So your faithful computer, which has been with you for years, is starting to show the signs of age. You don’t particularly want to change to a new one because a) you don’t have a money tree you can just prune and get $900 out of, b) you don’t even want to think about the pain of migrating all your documents and applications c) you’re a hardcore XP user and have heard horrible things about Windows Vista plus d) you don’t want to have to learn all the shortcuts and ways to do things in a totally new operating system after all the time you spent learning the ways of XP.
Well I’m here to make your transition less painful. Maybe even enjoyable!
Let me start by saying that if you are a total novice on computers I suggest you seek the advice of an expert who DOESN’T work for the company you’re trying to buy the computer from. He’ll help you suggest a system that dovetails your needs.
If you are an intermediate user and understand the basics of computers, this article is for you.
The first choice you need to make is whether to get a desktop or a laptop. Traditionally desktops are cheaper for the same performance, and are more configurable (things like an audio or video card, modem and other devices can be exchanged). Laptops on the other hand are mobile and don’t use as much space. It’s interesting however that with the advances in processor technology in recent years, laptop prices have gone down while performance and battery life have gone up, and for the first time last year (2008) there were more laptops than desktops sold worldwide. The reason for this is simple: a relatively economical laptop can now perform good enough for most users basics needs of browsing the web, handling email and documents, maybe watching the occasional movie, even to some degree graphic demanding software. So if for whatever reason you have to be able to take it with you – even to the occasional Starbucks to relax and write in peace, you might want to consider getting a laptop for your next computer. If mobility is not an issue at all, stick with the desktop.
Next choice is operating system. Since I’m a Windows type guy I will only cover all the different versions of Windows. As of this writing, and providing you pay extra, you can still get a new computer retrograded with Windows XP. But the most common current choice is Windows Vista. Vista brings 5 versions: Starter (not available in developed countries) Home Basic, Home Premium, Business and Ultimate. The basic thing to know about these is that home basic and premium are not designed for a company’s usual network setup. And I’d suggest between the home versions, choose the premium one – I’ll explain why in a moment.
The choice of operating systems expands as of October 22 with the release of the next operating system: Windows 7. From now and until then if you buy a new computer with Windows Vista Home Premium or higher you can upgrade to Windows 7 for free (Now you see why the choice between Basic and Home Premium). For those XP fans, you’ll be glad to know that many of the characteristics of XP that you came to love are present in the new Windows 7, while retaining the good points of Windows Vista. Reviews of the test versions have been positive, and I have myself tested it and was very pleased with how it performs.
Now the last set of choices, what processor, of what speed, how much memory, what size and speed hard disk, dedicated versus integrated graphics. I’m not going to go into details on each of these; otherwise this article will become a booklet. But there is one thing I want to mention on this, which is true whether you’re choosing a computer, a new stereo system, a new car, etc.:
The different components must complement harmoniously for the overall system to function best. Like I’ve mentioned in another article, the computer is only going to be as fast as its slowest component. So don’t waste your money in the fastest processor available in the market if you’re putting it in a computer with a low access speed hard disk drive.
So when choosing a new computer, if it comes pre-configured, learn to recognize poor choices made by the vendor and avoid those, and if it is configurable, know how to configure all different components so there is a harmonious synergy that results in a powerful computer which increases efficiency and productivity.