Guide: Buying a New Computer
Thinking of buying a new computer and what to get what you need without paying for what you don't? Then this guide is for you.
Originally Published: 25th of February, 2014
Last Updated:25th of February, 2014
Summary and Quick Tips.
You have so many options these days when going to buy a new computer, the important thing is to find something that suits your needs and budget. Good news is if you are a basic users even cheaper laptops should suit your basic email and internet browsing needs. We’re big believers in spending less and upgrading your computer regularly as we find this provides users with the best value.
Here are some quick tips to help you find the computer that is right for you:
- Don’t stress too much about the technicalities and specs. As long as it has enough storage and is several years newer than your previous laptop, chances are it’s much more powerful.
- Find a device you like and you will use – It’s important to find something that works for you and you enjoy using.
- Make sure it can run the programs you need it to. There are many options out there and most can only run certain software.
- Don’t overspend, computers get faster and more efficient every year, a cheap new computer will generally outperform a high performance 5-year old computer.
Decide what you need.
There are so many options out there, tablets, desktops, ultrabooks, laptops, Apple, Microsoft, Google and more. The important thing is not to get lost in the options and find something that suits your needs and budget. Some of the questions you should be asking yourself are:
- Do I need this for work, play or both?
- Do I want the cheapest option, a good balance of price to performance or am I willing to pay a bit extra for high performance?
- Do I have any specific requirements such as a need to run certain software?
The majority of people buying computers fit into these categories.
- Basic User – Email, Music, Internet and not much more.
- Moderate User – All of the above, creation of documents, mild picture editing and a few other more creative uses.
- Advanced User – Video editing, AutoCAD, Gaming or other high intensity processing.
Most of those reading this guide will be either basic or moderate users, which is great as these tasks require less computing power and even the cheapest computers can handle them with relative ease. So don’t get too worried about performance options.
Consider your options.
Here are the major choices you will face.
Do you want a tablet, laptop or desktop?
They each have their strong points as listed below.
- Tablet – generally affordable, very portable with great battery life, good for basic users who only want to use their device for a limited amount of activities (email, internet).
- Laptop – Familiar and effective, still a must have for most, these cost more than tablets but are also much more powerful and can run a greater amount of software on them.
- Desktop – If you don’t need to move your computer around, a desktop will provide the best price and performance. It’s also easier to upgrade and they tend to last well.
Keep in mind, generally the smaller a device is, the less performance you’ll get (or the more you’ll have to pay). For example a $1000 desktop will be much more powerful than a $1000 laptop because you’re not paying for portability.
What operating system do you want to use?
The operating system is the main bit of software that runs on your device. If you’re a PC user this would be known as Windows. If you’re a Mac user it’s known as OSX or in the case of iPads iOS. Some operating systems are only sold with certain devices, for example to use OSX you need to buy a Mac and if you buy an android tablet you won’t be able to put windows onto it.
Windows 7 & 8 – Common, compatible with most work programs and familiar to most computer users.
Windows RT – A very confusing name, Windows RT looks just like Windows 8 only it’s designed to run on tablets such as Surface & Surface RT (The Surface Pros run full windows 8).Windows RT runs Microsoft Office and will suit many users’ needs but you must be aware it will not run many of the other applications available on Windows 7 or Windows 8.
- OSX (Mac) – Friendly, easy to use, stable and well designed. However it will cost you more overall as you’ll need to buy a Mac laptop or desktop which are a bit pricy compared to their equivalents.
- Android – This is most common on phones and small tablets. It’s very affordable and very flexible but may be confusing to some users who are unfamiliar with it. It has lots of apps and is very customisable.
- Chrome OS – This one is a bit newer than the rest; it’s designed to be simple, easy to use and very affordable, however there are some limits to its use. You have to buy a certain laptop to get this.
If you’re already familiar with a type of operating system (e.g. Windows, OSX), we generally recommend sticking to what you know, unless you’re willing to devote time and energy into learning a different system. It is important to note that software found on one operating system may not be available on others.
Set a Budget.
Here’s our recommendations and why.
Basic Users - $300 to $700.
If you’re upgrading from a computer a couple of years old and you only ever used it for basic email and internet, then you’ll find even the cheaper options will be faster than what you are used to. Newer operating systems and hardware get more efficient and affordable each year, so even a low budget computer will suit your basic computer needs.
Moderate Users - $700 to $1300
If you do require some power we recommend you don’t go too cheap. While cheaper computers are suitable for most, you may find yourself wanting more power when it comes to heavy multi-tasking, photo editing and any other computer tasks outside of the usual email and internet. If you plan on using your device for business, spending a bit more means the device may last longer before needing to be replaced.
Advanced Users - $1300 to $2500
If you require power and high performance you’re obviously going to need to spend more. Tasks such as AutoCAD, Video editing and Gaming require higher performance parts. We generally don’t recommend you spend more than two thousand as most computers have a lifespan of between 3-5 years and it’s better to spend less now and upgrade sooner.
Below is the basic breakdown of the jargon you may hear when looking for new computers.
- CPU (Central Processing Unit) - The 'brain' of the computer, the faster this is, the faster your computer will process information.
- CPU Cores – This refers to how many indervidual processing cores a CPU has, generally speaking, the more it has the faster it will be able to process information.
- HDD (Hard Drive) - The place where files are stored, the larger this device the more you can store. For those only storing emails and documents you will only need a small amount of space, for those storing videos and pictures you may need more.
- SSD (Solid State Drive) - This performs the same function as a hard drive, only it's a newer technology and works much better, but is also more expensive. There are very large performance gains in a computer with a SSD.
- RAM (Random Access Memory) - This is your computers short term memory. These days almost all devices will have more than enough for your needs. If you plan to do picture and video editing you may wish to get more.
- Graphics Card - Sometimes called the GPU (though technically speaking the GPU is a component of a graphics card), This component handles visual processing such as graphics in a game or video editing.
- Dedicated/Integrated graphics – these are very general terms but usually “Dedicated graphics” refers to higher performance graphic processing compared to the “Integrated” option.
- Gigabytes – This is a storage unit for data, it is made of 1024 megabytes. To give you an idea of how large a gigabyte it, it’s about the size of an average quality digital move, about 200 music files or about thousand or more text documents.
Final words of advice.
We recommend you buy from a store where you can physically see and test the computer and where you are able to ask questions and get advice. While some PC stores may be cheaper, they may provide limited assistance which means you risk buying something not suited to your needs or spending more than you would have had to, given the correct advice.
Please use your own judgment when making a decision on what device to purchase, everyone is different and the above information is designed to provide limited guidance on what may be best suited to your needs. It is also important to note that IT is a rapidly changing field and it is possible some of the information may be out of date when you read it.