So you need to buy a new computer. Maybe it is a gift, maybe your old one is ready for the electronics junkyard, or maybe you’ve never even owned a computer before. There are many, many choices out there right now, so as a long time computer user and IT guy here are my two cents.
Short Answer = Buy a $400 laptop with at least a 15.6″ screen, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive.
The long answer is that there are 4 basic types of computers you can buy:
- Desktop – the traditional PC tower
- Laptop – a screen and keyboard that folds up like a clamshell for portability
- Netbook – essentially a smaller and less powerful laptop
- Tablet – a touchscreen cell phone without the phone
Desktops give you the most bang for your buck, are great for heavy-duty computing, and have large monitor screens (> 20″ are now standard) but are not portable and laptops cost just a little more for the same power.
Laptops are powerful, portable and the standard is a 15.6″ screen. They can connect to a large monitor, keyboard and mouse easily for a two-screen professional workstation set-up.
Netbooks are cheapest and will work for those on a budget that aren’t doing much computing – perhaps just checking email, surfing the web and viewing some pictures.
Tablets are expensive and most people will still require a second computer to meet all their needs (i.e. desktop, laptop or netbook). They are slick and convenient, but in my opinion are just a large version of a smartphone (cell phone) but without the ability to make calls!
So my recommendation is to purchase a laptop with at least a 15.6″ screen, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive. It doesn’t really matter what brand (HP, Gateway, Acer, Toshiba, etc.) or who made the processor (AMD vs. Intel). Look for one on sale at y (The Source, Future Shop, Staples) and you should be able to purchase it in the $350 – $450 price range. If you want to use it at a fixed workstation then purchase a monitor, keyboard and mouse and just plug it in at your desk when you use it there.