If you are in the market for a new desktop computer, you'll see a lot of technical jargon in computer ads. There are several essential specifications that you need to consider.
Dual-core (or duo) gives you twice the processing power of a regular processor and is worth the extra price.
1 GB of RAM should be sufficient for most uses; 2 GB or more if you use intensive graphics programs or games.
Hard drive storage:
Get a minimum of 100 GB; more if you save lots of digital photos or music. Optical drive: A CD-RW/ DVD Combo drive lets you view and save to a CD and view DVDs. A DVD+/-RW drive does that and also lets you copy DVDs.
Consider a 17" or 19" widescreen flat panel monitor for clear viewing that takes up a narrow (front-to-back) space. "All-in-one" models build the computer into the monitor casing to take even less space.
If you are used to a Macintosh computer, or have friends or family with Macs, you may want to purchase that brand, which is regaining popularity. The market is still dominated by Windows-based computers so that may be the operating system of your choice. Most new computers now come with Windows Vista. Your version choices as a home user are between Vista Basic or Premium. Premium has features such as Media Center to watch and copy DVDs, make custom photo slide shows and auto configure wireless connections. If you use many specialized hobby or other software programs, find out if they will work with Vista. If not, find a vendor who will install Windows XP instead of Vista.
Steps to help you in purchasing a computer:
1. Ask yourself these questions:
How will you use a computer?
Some people find software programs that permit them to do what they want and with which they are comfortable and then they find a computer that will run that software. If you are a novice it may not be easy for you to determine which program will best suit your needs. As with the purchase of the computer itself, you will need to rely on the advice of other computer owners or authors of computer articles.
Do you already have access to any computers?
If you have access to a computer through work or a public facility such as a library or computer classroom, or through a family member or friend, you may wish to purchase the same brand of computer, or a similar computer, if it meets your computing needs. You may have a valuable resource in your friend or family member if you have compatible computers and have someone to ask for help as you are setting up and using your computer.
How much do you want to spend?
You should decide on an approximate amount you are willing to spend balanced against the purposes for which you want to use a computer. Is the computer going to help you make more efficient use of your time? Will you earn money with it? Will you use it for education or entertainment? The difference in pricing may be based on features you may or may not require, though you should consider that your needs may change over time.
2. Learn some computer terms
In order for you to read ads for computers in magazines or be able to ask questions in a computer store, you could know the meaning of a few key terms. The terms in bold in the Specifications section at the top of this page are the major computer terms.
3. Compare features of computers
See the Specifications section at the top of this page for the general types of items you will be comparing between computers to see if you are getting value for the price.
4. Compare types of computer vendors
There are several kinds of vendors that sell computers: department stores, electronic stores, the specialized computer store (that sells various types of computers or a single brand) and mail-order or Internet stores.
Have handy the information you listed as a result of steps 1-3. You want to find salespeople who are willing to spend a reasonable length of time responding to your questions and who are cabable of offering accurate information. You'll want to find an environment where you can try out the computers.
You should determine the following information about the vendors you are considering:
Will they set up your equipment and install any optional components, if necessary? Is there a charge for that service?
What warranty comes with your computer? Typically, computers have a one-year warranty which is often sufficient.
Is there a customer service department to which you can direct questions? Is there a toll-free number? Is the service open 24/7?
5. Locate Sources of Information and Support
There are various other resources available to you, not only to help you make a decision about a computer purchase, but also to help you after you start using your computer.
Computer-user groups-- there may be a local group of computer users near your area
Computer classes -- in addition to SeniorNet Learning Centers, other places that usually offer computer classes are: community colleges, local school districts, libraries, some computer stores.
Computer magazines, books and manuals