Buying a computer system/laptop/tablet


QUESTION: need to get a new computer and we also need a Tablet. Since we are on very, very small income so if we we can get a combo it would be better. I looked all over the net and consumers report and it seems that the acer aspire is a good buy. we can only afford bet.$400 & 500 and they have a couple of models that fit in that price range BUT I can't figure out which one is the best buy. Here is what I want it  to be able to do.I want to do mostly research and write letters. I need to be able to scan documents and save them. I don't store photo's,play games.I want adquate storage to save my letters ans scaned documents. I beleive 64gb would good and I believe intel processors would be best an solid state what ever that mean. Please let me  know  if you need any other info also if you have anything you think would be better than the Acer Aspire let me know. thanks

ANSWER: Generally speaking I don't suggest Acer Group products to people, as their warranty and service is often not of high quality, and the hardware itself is rarely exceptional. I instead suggest Dell, HP, Apple, or (for tablets) Microsoft. That said, on a limited budget and for your specific usage, I would not suggest a tablet, as it will not provide the best performance or functionality for your needs. You can find many laptops or desktops within your budget that will offer more processing power, much more storage, and the ability to connect to peripherals (like a scanner); if you need mobility a laptop would be my suggestion. Something like the Dell Inspiron 3000 family would be suitable:

Regarding some of the technical items you mentioned:

- 64GB is very little storage, overall, especially for a large amount of scanned documents or any other multimedia object. I would regard 300GB as a more reasonable minimum for a modern computer, with many new systems offering 500-1000GB of storage.

- Intel makes quality processors, but their chief competitor, AMD, also offers equally high quality parts. Outside of specialized situations (e.g. high performance computing, graphics workstations, etc) there isn't a significant reason to favor one brand over the other. Intel is likely the most common part you will find in a modern computer, but there's nothing wrong with AMD either. Processors from other companies (e.g. Qualcomm) will frequently be found in machines that do not run "standard" or "PC" versions of Windows (e.g. they will use WindowsRT), or that do not run Windows at all (e.g. they will run Google Android) - this isn't uncommon for smartphones or smaller tablets, but for your usage I would be inclined to go with a more complete "desktop" operating system like Windows 7/8/10 or OS X, as opposed to a more limited "mobile" operating system like WindowsRT, Windows Phone, or iOS.

- "Solid State" as you may see it in some marketing likely refers to a "solid state disk" - a newer type of storage device that relies on flash memory (similar to what is used in a USB thumb drive) as opposed to magnetic storage on a mechanical disk. There are potential advantages to such kinds of storage, especially in small mobile devices that have limited power and weight requirements, as well as space requirements, or for applications that benefit from flash memory's lower latency, but this comes at a price: equivalent capacity flash media is very expensive relative to more conventional mechanical storage. For normal usage (such as what you've described), conventional storage is completely appropriate, and the cost savings are also worthwhile (the Dell models I linked above feature 500GB mechanical drives, and the entire computer costs around $300 - a 500GB solid state drive costs around half that by itself).

If you have any further questions, feel free to ask.


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

QUESTION: I guess I didn't make myself clear I have to have both a computer and a tablet. My husband has Parkinson's disease and when he uses a friend's tablet he can see the print really good and he can sit in his lazyboy chair and use it it.It is real easy for him to turn pages on downloaded books and other reading the computer is just to hard for him to use. I on the other hand need a laptop computer because I have bad back issuses and also want to be able to take it with me when I travel.That is why I was looking at the acer aspire switch because they have a good raring with consumers report but the one I was looking at use's something called an atom for the processor and I don't think it is as fast as an intel. So now that you have a better understanding of our particular situation maybe you can help me come up with a better solution. thanks

Ah, I understand. Something to think about: if the primary use for the tablet is to read books or other printed material, I would suggest an ebook reader instead, as it will be an overall simpler device, get better battery life, and have more accessibility options. Something like the Amazon Kindle, which only costs around $100.

For the laptop, I would suggest the Dell models previously mentioned, as they will fit into your budget, and still leave you $100-200 for the accessory tablet or ereader. If you're going with a tablet, I would look at Amazon's Fire series of tablets (as they are also functional as ereader devices). Dell and Amazon also offer excellent end-user support (something that Acer frequently does poorly with), which is a value-add in my book.

Regarding "Atom" - Atom is a line of processors from Intel. They are designed for mobile devices and meant to be very power efficient and cool running. Performance-wise, they are generally going to be slower than their bigger brothers (e.g. Core i5), but they make up for it with improved battery life and better thermal performance; for a mobile computer they are a fine choice. That said, the Dell models I linked to will offer higher performance Celeron and Pentium processors, without compromising significantly on battery life.

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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