ComputerBuying Tips Computer Buying Tips Developed By: VFAC Technology Committee Terri Ryan Technology Committee, Chair Joi L. Brown Technology Committee, Co-Chair
Table of Contents Shopping in Store Shopping Online Online Discounts Buying a Laptop? PC or Mac? SONY vs. Dell? How much RAM? Hardware/Software
Shopping in Store (BestBuy, Walmart)? • Take advantage of weekly store specials • Computers are largely commodities, so chase a low price point aggressively. There are new models of computers coming on the market every few weeks and differ very little in any meaningful way. While technology changes quickly, it doesn’t change dramatically month-to-month • Take advantage of retailers moving "old stock" as they most likely are just as good as the “new” stock. Treat it like the Ann Taylor blouse that is moved to the 40% off rack two weeks after it arrives at the store. Also look out for other incentives for offering special price cuts from the PC manufacturer. • The bottom line: Shop for price somewhere in the range of $500 - $750 and you could almost go to the store blindfolded and still make a good choice.
Shopping Online (BestBuy.com, Dell.com)? • Take advantage of online specials • Bestbuy.com, CircuitCity.com and Walmart.com are suited for the less-skilled on technology jargon customers. What you see is what you get. • Dell.com is for the person who is more advanced and has specific needs from a functionality standpoint. However buying on Dell.com allows you to take advantage of add-ons like free printers. • The bottom line: Shop for price somewhere in the range of $500 - $750 and you could almost go to the store blindfolded and still make a good choice.
Couponmountain.com • Special Tip: If buying online, go to couponmountain.com and you can usually find an online coupon code that’s valid.
Buying a Laptop? • Shop for a laptop in-store, first • You need to test drive the keyboard, mouse and monitor since they are integrated. You can always change the monitor, keyboard and mouse on a desktop PC but not on a laptop unless you have it tethered to a desk. • Check the keyboard for good key action — the amount of travel from top to bottom of a key press; more usually feels better. • Laptops use many different kinds of mouse pointing devices so make sure you like the one your new laptop uses. • And of course check the brightness of the monitor. Make sure you have a bright display and one that seems large enough to your eyes. • Barring a really good sale (eg Holidays), expect to pay $800-$1,000 for a laptop
PC or Mac There are differences between the two but your choice should be based on your needs, affordability and preferences.
SONY vs. Dell? • Don't get hung up on brand names • Businesses have known this for years and buy whatever brand gives them the best price when they deploy thousands of machines across an enterprise. So buy like the pros and don't get hung up on some concept that a certain brand of PC is necessarily faster or better built than another. • Check the warranty, support section of web site, and even call their toll free support number with a test question to see what the people are like on the other end. • Bottom line: Like cars, the guts are basically the same while the case is different. Don’t shop for the name on the case, shop for the functionality you need with the best customer service/support program. Even a SONY Vaio malfunctions and it will not fix itself, nothing is more frustrating than having a malfunctioning computer and nobody to call for help.
How much RAM? • Make more RAM (random access memory) • your main priority with any PC (more • is more) • CPU speed and hard drive space are usually OK, memory is what's often skimpy on a new machine. All too often what is perceived by users as their computer being too slow is actually not the CPU speed but the amount of memory. • When a computer has too little memory, it usually doesn't alert you until it’s about to totally shut down, it just starts using hard drive space instead. • Buy at least 2GB to run any of the latest operating systems with all their features. Consider 3GB if you can afford it because there's almost no such thing as too much RAM
Hardware/Software Needs Hardware: CPU – The computer itself Monitor – Suggestion is at least a 17” screen minimum, 19” minimum for graphic professionals Printer – All in one’s are handy (printer, fax, scanner, copier) Laptop - If smaller is important because of weight, go with a 15” screen, but for visual comfort go for 17” Software: Operating System - Microsoft XP Professional or Home, Vista (still buggy) Software – Excel, Word, and PowerPoint, Adobe Reader (must haves) Adobe Acrobat, Imaging software (nice to have) Tip: If you are an educator, retired educator, student or you home-school your kids you should purchase the Education edition of the software. It is the same but costs half the price! You may be asked to show appropriate ID to purchase