“I think it's fair to say that personal computers have become the most empowering tool we've ever created. They're tools of communication, they're tools of creativity, and they can be shaped by their user.” - Bill Gates
Since the invention of the microprocessor, personal electronics have become increasingly popular.
When we talk about computers, we can talk about hardware and software. Hardware is the tangible parts of the computer that you touch. Software is the programs that are often saved to the hard disk drive and operate using computer's hardware.
So what should you keep in mind when choosing computer hardware?
Should you get a laptop or a desktop?
Which are the best brands? Which are in your budget?
You’ll know by the end of this article!
Top 10 Reasons for Buying a Mac
The Apple brand was founded in 1978 and is one of the market leaders in computers, especially when it comes to laptops. Their laptops are powerful, portable, and ergonomic. Either a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro will do the trick.
When choosing a Mac, you’ll need to compare products based on your needs. Pay particular attention to:
- Memory, especially on the MacBook Pro
- The processor type (it’s a good idea to have an Intel Core i5 or Intel Core i7)
- The OS
- The screen quality
- The hard disk drive capacity
- The size and weight
- There are several different types of Mac including the iMac, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and the Mac Mini.
Apple Mac’s are popular for a number of reasons, and not just because they look good but because they’re also powerful. Macbook Pros are a good option for editing video.
That’s not all, though. Here are a number of reasons for opting for Apple products:
- Thanks to cloud computing, you can synchronise all your data and avoid losing it.
- Mac’s ergonomic and sleek design means it can be used in any workplace.
- Macs are more secure than PCs. Most viruses are written for Windows, making Macs far safer in this respect.
- TimeMachine is very useful. Rather than using iCloud, you can use TimeMachine with an external hard disk and find your data easily in just a few clicks.
- Macs start up quickly and very rarely crash.
- Macs’ keyboard shortcuts can help improve your productivity.
- Apple’s preinstalled programs, such as iMovie and Photobooth are good for making videos and photos.
- Macs are beautiful to look at and to work on.
- Macs can also run Windows. You can install Windows as an operating system or even use Windows programs like Skype and Office.
- Macs are modern and always pushing the envelope.
In short, Apple Macs are a blend of technical performance and unparalleled design.
Top 10 Reasons for Buying a Windows Computer
Microsoft launched Windows in the 1980s as one of the first operating systems with a Graphical User Interface (GUI). Today, it’s the most common operating system around and is regularly updated. There have been a number of versions over the years.
Some of the more recent versions of Windows are:
- Windows XP
- Windows Vista
- Windows 7
- Windows 8
- Windows 8.1
- Windows 10
Did you know that while Microsft sells its own computers, you can get Windows on plenty of other brands including Acer, Asus, and Lenovo?
Before you get a laptop computer, you should be aware of a few things about Windows computers.
- 83% of professionals use Windows
- Computers using Windows start at around £200.
- The most recent (and therefore most regularly updated) version of Windows is Windows 10 (2015).
So here are our 10 most important reasons for choosing Windows:
- Windows has been around a long time and is here to stay. It’s regularly updated with new interfaces and functionality.
- Professionals prefer Windows and computers operating Windows are common in workplaces.
- Starting at £119.99 (and often included when buying a new computer), Windows is very affordable.
- Programmes for Windows can be used on different computers running Windows.
- Windows file formats are compatible.
- The cloud. You can get access to OneDrive for free and upgrade it for a cost.
- The Windows help system is intuitive and interactive.
- Windows adapts and changes over time.
- Windows graphics are better for gamers. With Nvidia or AMD graphics cards, you’re set with Windows.
- For Microsoft Office, there’s nothing better than its native operating system.
As you’ve probably noticed, Windows is not only accessible to all budgets, it’s also very useful for personal and professional projects.
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How Much Do Computers Cost?
Whether you’re buying just the computer or a whole range of accessories, you should keep your budget in mind. In fact, 85% of consumers have a budget in mind when buying computer equipment.
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It’s great that there are so many different brands and ranges on offer.
It depends what you’re looking for:
- Basic hardware: Screens, keyboards, mice.
- Advanced hardware: Towers, components, etc.
- Practical hardware: printers, scanners, photocopiers.
Your budget could be anywhere between £250 and £2500!
Before we start talking about price, you should think about what your personal or professional needs are:
- Working from home
- Improving your business
- Using social media
- Fun and gaming
- Typical IT functionality like word-processing
- To improve staff productivity
You can compare different models and prices online. Some brands and stores also offer promotions when buying PCs, such as including Microsoft Office for free.
According to a URSSAF study, 54% of self-employed workers have a computer and 54% of them have both a desktop computer and a laptop.
Here’s a quick summary of PC (personal computer) components to give you an idea.
What budget have you set for your IT equipment?
Should You Choose a Laptop or a Desktop?
You need to think about what type of computer system you want to get. In fact, the war between desktops and laptops is still ongoing. However, in recent years, sales of laptops have increased while the sales of desktops have decreased.
However, there are advantages and disadvantages to each. Desktops can be upgraded, are flexible, and can be adapted to a number of different uses. They’re also better for gaming. Additionally, there are several types of desktop computer:
- Mini PCs. These are good for casual users who just want to surf the net and don’t want a big tower or computer case cluttering up the room.
- Traditional Desktops. These include a large number of peripheral devices.
- All-in-one Desktops. These computers can save you a lot of space because the screen is often a touchscreen and they come with Bluetooth keyboards.
When it comes to laptops, you can save a lot of money. You can take laptops anywhere (especially the MacBook Air which only weighs 940g). When it comes to laptops, here are some of the best:
- MacBook Pro
- Surface Pro
- Lenovo Thinkpad
- Acer Predator
- Lenovo Yoga
- Asus Transformer
Before choosing between a desktop and a laptop, you should ask which of the following you need:
- Basic functions like word processing
- Photo or video editing programs
- A powerful computer with an Intel Core central processing unit (CPU) for games.
- Professional usability and multitasking
To make the right choice, you should compare what’s available, keep an eye out for reconditioned computers, and look for the best value for money!
Consider each component and whether you need it or not. For example, while a modem was essential back in the days of dial-up internet, you probably won't need one nowadays but rather a wifi adapter or an ethernet port (to connect directly to your router, which is often faster than a wireless connection). Networking has changed a lot in recent years!
If you save large files like videos and photos, you'll probably need a large hard drive. You'll also need to think about different graphic cards or video cards.
For those doing a lot of intensive tasks at the same time, you'll need a decent amount of RAM (random access memory) that can be quickly accessed.
You might also consider getting a solid state drive (SSD) as a storage device. These work similarly to a flash drive as they have no moving parts. This means it performs better and has better reliability than hard disks with moving parts.
If you want to upgrade a desktop, choosing your motherboard (the computer's main circuit board) is one of your most important decisions you'll make. Your mainboard will define the maximum amount of RAM you can have, the processors you can use, and how many expansion slots you'll have for future-proofing your computer.
Do you struggle with computers?
If you need to brush up or learn from scratch, you should have a look at IT tutorials on Superprof - or take your computer skills one step further with coding courses.