Quick and easy desktop buying guide

22 Feb 2010 by BradB, No Comments »

We decided its time to make a post on a question I am asked every day:

“What kind of computer should I get, how much should I pay?”

I’m going to answer this assuming a couple things – You, the reader, are asking this question from an average computer user standpoint. You mainly type a document here and there, check your email and surf web pages. In other words, “the basics”. With that in mind, the following recommendations are my personal views and may not reflect other techs views or Computer Doctors. As always if you have questions on any of these suggestions call us!

First off, most computers only last around 5 to 6 years before major problems occur. This generally applies whether you spend $2000.00 on a computer or $500.00 (usually regardless of brand). Next, most computer makers do not manufacture the parts inside Desktops (with laptops and netbooks this isn’t always the case). What that means to you is the brand you had a bad experience with in the past most likely had nothing to do with the brand at all, so don’t be afraid to try another Dell, HP, Gateway etc. I will admit there are many features that will cause one brand to stand out over the other, in this case though we are looking at a price point and consumer standpoint where those features matter very little or not at all.

Now on to the advice!

For the average user I don’t recommend paying over $500.00 or $600.00 out the door. This price is of course for the actual computer tower only. That doesn’t include monitor or printer (or any other accessory). Most of my usual customers already have a monitor and printer that will work fine with a replacement computer tower. If you are unsure, call your Computer Doctors technician or your local computer salesman. Overall, the way I try to look at it is: about $100.00 or so a year in worth for your tower. Then upgrade when it gets too old or the repair cost eclipse the worth of the computer itself.

The minimum specifications for the $500.00-ish price range:

  • 2GB (gigabytes) of RAM (memory)
  • No Celeron or Sempron Processor (CPU)
  • CD/DVD burner

Short and sweet isn’t it? If you don’t care about the reasons or specifics then you don’t need to read on.  Write these specs down and go pick out a good cheap computer that will last a while and be fast enough for the basic tasks you do on your PC.

These specs will keep you in the price range you need for average computing. 2GB of RAM is the minimum (in my opinion) for Windows 7 to carry out basic functions quickly and easily. More is always better, but consider you may be buying more then you need after 2 or 3 GB.

The CPU is the brain of the computer and the one component that can be upgraded but almost never is. This is one area where buying value or low cost parts is unacceptable. Celeron is Intel’s older value product and Sempron is AMD’s version of the same. The money you save with these CPUs is disproportionate the amount of speed you lose. Just try to avoid them even if it’s the difference of $50.00 to $100.00 (you will thank me later).

Having a CD/DVD burner is still a good idea. It’s rare that this feature isn’t included at any price point these days. It never hurts to double check though. These drives can always come in handy.

Any other specs will have little or no bearing for the average basic user. One exception may be the hard drive. This is where all of your files are stored. The reason I didn’t include it in the bullet point list is most users don’t use even a small fraction of what was available on their old computers. New hard drive sizes are amazingly large, even on low cost systems. If you do a lot with music or photos (a lot of photos in my mind is 100’s) then you may want to look for 500GB hard drive or more.

That sums up my guide. There are always tons of questions and after thoughts, so I may update or add to this article in the near future.

As always, call with any questions that you may have. Also, if you need some help setting up your new computer and transferring your files we are always here to help!

Hope this helps you out – Happy hunting!

Brad Button

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