The things to look at when buying a new computer include Operating Systems, Processors/CPU, Memory/RAM, Storage, Ports, and more.
Look at Desktop vs Laptop
When buying a new computer the first thing to decide is whether or not a desktop or laptop is desired.
Do you expect to carry your computer with you? If you do, then a laptop is better. If the user does not need portability, then a desktop can be a great choice.
Desktop computers provide more customization options. It is easier to build and replace parts in a desktop computer such as internal storage and memory boards.
Certain laptops can be customized, but it’s often not easy.
A desktop can be configured with better cooling power when compared to a laptop. A desktop can use liquid cooling and more fans. This means desktops are generally better for things that stress computer components for an extended period of time, like gaming.
Laptops in this modern age can also pack a lot of power into such a small device. There are external cooling options such as cooling pads if required.
Desktops are usually larger and weigh a lot more than laptops. There are some smaller ones available, but not many.
Laptops and desktops can be connected to the same externals devices. This allows users to use any monitor, mouse, and keyboard.
Look at Operating Systems
The biggest decision when buying a new computer, is which operating system to use. The three main operating systems are Mac OS, Windows OS, and Chrome OS.
Mac OS is made by Apple and only found on Macintosh computers.
Windows is made by Microsoft. There are many manufacturers using the Windows OS. These computers are generally known as PCs.
Chrome OS made by Google and can run on any hardware designated as a Chromebook.
Macintosh computers are usually not recommended for gaming in part because only the high end models have discrete graphics cards.
Apple provides excellent applications for graphic design, video and music production for example. These applications are free and come preloaded on all Macintosh computers.
Generally, more secure, less Malware created for them. This is in part due to the much higher number of Windows computers in the world. It is becoming less of a factor as time goes on.
Macs are considered more user friendly, but much of that will depend on the users’ prior experience.
Most gaming computers run on Windows OS.
There are many applications written for the Windows OS. These apps are less integrated and the user needs to know what they want. There are less applications that are provided with the operating system. Most require separate purchase.
Generally less secure, there is more malware created for Windows. This is also partly because the operating system and hardware are accessible to anyone building PC hardware and applications, and the quality of those pieces depends on the developers.
Generally considered less user friendly, this has changed over time.
Great for school use, children, and website users.
Chrome OS is a browser-based OS that has apps with all sorts of purposes. The drawback is it is locked to ONLY apps on the google play store.
Very secure because Google controls the updating of the OS, the apps that can be downloaded, and the entire environment. In addition, software is not downloaded in the same way as with Windows and Macs, and so most viruses won’t run in this environment.
Choosing Hardware and Components when buying a new computer
There are many hardware options to consider when buying a new computer.
Windows computers are made by Microsoft as well as other companies, such as Lenovo, Dell, HP, ASUS, Acer. Quality control is handled by each company separately. Customization is very common.
Macintoshes are only made by Apple. Customization is limited, but quality is very consistent.
Chromebooks are made by Google and other computer manufacturers. There is little to no customization.
Touch screen is available on some PCs and Chromebooks, but not on Macs..
Chromebooks are generally cheaper than PCs and Macs.
With so many manufacturers, it is easier to find inexpensive Chromebooks and PCs, but when comparing equivalent computers, PCs and Macs have a similar cost.
Speed and power are important when it comes to computing.
Processors/CPUs, Graphics Processors/GPUs, and RAM are the main determining factors when it comes to speed and power.
CPUs – Central Processing Units
The CPU is the main processing in the computer. When buying a new computer, it is recommended that people purchase the fastest CPU that they can afford. When people complain that the computer is slowing down after 5 or more years, it is often that the CPU is just not able to keep up with modern applications.
Older Apple models utilized Intel CPUs but now all Macs have Apple’s M1 Chip. The M2 chip is due in the near future. These chip compare well to high end chips used in PCs.
Windows and Chromebooks utilize mainly Intel and AMD Processors.
Generally, for Intel an i3 would be the slowest intel processor, and i5 the mid tier, and i7 the high tier, and i9 the top tier. These also have speed differences within their own subsection of 3 core, 5 core, 7 core, and 9 core CPUS. It also varies based on Generation. Without technical knowledge about clock speeds and cores, identification lies within the numbers the product has listed.
The same ideology applies with AMD Ryzen CPUs. Categorized with the same numbers of 3, 5, 7, and 9.
Here is a list of CPU Benchmarks from Toms Hardware.
Simplified 3 and 5 are generally cheaper but slower. 7 and 9 are faster but more expensive.
GPUs – Graphics
Graphics can be built into the CPU or there can be a separate component – a discrete graphics card – that handles graphics. These are useful for gaming, high speed rendering, crypto mining and other intensive tasks.
Lower cost Macs come with integrated graphics instead of a discrete graphics card, but high end models often have them.
Windows computers designed for gaming will typically have discrete Graphics Processors/GPUs.
These are dedicated pieces of hardware used for whatever purpose it is given, as opposed to integrating graphics into the CPU.
Computers with GPUs are typically more expensive than computers without.
Chromebooks do not have GPUs and aren’t meant for gaming or graphical processing.
RAM – Random Access Memory
RAM stores short term data that allows a computer to function.
The more RAM a computer has, the more it can process demanding programs. It can also do more different tasks at the same time.
8 GB is a standard amount of RAM, but somewhat low for today’s standards.
16 GB is a very good middle ground.
32GB or more removes any worry about capping out on it unless the user is doing a lot of stuff. It also gives room for future growth
How much Storage and of which type does your new computer need?
With Cloud based storage growing more and more popular, massive physical storage may not be necessary.
Chromebooks are intend to rely mainly on cloud storage, and do not have a lot of internal storage.
Desktop PCs have the most flexibility and some can hold several storage devices.
When purchasing and Windows PC or a Mac, 256GB is the minimum that should be purchased.
512GB to 1TB is ideal for a laptop, and if you are a gamer or creating digital content 1TB or more is recommended. Any computer can utilize external storage as well.
These are the holes along the sides of your computer. They are used to plug in everything from external storage to wired keyboards, and the charging cable.
While ports are crucial, every computer can also utilize adapters to add to the built in ports.
Newer laptops utilize USB-C, but many have slots for USB A, HDMI, and Ethernet. This varies widely and should be looked at closely and compared to your own needs.
Desktops generally have a wide variety of ports.
Where to Buy your new computer?
Some trusted retailers are Best Buy, Amazon, Newegg, and if you are local to Boston, Microcenter in Cambridge MA.
Apple stores are a good option for Macs. Manufacturer websites are also an option. Check prices on a variety of sites. It is difficult to be sure you are comparing the exact same thing, so take your time.
Companies such as CyberpowerPC and iBuyPower can build desktops with custom parts to your specifications. They also sell custom prebuilt machines.
There are many options for purchasing once you have decided what you are looking for.
Look at Warranty and Support
Most computers come with some form of manufacturer’s warranty. Each will be specific to the company.
Most retailers will offer insurance in addition to the manufacturer’s for a few hundred extra dollars depending on length of coverage. We do not recommend this, but each person should evaluate their own needs.
If you would like help with this process, just call or email and we’ll be happy to assist you! If you have specific questions, or if our terminology isn’t clear, please use our contact form to send us a message. Thank you!