Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Podcast Episode 009: Computer Buying Tips

laptop image
image from pixabay.com

In this episode: Computer Buying Tips



Episode 009: Computer Buying Tips


Script:

April 04, 2018 E.010

Intro Segment

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Transition

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So, it’s almost Tax Day, and about this time of year I tend to receive a number of emails and phone calls that all start the same way: “I’m thinking about buying a new laptop. What should I look for?” Here’s my advice.

First, think about what you - or the person using it, if you’re buying this for a family member - will use it for the most. If you are buying this for a child who is going off to college, check the school’s website, contact the department that oversees the student’s major area of study, or the college’s IT department, to see if they have any recommendations. A number of higher education institutions still rely heavily on Microsoft Office or Apple tools, but more and more are migrating toward Google tools. Learn if your child’s next school uses Apple, Google, or Microsoft tools, or if they will need to use some other source of installable software, before your invest your money in a new machine for them.

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Once that is done, it is time to focus on the hardware. Most users tend to prefer the versatility and portability of a laptop computer. The downside of a laptop is that they tend to be more difficult to repair and upgrade, so you want to future-proof your investment as much as possible.

First, invest in a processor that is as fast and powerful as you can afford. I tend to prefer Intel processors like the i5 or i7. AMD is their major competitor and they are making some very good consumer processor options to consider, like the A12. Both the Intel and higher-level AMD processors are good options for most everyday personal and light professional uses. If you will be doing a lot of work with graphics or heavy number-crunching, of if this is going to be a gaming device, I would suggest an Intel i7. For a work-at-home device for most teachers, though, an Intel i5 or equivalent will probably do everything you need with sufficient power and speed.

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Next, look at the computer’s RAM, or Random Access Memory. This is what that processor will use to most of its work. For a PC or Mac, 6 to 8 megabytes of RAM is really the minimum to look for if you are going to be running installable programs like MS Office and so on. If you’re going to do a lot of multitasking, you’ll need more. The more RAM you have, the faster your computer will seem to work for you.

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When it comes to displays, size matters. Display size is also directly related to keyboard size and features. While I like 12-14 inch displays, Fifteen inch sizes are very nice and usually include a separate number pad, which is great for math-heavy applications and are very helpful when entering grades into an online or electronic gradebook program.

Touchscreens tend to be more glossy and reflective than traditional non-touch screens that have a flat or matte finish. The industry seems to be moving increasingly toward 360-degree touchscreens that can function like tablets. If using the latest tech is important to you, this is worth considering. If you’re annoyed by reflections and fingerprints, stick to the more traditional  screens with non-reflective finishes.

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Folks who use Google Docs and Drive don’t have to worry too much about hard drive size, since most of your programs and file storage are online. If this is a personal computer that will be used with installable programs like Microsoft Office and so on, hard drive space matters. My Dell laptop with a 128 gigabyte SSD, or solid state drive, allows very quick access to the programs and files stored on it, but Office and a couple other programs have almost maxed out my storage. If you need to save programs onto your new laptop, look for an SSD of at least 256 Gigs. Traditional hard drives of 500 gigs to 1 terabyte are commonplace now and tend to be slower and run hotter, which will sap battery life. Keep in mind that you can always plug in external hard drive storage to expand this out almost infinitely, without having to crack open the case and void your warranty.

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Next time I’ll discuss some options for those interested in Chromebooks, which are my daily-use devices. Thanks for listening today, and I hope you’ll join me again tomorrow. 



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