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Step 2: Computer Option List

This is the second  step of our free buying assistance service. If you feel a more personalized approach is preferred where all the decisions are made by us, we might recommend starting at our buying assistance service

  1. Step 1: Decide on a desktop, laptop, tablet, etc. Also known as the “form factor”.
  2. You are on Step 2Review the list of options you may not know about or forgotten.
  3. Step 3: Check out our specific model, with our commentary.
    1. Desktops
    2. Laptops
    3. Printers – You may want to check out our printer information page before selecting.
    4. More recommendations including email services, wireless setups, phone and tablets, and more!
  4. Feel free to check out our Buying Assistance Services for help purchasing a new computer.

Lets Start!

No matter if you’re interested in a desktop or laptop, our recommended processor, memory, drive type and capacity are must have’s unless your needs are specific:

  1. Intel i5 Processor or higher. You may get by with an i3 if you promise not to expect silky smooth video playback and 50 browsing tabs at a time.
  2. 256 GB SSD drive type or higher capacity. May get by with 120 GB if you promise not to fill it with 50,000 pictures and videos. May need more capacity if you have 50,000 pictures and videos.
  3. 8 GB of RAM. May get by with 4 GB if you promise not to run many programs or open 50 browsing tabs at a time. 
  4. 15″ screen if you are interested in a laptop. We have found it to be a good compromise between size, weight, power, price and portability

That’s it! Our list of “must haves”. Everything else is optional. Check out the list below and make note of which options fall under your “must haves” and use those to select your specific desktop and laptop

Common Secondary Options

We see a few secondary must-haves such as:

  • DVD Drive.
  • Touch enabled screen.
  • Backlit keyboards on laptops.

