So you want to get a new computer. Maybe you need to get a new computer. What do you get? Where do you go? How much is it going to cost? These are some great questions. The answers depend entirely on what your intentions are.
If you are an avid gamer, and you want something to run the latest games, then you expect to spend a descent chunk of change on the latest and greatest machine available. Otherwise, the latest and greatest is probably just a waste of money. Maybe you go to Best Buy, or Target, or Walmart and take a gander at the latest offerings. But there is little selection, and the prices seem too high for what you are really getting. Maybe you are looking online, but the selection is so large that you are confused with what you really need.
With the exception of my servers, I typically buy computers that are ‘off lease’. They were leased by a business entity for a year or two and then taken back by the lessor at the end of the term. The lessor wipes the hard drive, installs a clean copy of whatever version of Microsoft Windows was previously on the machine, and then sells it. They sell it for a small fraction of the cost of purchasing a new machine. Sure, the machine is a year or two old. Sure, the operating system may not be the latest. But the price is very enticing. The hardware has proven it is not a lemon, and it is inspected by a technician to ensure it works properly.
I am writing this post on a Lenovo laptop I purchased last year for about $250. It has roughly the same specs as my desktop computer. It zips through websites, has no problem with youtube or netflix, and allows me to do software development, web design, photo and video editing, Autocad, and everything else I need. I have yet to have a computing need that it hasn’t been able and willing to fulfill. In short, $250 is more than sufficient for my needs.
The downside, and … possibly the upside, of purchasing an off lease machine is that it only has a bare operating system. I have to add all the software I use. I enjoy not having all the extras that I don’t need, but I do have to purchase some software, such as Microsoft Office. There are plenty of free alternatives to many of the purchased programs, I will discuss those some other time, but sometimes the alternatives just won’t do and I have to shell out for the name brand software.
There are many online retailers who sell ‘off-lease’ machines. I usually look at buy.com first, they have a very large selection and I can get an idea of prices and specs available. Then, with the help of Google, I look at the other options. Lately I have ended up purchasing from buy.com. I recommend paying attention to the return policy and the customer reviews from whatever company you purchase from. Occasionally the off lease computers have some issues that were not detected when the technician was reviewing the machine. If you have to return a problematic machine you are far ahead of the game if you already know what will be expected of you.
Some specs that I look for are the processor type and speed and the amount of memory, both ram and hard drive. I need a hard drive capable of storing whatever I’ll put on it, and a processor/ram combo capable of handling what I throw at it. I usually have 10 – 20 tabs open on my browser as well as other programs running at the same time, so I like to have at least 4 gb of ram and at least a dual core processor. I usually go for the 4+ core processors. The machine I’m using right now has a dual core Intel I5 processor with hyper-threading. The hyper-threading means each processor core can handle 2 sets of instructions at a time so it acts like a 4 core machine. It has 8 gb of ram (the reason I chose this machine over another machine with better battery but 4gb of ram), and a 250 gb hard drive. Since this is a laptop, and most of my storage is on a server, I don’t need to store much. If I were storing a fair amount of videos or photos I would want at least 1 terabyte of storage. In a desktop I would look for at least a 750gb hard drive for light use and 1.5+ tb for video editing and photo and video storage. Hard drives are easy to add in a desktop, much easier than in a laptop, and relatively cheap; so it’s not as critical in a desktop that you get what you get the bigger hard drive.
This has been my experience with purchasing computers, your experiences may vary.