As the resident techy I get asked a lot about what computer to buy. What brand(s) do I recommend? Should I get a laptop or a desktop? I often have the same answers and ask the same questions to people who ask me this, so I thought I would attempt to answer them in an easy to reference place.
For me the easier to answer question here is what not to get.
Stay away from these brands:
- E-Machine (never ever ever.....ever!)
- Gateway (who bought emachine)
- Acer (who bought Gateway)
- Apple (you iSheep)
After working in the PC repair business I've learned E-machine are terrible pieces of junk. If the person receiving computers at a repair store (who has limited knowledge of computers) can guess what's wrong with your computer, that's a bad sign. The top problem is the motherboard, and it's proprietary. That means that emachine is the only person who makes motherboards just like this. Repair cost: $300 just for the parts!*
What about the other 2 and 3? You know when you buy food and it says "packaged in a facility that also packages peanuts"? Same thing here. Of course, Gateway and Acer where bad deals before but now they're all the same company. Just back away slowly.
Apple? "But all the cool kids in college get one" Yeah and they're the ones whining about the government not paying their bills. Other then the complete lack of real software (besides Adobe products, Office and Snake), the proprietary parts, the brand premium, and the general zombie like qualities of Apple's user base... what's not to love. Sorry, that was a free rant. *cough* moving along...
I recommend Dell usually.
These brands are usually ok:
- HP/Compaq (Although I would buy and HP over the Compaq)
- Toshiba (Laptop)
- Sony (Laptop)
In both professional (three years) and personal experience I've had the least amount of issues from Dell. Dell computers do have their issues for sure, but so do the rest of them. I have had more problems from HP compare to Dell over the years but HP tends to make decent computers these days. I'll cover 3 and 4 in the next section.
When I talk about problems I'm referring to a couple of things together. First, is the computers overall performance and the issues that I had with the actual machine. Second, is the company themselves and their reputation as I've come to know it over the years. Third, is the technical/customer support. All the brands fail big time here. The exception to this, which you likely won't be privileged to, is the Enterprise support. If you spend the big bucks on servers you get the call center in Texas not in India.
No one makes a perfect computer. No one! If "Worst Buy"'s "Lack of Knowledge Squad" tells you different, they're lying. (Apologize to you one or two beetle driving techy's that do know what you're doing).
Laptop or Desktop? (or Tablet)
An equally difficult question to answer. It depends. It depends on what you want to use the machine for. It depends on how much you want to spend. With all of the options you have negative and positive trade offs.
My first question back to you is mobility. Do you want to be able to sit on the couch and watch TV or take a long on a trip? Obviously, with a desktop (other than the "All-In-One", which I don't like for their lack of field repairable-ness) have zero mobility. Their stuck to the desk unless you unplug everything and plug it back in. You'd almost think that's why the call it a deskTop. :) If that's not important to you then move a long and consider the other categories.
Desktops and laptops can have very similar hardware specifications these days. For the purpose of these article I went through Dell's web store picking out a laptop and a desktop and trying to match their specs as best I could. I also added a comparison to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 tablet. Keep in mind that the tablet spec's are very limited vs their bigger brothers so it's not kiwi to kiwi.
|| Intel i3 (3.3 Ghz)
|| Intel i3m (2.4 Ghz)
|| 1 Ghz
|| 6 GB DDR3 1600Mhz
|| 6 GB DDR3 1600Mhz (Shared)
|| 16 GB
|| Integrated Intel Graphics
|| Intel® HD Graphics 3000
|| (couldn't find information)
|| Extra - 18.5"
|| Included - 15.6"
|| Included - 10.1"
|| 1 TB
|| 500 GB
|| 16x DVD/RW, 8-in-1 card reader, keyboard, mouse
|| 8x DVD/R, keyboard, mouse
|| SD reader, on screen keyboard, touch screen, Front/Back Camera
|| Speakers not included
|| Speakers built in
|| Speakers built in
|| Wired, Wireless
|| Wired, Wireless, Bluetooth, Mobile broadband can be added
|| Wireless, Bluetooth, Mobile broadband can be added (carrier provided)
|| None, you unplug it, it dies
|| 6 cell battery
|| 7,000 mAh
Are you still with me? Take a deep breath it's ok. We can get through the technical bumbo jumbo.
