Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tablet PC & Computer Buying Guide: Save Time & Money

In the market for a new desktop, notebook, or tablet PC? It can certainly be quite overwhelming, daunting, and even scary when it is time to make the purchase. 

Buy the right computer for you, save time and money doing it, and keep it running at its optimal performance for the long run. That's where I'm going to help you.

Making the Purchase:
For the past four years, I have worked at a large electronics retailer (Best Buy) providing customers with all their electronics needs, but I specialized in the computer and tablet PC experience. I have been a computer geek since I was 12 years old, and I am currently a robotics engineer, but I never realized that so many people had trouble with buying a new computer. I had quickly come to learn that many people out there don't know the simple secrets to buying the right computer for them without overspending and wasting copious amounts of time conducting research. I hope you find my guide to be helpful, and I am certainly open to any questions or comments (there is an option to comment below).

"...I know nothing about computers, and I don't know what to buy! Help!"

Samsung Series 5 Wi-Fi 12.1-Inch Chromebook (Black)
Toshiba Satellite C655D-S5540 15.6 -Inch Laptop (Black)
Sony VAIO EL2 VPCEL22FX/B 15.5" Laptop (Black)
ASUS X54C-ES91 15.6-Inch Laptop (Black)
Lenovo G575 43834WU 15.6-Inch Laptop (Black Textured)

The truth is, you really don't need to know much about computers to buy the one that is right for you. There are really three major consumer groups when it comes to buying a computer:

  • Hardcore multimedia fanatics (serious gamers, video editors, graphic designers, music producers)
  • Businessmen/businesswomen & professionals
  • General purpose users (school, Facebook, email, surfing, blogging, etc.)
Most people fall in the latter category, and if you are still reading this blog, you are most likely one of them; if not, I will have a more advanced buying guide soon. Well, let's get to the reason you came here: 

With the way the economy has been going, computer manufacturers and their suppliers have rapidly been redeveloping their production strategies. A computer between $250 and $400 is highly likely to do everything you need it to, and it should last you about three to four years. However, it can certainly last longer, and I will teach you how.This goes for both laptops/notebooks and desktops; it applies to tablet PCs as well, but a detailed tablet buying guide will be coming soon. 

