I just read an article from MSN’s bCentral site, and I wasn’t too shocked at what it said. Although the author offers some good points, I don’t think it covers enough (that’s me). So, I’ve come up with some additional information to share. Since I’m very cynical about PCs and what they’re good for, I’ve come up with the following list of things to look for.
First, ask yourself what you want your PC to do. When you start here, you may discover that the fastest, meanest machine may not be worth the cost. I know people that want to just share e-mail and surf the web once in a while. For them, a WebTV is ideal. Others want to use their PCs for word processing… in other words, buy a dedicated word processor (or better yet, a typewriter). Then there are those that only want to record audio tracks and burn them to CD. Finally, gamers will need to shell out a few more bucks than most general users for increased performance from graphics-intensive PCs. For about $500 less than a new PC, they can purchase a hard-drive mini-studio with CD-R. So, ask yourself what you want to do with a computer and write everything down.
Second, think about compatibility. If you have a group of friends that have Apples and you want to swap files with them regularly, then go with a Mac. On the other hand, if it doesn’t matter what system your friends have (really, it doesn’t nowadays) and you’re more concerned about cost and availability of software, go Windows-based. Finally, if you want to spend all day setting up your PC and programming it every week, consider a base computer and load Linux on it. By the way, OS X, Windows XP, and Linux are all operating systems and (generally) need to be installed in order for you to operate your PC. These should be installed before you take the PC home.
Third, think about reliability and (I can’t emphasize this enough) do your homework!! If you have Internet access, you can easily look up PC reviews. If not, take a trip to the library and read PC Magazine and PC World. Oh, and don’t get sucked into those really good deals.
Finally, consider your budget. A simple computer costs anywhere from $500 to $1,500, base price. Once you start customizing the hardware (that’s the tangible stuff that goes inside the physical box), the PC’s sticker price can double. But beware… the hardware is one thing. You also need software to do the tasks you bought it for. For example, Microsoft Office costs at least $500 (unless you’re a student or teacher) and Adobe PhotoShop is $700. For those of you who don’t need high-end products, less expensive options are available, such as Microsoft Works ($100) and Adobe PhotoShop Elements ($90). And don’t even think about connecting to the Internet without some kind of anti-virus software like Norton AntiVirus ($50) or McAfee VirusScan ($35), and get some kind of firewall (such as those bundled with Norton or McAfee, or a hardware router). When all is said and done, your new PC can easily cost you about $2,000. By the way, I haven’t even started discussing things like a printer, digital camera, or Apple iPod.
Above all, ask someone that you know who is knowledgeable about computers and trustworthy. Don’t ask the neighbor that is always borrowing your power drill, because he or she might want you to purchase a machine that will suit his or her needs when she’s over. Anyone that knows me will know that I can answer some pretty simple questions about PCs, and I also have resources. And unlike some people, I can explain this stuff in English… in other words, feel free to e-mail me with questions.