Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Selecting the right computer for you

Computers constantly become obsolete. One day, you may find yourself working on a machine that is not up to your standards. Maybe you don't even own a computer at all. Choosing a computer that fits your needs and is affordable at the same time can be quite a head-scratcher. Here are some questions you need to ask yourself before making the final decision.

What will the computer be used for?
You will never find a computer that does everything extremely well without breaking your wallet. Identifying how the computer will be used can help you choose what features your computer will need. For example, a computer meant for word processing, basic internet browsing and e-mailing will not need all the extra bells-and-whistles that a media based computer would need. Aim to buy only what you will use, not what looks "nice" or sounds like it would be "cool".

What Operating system should I use?
For most people, Windows Vista or Windows XP will be the OS of choice. For low-budget buyers, a Linux distro may make the most sense. For people that like a more intuitive GUI and are new to computers, having Mac as your operating system would probably be the best for you.''

How future-proof is the computer?
As mentioned before, computers become outdated fast. Expect nothing to be top-of-the-line for more than a few months. If a computer just barely fits your needs now, how will it perform a year from now? What about two years? For myself, I choose systems that will last me for a few years (2-3 years). Most machines are upgradable and small upgrades over time can increase the longevity of your computer.

Is this a good price for what I am getting?
The rule of thumb in most situations is that systems $700 and under are worth the price. Once you start getting above $700 dollars ($850 if bundled with other stuff, such as a monitor), it may be cheaper to build the machine yourself (or pay someone else to build it). You also need to factor in the risk. You can make mistakes or wind up buying incompatible parts for your computer. Also, expect little to no support from companies when building your own machine. For the average user, anything around the $600 dollar area should be enough.

Make sure you shop around before you make your final decision. Computers cost a nice chunk of change and in most cases are non-returnable.


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