What to watch for when you buy a computer

By Joe Xec

laptops_desktop_computersThinking about buying a computer this spring, but don’t know where to start?

We recently talked to Dave from All About Computers. He regularly works with people in their 50s (or older) who are buying a computer for the first time. Most just want a computer in order to get involved with digital pictures or online gaming, or staying connected with friends and family via email or social media.

Dave says getting a computer for the first time doesn’t have to be difficult and it can be exciting!

Here are eight basic things to consider when buying a computer.

1. Big Box Store vs. Local Shop. You don’t have to settle for a big box store to find the right computer. There are plenty of locally run computer stores around the city with great rates, and the right product for your needs. Whether big box or local, one very important element is to find a sales representative who will take the time to find what your main purpose is for a computer, and be able to answer any questions or concerns you may have. It’s always good to ask lots of questions. Never feel pressured into a purchase you don’t feel comfortable with.

2. Prioritize Wants vs. Needs. First figure out what you will be using the computer for. Make a list of wants for programs, games or other digital devices you will be using then select the right computer to support the programs or software needed. Many people are oversold on a computer. If you simply want to browse the Internet, send emails and start to dabble in social media, any low to mid-range computer will suit your needs.

3. Budget. Technology is always changing, but a computer should have a four- to six-year life expectancy. Over the years, the average cost of a PC desktop or laptop has decreased.  Laptops can sometimes be cheaper than desktops. You will find Mac products more expensive than PCs, and your choice will depend on which computer you are comfortable working with. Everyone’s budget is different, and in most cases you get what you pay for. So decide how much to spend and then try to stay close to that budget. It is not very hard to spend a lot of money on technology.

4. Laptop or desktop is the question. A desktop is ideal for the home environment, but if you plan to travel and want to stay connected, a laptop is best for portability and convenience. Both will do the same computing. Desktops offer more options in hardware upgrades, such as monitors with bigger screens for easy reading and web browsing. Laptops are typically lightweight and compact and are great to take traveling. Most hotels and resorts now offer free access to the Internet for emailing, Google searching, or catching up on some social media.

5. Mac or PC? Apple makes Macintosh products and sells to a specific computer user, while PCs are more universal. Both have strengths and weaknesses. The best way to deal with the resulting dilemma is try both products at the store, and see which computer is more intuitive for you.

6. Printers and Digital Cameras. Adding a printer bring rewards if photography is your passion. Today’s printers can print high quality photos with great resolution, but ink can sometimes cost more than the printer, so be sure to evaluate ink replacement costs. Digital cameras come in a wide range and cost varies with the better digital SLR cameras at the top of the price range. All digital cameras are compatible with desktops and laptops, so you don’t need to match by brand names.

7. Extended Warranty and Support. When buying a computer be sure to ask questions about extended warranty, tech support and hardware repairs. If you’re buying a laptop, find out what coverage comes with it, and ask about extended warranty options. Remember that when you travel with a laptop it is more at risk of being damaged. Having access to technical support can be a lifesaver; chances are the day will come when you need help. Some smaller shops and big box stores offer tutoring for customers, and schedule computer classes. Classified ads are also a great place to locate a professional computer instructor, if you are looking for one-on-one training. Check your local library for free classes in basic computer skills, too.

8. Software. Most people know what a virus scanner is, and it’s always highly recommended to have one installed on your new computer. It is very useful for filtering out junk. You can find free software online, but it’s worthwhile to purchase software, which typically includes more protection from virus, malware, spyware or key loggers. These invaders were designed to make your computer slower or to steal private information. Both Macs and PCs are vulnerable to these attacks. The right software can ensure a safe and interactive Internet experience.

There is more to be said on this topic, but the important thing to remember when shopping for a computer is to have fun! The amount of information out there can be overwhelming. Next time you’re in the store play with the demos. Don’t be afraid to push a few buttons!

Joe Xec is a technology enthusiast with a sales and marketing degree from Red River College and the University of Manitoba. He is an account executive at Pegasus Publications Inc. and does some work as a social media consultant.

Let's talk...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s