Available Options

  • Processor
    • Intel i5 for nearly everyone.
    • i7 for high end gaming, video editing, or engineering type programs.
    • i3 for very basic, light duty computer use. Video playback at high resolutions may be choppy.
    • 8th or 9th Generation, soon to be only 9th. 10th is making it’s appearance.
  • Memory
    • 8 GB for nearly everyone.
    • 16 GB or more for engineers, video editors, and high level gamers. 
    • 4 GB can be used if only one or two programs are run at a time and just a few browser tabs are open. 
  • SSD – aka The Hard Drive
    • Solid State Drive (SSD) is the electronic version of the old, mechanical, spinning drive found on desktop and laptops since the beginning of time.
    • 256 GB SSD for nearly everyone.
    • 120 GB is acceptable if you have minimal data and programs installed.
    • Higher capacities may be needed for those with 50,000 pictures and videos saved. 
    • Drive capacity has no bearing on performance. Only get what you need. I like to have 50% free when upgrading.
    • Of the types of SSD’s available, SATA is acceptable but NVMe types are the top performers. For most, little difference will be noticed. 
    • In summary, you MUST have an SSD installed in all new computers and laptops or your computer will run slow. A hybrid or second conventional drive might be acceptable as long as the boot drive is still SSD.
  • Wireless
    • As you might expect, all laptops need wireless, but if the desktop is in a location that cannot easily be reached with a network cable, wireless is required also. Desktops may or may not come with wireless. 
    • We like the Intel brand wireless if given a choice, but Qualcomm is good also.
    • Must be dual band, preferably with Bluetooth.
    • For All-in-One computers, it’s nice to have and most come with wireless in today’s world.
    • Wireless offers a “cleaner” look. Less wires.
    • Wired connections are more reliable and sometimes faster than wireless. On most Internet connections, you probably will not notice speed differences between wired and wireless if  your wireless router/modem is less than 3 years old. If you have a lot of interference, distance, or concrete walls wired might be better. Sometimes you have to use what works or is available for your situation.
  • Screen size
    • For laptops, 15″ is the best balance between price, size, portability and battery drain.
    • 17″ is very nice for enlarging text size for easier reading without left/right scrolling. Can also fit two or more Windows at the same time on the screen.
    • For desktops, widescreens that are 22″ minimum are recommended, with 24″ strongly recommended for several reasons dealing with the height and width of the screen. 
    • If budget and space allow, 27″ is available but it may be overkill. Might be required if vision is very poor. Like a 24″, low resolution can be used to enlarge everything for easier viewing. 
  • CD\DVD
    • Becoming less important and getting rare on laptops.
    • Externally attached DVD drives using a USB port are available.
    • May have to sacrifice other features to get a built-in DVD drive on a laptop. Eventually they will be no longer available at all. 
    • Still pretty common on desktops, for now.
    • If you wish to play back DVD movies, you must have software to do that such as Cyberlink.  
  • Keyboard
    • A numeric keypad is recommended for easier number entry. This may be a bigger deal than what you think if you deal with number entry. 
    • For laptops, backlit keyboards may be something to consider if used in dark environments.
    • Some higher end Dell laptops have dual pointers where there is a post in the middle of the keyboard for cursor navigation.
    • Black keyboards with black keys and white characters seems to be the best for poor vision and typing ability.
  • Camera\Mic
    • Confirm if a camera and microphone are installed. Most laptops and All-in-One’s have them.
    • Standalone monitors that attach to desktops probably don’t have them. Some higher end monitors have them built in. Check the specs.
  • Sound
    • For desktops you will want an  1/8 speaker jack in back and a headphone jack in front, at the minimum. 
    • If it comes with additional line and mic jacks in back and/or front, so much the better.
    • Think about how you will use headphones and mic’s and if your devices use USB or 1/8 jacks.
    • Make a note if the laptop or desktop comes with the jack you need.
    • A more modern way to use headphone and mic headsets is USB or Bluetooth. It tends to offer cleaner sound.
    • 1/8 sound jacks are probably going to drift away over time, just like on phones.
  • USB Ports
    • Several USB 3.0 ports or higher are a must have – as many as possible. 
    • For desktops, having 2 or more USB 3.0 jacks in back and front is desirable. For sure in back.
    • All laptops have USB ports at this time. Some have regular and mini USB ports that might require an adapter to make work with your accessories. The more USB ports the better because at least one may be used by an external mouse.  
  • Additional video ports
    • Laptops should have an additional port for an external monitor. Most common is an HDMI port or mini HDMI port.
    • Desktops should have at least 2 ports for multiple monitors. There is a better chance one or the other will  match a connector on your existing monitor. 
    • All-in-One computers should also have an additional rear video port for a second monitor. 
    • If the desktop computer does not have the right combination of ports, adapters can be used or a second video card installed.  
  • Battery
    • For laptops, get the highest capacity you can if it’s an option – period. With most models, there is no choice.
    • The claimed battery life can be ignored. It’s not reality.  
    • Most laptops no longer have removable batteries. The laptop must be disassembled to change it out. A big pet-peeve of ours.
  • Touchscreen
    • For laptops and All-in-One’s, think about whether or not your would use it. 
    • Most people still use the mouse and keyboard, but for those who have trouble with the touch pad, external mouse, or mobility issues, touchscreens can be helpful. 
    • Some laptops have screens that can be rotated completely underneath the laptop to be used as a tablet. Dell calls theirs “2-in-1’s”.
    • Touch adds to the overall cost.
  • Physical size
    • Will the laptop, desktop, or All-in-One fit where you want it to go?
    • For laptops, a 17″ screen gets pretty big in an airplane seat. 
    • For desktops, a 24″ or more screen might not fit in a cubby-hole or on a desktop with shelving above it.
  • Build Quality Considerations
    • This refers to how high a quality should you go with. This applies heavily to laptops. You may have two laptops with the same core specifications and similar performance, but one is a higher build quality. The quality is most often noticed in the following ways:
      • Keyboard “feel”. Is it “clicky”?
      • Display hinges.
      • Battery capacity.
      • Overall Weight.
      • Noise level.
      • Chassis material and polish.
      • Reliability.
      • Durability. ( Spillage, banging, hitting )
      • Wireless hardware quality.
      • Screen Sharpness\Viewing angle\Contrast.
    • For example, Dell “Inspiron” models are consumer grade, “Latitude” is a higher, business grade, and “XPS” and “Precision” are the highest grade. Yes, you can “feel” the difference but performance wise using similar core components, there is not a significant difference between Inspiron and Latitude. XPS and Precision usually come with very high grade components so there is quite a difference when running demanding, video heavy programs.   
  • Computer Location
    • Will network cabling reach the computer?
    • If your router or modem is across the room or in another room, wireless may be a requirement. 
    • Will your wired keyboard and mouse reach the computer? If not, a wireless keyboard and mouse may be needed. 
  • Warranty
    • Except for lower cost Inspiron laptops, we strongly recommend Dell’s 3 year, onsite, next business day warranty.  
    • For desktop computers, were still on the fence about it. Typically, we are all about service so our recommendation tends to be in favor of the extended warranty. For businesses, we strongly recommend as long of an extended warranty as possible. Downtime costs money. 
  • Programs
    • Some of the programs you need require specific hardware to run properly. Check the software requirements first and choose a computer that matches. This mostly applies to engineering, video editing, and gamers. Home users don’t need to concern themselves. 
    • Always buy Microsoft Office directly from Microsoft, not the computer manufacturer or places like GoDaddy. We have run into nightmare setup, configuration, and licensing issues. We can assist in the buying process. 
    • The same goes for antivirus. If something comes free with the new computer, feel free to use it. Otherwise buy from the vendor directly or someone authorized such as us. We recommend AVG Business and Norton Security at this time. .
  1. Step 1: Decide on a desktop, laptop, tablet, etc. Also known as the “form factor”.
  2. You are on Step 2Review the list of options you may not know about or forgotten.
  3. Step 3: Check out our specific model, with our commentary.
    1. Desktops
    2. Laptops
    3. Printers – You may want to check out our printer information page before selecting.
    4. More recommendations including email services, wireless setups, phone and tablets, and more!
  4. Feel free to check out our Buying Assistance Services for help purchasing a new computer.

Contact us with any questions!