Buying a Computer
Buying a Computer
Aprevious essay (see “Which Operating System Is Right for You,” p. 16), pointed out that your choice of hardware depends largely on your choice of operating system. So let’s assume that you’ve made up your mind and decided whether you want a Mac or a PC. The next question is whether you want a desktop or a laptop. Ask yourself a couple of relevant questions. Do you work in one place or you are a “road warrier”? Is space a consideration? Will this be your only computer? And how much can you afford? Feature for feature, desktops are cheaper than laptops. Normally, they are also more expandable. You can add more RAM, a better video card, an additional hard drive, a DVD or CD burner, or any of a number of other devices—provided that there are empty slots on the motherboard for additional expansion boards and empty drive bays in the case. You might eventually be able to add a more powerful processor, thus prolonging the useful life of your computer. Desktop cases are relatively easy to open, making it possible for intrepid users to install these items themselves. So check for expandability before you buy. You’ll need a monitor, of course. You’ll pay a bit less for one that comes with your desktop computer, but the dread sign in computer ads saying, “Monitor sold separately,” may not be such a bad thing. You may want something better than your computer vendor is offering. Having a large, steady, clear monitor can make a real difference in the quality of your computing experience. Broadly, there are two kinds to choose from now, and both flat-panel monitors and CRTs have distinct advantages. Sales of flat-panel monitors are fast catching up with those of CRTs, but—as always—your choice will depend on how you plan to use your computer, how much space you have, and the extent to which you are seduced by beauty and coolness. Flat-panel monitors, with their clean, slender profiles, are indeed appealing. (To find out why, see “The Ten Best Tools and Peripherals You Didn’t Know About,” p. 196.) New flat panels (and, by the way, laptop screens) come with TFT displays (that is, active-matrix, not the older, fuzzier passive-matrix displays), and their glare-free screens are easy on the eyes.
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