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How to choose a new computer


"I want a new computer, but I need help with which one to choose..."
How many times have Isle of  Wight PCs been asked that question?

So here is a short list of things to think about when choosing your new computer.

Budget :

Probably the most important aspect to most people, but do remember that you get what you pay for - the cheapest computer usually has a lower specification, slower components and underpowered power supply. Fine if you are using it for undemanding tasks, but it may limit what you can do with it later. Consider the cheapest computers disposable...
New computers are now so reasonably priced, that it is hardly worth buying older second hand models - in fact you may end up paying out to have them upgraded when you find it can't do what you want it to do. Mind you, if somebody gives you an old machine as a gift that's a different matter...

Expected Use :

The next most important thing to consider. Easy if you already have a PC, but perhaps not obvious to the complete beginner.
If you only intend to use the computer for undemanding tasks such as an office PC (writing letters, spreadsheets, e-mail and Internet) then you only have to consider budget - any new computer will do all of this and more.
If you will be using the computer for graphical or resource hungry programmes (play the latest games, edit video etc) you will need to bear several other things in mind - faster processor, more RAM, larger hard drive, better graphics card and perhaps a larger or higher quality monitor.
Also think about a notebook computer. These are a little more expensive and cannot usually be upgraded very easily, but offer a very compact and portable solution - may be worth it to eliminate that pile of technology and wires sitting in the corner of the room!

Manufacturer and Supplier :

Well known names such as have a reputation to keep, and will often use better quality components. Pricewise, the gap has got smaller recently and you can now pick up a named brand for the same price (or less) than an unnamed box from a small retailer. Also consider after sales service - how long is the warranty, do they call, collect or do you have to return it should something go wrong?

Display / Screen :

Often overlooked when purchasing a computer, but the screen is the most used part of the PC! Buy a poor quality screen and you may find you get problems like flickering. Too small a screen can be frustrating - think about what you are going to use it for, and for how long in a single session. Go for the largest you can afford or have space for. A larger monitor may be needed to display or edit large or multiple documents.

Software :

Falls into two categories - the operating system and applications.
The most common operating system at the moment is Microsoft Windows and the vast majority will want to go with this.

Applications - PC systems are often supplied with 'bundled' software, which should only be considered as a bonus if you would have actually gone out and bought it. A good example is Microsoft Office Starter Edition - OK for casual home or small business use, but if you are expecting to use it for serious office use in a working environment, you may soon find it doesn't do everything you want. You may then end up paying a few hundred pounds extra for the full package. There are also free alternatives to much of the software that you may need, such as the excellent MS Office compatible OpenOffice.org (we use it all the time here).

Multimedia:

Two optical drives are useful if you copy many discs.
Computers have an 'onboard' sound card, which means it is built into the main computer circuit board. This is more than adequate for general use and many even feature surround sound now. Speakers come in all shapes and sizes - again you get what you pay for - an office PC doesn't really need anything special, but if you want to watch DVDs or play games, surround sound speakers, sub-woofers and the like will enhance your experience.

Printer :

It is difficult to imagine running a computer without a printer of some kind. The main types are colour inkjets (cheap to buy but can be expensive to run) and monochrome lasers (cheaper to run but more expensive to buy). Colour lasers cost a bit more both for initial purchase and in running costs. It really depends on how much printing you anticipate doing (you will do more than you think, especially if young children are involved!). Lasers are generally quicker and produce better quality documents. For general purpose, low output home or small business use, a mid-range colour inkjet is probably the way to go, but check the price of replacement cartridges before you buy, as some cost nearly as much as the printer itself!

General :

If you don't understand all the jargon and numbers thrown at you, just remember that usually the higher the number, the better! This is not always true of processor  (CPU), but is a good guide if you are not sure. See my jargon buster for any terms you do not understand.

These are just a few of the major points to consider - hope it helped.
If you are based on the Isle of Wight and need more information, call Chris for a chat on 0789 150 9466 or email chris@iwpcs.co.uk