05 July 2012
Buying a Computer Online: Get What You Need and Save

Most of us purchase computers to search the Internet, play a few games and maybe send out an email or create a Word document. Most computers – even at the low end of the cost spectrum – perform these tasks with ease, so choosing the right computer may not be a factor of cost.

Today, a desktop computer that sells for less than $500 may be able to do what high-priced computers did just five years ago. Technology is moving forward at a fast pace in a highly competitive market. But do you need all that power? Do you need all that data storage capacity? Do you need portability, like a laptop or tablet?

The first step in buying a computer online should be determining what your computing needs are. How will the computer be used, and where? A low-cost desktop may be adequate for most of us, but if you’re a game player, you may want to upgrade with a faster video card and wireless Internet connectivity, which would cost a little more.

Buying a computer online has its advantages and disadvantages.  It may cost you less than buying at your local electronics store.  However, if you buy a laptop locally and it crashes right out of the box, you can bring it back for a refund. Buy a computer online that crashes when you start it, and you may have to pack it up, arrange to have it picked up and wait…and wait for the manufacturer to either fix it or send you a new unit.

Buy What You Need and Save

It’s easy to conduct some comparison shopping to make sure you get all the features you need without spending money on features you don’t need.

For example, random access memory (RAM). The more RAM you have, the more multi-tasking you can do. Your system also runs faster with more RAM.

Storage is another consideration. If you don’t store a lot of software and documents on your computer, you don’t need a terabyte (that’s a lot of storage) of storage space. Chances are you won’t use it, though you will pay for it. Most of us can get by with less storage and less RAM without noticing a big difference in how quickly our computers perform tasks. Today, even budget computers may give you the speed and storage space you need to meet most computing needs.

Desktop, Laptop or Tablet

You get more for your money with a desktop: more RAM, more storage, a faster central processing unit (CPU) and other features like more USB ports in which to plug accessories like a printer, a wireless router and other electronic add-ons. However, a desktop sits on your desk at home or in the office and that’s where you have to use it.

if you need portability, a laptop with a decent amount of RAM and storage is what you’ll most likely use.  Today’s laptops are powerful and fast. Most come with wireless connectivity, enabling you to access the Internet from the local coffee shop or the growing number of wi-fi locations.

However, laptops generally have smaller keyboards and smaller viewing screens, so there is a trade-off. If you do a lot of typing and your eyesight isn’t what it used to be, you may not be happy with a laptop. In this case, a desktop offers more utility with a full-sized keyboard and a high-definition (HD) screen that’s big enough to read from across the room.

Tablets, like Apple’s iPad®, are smaller and lighter than laptops. Most deliver all the features of a laptop, with a virtual keyboard that appears on the touch screen, easy wireless connectivity to the Internet and enough RAM and storage capacity for most people’s needs. However, tablets are typically more expensive because they’re light, small and they’re easy to move from place to place. You pay for the extra convenience of mobility with tablets and laptops…but you may need that mobility for school, work, or just for fun.

Compare Before You Buy

Be a smart computer consumer and purchase the computer that suits your needs. Online computer companies, like Apple®, Hewlett-Packard® and Dell™, enable you to customize your computer purchase to suit your needs and your budget, so shop around.

Most online computer retailers enable you to compare Computer A against Computer B to see which is the best choice for you. Use the “search by preference” feature to compare the amount of RAM, storage, CPU speed, screen size and other features to fit your wish list – the one you develop before you even start your shopping.

Compare tech support. If you have a question or a problem, how easy is it to talk to someone on the telephone? Is there a toll-free number to call? Is tech support US-based or outsourced to another country? There are plenty of reviews of the tech support services provided by various companies like Dell™, Gateway®, Apple® and other computer manufacturers, so conduct a little research to find the company that delivers the level of tech support you need. If you can swap out a hard drive yourself, chances are you don’t need a lot of tech support. On the other hand, if you often have trouble even finding the on/off switch, tech support is essential to getting the most out of your new system.

Bundle and Save

You most often get more for your money when you bundle hardware and software. If you need a complete system, go for a bundle that includes the computer, a printer, a monitor, a wireless connection card, speakers, a mouse and other system components.

On the other hand, you may not need everything included in the manufacturer’s bundle.  If you already have a high definition (HD) monitor that meets your needs, why purchase another? Instead, buy just what you need – the computer, a wireless mouse and keyboard, a faster video card for better gaming and other features, instead of buying another monitor.  Do the math to determine the most economical means of filling your computer needs.

The Five Steps to Computer Purchase Satisfaction

1. Decide how much you want or need to spend. Today you should be able to purchase a lot of computer for a low price. Set a budget and stick to it.

2. Determine how and where the computer will be used. If it’s only used at home, a desktop typically gives you more power at a lower price. If you need to take your computer with you, a laptop or tablet are your only options, and laptops are usually less expensive than tablets.

3. Decide how the computer will be used. If you plan to use it for basic computing duties, an entry-level model usually gives you everything you need. If you plan to use your computer to watch movies or play games, upgrade your monitor and video card for a more enjoyable viewing experience. There are different computers designed for different uses, from basic to all the “bells and whistles.”

4. Read the reviews.  Online forums contain impartial reviews from computer experts describing the pros and cons of different models and brands. Do you homework. Read the reviews to get the most for your computing dollar.

5. Finally, talk to friends and family about their computers. A recommendation from a knowledgeable friend or colleague may be valuable in pointing you toward the right purchase at the right price, so shop smartly to get the computer that’s just right for you.


The information contained herein may not represent the views and opinions of Nevada State Bank or its affiliates.  It is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.


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