Buying a new computer.

I’m in the market for a new computer… which one should I get?

image Like a lot of people in the computer industry I get asked this question *a lot*. Friends, family, third cousins once removed all seem to hunt me down when they are in the market for a new computer. I don’t mind, but I’ve gotten used to giving the same answer. I’m posting my answer here as a reference to myself, them, and anyone else this might help…

Whichever one you pick, it will be out dated in a month

Before you buy a computer you should accept that this is part of the technology world we live in. In three months you will see a better laptop for less money with more features. Accept that fact and move on.

Any laptop will work… seriously… it doesn’t matter.

Unless you are a serious gamer, doing auto-cad or some sort of 3D rendering: any modern computer on the market right now will do what you want.

Start at Best Buy

My advice is to go to Best Buy – not the website, go in to the store. Figure out how much you want to spend, what features are important to you and then pick one out. I honestly and consistently find the sales people at Best Buy to be pretty helpful and informative. If you have time, you can watch the papers, shop and compare, but at least you’ll have a better idea of what you are looking for and what’s available. I pretty much use Best Buy as the base line or starting point for that. Some good places to check next: Fry’s, New Egg, Staples, Dell, Refurbished Dells

Don’t pay for the extras.

I would go to Best Buy – see what they have to offer, just don’t sucked in to all of their add-ons and up sales. They will offer to sell you a bag, Anti-Virus, Software Removal/Installation. Anything that they offer you can do on your own or is probably available for free (ex: Anti-Virus/Firewall – don’t let them sale you those)

They offer so many “services” that the price of your computer could easily double. For some people this could be a great service, but for most – these are things that you can do on your own, and would probably benefit from learning how to do them anyway. I understand why they offer these services, and why people buy them… I pay to get my oil changed on my car (because I’m not a car guy) some people would never think to pay someone else to change their oil… I guess that’s how I feel about the “extras” they offer.

Warrantee? Maybe.

Probably the single biggest up sale that they offer is the warrantees. I have mixed feeling about these. One one hand, I expect products to last more than a year, and hate paying extra for that assurance. On the other hand… I did purchase an extended warranty on a laptop once (from Staples). Normally , I wouldn’t pay the money for that , but that was specifically because that laptop was for work, I was traveling a lot at the time and if anything happened to it, I’d be dead in the water – also – my work was paying for half of the laptop. I don’t buy warrantees for computers that are going to stay at home.

Buy RAM not CPU

If you have the money, invest in more RAM than processor speed. If you are going to go with a 64 bit processor, then I would try to go to 6 GB of RAM or 3 GB of RAM for a 32 bit OS. Also, check around – often you can find RAM at substantially discounted prices after market. Apple is notorious for charging outrageous prices on extra RAM.

Buy New

I would not buy a used or 3rd party laptop. New ones are plenty cheap right now, and a much better value. Sorry eBay – I don’t want a used computer, and I want to know that the support and warrantee are going to be there.

What about a NetBook?

For about $300.00 you can get a Netbook. For around $400.00 you can get a laptop that does much much more and is much more powerful. I have a friend that bought a Netbook because he was writing a book. He loved it, and it worked great for him. But he specifically bought it for a single purpose, to use Word and write his book. It was a second computer for him, and he wanted the portability and flexibility that it provided. I would not consider a Netbook for a primary laptop. For a little more money you can get something that will be much more powerful and versatile.

Anything will work

Again, almost anything on the market will work. Just figure out what you want it to do. For most people that involves using Word and surfing the Internet.. and anything will work. If you are going to do a lot of gaming, development or something where you need more power… then this blog post is not for you.  😉

OK, that’s it for me. What are your suggestions? Add them to the comments below.

Happy Shopping!

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About Caleb Jenkins

Caleb Jenkins is an international speaker, author and 6 time Microsoft MVP award recipient, he currently works for Solera as a Director of Software Development. An entertaining and informative speaker who approaches software from a fresh perspective that spans UX, agile practices and technologies for enterprise customers from across the globe. Leading UX product design teams, coaching multi-team agile transformations and architecting and mentoring at some of the largest companies in the world, As a long time community leader and former Microsoft Developer Evangelist, Caleb is well known for his engaging speaking style, depth of knowledge and creative energy. Founder and Principal Mentor of Proaction Mentors, former UX Manager and Agile Coach, Senior Architect for Six Flags Corporation, Product Architect on a Cloud Marketing Platform, Caleb has made a career out of empowering others while building products and teams that delight customers and solve business needs. You can follow him on twitter (@calebjenkins) or his blog, and if you're still reading this, then you could also subscribe to his blog RSS feed or sign up to receive updates by email