What Computer Should I Buy?

Anyone that works in any aspect of the computer industry has heard this question approximately 4,080 times? So, here’s a quick buyer’s guide for what you should be looking for.

First question: Should I buy a Mac or PC

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. If you know for sure you want a Mac or you want a PC, you can easily skip this question because I’m likely no changing your mind.

The first question I’d ask is what are you going to be doing. If you are a fairly “low end” computer user (i.e. – you just use internet and email), you can get either and just be fine. In fact, I’d advise you to get a cheaper computer. Sometimes, you would even be a perfect candidate for a factory refurbished model. It might be a year old, but it comes with a warranty and you are going to save some major bucks. I’d recommend skipping the eBay or Craigslist route, though.

Advantages for Mac
-Less susceptible to getting viruses
-Simple programs if you are into photo/video
-High end video or graphics

Advantages for PC
-More likely to be compatible with your software
-Cheaper – definitely more bang for your buck
-Familiarity

Macs
The popularity of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad has led to increased Mac sales over the past few years. There currently are five models of Mac computers out there. The first question you have to answer for yourself is do you want a laptop or a desktop. Laptops are nice because of the portability, but for some people, having a desktop will suffice. Or maybe, they’d prefer a desktop plus an iPad for the same cost as a laptop.

Laptops – MacBook Air or MacBook Pro

The Air is slightly lower end than the regular Pro. On the standard models, you’re getting less processor, smaller screen, smaller hard drive, and (likely) a lesser video card. On the positive side of things, the Air is cheaper, thinner, and nearly half the weight of the MacBook Pro. Should you decide to go with the granddaddy of the current Apple laptops (the MacBook Pro with Retina Display), you’re getting a machine that has the sharpest display I’ve ever seen. Also, the MacBook Pro has a better chance of having a dvd drive (for the Air or the Pro w/ Retina Display, you must purchase an external drive if you want to be able to read/burn cds and dvds).

Desktops – Mac Mini, iMac, or MacPro

The Mini is a good entry level option. If you have used the Mac and like the interface, but don’t want to spend much money, it’s a great option. The Mini doesn’t come with anything – keyboard, mouse, monitor. If you’ve already got those things, though, it can be a cheap way to dip your toe in the world of Mac. Another great option for the Mini is to use it as a home theater PC. Hooking it up to a big screen tv will allow you to use it for dvds, internet, streaming movies, music, etc.

The iMac is probably the sweet spot for most users looking for a desktop. First of all, it’s a great looking device. Second, it’s not quite as technically stripped down as the Mini. For $1,199, you can get a nice 21.5″ screen along with enough horse power to do some advanced computing things. I opted to spend a little more to go with the 27″ screen and have not once regretted it.

Unless you are made of money (or have some really high-end computing needs), the MacPro is probably too much computer for you. Of course, if you are planning on making a movie like I did, you may with to have the $3,799 12-core MacPro with 12 GB of memory. If you are just looking at pictures of your kids or grandkids and going on Facebook from time to time, though, you are probably wasting your money by getting this much computer.

PCs
PCs have been the staple of the computer industry for the past 20 years. Likely, this is the computer you’ve got at your office (and probably your home). To be honest, there is nothing inherently wrong with PCs. If you are looking at a computer to punch out some college papers, surf the internet, check email, and stream the occasional movie from Netflix, you’ll do just fine getting a new PC.

I’m not going to get into specifics as to which machine is perfect for you. There are simply too many models to name. If you like the Apple looks but not the prices, you can check out “ultrabooks” (the PC answer to the thin, ultra-portable notebook) or all-in-one PCs (comparable to the iMac). If you are getting a PC, though, make sure you stay on top of your antivirus products. Even if it isn’t as bad as it once was, they are still more susceptible to virus attacks than Macs.

How do you know what you are getting is a good deal? Follow some deal sites – I particularly like Gizmodo’s Dealzmodo and SlickDeals. There are thousands of more deal sites out there, though. My biggest advice – don’t buy the cheapest computer a manufacturer makes. The cheapest computer (an example would be your typical WalMart Black Friday $200 laptop) is going to be made with the cheapest parts a manufacturer can buy. In two years, you are going to have a 10 pound paper weight. If you aren’t in a rush, I recommend waiting until Black Friday and checking out tech websites like NewEgg or TigerDirect. They’re going to have a computer in the $500-700 range that will surely be an upgrade on your six-year old dog slow PC.

Should I skip a computer and just get a tablet?

This is another legitimate question for you to ask yourself. An iPad is super portable and enjoyable to use, but certainly has limitations. Printing, although, possible is difficult on an iPad. Same thing with typing… if you are going to be knocking out long term papers, you are going to be forced to get a Bluetooth keyboard. While there are cases with built in keyboards, the keys are cramped. On the flip side, a full sized Bluetooth keyboard limits the portability of the device. The other knock on the iPad is the lack of storage. If you have a ton of movies/music/pictures, you are going to eat through the limited iPad storage very quickly.

But if your computer use is limited to surfing the internet, using email, and the occasional game/app, you might find yourself very happy to go towards the iPad (or other tablet). My mom has the relatively cheap Kindle Fire and uses it far more than she uses her home computer.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.