A complete guide to buying a computer...
Note: This is guide targeted at beginners and intermediate computer users and buyers. These are my views and opinions only. Please use the information as reference only.
Many people may wonder when the best time to build a computer is. There are usually mixed answers depending on factors like, when you need the computer by and what you need the computer for.
I have decided to write a short guide for anyone who is planning on purchasing a computer this year.
Do you need a new computer:
Do you actually need a new computer? If you want a new computer because your current computer has problems and is filled with errors.etc, then chances are, you actually don't "need" a new computer. Re-installing windows usually fixes all performance issues and all errors you may have with your computer. If you have hardware problems, then chances are, it's a single part that is causing you grief and a replacement is usually the better option. Replacing faulty parts is a good way to save money if you don't actually "need" a new computer. If you think your current computer is lacking performance due to new software and games or your computer isn't compatible with software and games, then you should be considering a purchase. Always look in to why you actually need a new computer before you decide to buy.
Upgrading your current computer:
There is a rule I refer to when upgrading a computer. Never do a replacement upgrade where you pull out a part and replace it. Because then you are wasting money seeing you just pulled out a perfectly good piece of hardware and thrown it into storage. If you try and sell the part, then you probably won't get close to 50% of what you payed for it. So, don't do replacement upgrades. There is another form of upgrading which is fine and which I like to call "Adding Upgrade". This is where you add a piece of hardware without taking anything out. So, things like, adding RAM, Hard drives, Optical Drives, Add-on cards.etc, these are all fine. There is a time where you should never upgrade, this is when your computer is old and starting to lag behind in the latest applications. In this case, save your money on an upgrade and invest in a new computer.
What you need a new computer for:
When buying a computer, it is important to think about what you actually need the new computer for. Depending on what you use the computer for, depends on what your "primary" part will be. Your "Primary" part is the piece of hardware which will most effect performance in applications you are planing to use. For example, if you're a gamer, your graphics card will be the primary piece of hardware in your system, so it's smart to invest extra in to that. Where, if you want your new computer to act as a media centre for playing movies, captured video.etc then RAM will be your primary part followed by CPU. Large video files require a lot of RAM to be able to access different parts of the video faster. You also need a decent CPU seeing you need something which can make use of the RAM properly so it can decompress video at the rate the RAM can output data.
Where to buy:
Where to buy is the biggest decision in buying a computer. Also, depending on whether you will build yourself or get a retailer to build one for you. You should only build a computer if you can repair a computer. Seeing if you build yourself, you get no labour warranty. Although your parts will come with warranty, you need to diagnose the problem before you can get a replacement on the part. That rule then loops around to the other side, where you should buy from a system retailer as long as they offer labour warranty.
Another factor on where to buy is pricing. Some people look for the cheapest places where others look for the most reliable places or the ones with the best after sale service & support. If you're planning on building yourself, then you would want a cheap part retailer. Be careful though, seeing some cheap places are dodgy. I once spent 1 month waiting for parts only to receive the wrong graphics card which was also faulty. I finally had a working system 2 and a half months after I paid for the parts. If you don't want to build yourself, then price will be a factor, but what could be a bigger factor is after sale service & support. Many places will forget about you once you walk out the door leaving your cash on the counter. Where some places may offer you excellent after sale support and extra "bonus" services. Although bonus services are rare, if a place provides them, then they're usually the right choice. Bonus services include things like, free web space or a special website for clients only which offers free software and updates.
When to buy:
This factor falls right behind "where to buy" and just in front of "what to buy". Depending on what your computer will be used for, depends on what parts are most important. To make your computer hold up in the future, you need to future proof it. Future proofing is something I strongly believe in. So, if you were to consider purchasing a CPU, then make sure it has things like 64bit technology and make sure it has a dual-core CPU for when applications start to take advantage of dual-core processing.
So, when to buy can sometimes not be an option depending on how urgently you need your new computer. But if you have no urgency, then you should wait for the right time to buy. Below is a list of things to remember to select when the best time to buy is...
We will use Graphics Cards (GPU's) as reference...
* If the current line up of graphics cards have been around for a while, then wait till next gen arrives. That way your graphics card will have the latest technologies, best performance and better future proofing.
* If you're waiting on the next generation of graphics cards, then don't buy a next gen GPU as soon as it comes out seeing stock will be in short supply most likely so you will be paying top dollar. Instead, wait a few weeks after the initial release so you get more competitive pricing.
* If there is (for example) a new high-end Nvidia graphics card coming out and you want a high-end ATI graphics card for example, then wait till the Nvidia card comes out because then ATI will most likely be forced to drop the prices of there high-end card.
The same or similar applies for all parts. You'll find parts like hard drives move along at the slowest pace in terms of technology. But usually things like that move along fast in terms of price. So be aware of that.
There are computer parts which focus on luxury rather than performance. These things include Monitor Size and Speakers. Although these two things don't effect computer performance, they can effect computer experience. I usually consider things like these last seeing what good is a high-res screen if your graphics card can't support high-res video or games. you get the drift anyway.
Then, there are things like cases where although they don't directly effect performance (they sometimes can) or experience, that is what someone sees when they view your computer and your case can be important to show what you're personality is like. Cases also offer functionality for ease of use and layout. The one time where they can increase performance, is there cooling ability. If your case has excellent ventilation. Then you yourself can increase performance by overclocking or increase stability by just keeping all components cool.
Anyway, that wraps up the guide for now, hope you learnt something and found it useful. Remember it pays to do your market research when purchasing computers so you know what is already out and what's coming out.
Tom Wardrop - Owner of [http://www.fullvoltage.com.au]