You may have noticed from my “Tools For Writers: When a Keyboard Isn’t Just A Keyboard” article that I’m kind of a tech nut. I built my own computer from boxes of parts and it’s better than any out-of-the-box PC on the market. As fun as that is, it’s kind of worthless to keep those skills all to myself! I’ve grown up helping people with tech issues, and today I’m going to show you how to find exactly what you need for your business, quickly and easily.
The first thing I tell anyone that asks about buying new equipment is easy: Forget about the jargon and the buzzwords. What do you need to do with it? How you plan on using your computer will tell you exactly what you need to buy. First I’ll go over the easy part, and then I’ll get into the numbers game.
What Does Your Business Need?
If your work computer is mainly used for surfing the internet, writing documents and checking email, low-price computers will get the job done. Low-price computers will let you use all the business tools you need, without the added frills and extra features you won’t use. These can make reliable business workstations when they’re well-kept. I’ll write a post soon on how I haven’t had a virus in five years and what you can do to keep your computer from “slowing down.”
If you need more than the bare essentials, you have to start getting specific. CAD and architectural programs, multimedia production software, real-time investment apps and graphically intensive programs often require certain specialized hardware that can cost a few dollars extra, or a few hundred. It might run on a low-price computer, but not without headaches if it runs at all.
If you need any specialized hardware, the software your business needs will tell you exactly what requirements you need on the back of the box. Outside of that, there’s one general rule when it comes to buying computers: more is better, unless it’s too much. I can show you what I mean below.
Buying By The Numbers
So you’ve figured out what you need your computer to do. Now comes the fun part: finding one. I’m going to step you through what I look at when I browse at one of my favorite tech stores, Best Buy. I’ve edited three advertisements from this week’s newspaper to show you what I would focus on if I were buying a new laptop.
Here’s an entry-level laptop for $500. All I need to see is the price, which version of Windows 7 it has on it, and the basic specs. 6GB of memory isn’t too shabby, and 500GB is more than enough for a laptop. The battery life isn’t the best, but it isn’t bad either. WiFi is built in, but you’ll find that comes standard in just about every laptop available today. If I were a college student or a very lucky high schooler, or if I needed to get a basic workstation computer for my business, this would be a suitable laptop.
Visually, this next laptop is almost identical to the cheaper one. It features the same version of Windows, same screen size, same hard drive space, same memory size. The processor is an Intel i5 instead of an i3, meaning it will run a bit faster when you’re doing a lot at once, and it will process HD video better than the cheaper laptop. This also has 4G WiMAX mobile internet built in, which will go completely unused unless you subscribe to the monthly data plan.
(Note: HD video depends on the graphics capabilities as well as the processor. ATI or nVIDIA graphics are better than Intel integrated graphics, hands down.)
This third laptop is a little shaky to me. For $200 dollars extra, you’re getting 2GB more memory and 250GB more hard drive space, and USB 3.0. Now I know I said “more is better,” but to be completely honest, I wouldn’t buy this laptop. The screen is a few inches bigger, but for the added real estate, you’re paying for a lot of hardware you may not ever need. Lots of similar hardware, and minor memory and hard drive space boosts that the average user will never notice.
If I had to pick between these three as a business-oriented laptop, I would actually go with the second model. The balance of performance and price is suitable for just about anything you could throw at it, and the price is great. The most expensive model has the “most” stuff, but the actual improvements are minor.
If I could find a cheaper laptop with the same amount of memory, the same Intel i5 processor, and the same amount of hard drive space, but without 4G WiMAX, I would buy it instead. I don’t mind doing my content writing in coffee shops, though—if surfing the internet directly from the beach is something you’d like to do, mobile data may not be a bad idea for you.
Hopefully this sets you in the right direction towards buying a good computer for your business. Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions of your own!
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