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Purchasing a New Computer?

At this time of the year, many computers are on sale and people may consider upgrading their computer or purchasing a computer for their child. So many options are available and many times people do not know what is best to purchase. Instead of purchasing a machine that will last several years, many people choose the cheapest machine and then end up purchasing another machine a year or two later. Here are a few of the things we consider when deciding what machine to recommend to a client.

1. Budget
When considering the computer you would like to purchase the first thing to keep in mind is your budget. Following that line of thought, remember the computers which have lower prices are likely made with cheaper parts which shortens the lifespan of the computer. A typical range for a laptop with decent components is $650-$1000. If you are considering an office suite than you will spend about an additional $150.

2. Processor
The next big component to consider is the processor. The processor is the part that does all of the major computing for the computer. It is important that this runs at a decent speed to ensure your computer runs at a speed you would like it to. In order to check processor speed we use a website called We enter in the name and type of processor and then it provides a benchmark number used to compare how fast that processor works compared to other processors. An average computer we like to see starts around 3000 and typical “performance” computer processors run around 7000 to 10000, not quite the top of the range, but close. Many processors are soldered directly to the mainboard so they are not upgradable, therefore it is important that when you are choosing a processor for a laptop, choose the fastest one that will fit your budget.

3. Operating system
Some people have a particular operating system that they prefer to use. Are you a Mac person? The Mac vs. PC ads were everywhere for a while. Needs are either based on what software a company runs and the compatibility of that software between operating systems, or your personal preference. The Windows operating systems available include Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10. Any individual who has a valid Windows 7 or 8 license can upgrade to Windows 10 for free until July 29, 2016. New versions of OSX for Mac are also free upgrades if your equipment is compatible.

4. RAM/Memory
8 GB is typical from many manufacturers now and minimums keep rising.
16GB will last longer and many systems can be upgraded later.

5. Hard drives, size or solid state
When you consider the size of hard drive to purchase, you first need to know how much space you are currently using.To find this information on Windows PCs open My computer. Right click on the C: drive and choose Properties. A graph will be displayed which shows you the size of your current hard drive and how much space you are using. If you plan to move your files, music, and pictures to your new computer then we suggest you look at these numbers and consider purchasing a hard drive with at least 1.5 to 2 times what you currently are using so you have room to grow. There are plenty of people who choose 5 to 10 times as much space too, it’s up to you to consider how quickly you might fill the space.

Another option to consider is upgrading to a solid state drive (SSD). This will boost the speed of your computer 2-4 times what a regular hard drive does since there are no mechanical moving parts in a SSD. This might be an upgrade you can choose on a new computer or you could have one installed anytime after purchase by a technician at Tech Lab. The price of a SSD drive can be 5 times that of a standard hard drive though, so space comes at a premium.

We have had a few clients try using new hybrid drives which are a combination of a regular hard drive and an SSD to get a decent mix of both size and speed, but they still don’t have that “near instant response” feel that a good SSD can deliver.

6. Twist test
Another feature we like, especially when you purchase a laptop computer off the shelf at a big name store, is the twist test. If you can twist the edges of the computer with ease, then the materials may be too flexible and an indication the device will not last long. The circuit boards might be more likely to become dislodged and break internally, compared to more rugged designs. Many laptops do have a minimum amount of flex though, they will flex a little bit and should. DISCLAIMER: Please do not try this on un-purchased equipment you do not already own. Attempt this test at your own risk, you may find for some models it is quite easy to damage the machine. Many manufacturers have their own test results and will provide you with information on the durability of specific models if you simply ask them about it.

7. Additional features requested- touchscreen, CD drive, screen size, weight
The final thing we consider when recommending a computer for someone is any additional features they are looking for. Some people want a touchscreen while others do not prefer this feature. However, more and more companies are focusing on touch centric software. We highly recommend purchasing a computer with touch capability especially to keep your computer more “future/forward compatible”.

CD drives are not always a common feature anymore and not everyone wants or needs one. However this can be solved with an inexpensive USB external CD drive. Other features to consider would be screen size, weight, webcam, and bluetooth capability for all your other connected devices.

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