General Computers

How Do I Find the Right Desktop Computer for Me?

With the hundreds of choices in the computer market, how can I choose the right desktop computer for me? What options should I get in a new computer?

Like thousands of consumers, choosing the right computer can seem confusing. You don’t want to purchase a computer which will soon be obsolete, so how do you choose the right one?

1. Choosing the Brand

Computers are becoming a commodity item – most major manufacturers use the same parts and just offer them in different packaging at different price points. Choosing the right brand is like choosing the right midsize car, there are many choices and a lot of them are very similar. Dell and HP/Compaq are the two biggest computer manufacturers in the world, however, a large majority of that market share comes from business market. For the home user, your needs are different from corporate buyers. Other popular manufacturers include Gateway, Sony, eMachines, IBM, MicronPC, and of course, Apple. There is also the option of going to an independent computer store where they often build their own machines. How do I choose? There are many factors in choosing the right manufacturer – price point seems to be a consistent factor. Other things to consider: warranty length and type, reviews, word of mouth, using the models hands-on.

2. The Right Speed

Unless you plan on using your computer for video editing, 3d modeling, or computing large mathematical models, the slowest speed models today are fast enough for every day tasks. To get an extra 0.25 Gigahertz out of a machine for an extra $150 is probably not worth the investment. Look to use the extra money you save and increase the RAM in the computer, in the long run this will help your speed needs more than a slightly faster processor. As an IT professional, I tend to stay away from the Celeron line of processors. They are missing some cache and other features of the normal Pentium 4 processor line, though for home users, the Celeron is usually good enough. I do look at computers with processors other than Intel – AMD makes some fast cost effective processors which are very competitive to Intel in many ways.

3. Memory…

For my purposes, I don’t look for a computer with less than 512 MB of RAM, or the “memory” of the computer. The RAM is where applications run when you are working on the computer. The more memory your computer has, the more space for your applications to run in and the less they have to work by accessing the hard drive less often. For most home users, 256MB of RAM is sufficient.

4. Who ever has enough storage space?

Hard drive storage is where you store all of your applications and data files. Common computers today have a minimum of 40 GB of space – which is plenty for most users. If you plan on doing digital video editing or other tasks which take up a large amount of disk space – go for the 80 GB or 120 GB upgrade. The best option for video editing is a second hard drive you use separate from the main drive. I would recommend a 40 GB main drive and a 120 GB second drive if you want to do a lot of video editing.

5. The Warranty of a Lifetime

The larger manufacturers offer more choices in warranties than the small shops do. How long do you plan on keeping your computer? If you opt for a warranty beyond your typical one year warranty, check to see if it has on-site service or mail in support. If you have to mail your computer in a couple times, it could cost more than the repairs. If you have an on-site warranty, however, a technician will come to your house or business to repair your machine.

Tip: If you decide on buying a Dell, visit both their Home section and their Small Business section when pricing the machine. If you price the machine in both sections, you may notice a price difference in one section over the other. Order the machine from the cheaper section.