Buying a computer system/Buying a computer


QUESTION: I am looking to buy a computer. When I go to college, I would like to buy a computer that would be useful for digital designing or art area. Although I looked through several computers, I cannot seems to find a right one. Please help.

ANSWER: My general advice to students is to contact their institution or department and inquire about what systems are suggested; in some cases the institution will have a specific configuration or model of computer that they suggest for students, and are better able to support students with that equipment. They may also be able to provide that hardware for you at a reduced cost, due to group purchasing or academic purchasing (which can potentially save you money).

If the institution has no suggested machine, or their suggested hardware is out of your budget, then we can look at specifics for your needs. In order to be of help here, I will need to know more about your budget, and what kinds of applications (specifically, if possible) you need to run ("digital design" is extremely broad).


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: My destination at first was to buy a mac retina display pc, because my college uses mac in the classes and that was what they recommended when I went to the apple store. However because its apple, it is very expensive and sometimes apple software is not very flexible with some programs that I would like to download for the future, like Paint Tool Sai. I know that it would be long lasting and I could change it to windows in apple, but I had few problems with iphone and it's becoming a bit doubtful for me to trust apple products.

I am completely new to computers so I don't know the differences even if I look at the descriptions. I would like to buy a laptop that is not overly sized and heavy, but not too small like 13 in either, something that I could bring to school easily. I don't trust tablet computer much because I feel they are much more fragile. I would use my computer mainly for school work and art projects, which would involve adobe Photoshop and a lot of painting and editing software. It does not have to be very professional because I am just starting college, but I do need it not to lag while I am drawing (because my current computer lag). My field would be digital art but it would probably remain 2D and animation. My budget is up to around $2,000 so there's a variety of options. If possible, I would like one that would last more than 4 years.

What type of laptop would you recommend?

Honestly based on your description, and especially because it is what your school has suggested, Apple is what I would put at the top of my list of recommendations. Either the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, depending on how large of a machine you can live with (the Pro will be more powerful). They will offer very high quality displays, and give you a wide range of software (Adobe and AutoDesk both release their software for OS X as well as Windows).

Paint Tool SAI is not an application that I'm extremely familiar with, however looking at it's features and capabilities, Photoshop will be able to fully replace it (and go quite a ways beyond its capabilities) as a raster graphics editor, and Adobe Illustrator or a similar vector graphics program will provide more complete drawing capabilities (and Illustrator and Photoshop can be purchased as a bundle from Adobe; student discounts for this software are also quite substantial). Alternately, Microsoft's Expression software would probably provide you with comparable features (and should still be available for free to Dreamspark users (you need a .edu e-mail address to qualify)).

More information is available those applications here:

I would contact your institution regarding what applications they suggest (or teach) for raster graphics or paint/drawing - generally Adobe is more popular than other applications, but software from Microsoft, Corel, or AutoDesk may also appear.

Finally, SAI appears to have been ported for OS X, available here:

If Apple is still not appealing to you (and do realize that iOS for the iPhone is distinct from OS X for the Mac), I would look at Dell's offerings. Something like this should be very suitable and very budget friendly:

If you need a system that will carry more industrial/professional certifications (primarily for AutoDesk applications), look at the Mobility Precision: (for all intents and purposes I would generally suggest the Ultrabook for a user such as yourself, but if your school will require you to use applications like Maya on a regular basis (more than one class or semester) I would at least consider the Precision).

If you have further questions, feel free to ask.


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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