Shopping suggestions for new computers!* I am giving this info based on computers running the Microsoft Windows operating systems. Apple builds good computers, but, I feel they are overpriced and if someone is already used to Windows, learning a new system may well be too frustrating. The days where the Apple computers were the fastest for multimedia have long ago past. Gamers have only had Windows computers to play on for a while, but lately some of the game software designers have started again looking at Apple as a possibility. This is due in large part to the fact that Apple is now using much of the same hardware as Windows computers. You will want to make the considerations that you do not necessarily need the hottest CPU in the list, but you may want to consider that may have this computer for a while. If that is the case, how is that old computer you are using now running? If you are not happy with it, then you may want to go a bit higher up on the scale. The reasoning, is that, in a few years that shiny new computer you are looking at will feel like the one you are replacing.
Many of you do not use anywhere near the full potential of what your computers can do, but, you may find yourselves doing much more as you learn more about them. For instance more and more people are actually editing their own videos. This is a place where you really do want a bit more horsepower.
I can not make the decision for you, but I can tell you that you will NOT want any of the budget processors from either AMD or Intel. Both make some good mid-priced and high end chips but the budget or lowest priced cpu's are going to cost you in time and frustration waiting for even seemingly simple programs like Quick Books or Quicken. Web pages will not load quickly even if you have a fast Internet connection. Nothing like having a nice big, cold, delicious milk shake and being given a stir straw to drink it with.
The budget CPU's I am talking about are the AMD Turion and Intel Core, Celeron, or i3 processors. When you look at the comparison charts you will see where they rank. They may save you a bit of money, but you will not be happy with the real world performance. These are OK chips if the ONLY thing you were doing was reading text. Other than that these should be avoided. If you get one, and it is slow, I WILL tell you 'told you so'.
PassMark - CPU Mark http://www.cpubenchmark.net/mid_range_cpus.html
PassMark - CPU Mark http://www.cpubenchmark.net/high_end_cpus.html
*EDIT: 2017.10.12 - This page was created several years ago, and as I tend to do, I have not edited it in a while. Here is a quick description of what I currently suggest for Windows based machines. Chromebooks**, and Chromeboxes require a lot less hardware, but are an EXCELLENT alternative to a Windows based computer.
- Core i5, i7, i9
- 16GB RAM
- Solid State Drive(SSD) 120GB or more
- Dell, HP, Acer(which owns, Gateway and eMachines in whatever form they may be in), Lenovo, Asus, and Microsoft
It needs to be configured up to meet the specs for a processor better than i3 processor. An i5 at the very least, 16GB of RAM for memory, the SSD for storage, and the video card to allow for multiple monitors. That configuration should net you a very solid computer that should be a productive tool for several years. The only part I think you would need to replace or upgrade after a few years is the SSD, and that's just to prevent multiple down days of recovery if it fails. SSD's are showing to be very reliable, but no drive, SSD, or Hard Drive lasts forever, and I don't trust work/office SSD's for more than about 4 - 5. You can see that the cost of those drives is getting lower and lower, so it just makes sense to replace them when they get older.
Hard drive size shouldn't be an issue since most drives are pretty large now. The smallest for a laptop should be 120GB by now for laptops and for desktops should be about 250GB, and if you find one smaller that, it only means that drive has been sitting on a shelf for about a year, nothing smaller than 120 is being manufactured now.
RAM or "memory" should be a minimum of 2GB(GigaBytes) and I would prefer 4 and above. My current computer has 8GB of RAM and I can have a lot of programs open without any slow down from the system. You say, "I do not run many programs at once", and I say you will absolutely be able to tell the difference between a computer that has too little and one that has enough or a bit extra. The 2GB minimum is what is needed by Microsoft Windows 7 and that amount is bound to increase as the OS(operating system) gets older. This is exactly what has happened with all the previous OS's. Windows XP originally came out with a minimum of 256MB(MegaBytes) and today, it really needs 1GB or more to "feel" like it has enough.
Operating system - Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Business Edition or Windows 7 Ultimate ONLY!
