I am sorry to kick in so late on this thread but I did not receive last week?s newsletter so I was unaware of the question until now. If you are looking for the best value for your money and portability is NOT an issue than the Desktop computer is your best bet. I find it unlikely that this will be your last computer unless you are planning an early exodus, but with a $2000 budget you should be just fine because you do not need to spend nearly that much to get a great computer now that will last you 6 or more years and you will have plenty of money left over to purchase a new tower later if you want. If you replace the hard drive as a part of a routine maintenance program, then there is really no reason it can not last even longer.
Standard Desktop computers (Separate Tower and Monitor) are a much better value than All-In-One computers or Laptops. You have the ability to upgrade things like video cards, memory, processors, or even add new features like USB 3.0 or USB 4.0 when it arrives. When they do break, which is pretty unusual these days, desktop computers are much easier and cheaper to fix than their smaller counterparts. The added bonus of this configuration is that if you purchase a relatively decent monitor now, then there is a good chance that you will be able to keep that and simply replace the tower next time for even less money. There is no reason to spend more than $1000 unless you are huge gamer or starting a business in Video Editing. Don?t bother with external hard drives and flash drives for backup, simply sign up for online backup with Carbonite or Mozy for a complete set-it and forget approach to backing up your precious photos. Make DVD backups if you really feel the need to have additional backups.
Computers are like automobiles, you can spend as much as you want if you are into bragging rights and the Wow factor but it is not necessary to spend a lot to get an excellent system that will last you many years and will perform all the tasks that you are asking of it. There will always be a faster computer and technology advancements will forever continue to render yours obsolete the week after you buy it.
For the general business and recreational computer user, which most of us are, you do not need an i7 processor with 12GB of ram. If you have money to burn, then fine, go for it. Here is what I would recommend:
PROCESSOR - An Intel i5 or even an i3 processor is just fine. I prefer Intel over AMD but that is just my personal preference. Most people are perfectly happy with anything dual core or better.
MEMORY ? 4GB of Memory will be plenty. If you are really unsure, you can always increase it later.
VIDEO - You definitely want a discrete video card but you do not need to spend $400 for one. There are plenty of Video cards for under $150 that will do the job. Dual video outputs and HDMI are great extras if you should ever decide to add a second monitor or connect your computer up to you large screen TV. Keep in mind that with the Desktop Tower, this is something that can be upgraded later if your needs change drastically.
HARD DRIVE ? Hard drives keep getting bigger and it is not unusual to find 1 terabyte drives and larger as the standard now. For the average user, anything over 250GB is usually plenty but this it totally dependent on how much data you have or plan to store. Again this is something that is fairly easy to upgrade should you require more storage down the road.
TOWER FORM FACTOR ? I recommend a full size tower or Mid/Mini tower but stay away from slim line or small form factor machines. Upgrading is more difficult, replacement parts scarce and more expensive and they tend not to cool as well as the full size towers.
OPTICAL DRIVES ? Unless this is going to be your primary video watching entertainment center, you do not need a Blue-Ray drive. A regular DVD RW drive will be fine and will allow you to read and write both DVD?s and CD?s. Two separate drives is nice is you plan to do a lot of disk copying.
SOUND/AUDIO ? Most computers come with int
egrated audio and unless you have some specific audio needs beyond most users there is no need to upgrade to a separate sound card.
MEDIA READER ? This is typically a $20-$30 option that I find worthwhile especially if you are into photography and allows you to read camera memory card directly into your computer.
MONITOR ? This is where you want to spend a little extra. Most people keep a monitor for a longer period of time than the computer tower itself and tend to reuse it on either future computers or pass it down to family members. For aging eyes, like myself, I would recommend a 23? or larger display. And if you really want a treat there is nothing better than running Dual Displays. It can make your life a little easier especially when it comes to working with photos. You can have your editing tools or your photo collection on one screen and your working area on the other. Or maybe working on a photo slide show on one screen while reading your email or surfing the internet on the other. Dragging photos, clipart or video from one screen to another, I can think of only a few upgrades that are more productive than dual displays.
EXTENDED WARRANTIES ? Service Contracts and Extended Warranties are really a personal choice but I usually do not see the real value in most of them for Desktop computers and/or low end laptops. However, there are many situations where I these programs have their value. For example: I would consider the extended plan if you are a real road warrior and you have a high end laptop. Laptop repairs can be very expensive and a single repair can cost $300 or more. If you are purchasing a Mac, then you pretty much need to purchase the Apple Care program. If you do purchase one of these plans, pay very close attention to what is actually covered. Does it cover only manufacturer?s defects? What happens if you drop it? Does it cover software problems or Virus infections? What happens when I need service? Is it in-home service or does the computer have to be shipped back to the factory or to some service center? How long will you be without the computer? Many clients find that when they do finally have a problem and need service it either was not covered or it was going to take 2-3 weeks to get it back. Most plans do not cover your data so if your computer needs to go back for service you often are told to take it to a local shop to have them backup your hard drive before sending the computer back for service. They are not responsible for your data and will often wipe out your data and reinstall Windows as a part of the repair service. HP and as well as other are notorious for this.
How you spend your money is up to you, but if you play your cards right you could easily get a nice desktop and a laptop for well under $2000 or put the extra money aside to pay for online backup and upgrade your tower in a few years.
Good Luck and Happy Computing
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