Tech Buyers Guide for Christmas

Tech Buyers Guide for Christmas

I really can’t believe I am writing about Christmas in November. I love Christmas, but much prefer it to be at Christmas and not soon after the summer holidays. However, if this article is to be of any use this is my last chance as the next one will come out a few days before.

Some of you will no doubt be thinking of a new PC / Laptop / Tablet, or gizmo to attach to it, as a Christmas present for yourself or a loved one or maybe one of your family J. Having the experience of customers who come to our store for advice on this subject over the years, I understand that this is not an enjoyable task for many.

The majority of the adult population were never “taught” how to use a computer. We may have been shown how to send and open an email at work and some have even reached the giddy heights of being able to print a document the right way up all on their own (well with the help of their 5-year-old granddaughter). But for many using a PC is very much hit and miss. Therefore, when considering buying a replacement or even worse a present for someone else, with so much choice available and so much conflicting advice from experts and PC World, you end up feeling like a total moron and smiling sweetly, thanking the guy at MEGAIRONINGBOARDANDLAPTOPPLANET for helping you re-mortgage and buy half the store just so you can get out.

To help you recover some of your self-esteem and buy with some confidence and maybe even allow you to enjoy the purchase for a change, read on.

Firstly, like buying a home, you need to buy the right thing for the job. Want to spend your retirement traveling Europe, following the weather around the med? Then don’t buy a bungalow, it is difficult to move about. So do not buy a PC and monitor etc. if you need to use the computer in different rooms or out and about. Same applies the other way, do not by a motorhome if you intend on setting down in one place because you hate traveling and can’t drive, and the kids are due to move back in with the grandchildren. I bet there are some of you out there now with a behemoth of a PC sited in the spare room on the top floor of the house with an old CRT monitor precariously balanced on a home-made desk that you use regularly to email your family in Canada and considering having a Stair lift installed to save you keep going up and down the stairs as it is less stressful than buying a new PC.

You then need to consider the specification. Using the home analogy again – when you were looking to buy your home I assume you did not buy the cheapest one you saw advertised, or chose it by the colour of the door? I doubt it as it would be unlikely to fulfil your needs. Trouble for most people is, what is the right spec for you? Read on…

PC, Laptop or Tablet? – You will get more for your money with a PC but it is static and takes up room. You can add things to it and upgrade it and for any real work it is better to have a nice big monitor with full keyboard and mouse. You can buy a laptop and attach it to all these external gizmos via a small box of tricks that sits on your desk and have the best of both worlds. If to be used on the hoof, then obviously a laptop. These are commonly available in three sizes 14”, 15.6” and 17.3”. Smaller equals lighter, better battery and more expensive, best bang-for-buck the Ford Mondeo 15.6” and only consider the large screen version for specific tasks as they are heavy with short battery life. Tablets are the new kids on the block. In general, simple to use, lightweight and possibly all you need if your demands are light. Try before you buy!

Specification – I do not want to make this complicated so will concentrate on the basics and suggest you do the same – for PC’s and Laptops:

CPU (processor, brain, whatever) – go for Intel only, they have three main types i3, i5 and i7. Simple stuff like internet browsing, word docs, few snaps, bit of online streaming of Downton Abbey and East Enders, i3 will be fine. Heavier use, photo manipulation, video editing, or just want the thing to be nippy then i5. Want it fast for no reason or into PC gaming, semi or professional editing then i7. Normally when advertised in store you will see i5 then a bunch on numbers. The first number is the series, new systems should all be 6***, if not you may be being sold old stock.

RAM – the more the merrier. Basically acts as temporary storage making the system faster. 4GB is now the start point with 8GB recommended, normally quite cheap to upgrade. Some systems can take up to 128GB.

Storage – there are now two types of storage drive. The older HDD (Hard Disk Drive) and the newer SSD (Solid State Drive). The vast majority of older systems and many of the new will still have HDD with about 500GB to 1TB (1000GB) of storage space. The HDD technology is now very old and mechanical. Inside it looks like an old fashioned record player with a spinning disk and an arm. Over time this has become a bottleneck for both speed and failure. SSD are basically a bunch of solid state transistors (same technology as RAM) welded together. Being SS they are very fast to access. However, the cost has been prohibitive for some years meaning high prices and small storage capacity. Drives are still smaller than the HDD’s and more expensive but technology is moving fast here with 240GB Drives now affordable. 240GB may still be too small for those of you with lots of pics, movies etc. so be careful, some are supplied with a piddly 128GB SSD, this is too small.  Larger capacity drives are available but are costly. Old HDD still ok for most users not requiring speedy access.

Get these three things right and you will be half way there.

Spec on tablets differs from the above. There are a few expensive options that will have specs like a PC and run Windows (i.e. Microsoft Surface Pro) but we are really talking about iPads and a few others using Android like the Samsung. Please try before you buy but unless you know the difference then the iPad is the one.

Below are a few best buys you may want to consider:

Note these are our prices, you will find cheaper on the internet or in megastores – if you want help moving old data or installing and configuring at home we are happy to provide this service whether you buy from us or elsewhere. At a cost of course J

Good mid-range PC – HP ProDesk 400 G3 SFF Desktop – i5-6500, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, (Screen extra) Windows 10 – £475

Good mid-range Laptop – HP 250 G5 i5 Laptop 15.6”, i5-6200U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, Webcam, Windows 10 – £540

Best Tablet – iPad Air 2 Wi-Fi 9.7” – £379 (Apple.com)

As always we are here to advise for free at any time.

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