Choosing a computer
Buying a new computer can be a difficult task. There are many options and factors to consider such as computer capability, size and security.
Laptop, desktop or netbook?
Many people rely on computers to stay connected to the world and organise their lives. There is a wide range of different models and manufacturers producing computers at a variety of prices.
The choice of what type of computer to buy should be based on what you use your computer for and whether you need to use it in different places.
If you travel often or want a computer that you can take anywhere, then a laptop could be for you.
A laptop is a personal computer for mobile use. A laptop integrates most of the typical components of a desktop computer, including a display, a keyboard, a pointing device (a touchpad, also known as a trackpad, and/or a pointing stick) and speakers into a single unit.
A laptop is powered by mains electricity through an AC adapter, and can be used away from an outlet using a rechargeable battery. A laptop battery in new condition typically stores enough energy to run the laptop for three to five hours, depending on the computer usage, configuration and power management settings.
When the laptop is plugged into the mains, the battery charges, whether or not the computer is running. Yet as it ages the battery's energy storage will progressively decline to last only a few minutes.
A desktop computer is a good option if you have an office you work out of at home and don't need to take the computer to other locations.
A desktop computer is a personal computer (PC) in a form intended for regular use at a single location, as opposed to a mobile laptop or portable computer.
Desktop and tower computers are two different styles of computer case that use desk space in different ways. Desktop computers are designed to lay flat on the desk, while towers stand upright.
"Desktop" indicates a horizontally-oriented computer case usually intended to have the display screen placed on top to save space on the desktop. Most modern desktop computers have separate screens and keyboards.
Tower cases are sometimes incorrectly called desktop computers as some will locate them on a desk instead of on the floor under the desk. Cases intended for home theater PC systems are usually considered to be desktop cases in both senses, regardless of orientation and placement.
A netbook is a small computer that doesn't have a disk drive or much memory. It is largely meant for surfing the Web, checking email, listening to music and casual computing. The downside of the netbook is that it has a smaller screen and a more cramped keyboard.
Technical factors to consider when buying a computer
It's important to consider size when choosing a computer, especially if you will be travelling with the laptop. Laptops range in both size and weight.
Screen size on a laptop is very much about personal preference. Most screens have the same resolution and clarity regardless of size, but it's generally accepted that the larger the screen, the shorter the battery life. This can make it harder to use the laptop while travelling. However, having a large screen can make watching movies and videos more visually entertaining.
The processor is what controls the speed and performance of a laptop. Processors are measured in speed in terms of gigahertz (GHz).
Otherwise known as 'RAM', memory is what the computer uses to run applications, your browser and the operating system.
Gigabytes (GB) are units of computer memory storage capacity.
It's important to choose a laptop that has 3 to 4 GB of RAM. Netbooks are generally under 3 GB, but this is because the devices are not meant to support complex applications or computing activities.
The hard drive determines how much storage capacity your computer has. When you download music, store photos and videos, you are taking up space on the computer's hard drive. If you store a lot of music and photos or videos, you should choose a computer that has a higher number of GB.
You should check the battery life for a particular laptop or netbook. In general, the larger the screen, keyboard and computer, the less amount of time your computer can keep running on a charged battery.
In addition to the key technical factors outlined above, there are other features that you may want to consider when buying a computer. If you video chat with your family and friends, you'll want to make sure that your computer has a webcam. If you actively use a digital camera, you may want to double-check that your device has a built-in digital media card slot.
Tips to help you choose
Visit a computer retailer to get a better idea about the look and feel of any computer you are considering buying. Make sure to lift the laptop or netbook to gauge its weight. Play around with the touchpad on the computer to see how comfortable you are with it. For all computers, remember that it's important to buy or download security software to protect devices from viruses.
Buying a computer involves a series of decisions. But once you evaluate your needs, the process can be simpler. By keeping these factors and considerations in mind, you can avoid some of the frustration and confusion that accompanies finding the computer that is right for you.