Finally, Consumers Have Some Real Choices With Computing

Finally, Consumers Have Some Real Choices With Computing


Personal computer users have had two choices when it comes to fulfilling their computer needs: purchase a low-cost, cheaply made and virus vulnerable Microsoft computer with the Windows Vista operating system or go with a Mac from Apple. The latter, of course, is priced much higher but with far fewer reliability issues than a Windows based PC. Indeed, when comparing operating systems, Microsoft was the obvious loser while the Mac OS X system remains the clear winner.

Windows 7Macs are a no brainer for avid computer users who prize the computer’s styling, robust platform and lack of security issues. But Macs are also expensive, with their bare bones laptop retailing for $999 while standard equipped Mac retail for $1199 and higher.

Windows based laptops can be had for $500 with a fully equipped unit retailing for under $1000. Clearly, for price conscious consumers Microsoft has long held the competitive edge although they only control about one-tenth of the market.

But can we ever forget the dreaded Windows Vista operation system?

For the past few years, Microsoft has operated at a huge disadvantage to Apple, thanks in no small part to the disastrous launch of Windows Vista three years ago. Replacing Windows XP, the Vista operating system became a huge burden for users who complained that it slowed down their computers, fired up an endless round of warning codes and proved to be an ongoing headache.

Wherever possible, PC buyers asked for Windows XP instead of Vista until Microsoft angered everyone by pulling XP from the market. After all, when your older product is more desirable than the newer one, then why support the old when the newer will have to do?

Fortunately, Microsoft has finally come to its senses and replaced the hated Vista with something that is not only much improved, but critically acclaimed. Vista is gone and in its place is Windows 7, a much more stable, secure and usable operating system that is worth considering.

No, I would never dissuade someone from buying a Mac, but when it comes to expense, the up front cost of a Windows based PC is much lower. Then again, you have to figure in downtime, inconvenience and headaches to see that an Apple product really isn’t all that pricey when you weigh other factors.

But back to your Windows PC. What should you look for if you’re buying a new unit today? Assuming that you don’t want to go through the hassle of upgrading to Windows 7 from Vista or going through a major headache to do the same from XP, there are some things you should consider when shopping for a new one today:

Price — I almost hate to offer advice when it comes to price, knowing that for some people the appeal of a low cost machine trumps mostly everything. When you see netbooks retailing for $350 and basic laptops with a starting price under $500, it can be tempting to consider price and nothing else. Yes, I’ve seen desktops selling for rock bottom prices too, but many of those machines don’t have enough power for you to run many of today’s applications. Figure on paying about $750 for a nicely equipped HP or Dell.

Memory — The memory pig that was Vista meant that computer users needed at least 2GB of memory for their computers to work okay, if not properly. Personally, I would opt for 3GB even though the standard Mac offers 2GB. Can you get by with 2GB? Yes, but if you want to keep your computer for many years, the higher number may come in handy especially if you plan on adding programs or making an interim upgrade before buying your next PC.

Processor – Consumers may be tempted to purchase a new PC with an Intel Atom processor, but only choose this option if you’re looking for a unit to be used for web surfing and email. The standard processor from Intel is its dual-core processor, though pricey quad-cores are also available. Any computer equipped with today’s AMD processor should be sufficient too.

Architecture – Should you buy a computer with 64-bit or a 32-bit architecture installed? While 32-bit is sufficient for today’s computers, consider 64-bit if you need more random access memory (RAM) to process data faster. 64-bit hasn’t caught on completely yet, which means that some hardware such as your printer and certain software programs may have trouble with it.

Graphics – These days, computers come with either a graphics chip or a graphics card. With a chip, it’ll use its own memory to power your graphics, which is wonderful if you love video games. However, a graphic card can still prove adequate – look for a card integrated into the motherboard instead of a “discreet” card as the former uses less battery power.

Disk Storage – Disk storage minimums are ever spiraling upward with the industry minimum appearing to have hit 250 GB.

Extras – While the following aren’t must haves, they may be of importance to you when shopping for a computer with Windows 7 installed: integrated webcam; digital microphone; wireless capability; rechargeable 8-cell lithium-ion battery; ac adapter; the list goes on. Also, do you need an extended warranty and in-home service? Add those items to your final cost.

Oh, by the way, be careful what you’re shopping: a number of retailers and merchants are still selling personal computers equipped with Windows Vista (Windows XP downgrade available). Windows 7 is the way forward; so buy your PC with the latest Microsoft OS installed to enjoy a more useful and secure PC experience.

Adv. — Are you in the market for a new PC? If so, you’ll want one with Windows 7 already installed if you are shopping for a Microsoft based platform. Shop with HP or Fujitsu to find high quality machines for your home or business. Also consider Sony or Toshiba for your personal computing needs.


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Categories: Consumer Tips

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".