What to look for:
You don't need to waste time stressing about the gigabytes. The average non-tech-savvy person overly worries about the detailed specs of each computer they look at. Let's get real, there are hundred's of computers to choose from in the $250 - $400 price range, and you can't practically evaluate their individual specs and attempt to compare them. The fact is, most computers in this price range have the same (or highly similar) specifications. However, you should have a general understanding of what they are and how they affect the computer's performance and ultimately your experience.
  • PROCESSOR - this is the brain of the computer, and it's performance is measured in Hertz calculations or bits (1 or 0, on or off, etc.) per second. For example, an Intel Core i3 processor may be measured at 2.4 Gigahertz (or 2,400,000,000 calculations per second). Who cares about the details? To a certain extent, the faster the processor, the faster your programs are capable or running. However, if you are mainly using the internet, the processor speed has little impact on your web surfing, email, facebook, etc. 
    • "Do I need a dual core, a quad core..." 
      • Again, it doesn't matter for general purposes because when you stick to the same price range, the quad core will perform about the same as the dual core (i.e. dual core is two processing cores at 2.4 Ghz and quad core is four processing cores at 1.5 Ghz)
      • A quad core processor uses four individual cores (or sub-processors) to run all of your programs (Word, Photoshop, Firefox, Antivirus, printer driver, system files, etc.), and a dual core processor uses only two. However, the speed of the individual cores also impacts the overall performance, and some dual core processors out perform some quad core processors
      • "How do I choose?!" Well, you don't have to worry about making a big mistake. Just go with which one is on sale within the recommended price range ($250-$400), unless its not the one for you (size, weight, brand, etc.) If you're shopping online, just compare the processor speeds and check whether it is dual core or quad core. A quad core will be better with multitasking than a dual core, but make sure you don't compromise for overall speed!
    • "...what the heck is the difference?"
      • If you're looking at the physical computer, go to 'Start' (or windows button on the bottom left) -> 'Computer' -> 'System Properties' (2nd top left tab), and look at the speed (gigahertz)
      • To know whether it is dual core or quad core:
        • Intel Core i3 and i5 series and AMD A4 series are dual core processors
        • Intel Core i7 series and AMD A6 and A8 series are quad core
    • NOTE: the Intel i5 and i7 series processors allow WiDi (wireless display) in laptops only. You can duplicate or extend your laptop's display to your TV wirelessly. You will need to purchase an additional item (Netgear Push-2-TV for $100). 
    • "Turboboost... Really?"
      • Turboboost is just a means for the processor to work more intelligently and more efficiently. It speeds up your processor when you're running some heavy stuff, and it brings it back to idle when not much is going on (so it doesn't overheat).
  • RAM (RANDOM ACCESS MEMORY) - This is only temporary storage, and is often mistakenly confused with the hard drive storage space. The RAM stores everything that is running when your computer is on, and it is wiped clean every time the computer is rebooted. The more RAM you have the more program that can be run simultaneously without slowdowns, freezes, and other ill-effects. RAM can be upgraded easily and inexpensively, so you don't need to stress over the gigabytes. Keep in mind that the RAM also has to store data from programs running in the background (i.e. system files, printer spooler, antivirus, antispyware, registry tools, etc.)
    • "So... I want to most possible right?"
      • Well... not really. It doesn't negatively impact the performance, but it's only going to hurt your wallet.
      • 4GB (gigabytes) is more than enough for the average user, and it can usually be upgraded later on. To check whether your computer can be upgraded, go here:
      • Make sure its DDR3 (which it will be if it is today's technology). The only way to check is to delve into the specs, but if you're in the $250-$400 price range, it will be.
  • HARD DISK DRIVE (HDD) - this is the permanent store for your computer. This is where all of your documents, pictures, music, movies, programs, and everything else is stored. The only things that are not stored on your hard drive are things that are on the internet. Your facebook page, twitter account, netflix movies, email (unless using Microsoft Outlook), Pandora music, etc. are not stored locally on your computer, but are accessible from any computing device with the internet.
    • "Do I need a big hard drive?"
      • No. It's simple. The hard drive does not impact the speed of your computer. Hard drives in computers today are so large, they have more storage than you'll need for a long time to come (most likely the entire life of the computer).
      • You can always get an external one. An external hard drive can be used for additional space or for automatic/manual back up, and I highly recommend one for automatic back up. Most external hard drives around $80+ have built-in automatic backup software that is automatically making a copy of your music, documents, movies, pictures, etc. when it is hooked up to your computer.
      • High definition (HD) videos take up the most space out of any category and documents (or text/numerical data files) take up the least amount of space (relatively nothing).
      • 500GB will store approximately 100,000 songs or good quality photos, and about 160 hours of HD video.
A brand new computer in the $250 - $400 price range should come standard with the following (and make sure it does):
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (you don't need anything else unless you're a business, need other language packs, or need to run specialized software that is designed solely for Windows XP) - This is the operating system of the computer, and without it, the computer is nothing. 
  • Wireless Fidelity (WiFi) (laptops only, some desktops come with it as well) - this provides your wireless internet connection that allows your laptop to pick up on different wireless networks (i.e. at home, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble). 
  • Optical drive (CD/DVD burner/drive) - play, rip, burn CDs and DVDs (most of the ultra thin and extra portable laptops and netbooks don't come with it, but almost everything is downloadable these days). You can always get an external USB optical drive.
  • Webcam (laptops only) - this is a little camera at the top of the laptop screen, and it should also have a built in microphone. It can be used for online video chatting (i.e. Skype)
  • Microsoft Office Starter - this is the basic version of MS Office that provides you with only Word and Excel for word processing and spreadsheets. It is not a trial, but it does have advertisements, and there is no PowerPoint or Outlook.
The battery life of a laptop can vary anywhere from 3.5 hours to 10 hours. If you think about it, can you plug your laptop in anywhere you go? Today, laptops have lithium ion batteries which are great batteries. You do not have to cycle your laptop battery (meaning to fully charge and discharge). Keeping your laptop plugged in is the best way to save your battery. When the laptop is plugged in, power is diverted directly to the laptop, and the battery stays charged. If you take out the battery when the laptop is plugged in, the laptop will stay on.

"What brand do I buy?"
Of course everyone has there own opinion. That is why I list the following brands below based on statistics. Consumer reports rates these brands the highest for durability as well as performance. Hewlett-Packard is going out of business in the hardware industry, and is going to be producing software only soon. HP has been suffering due to warranty claims and losses in sales, even though they were the #1 computer manufacturer in the world. Acer and Gateway are now the same company (like HP and Compaq), and these brands are not what they were 5 years ago. However, the following brands are doing phenomenal in sales because they provide solid, good quality, and well performing products.

You always want to make sure that you have a good antivirus program installed on your computer first. Most fee antivirus programs do not stop viruses from attacking your computer; they simple make you aware of when your computer has been infected. Also, the big name brands (Norton, McAffee, etc.) are not the most efficient or effective; they slow your system down significantly, annoy you with strange questions, and don't stop all virus, trojans, worms, spyware, adware etc. I recommend Emergency Response.

Registry Cleaner:
A good registry cleaner/optimizer will keep your computer running fast and without glitches. It will scan your computer automatically on a daily basis and keep your computer optimized for as long as you keep up with it. Whenever a program is installed on your computer, it goes into your Window's registry. Your registry keeps track of what programs are what, do what, when they expire, are they free trial versions, etc. among other things. A good registry cleaner is crucial to the performance of your computer. I recommend RegDefense

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1 comment:

  1. Online computer store is the best place to buy any kind of computer very easily with saving time and money. I think, we can easily buy the best computer with standard brand from purchasing at online.

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