Nov 19, 2008

Buying a computer

Has your computer kicked the bucket? Recently my laptop died. My baby, her name was Alice. While talking with some friends about this blog I was challenged to save money while getting a new computer. Here are the results of my search. Hope it helps you.

If you know a bit about computers, please skip this section. If not, here’s a little analogy that should explain the basic bits and pieces. Think of you computer as a machine (a robot version of you) that needs to perform a job.

The job in this case is to empty a full tub of water from your bathtub into the street nearest to your house. Yes, I know this is an odd task but bear with me, OK. You have a bucket. That bucket is RAM. The bigger the bucket, or more RAM you have, the faster the process should go i.e. you can carry more water (instructions or computer commands), with each pass from the bathroom, through the house, out the door, and to the street. It seems simple that you’ll want a lot of RAM, but there are other things to think about. By the way, RAM is usually measured in mega- or giga-bytes.

When performing the water task, you have to think about how fast you can actually move (processor speed). The faster the processor, the less time the task will take. That statement comes with a caveat. Too much can be overkill. You don’t need a Formula 1 car to drive from your door to the street. If you’re surfing the Internet, sending email, and using basic Office type applications; a basic processor is more than fast enough. Most important for accessing the Internet is your connection to your ISP (more on that in another post). Without going too deep, you may have to consider BUS speed, which is the ability for you to move in an obstacle free path through the house.

The last real piece to this puzzle, aside from peripherals i.e. monitors, keyboard, mice, etc; is the size of the harddrive. This is also measure in mega- or giga-bytes. The harddrive stores instructions (programs) that allow you to perform different tasks and acts as storage for you files e.g. pictures, spreadsheets, video, etc. Up until recently, I would have advised you to get the biggest harddrive you can afford, but cloud computing has changed all of that. You can view a previous post on that here.

Buying a computer on the cheap
I’m not going to get into Mac vs. PC, or even Linux. You have to make that choice. We already have more than enough choices to consider. If you need a basic machine for surfing the Internet, sending email, and using basic Office type applications, you have a myriad of choices. You could buy a new basic machine or a refurbished/used machine.

If you’re thinking of going down the refurbished/used path, you must remember to buy from a reputable seller. Tiger Direct has a basic Dell desktop for $199.00 or get a Dell laptop from USA notebooks for $299.00. In both cases, I’d elect to get a little more RAM. Spring for the extra $20. I have purchased refurbs before. In general the desktops haven’t been a problem, but I’ve had major battery issues from refurb laptops, often resulting in the purchase of an expensive new battery.

If you elect for a new basic machine, you have some frugal options as well. Unfortunately, the dream or a $100 laptop is just that, a dream. You can, however get decent basic laptop from J&R for $419.99. This machine doesn’t have a CD-ROM drive, but it does have a wireless card so you should be able to install applications and move files via the Internet. If you need a little more try this Gateway computer for $699.97, complete with a CD/DVD-R drive.

If you need more power than the basic options I’ve listed here, then start googling, you may be able to find a deal I missed.

Good luck and may the force protect your logic board. Sphere: Related Content

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