Tech Talk: Don’t Buy the Wrong Computer

A Twitter friend bought the wrong computer. She didn’t know it at the time, but it came back to bite her this week. It looks like she got some help from the company that made the crappy thing, but it added stress and productivity downtime to her life, rather than helping her get stuff done. Pardon her negativity for a moment…

I’m going to help you solve this problem before you by your next computer. Here we go…

Macs

If you’re a Mac person, can afford a Mac, can afford AppleCare, and are comfortable hitting the Genius Bar up occasionally, get a Mac. Your problem is solved.

Chromebooks

If you mainly browse the web, use Internet based email (e.g. gmail or Yahoo! mail, etc.) and don’t need to run Microsoft Office, get a Chromebook. For $400, you can get a 1080p screen, expandable with an HDMI cable.

These are especially wonderful when they get lost, stolen, or broken. Sign into Google and disable the old one, order a new one overnight from Amazon, then sign into it when it arrives. You will lose none of your data, because you typically do not keep any data on the Chromebook. It’s all in the cloud, with Google docs, your bookmarks, etc.

Schools have been switching to these like crazy over the past two years, as they reduce costs and complexity. My day job is software development, and because I work in a “cloud based system”, I’m able to use one a Chromebook for about 90% of my work. This makes it easy to keep “work work” off of my personal systems, which is essential for jobs like mine.

Windows PCs

Most of you will end up here, and that’s totally OK. If you’re a Mac person and you’re looking for a less expensive replacement or looking to have hire-able computer experience, it’s good to know that Windows PCs are an option. I was primarily a Mac user from 1987 – 2015, with a year off around 2001. By “primarily”, I mean that I had a Windows laptop for testing software since 2000 that got opened once a week for a few minutes. I switched to Windows 8 this past summer, and upgraded to Windows 10. I’m not disappointed at all, and only open up the Mac for occasional GarageBand sessions. My current Dell laptop was $550 on Amazon, and is comparable to a $2000 MacBook Pro.

So here are my easy to follow tips for buying a Windows PC:

  1. Get a laptop and a good laptop bag.
  2. 15″ 1080p (or better), touchscreen. You will use the touchscreen occasionally, not all the time.
  3. Make sure it has USB-3 ports, for future expansion.
  4. A backlit keyboard will make your laptop usable in low light.
  5. Make sure it’s a “Signature Edition” with Windows 10 installed. The “Signature Edition” means that it’s pure Microsoft without vendor crapware. This will save you from issues like in the tweet at the beginning of the article. If you’re near a Microsoft Store (think Apple Store in a less desirable spot in the mall), they always have a great selection of these and are very helpful.
  6. You don’t want McAffee or Symantec or Kaspernicus or other crappy anti-virus software. Use the built-in anti-virus from Microsoft, now called Windows Defender. It’s as good as any of the other software, does not cost anything extra, and doesn’t bog down your computer.

That’s my guide. Get something great!

-Brad Hutchings

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