Buying a new computer can be an extremely daunting task if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Buying a new computer can be equated one of the Navi picking their flying partner mate. Secretly inside, I like to judge people by the kind of laptop they use. I have a category for each type of person with their computer organization habits, hardware and software choices. To those of you completely lost to the technology world, here is a somewhat comprehensive guide (hopefully) with personal suggestions as well.
When it comes to a laptop, here are the major things to take into consideration:
- Price (probably the most non-negotiable for some people, more on this later)
- Size and Weight
- Battery Life
- Screen Quality (and Resolution)
- CPU and RAM
- Hard Drive Capacity (and speed)
- Graphics (Mainly for gamers)
- Ergonomics (How the computer feels)
- Peripherals (CD Drive / SD Card Slot / USB Ports / Expresscard Slot / Docking Station / Bluetooth / Webcam)
- Operating System (If you’re not confident changing it yourself)
I suggest thinking about all of these elements as a whole, and deciding which ones of these you need and which ones you don’t. That way you can narrow down your list. I am not going to go into detail on what these do if you don’t know some of the more technical details, so do a Google search to figure those out.
The following is my general opinion for a computer that will last you four years in college. Since you’ll probably need to be somewhat mobile, the weight should be 4-5 pounds at most. As for the processor and RAM, I would recommend nothing less than an Intel i5 with at least 3-4 GB of RAM. As for hard drive space, you’ll probably want at least 500 GB or so of space, although this will vary depending on what you plan to do with your computer. The rest of the items on the list above should be up to your judgment.
Also, be sure to check out a variety of computer manufacturers, and be wary of their often misleading advertising. Don’t look down on a computer just because it’s labeled a “business” computer, or any other advertising of the sort. Here is a list of major computer manufacturers, not an exhaustive list. (starred are companies I recommend checking out, and some of my personal opinion):
- Apple* (You’ll be stuck with a different OS than everyone else)
- Dell* (Generally the cheapest option, somewhat decent build quality)
- HP (Overrated in my opinion)
- Lenovo* (only the ThinkPad line, with super durable and high quality build)
- Samsung (They make some super sleek computers, quite expensive)
Now that I’ve listed out parts and companies, here is how you actually go about buying a computer:
The Easy Way: (Making one purchase for a complete computer)
According to trends and statistics, it has been noted that computer prices are the cheapest around March and April. So if you’re on the hunt for a new computer, now is a pretty good time to be looking for one.
Be sure to look around at as many stores and retailers as possible to find the cheapest price. Check the manufacturer’s website, Amazon, Newegg, Fry’s, Costco, etc.
Also, as a note, be aware for coupon codes and promotions that can save you some money. A friend of mine saved nearly $500 on his laptop by applying 5 different coupon codes during checkout to purchase a computer for $300, and now he happily uses an i7 equipped laptop (he actually mixed this with the suggestion below as well).
The Cheap Way: (Finding the best deals on individual parts and assembling it yourself, saving up to $400)
This is slightly more difficult to do, as most laptop manufacturers nowadays will not allow you to simply buy a laptop without a hard drive and RAM. A laptop without certain hardware components is called a “barebone laptop”, which you can generally get for a significantly low price. Unfortunately, many of the barebone laptops that I am finding currently are not from the top manufacturers. The other way you could do this is buying a computer off of ebay / craigslist, although there will always be risks associated with buying computers second hand. You could try contacting a manufacturer by phone to order a barebone laptop.
After getting your barebone laptop, you would have to scourge for cheap hard drives, memory, and whatever else you need to get your computer functioning. I won’t go too much into detail because I know that few people will actually do this, but if you would like to assemble your own laptop to save a couple hundred dollars and learn a little something about computers, feel free to contact me!