Short Computer Buying Guide

Woman Looking a Laptops in StoreThe most common question I get is “what kind of computer should I buy?”

Most of the folk asking this question are not gamers or graphic designers so I tell them there’s no wrong answer. It depends on what you’ll be using it for. But because I don’t like to leave them in the lurch with such an unhelpful non-answer, I give them a breakdown of things to look out for.

Display Size

I tend to steer people towards laptops for the sake of simplicity; they don’t have to buy a monitor which means that’s one less thing that can break. Again, since my audience is not made up of gamers, the lower performance levels between a desktop and a laptop is negligible.

But smaller is always the trend with technology.  This means that the display is smaller too. The cheaper models usually have a smaller screen…but then again so do the more expensive touch-screen models. So I tell people to they probably don’t want a display under 15″. Even if they’re not going to stream videos, websites are so full of ads and sidebars that the content that actually matters gets squished to the middle of the screen. I tell patrons you’ll really notice the missing 2-4″ if they go with a 13″ or 11″ display. 


This one is becoming a little less of an issue. But since Windows 10 is such a beast of an OS, I tell people to make sure that the laptop has at least 4GB of RAM. For the most part that’s the low end of the offering. I mention this so that should they be comparing two models, they’ll make sure the RAM is one of the specs the use to compare.


Like RAM, this one I just mention for the sake of comparing two models. I tell them that an Intel is usually a faster option than an AMD. Also, if they both have an Intel, an i7 is newer than an i5. 


I briefly explain the difference between a Hard Drive and a Solid State Drive (SSD). I then point out that, usually, the SSDs have less space than the traditional hard drive. If they plan to store a mess of pictures, videos, or other large files, then I tell them the hard drive will be better for them. If they’re using it to check Facebook or Email, then they don’t need the common 1 TB hard drive and will be fine with a 256 GB SSD.

Things Not Included

One of the sacrifices made for the sake of smallness is to not include pieces of hardware that you may be used to. The most common are no DVD/CD Drive and no Ethernet port.

If they don’t listen to CDs or watch DVDs on their computer now, they’re not likely to be bothered by not being able to do so on their new laptop. If they do either or both now, then they can always buy an external DVD/CD Drive.

Some folks feel it’s safer and faster to be on the wire versus the wi-fi and they’re not wrong. I do tell them not to let that be a deal breaker, though. They’re usually fairly safe and fast on the wi-fi.

BONUS! Post-Purchase Advice

I always tell people to bring in their new laptop after buying it and I can show them how to get Free Antivirus in the stead of having to pay a yearly fee. Also, since Office isn’t usually included, I tell them I can show them free Office Substitutes. Finally, I advise them to switch from Internet Explorer (they usually keep calling Edge IE because the icon looks so similar) to FireFox in the name of privacy.

And that’s it. I hope it was helpful. If you have any issues with my suggestions, or would like to add something, please let me know!


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