Computer Buying Basics
Computer Buying Basics
Ali Nasri (Computer Specialist, Mac 911 Inc.) gives expert video advice on: How important is brand name when it comes to buying computer hardware?; Do computers come with monitors?; What factors do I need to consider when buying a notebook computer? and more...
How important is brand name when it comes to buying computer hardware?
Brand name can typically be pretty important. Some people don't think so. There are a lot of clones out there. Not with Apple, because Apple does make the hardware and the software, so it's a unified system and you have less problems with compatibility, whereas with clones you have parts that have been made by different manufacturers, and when you have an issue, one manufacturer says, "Oh, it's not my problem, it's the other person's device that's causing the problem." And also the reputation comes into play, like Hewlett-Packard, Sony, Apple, Dell--those are all tier 1 large manufacturers. They give you good warranties, they have good customer service. Buying a generic system; if something goes wrong with it, sometimes the hassles that go along with that outweigh any type of financial savings that you may have made.
What is a "clone computer"?
A clone computer is a computer that is not made by a tier one manufacturer i.e. Apple Computer, IBM, Dell. The clone computers have parts that have been manufactured by different companies. So, you could have the case made by one company, the motherboard by one company, the hard drive from someone else. You will get lower prices when buying these, because you can shop and get your own best deal, for each specific part. Some enthusiasts actually do buy their own parts and put all together, and you can actually make a good high end computer that way, if you know what parts you're getting and if you do get higher end parts. But, the problem with clone computers can come with support, because the components are coming from different places. You don't have one place where you can call when you have an issue. Another problem is warranties. If you have a clone machine - because the parts are coming from different sources - the warranties will not apply to every single part; whereas, if you buy a new computer, you'll usually get at least a one year warranty on it and better customer support.
What are the pros and cons of a clone computer?
The pros of a clone computer, first of all, is lower cost. That is the primary reason why people go with clones. Because either the tier one manufacturer's computer is not in their budget, or they're an enthusiast and want to build their own system, and therefore they buy their own parts. The problem with clone computers comes with customer support. You usually don't have one place that you can call. The benefits of the clones, of course, is the cost. If you go with the manufacturer's machine you do pay a little bit more, but you have the piece of mind that if something goes wrong, you have someone that you can call.
Do computers come with monitors?
Generally speaking, computers don't come with monitors. Desk top machines do not come with monitors. Some Macs, for example the iMac, come bundled with a monitor inside it, so when you buy the computer, it does come with a monitor. Obviously all laptops come with displays built into it. There are some bundles you can buy that do come with monitors but generally speaking, computers do not come with monitors and those are peripherals you have to buy additionally.
What factors do I need to consider when buying a notebook computer?
Really, the first thing is the size of the notebook. Because they come from 12 inch screens, 15 inch, 17 inch screens, and that effects the weight of the computers. So screen size, weight, screen resolution comes into play. Some laptops are small, and they don't have any optical drives to burn CD's or DVD's internally, and you'd have to buy an external one if you choose to burn video. Battery life comes into play, generally speaking, the faster the processor is the lower your battery life is going to be because it does use up a lot of power. Also on the display, you can get displays now with glossy screens, ultra-high resolution, they're really geared for video editing, photograpy, gaming, and also, as I mentioned before, RAM is really important, if you're going to buy a laptop, it's always good to bump up the memory, because generally speaking, the manufacterers don't provide enough RAM for the type of applications that are available, especially a lot of multimedia applications. You see how easy it is to make your own videos, and photography and all that, but sometimes consumers don't get the experience they expected because they don't have enough memory in the computer.
In terms of hard drive speed, what does "RPM" mean?
The RPMs are revolutions per minute. Basically, inside the hard drive there are disk platters, and they're rotating just like a record on a record player would. It's rotating really fast, and the faster it rotates the faster the information is transferred from the hard drive to the processor. That in turn increases the read time and the write time on the hard drive, so RPMs are important.
Do most notebook or laptop computers offer integrated wireless Internet?
Most notebooks do offer integrated wireless internet access. Generally, they come with 82.11b and 82.11g cards integrated into the computer. Some of the newer notebooks do come with 82.11n. The 82.11b was the original wireless standard. It later came out with 82.11g, which was a faster wireless card that you really only notice during file sharing between computers. As far as internet access goes, when you are browsing the Web, you will not see much of a difference between 82.11b or 82.11g.
How much battery life can I expect to get with a notebook or laptop computer?
Most manufacturers overstate the battery life. They'll say for example, you'll get about five hours of battery life. However, that's generally with the screen dimmed, power management on, not accessing the hard drive, not playing any DVD movies etc. So typically, between three to five hours on most laptops if the computer is not being used to any great extent. If you have power conservation on, you'll get towards the higher end of that. If you're watching a DVD movie, generally, the battery will only last for about two hours.
Is it a good idea to buy a used laptop?
It's not a good idea to buy a used laptop. The savings that you realize over buying a new laptop can quickly vanish the first time you have a problem. Typically when you buy something used you're not going to get a warrantee on it or a really small window warrantee such as three days. With anything that goes wrong on a laptop, the parts are so small and expensive that it's really labor intensive thing to get in there and replace them. It's not a good idea to buy a used laptop.
What basic factors affect the overall speed of my computer?
The speed of your computer is primarily determined by the speed of your CPU, which is the central processing unit. It's the brain of the computer. The speed of the computer is measured in gigahertz. Gigahertz means billions of cycles per second. The faster the gigahertz, the faster the computer is able to make calculations per second.