Brands - HP/Compaq, or Acer / Gateway/eMachine, and, drum roll please, I am back to also recommending Dell. - One of my current choices would be hp, as they have my favorite button for a laptop. I think they must have the patent on this, because no one else has it. The button I am talking about is a button that is located directly above, the touch pad, or to the top left in the touch pad, and turns the pad off or on. It seems simple but when you have larger hands and use the front of the laptop as a palm rest and touch type, the cursor will skip all over the screen. If you are not watching exactly what you are typing then there just may be a sentence two paragraphs up. I am not wild about Sony(and or VIAO) because of their terrible customer and parts support. Toshiba tends to replace many of the hardware support software features built into Windows with their own. I do not care for it as it takes more effort to get all of the settings to work just right. I think the built in Windows support is just fine and works well. Once the manufacturer gets too involved they just tend to muck it up. As always take a look at all customer reviews for a certain computer and try to watch for obvious plants in the reviews and the ones where the user is clearly to blame for a bad experience. You should know that the customer support for almost all of the manufacturers is not great unless you pay for the extended or business support.
All of the computers sold by the major manufacturers have loaded a bunch of software known as "TrialWare" on the machines to try to get you to use it and then buy the software after the trial period has runs out. I usually will remove almost all of it. Microsoft Office is a good example. It is a very good suite of software that is used in many situations, for work and school. It will almost certainly be loaded on the machine with a 60 day trial. After the trial you'll have to buy it for about $170 with the cd sent to you so that if the hard drive fails you still own the software. You can purchase the Student Teacher edition of Office from Newegg.com for about $150.00 and you can load it on up to three computers. This also leads me to another thing that you should do when buying a new computer, after you buy it(or it may be an option when you buy), you should contact the manufacture and get them to send a complete set of "Restore" disks. Most of the computers are loaded with a restore partition so that if you have really messed up the operating system to the point that it won't run right, you can restore the system to the factory settings that will wipe out all of your data, just like the day you bought it. This isn't always a bad thing, except if the hard drive fails. At that point you are going to have to purchase all of your software again if you don't have cds or dvds to restore your system after buying a new hard drive.
This is a pretty good starting point. You should actually go into a store and TOUCH the laptops for sure, just to feel what the keyboards are like. If you are even a half way good touch typist, then it will make a difference what the keyboard layout is. Personally, I'm pretty good sized and like a larger keyboard layout. Some of the laptops have a separate 10key number pad (I like these), but you may not want or need this. I would really suggest you shop at Office Depot and then BestBuy, and in St. Louis and a few other cities, MicroCenter. Sam's sometimes has good deals too, but they are not consistent and don't carry the same product from one week to the next. Circuit City (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CircuitCity.com) I'm not too wild about, same for OfficeMax, but check them out for prices just in case. Make sure to compare apples to apples, exact same model numbers to exact same model numbers. Ask about the extended warranty for laptops are among the only products that I recommend the extended warranty for since the parts are proprietary and desktops the parts are usually easy to replace. You really should weigh out whether or not you need these. I usually only recommend getting one of these if you have a teenager or college student, since the laptops will take much more of beating in these cases. After you shop in a store, you should also look on line and see if you can find a better deal. Depending on the site, you can find pretty good deals but you should also check out how good the online retailer is. If it is from the manufacturer then you should not have any trouble but, often from the other sites you get a better deal. Sounds strange but it's true.
I haven't done a lot of research on these lately, but I will tell you that I have had one for a couple of years and LOVE it. If you have a hotspot on your phone, and WiFi at your home and office(DO NOT TRUST FREE WiFi FOR YOUR DATA), then you would probably be a good candidate for one of these. So much of what we do is online now, that having a computer with all the processing done on the computer isn't needed. There are things that simply are better on the machine, like editing videos, or 3D and CAD, but if you're doing that, you probably have one provided for you by your employer. Call me for more info here, but there are similar things I will suggest for these, like as much RAM(Memory) as you can afford(or find).
Call me with questions, even during shopping - Vic Lovan - 618.767.6728