Buying a computer system/Buying home computer


QUESTION: I've never had a computer before, and I want to buy a desktop one as that's what I'm familiar with from using them at the library. Are there any out there that still have the square monitor screens? I don't like the new widescreen ones the library got. Also, any brand recommendations? The less expensive the better. I'd be using it for basic stuff -- Internet research, watching videos online, e-mail, etc.

ANSWER: Generally the monitor is included in a desktop purchase, but yes, 4:3 and 5:4 aspect ratio monitors ("square" - in quotes because they aren't perfect squares, here's probably more than you ever wanted to know about aspect ratio: are still produced and still available in some sizes (17" and 19" generally, smaller and larger sizes generally mean widescreen displays these days).

For the applications you'd like to run, basically any modern computer will be suitable - nothing you've mentioned needs a lot of processing power, so I would just wait for a seasonal sale on something from Dell or HP (I like Dell and HP over most of their competition simply because they provide good customer service and warranties; Apple is also a fine consideration, but you will pay more for the name). Something like this:

Regarding the monitor, Dell does make a 17" 5:4 display:

But you can save a few dollars and go with a Samsung: (Newegg is a very trustworthy online retailer).

Both of these monitors would be very good, and include a 3-year warranty, so the primary difference is cost.

If you need to go cheaper than ~$500, used hardware is the way to go, something like this: and one of the above mentioned monitors.

As a new user, I would probably suggest the brand-new machine, but if price is a serious concern, I can provide more information and details about the used route (I provided the above link just to give you an idea of the price disparity; that machine is slower and less equipped than a brand new machine, but for your needs you will likely never notice the difference).

Also remember that you'll need Internet service for most of the tasks you're interested in, your phone or cable company can probably provide this for an additional fee.


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QUESTION: Thanks -- the stores I'd looked at so far, like Best Buy, only had wide-screen monitors.

Yes, wide-screens are very popular and common, as the aspect ratio better aligns to Blu-ray and DVD movie playback, and many videogames benefit from the additional space as well. However for more general use and web-browsing, standard 4:3 or 5:4 displays are generally just as effective (if not moreso). They're not as common in the consumer segment, but commercial and government customers still buy them, which keeps them available. If you need more display space than a single ~20" display (of any type), I would suggest a second monitor as opposed to a larger monitor - it will be more productive.


Buying a computer system

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I have nearly two decades of experience in IT, computer repair, and related fields and will attempt to provide the most solid, brand-agnostic advice when it comes time to purchase a new computer, or upgrade an existing machine. I can answer anything from the seemingly basic to the downright complicated - and will do my best to provide this information in a clear and concise manner.


I have been an enthusiast of PC's for many years, and can answer questions about the purchase/use of a new computer or the purchase, installation, and use of upgrades for existing computers. There probably isn't a whole lot related to the home computer that I haven't seen over the years.

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