Buying a computer system/RE: my next computer


Hello Bobbert,

My family would like to buy a new computer now with Christmas specials around the corner. We spend a lot of time in front of the computer. Our daily usage includes: surfing the net for news and tv, listening to music, and making online trades. I would like to buy a laptop. Granted a laptop is very portable and will save a lot of deskspace. In terms of performance, is a laptop just as reliable as a desktop? I worry that if I buy a laptop, it won't last because of constant usage. Also do you know of any good brand name of laptops?

Thank you for reading. I look forward to your reply.


For the requirements you've listed, more or less any modern computer (be it a Windows-based system or an Apple) will be suitable - it sounds like you're running primarily web-based applications as well as multimedia features. The big questions (based on your mention of multimedia features) would be whether or not the machine will need an optical drive (e.g. a DVD drive) and then concerns over the monitor, speakers, etc for a more enjoyable music/video experience.

As far as a laptop vs a desktop, for a machine that is going to sit on a desk and be used heavily, I would strongly suggest a desktop. Desktops will offer more value for money in terms of performance relative to price, are much more expandable/upgradeable, and will not have the potential cooling issues that a laptop may experience being asked to run constantly. Laptops trade all of that for mobility, and if mobility is not your concern (and it sounds like this machine will be sitting at a desk from your query), I would say that isn't a worthwhile trade.

Either way, 2-3 years is a good approximate lifecycle for a new computer - some very high end/high quality desktop workstations can exceed that but generally not in a cost effective way (e.g. you spend $4500 on a machine and can use it for five years, or spend $600 every 2-3 years and at the end of the same five year period you've only spent $1200).

As far as what manufacturers I would suggest, I would suggest Dell or Hewlett-Packard if you'd like a Windows-based PC (desktop or laptop), Microsoft if you're interested in a Windows-based portable (the Surface line being very good), Asus as an additional choice for Windows-based laptops, alongside Apple (both desktops and laptops). You shouldn't have to spend too much to get a very competently equipped desktop machine from any of these manufacturers, and given your system requirements it isn't likely that you need to consider any sort of higher performance machine (e.g. Dell Alienware or HP Envy systems). That said, ensure whatever you purchase has a modern graphics card (Intel IGPs from Haswell or newer, AMD APUs advertising GCN, or stand-alone nVidia cards from the 600 series or newer, or AMD cards from the Rx 200 series or newer) as this will handle multimedia offload seamlessly (e.g. playback of HD video will be delegated to the GPU) which can have a significant (positive) impact on performance. It is unlikely you would find a machine that doesn't offer this in 2015, but it is still worth noting. CPU-wise, any modern CPU should be quite sufficient.

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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