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How to Choose Your First Computer

Updated on November 18, 2012
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Following the trend is a difficult temptation to deal with. But, before you waste your money on the trend, you’d better do some researches first.

It is out of the question that everyone wants to look cool in front of their friends. One way to do this is by following the currently hot trend. This also happens when you are thinking about buying a computer. Well, you should already know by now that tablet/slate devices seem to be everybody’s choice at the moment. Therefore, it makes a good sense, actually, if you also want one of those tablets/slates. However, there are things, aside from the trend alone, that you need to take into consideration before finally deciding to go for a tablet/slate, which is, the current trend. Remember, though, that trends don’t last forever.

Desktop Personal Computers (PCs)

Let’s start with the most traditional type of computers first. When you hear the term ‘desktop PC’, chances are big size, heavy weight, and lack of portability likely to come across your mind. Well, while you may be right on this, what you may forget is that desktop PCs have their advantages as well.

To be honest, if you want a capable computer device, desktop PCs often turn out to be the best choice compared to whatever computing devices currently available on the market. Of course, you will have to know what to look for in a desktop PC if you want to get the most out of it.

CPU

The most important aspects, in this case, are, apparently, the central processing unit (CPU), random access memory (RAM), and graphics processing unit (GPU). For the CPU, the 2nd generation Intel Core-i7 (Sandy Bridge) processors should be enough to get you running. Yet, if you want the latest technology available, you can get the 3rd generation (Ivy Bridge) ones instead. But, if you prefer a more affordable technology, you can get the Intel Core-i5 processors instead. However, I would personally recommend you to choose at least the 2nd generation and an Intel Core-i5 CPU. The Intel Core-i3 processors, on the other hand, just don’t fare well enough.

RAM

For the memory, a 4GB RAM is now the minimum standard required to run most modern applications, especially resource consuming games. Whenever possible, it is recommended to upgrade to a higher capacity RAM to significantly boost your computer performance.

GPU

As for the GPU, do not rely on the onboard ones. For one thing, most of them do not come with dedicated memory so they have to share the main memory with the rest of the system. This degrades your PC performance quite considerably, especially if you give quite a high memory capacity to be shared by the onboard GPU.

When it comes to GPU, always remember to look for either the nVIDIA GeForce or the AMD (formerly ATI) Radeon (HD series preferable) chipsets to ensure you get the most pleasant and stuttering-free visual experience possible.

HDD

Besides the three most important aspects, hard disk drive (HDD) capacity is your next concern. With HDDs, you need to pay attention to the rounds per minute (rpm), the higher the better. However, high rpm HDDs are often quite costly so it might not be your option in case you are limited on budget. That said, instead of purchasing a HDD with 10,000 rpm, you might as well go for the one with 7,500 rpm.

Motherboard/Mainboard

After the HDD, let’s not forget the motherboard/mainboard as well. With motherboards, you have a wide range of options to choose from. It is recommended, though, that you choose a motherboard which is stable and does not get hot quickly. A motherboard that features a dual layer copper and plenty of aluminum heat-sinks is often a good choice in this case.

When you are done with all those aspects, rest assured, you have a very powerful desktop PC at your disposal. The rest of the components just don’t really matter anymore. Yet, it’s a different story if you are thinking about buying a Macintosh computer (Mac) from Apple as Mac totally differs from a Windows PC.

However, of course, you also need to take into account your budget range. The more capable a desktop PC is, the more expensive price you have to pay. However, it is often still cheaper than a laptop.

Notebook PCs (Laptops)

After desktop PCs come notebook PCs, which are more popular as laptops. A laptop should be an ideal choice if you are often on the go. Thanks to its light weight, a laptop is often very portable. However, owing to its light weight, a laptop is less capable than a desktop PC. While you can show your business clients your business proposal presentation and look cool at the same time with a laptop, what you really can do with it is quite limited. Well, this is true unless you choose a laptop that is equipped with the latest and most powerful components beneath it. However, you will have to sacrifice the light weight for such a capable laptop. Unfortunately, the heavier a laptop gets, the less portable it becomes. So, why would you choose laptop in the first place then? Is it because of the price? Well, a capable laptop is still quite expensive, too.

Tablet PCs/Slates

Now this is the trend I was talking about. Nowadays, wherever you go, everyone seems to be holding a tablet on the palm of their hands. Even children have their own tablets as well. That said, you actually need to think what tablets actually have to offer that even children use them. Well, it is quite obvious that most, if not all, children use their tablets only for gaming. As for adults? Well, there are actually plenty of things to do.

As a matter of fact, tablets were not really like what you know them today when they were first invented. A tablet is more of a revolution of a laptop. What differentiates a tablet from a laptop is that its screen can be adjusted towards another direction and even folded. Also, a tablet is usually able to recognize human handwriting. Additionally, they run on Windows operating system (OS), too.

But tablets have evolved indeed. Instead of a foldable screen and a keyboard, a tablet now features a touch screen with a virtual keyboard, although certain tablets still come with an optional physical keyboard. In addition to that, you also get to choose among Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS, and the recently launched Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating systems.

So, what can you do with tablets, regardless of the OSes? Well, basically, you can do just about anything a computer can do. Browsing, creating Word type documents, organizing data in Excel type spreadsheets, giving PowerPoint type presentations, taking and editing pictures, listening to the music, and playing games are but a few things you can do with tablets/slates. Also, the prices for a tablet/slate vary widely so it is a competitive market that may prove to be friendly to your pocket.

However, if you are a Windows-based (pre-Windows 8) software developer, for example, you might not really be able to take full advantage of a tablet, not even a Windows 8-based tablet. This is due to the different system architecture that Windows 8 has compared to its predecessors. So, if you’re planning to buy a Windows 8 tablet so that you can run a demo of your developed software on it no matter where you are, that is not going to happen, unless you convert your software to a Windows 8 compatible one. In this case, a laptop sounds a better option, or perhaps, an ultrabook.

Ultrabook

Now, after tablets/slates, we have ultrabooks. An ultrabook is basically a laptop but with a much slimmer and minimalist physical design resulting in a miraculously light weight. An ultrabook is far more capable than a tablet/slate but it is still inferior to a laptop. While you can run a demo of your Windows-based software, previous example, on an ultrabook, you can’t expect to run high-end games or applications on it. In addition to that, most ultrabooks don’t come with an optical media so you might have to bring one yourself whenever you need to insert an optical drive to the ultrabook. Yet, despite what it lacks, an ultrabook is often offered with a high price tag.

All-in-One PCs (AIOs)

Now, this one is a more modern desktop PC. The difference between a desktop PC and an AIO is that the latter comes without any tower casing. This casing is often in a considerably huge size because it needs to hold all the components of the accompanying PC. However, with AIO, the components are built-in. Fortunately, plenty of AIOs offer quite a similar capability to that of the more conventional desktop PCs.

However, there is also a drawback in that the built-in components are not likely to be replaceable. So, if any components fail, you may need to replace the whole unit of the damaged AIO. There is also a good chance that you can only get the AIO serviced by the technicians who work for the company that builds the unit.

What Will Your Choice Be?

So, having known all the pros and cons of those computing devices, what do you think your choice will fall upon? One rule of thumb, though, is never spend too much of your budget, especially when you haven’t acquired it yet although you know you are going to acquire it soon.

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