Buying a Computer

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Buying a PC

If you decide that you need to buy a PC or replace an old one (rather than a tablet (see help39.htm) or smartphone) there are a number of things to look out for and much depends on what you intend to use it for. This page may help you decide

Although Apple, at around 7%, has made inroads into the Microsoft/Windows area, the vast majority of personal and business computers in the world are still based on Windows of one version or another.  Because of Microsoft’s insistence that Windows 10 is the mainstay of their future it may even get difficult to buy equipment with the previous version (Windows 7) installed, though they can still be found, especially amongst the refurbished purchases.

The peak of PC sales was around 2011 at 350 million.  This has fallen back but sales in 2015 still amounted to over 200 million, with desktop sales at 63 million being substantially lower than 152 million laptops and both are overshadowed by 256 million tablets of one kind or another.

One major division is between laptop and desktop hardware. Obviously, if portability is a major concern, you will have to get a laptop (or tablet) of some kind.

After that, price may be the major consideration. 

LAPTOPS

It is possible to buy a basic laptop that will function perfectly well, for under £200.  People have preferences for particular manufacturers.  The market has narrowed considerably as some have found the business unprofitable. Names such as Compaq, IBM, Packard Bell and NEC hardly ever heard. The main makers left in the field are Dell, Lenovo, HP, Acer, and Asus.

There are a number of other considerations to be taken into account.  If portability is a major concern then screen size is a factor. They may vary from around 9” to 21” and more. Weight may also be a factor. Obviously the slimmer and smaller the lighter. But one should also consider battery life. Thin, high capacity batteries are expensive.  One should study the claimed battery life.  Most cheap laptops will claim up to 3 hours but they usually need a recharge after a couple.  Some are now claiming as much as 9 hours. Another factor is whether it uses a touch screen. Most people are happy to use a mouse or the small pad and buttons that almost every laptop has. Other advantages of laptops are that they almost inevitably have a camera and are wireless.

So, what other aspects involve price. Apart from the quality of the battery one must consider the size (and nature) of the hard disk.  A minimum these days is 500 gigabyte but with twice that size (a terabyte) being quite common. Lately the cost of solid state memory has come down, so despite the fact that ‘hard disks’ are often smaller than the traditional spinning disk, they are considerably faster and much less sensitive to hard the knocks that laptops might get.

All but the smallest, lightest laptops have a built in CD/DVD writer/player.

A number of manufacturers now produce a Chromebook, where the operating system is Google’s Chrome rather than Windows. They are likely to use smaller Solid State (SDD) drives and so can be sold for as little as £180. Without a large hard disk one must be happy to rely on your connection to the internet for storage and for synchronising to other equipment you may have e.g  it might look as if your photographs are on your Chromebook but, in fact they are on another computer or a storage facility such as Google Drive, iCloud or other ’Cloud’-based facility.

Lastly I should mention the graphics.  Most laptops will satisfactory play basic games but the latest games make big demands upon the speed of graphics and need quality graphics hardware and dedicated memory. Along with a fast processor (such as the Inter i7) and plenty of on-board storage laptop prices can rise to as much as £1800 or more.
Many laptops (and tablets) are used in connection with modern TVs, connected either wirelessly or by using an HDMI cable. 

Desktop computers are out of fashion for home and student use but are still favourite in many businesses or for people who tend to use a home office, where portability is not so important.

Most of the descriptions of laptops with regard to capacity and graphics can be applied to the desktop. A desktop may have the internal space to enable ‘techy’ people to change things such as the hard disk, graphics card or memory. Whilst many desktop computers are not wireless, some are and, in any case, it is not difficult to add wireless capacity by a cheap attachment to a USB socket. This has become more important as hardware such as wireless printers have become the norm.
Once again, prices can be upwards from £200, to over £3000 for the fastest highest graphics specification machines. A compromise between the laptop and desktop is the all-in-one PC where the processing hardware is contained within the screen – e.g. 19" Lenovo 20 at PCWorld (Dec 16) for under £200 complete with camera, wireless and build in CD/DVD.

Bargains galore

If one is looking for a bargain you will find many refurbished machines on line for under £100 complete with keyboard, mouse and LCD monitor.
Reasonable quality refurbished laptops with Windows 7 Pro and a fast Intel i5 processor can be found for under £150.  

For information of Tablets see Help39.htm
 

 

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