Windows 10 is the new version in town, and does have some advantages over Windows 7. It is usually faster to load up than 7, and is reasonably easy to use, once you become familiar with the changes from Windows 7. However, compatibility is currently an issue, although this will decrease over time. Windows 10 has some cool new features, however we are recommending going to Windows 10 if you are a new computer user, or if you are able to navigate through the changes without to much problem. You will need up-to-date hardware such as your printer, and the latest version of regular software programs you use to be compatible with Windows 10

Still unsure of what you need?
Here at Michael’s Computer Services, we specialize in building custom computers to your requirements. We have standard setups that we build, or we can customize any part of the computer to meet your needs.

Simply give our office a call on 07 4171 0981 during business hours to discuss your requirements, or contact us through this site, and one of our friendly sales team will reply to explain your options in plain English.