How to Buy a New PC

Buying a new PC can be scary – a wrong decision can saddle you with a PC that does not meet your needs for the next 3-4 years. So how can you choose one that works for you?

The screen on my beloved laptop, long in tooth at 4 ½ years old started failing seriously and progressively 10 days ago. So I did my shopping on the web and ordered my new PC, which I am now using. Here’s what I did:

I created a spreadsheet with potential computer models down the left side as row titles, and the various attributes as column headers. The column titles were:

· CPU speed (available from PassMark) – faster is better. An Intel Core i3 can be faster than an Intel Core i5, depending on generation, etc. For example, an Intel Core i3-8130U is rated at 5080, while an Intel Core i5-4300U is rated at 3739 (and an Intel Core i5-4300M is rated at 4411). Checking speeds is easy – just google http://www.passmark.com intel core-i3-8130U. Clock speed doesn’t necessarily matter – a 2.2GHz chip is not necessarily better than a 1.7GHz chip.

· Disk (hard disk or solid state – I decided that I’d rather have a Solid State Disk drive rather than a traditional hard drive (with rotating disk). Solid state disks make a computer much faster and more responsive, although they’re more expensive

· Memory – I wanted at least 8 gig, again for speed

· Battery life – (sometimes this information was not available)

· DVD/CD Drive – some newer models don’t have DVD/CD drives. But that’s how some of my software would need to be loaded, so I needed that drive

· HDMI port – I need that to connect to my monitor; it has superior picture quality compared to VGA. My new laptop has a Thunderbolt port, so I bought an HDMI adapter pigtail for it which I will leave permanently attached.

· Refurbished/New – I wound up getting a much more powerful computer refurbished. I have had other refurbished laptops that ran very well for years.

· Warranty – since I got a refurbished laptop, I bought a 3-year warranty from Square Deal.

· Price

· Vendor (the retailer you’re buying from)

You can also get laptop brand ratings from Laptop magazine online, to check the brand you’re considering.

My new (refurbished) system is a screamer, with an Intel Core i7-4800MQ rated at 8497 and 500 g of solid state disk. And it was under $500 (plus $79 for a 3 year warranty); it originally retailed for $1300-$2000. If you’d like, I’ll tell you what I actually bought.

PS – I have an external hard drive attached to my laptop whenever I’m in my office, backing up my system continuously. I STRONGLY encourage you to do the same, just in case your hard drive crashes.

PPS – for this column, I let my inner geek out to play. Yes, I do have a quantitative side as well J

Gary

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