The laptop and desktop had very similar processors. This is typically a benchmark of speed in a computer. The laptop did have a mobile processor which means that it it's not quite as powerful but uses less power (consumption). The tablet obviously has the disadvantage here, but you're not likely to use a tablet for anything that is heavily CPU/processor intensive except for a few games and poorly written applications.
The memory was also about the same in desktop and laptop. The catch here is that the laptop's memory is shared. What that means is the laptop will share its memory with the Graphics card. If you looked at the computer specs from within Windows you would notice the laptop will not display 6 Gb's of available memory, but rather what is left after the video card takes some (usually can be configured). Before you get excited about the larger amounts of memory for the tablet, it's not the same. Tablets while capable of multitasking are just not the same as a full fledged computer. I welcome a better explanation from any technology person who could provide a better one.
I had to add speakers and a monitor to my cart for the desktop. Both laptop and tablet come with them. The advantage the desktop has here is that the monitor is field replaceable. What that means if the monitor on the desktop goes bad (or you want a bigger one), you can simply go buy an new one, replace the bad one and throw it away.
The desktop clearly wins in storage. It has double the storage space of the laptop. The laptop has over ten times the storage space the tablet can have at its max.
The desktop can record faster (DVD/CD) than the laptop but you probably won't notice. The tablet obviously doesn't have an optical drive. That's not needed because an optical drive is not the primary method of obtaining new software for any smartphone/tablet.
All three device can support a wireless network connection. Only the tablet lacks the hard wired connection, but why would you want that anyway? While all three could support mobile broadband, you will usually find that in a laptop or a tablet over the desktop. You can get WiFi only tablets. If you buy a tablet from a cellular company you will be forced into a monthly data plan for the device.
Battery life. Your mileage will very. Both batteries will last longer or shorter depending on what you're doing with them. Watching a movie or playing a game will drain the batteries faster than checking email or simple surfing.
On that note. You can get a desktop with better power supplies (Bronze+). There are power supplies for desktops that only consume what they need (40w) vs taking it all, all the time (300w+).
I was surprised at the cost comparison. I thought they would be close but not as close as it was. In cart, the desktop (Inspiron 660) was $697.96, the laptop (Inspiron 15R) $624.95 and the tablet $399.99. Both computers where from Dell's website and the tablet from Samsung's website at the time of this writing. Both computers had a printer added to the cart. Additionally, the desktop had speakers and a monitor. No other upgrades where chosen except where needed to get the specs to be comparable.
There are more expensive and more powerful desktops and laptops. There are cheaper ones too, of course. I recommend buying between a $500-$700 rage for mid range computers. Any thing else than that and you could be replacing it sooner had you spent a little more out of the gate.
Beware of "Extended Warranties" from Box Marts. Most computers have a one year manufacturers warranty with them. Buying these extended warranties means that you pay for a 3 year warranties but only get two extra. In the first year "Worst Buy" is going to ship it back to the manufacturer just like you would. If you're super careless or have kids that might use it, the only warranty I would get it would be an "accidental damage warranty". This covers you in the event that you do something really mean to the poor computer. Otherwise warranties only cover manufacture defects not problems you caused.
I had mentioned I'd cover Toshiba and Sony in this section. Toshiba and Sony both make pretty good electronics. However, their laptops tend to cost more to repair then Dell and HP. Toshiba and Sony make their propitiatory parts more difficult to get compare to Dell or HP making the parts more expensive*.
So what should you buy? It depends.... Still. Either of these desktops and laptops will be just fine for emailing, documents, general surfing, some video editing and lite gaming. The tablet is well suited for the purposes it is giving but if you add a bluetooth keyboard to make typing easier, you practically have a laptop. I would have shot myself trying to write this article on a tablet.
To me a laptop is still a great mid point between tablets and desktops.
Run away from netbooks! You will not be happy with it.
The coming of Windows 8 might bring some interesting things to the table if Mircosoft does it right.
I hope this helps. Feel free to leave me a comment with questions and suggestions.
As always, all copyrights belong to their holders. This information is provided as is and without warranty. Basically, this article is nothing but my opinion and that's it. It's your own fault for anything else. :)
| ||Mobility||(Horse) Power||Power (Consumption)||Weight||Price|
|| You're not lugging this thing around are you?
|| 5.84 lbs
|| 1.28 lbs
* Last I knew this was true, and this is talking about out right replacement not a hack fix or cable to make it work for you tech people out there whinny on the inside.