One of the most common questions I get asked is 'what sort of computer do I need to buy?'

Whether you come to us to buy your computer or buy it yourself I hope the information below will help you make your purchase.

For my personal views on where and what to buy see this article here

Typical computer Specification

For general home and office usage a reasonable spec (as of late 2015) would be the following:

  • Intel i3 processor, 2-3Ghz speed
  • 4GB of RAM
  • Any size hard drive - typically machines come with a hard disk of 500GByte and upwards. This is more than enough storage for typical office & home usage unless you are planning on storing large quantities of videos, or enormous quantities of photos or music.

Typically a 500GB hard drive could store the following:

  • 8,500 hours of MP3 music
  • 500 hours of Videos
  • 155,000 3MB Jpeg images
  • 250 hours of movies

(see this link http://www.pcninja.us/how-much-can-a-1-tb-external-hard-drive-hold/ )

For higher performance then I would first of all upgrade the hard drive to an SSD (Solid state Drive) - because this has no moving parts data retrieval is almost instantaneous and it makes a huge difference to windows performance - startup times for a cold boot are 30-60 seconds and general responsiveness is greatly improved.  The downside is that SSD storage is still about twice the price of traditional hard drives, so a 128GB or 250GB SSD would be typical. It is relatively straightforward to upgrade an existing machine to an SSD (as long as the actual disk space being used will fit on the SSD!).

Upgrading the RAM to 8GB will improve performance particularly where several applications are being used simultaneously.

Upgrading the processor to an i5 or i7 will make a slight improvement for most users, more for users who are using complex applications (CAD, Video/audio processing) or spreadsheets that need more processing power.

Operating System

No matter which operating system you buy now, at some point you will need to upgrade to Windows 10 or its successor.  Until the release of Windows 10 my advice was to stick with windows 7 unless you were buying a touch screen device.  Windows 10 seems to be much easier to use without a touch screen so I would not advise against it - however windows 7 professional is still available on business orientated machines. Unless you are planning on sticking with windows 7 until it goes completely out of support (around 2020) it now makes more sense to go with windows 10 as the 'free upgrade' is only available until July 2016.

Desktop or Laptop

A desktop computer is preferable for several reasons, although the overall cost of the computer + screen may be close to or more than a laptop, a desktop has several advantages.

  • Larger screen - typical laptops have a 15" screen - a desktop computer will have a 22" or larger widescreen display
  • 'Proper' keyboard and mouse - most people find a separate keyboard and traditional mouse easier to use
  • Repair and upgrade - laptops are full of proprietary parts that are unique to that specific model of laptop, desktop parts conform to a set of standards that means they are by and large interchangeable.
  • Lifetime - laptops tend to have a shorter lifetime than desktops, both because they are more difficult to repair, but also because of the trade offs made in their manufacture - cooling is usually less efficient which means that a laptop will run hotter than a desktop.  
  • Batteries - using a laptop like a desktop permanently on charge damages the batteries. This typically means that the batteries hold no charge at all and go flat almost immediately the mains is disconnected.  Like a muscle the batteries benefit form exercise - running the machine down to the critical battery level about every week or so is recommended.  Some modern laptops have a 'battery saver' setting that only charges the battery to 80% to try and avoid this effect.

Unless you have a need to carry your computer around with you then a desktop is probably the best choice.

Apple or PC

If you think you need an Apple then nothing I say will convince you otherwise...