This is another question I get frequently and it isn’t always an easy answer. I start my answer with two questions, first “what do you want to use it for?” and second “do you have a budget in mind?”.
There are several different rough classifications of computer users and PC manufacturers target those groups with features and price. Lets run those down first.
There’s two types of people in this world, the ones who classify people into groups and surfers
Yah, I’m not sure exactly how that quote applies, but I like it.
I call the first group Information Users. They use the computer to search for answers to questions, write a few documents, email, and do simple things like keep a calendar. They require the lowest (and least expensive) hardware specifications. These users tend to buy new hardware much less frequently as they are less sensitive to performance problems and upgrade their software at a slower pace.
Next up are Media Users. This group watches movies through services like Amazon, Netflix and Youtube. While most of this content is streamed online, storage space could be a consideration for this user as well as better than budget level video and audio. These folks might also do some gaming but probably not to a level that justifies buying hardware aimed at “gamers”.
Knowledge Workers are our next group and are made up of people like, well, me! Nerds tend to drive their computers harder than the groups above and have serious storage and memory requirements. This group probably uses specialized software to do their work that requires more costly hardware.
Lastly is the Hardcore Gamer. Modern games with 3D graphics are the most resource intensive software on the market and drive the demand for high end consumer PC’s. They require video cards that have their own microprocessors, fast disk drives, large amounts of memory and often multiple displays.
Each group above is a combination of their traits combined with some or all of the traits in the groups above it.
I know I’m giving away my mid 80’s formative period with an Oingo Boingo reference. So, lets talk budget. If you have a hard budget to work with my recommendation is pretty simple. With your budget and your usage needs as a guide, get the most machine you can. “But Wes” you ask, “what if it turns out I can spend less money and fit my needs”. If you find yourself in that position, feel free to save the money, but do consider this point. If you can afford to spend your budget you can increase the amount of time it will be before your hardware becomes dated and potentially save money in the long run. As new versions of software are released and new innovations are made, any PC you buy will eventually become outdated. If you spend more now you’ll push off having to go through this process again.
Ok, now you know how you want to use your new machine and you have a budget number in mind. What’s the best brand? To be honest, the answer to that question changes frequently. 15-20 years ago there were manufacturers to avoid, and others that we’re safe bets. The competition in this space is so fierce and the margins so low, that even the best known manufacturers have garbage on the market along with truly great products. I wish I could say “Buy so-and-so’s brand and you can’t go wrong” but it’s just not the case any longer.
However, there are some things you can do to minimize your exposure. Use a retailer that will support your purchase. Amazon does a really good job at this and so does NewEgg and others. I avoid BestBuy as they have a reputation for being less than interested in supporting their customer after the purchase is made. Before you make your purchase, read up on the manufacturer’s support policy. Are they known for giving people grief or do they have a no nonsense approach to getting you back up and running.
Navigating the new PC waters can be daunting. Hopefully these tips helped you plot a course. If you are still struggling with the decision, give me a call, I can help guide you to the right purchase, because hey, I Speak Nerd.