Computer & Technology Buying Guide

September 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Jeff Smelley - Also by this author

Buying a new computer is a challenge. There is an abundance of information, advertisements and promotions. So, let’s determine what has value and what does not by identifying where your money is best spent.

A consistent trend in computers and related products is that prices are highest when new technology is first introduced. Prices then fall, as production increases and competition heats up for your dollars. Time between the introduction of new technology and replacement by newer technology has become so short; it is almost irrelevant in a purchase decision.

A computer performs several standard functions that have the greatest impact on performance and price. It has to retrieve information, process or manipulate that information and then send it somewhere (save it, display it, print it or transmit it somewhere else).

Your hard drive, CD-ROM and DVD drives are responsible for storing and saving your information. Speed for these devices is measured in rpms, much like a car motor. The higher the rpms, the faster the drive can read and write information. Hard drives do the majority of this work, and 10,000 rpms or better is the best choice for hard drives. Size or capacity, for most users is irrelevant. A typical hard drive is 80 gigabytes (80 billion characters) or larger. Buying more capacity is seldom necessary. CD-ROM and DVD drives change so frequently and are used far less than your hard drive, so don’t worry about speed with these devices. DVD drives have more uses and significantly greater capacity than CD-ROM drives. For your business computer, these drives are for loading or backing up information (if burning or writing is mentioned in the description of the drive) with the DVD drive being the better choice.

CPU (central processing unit) speed is measured in gigahertz and the higher the gigahertz, the faster the processor. Select the highest speed per dollar spent, while avoiding a significant increase in price for a small increase in speed (price point). The CPU uses memory (generically called RAM) for working space to perform calculations and manipulate information. The more memory you can get, the better your system will perform. If there is anywhere in your system where more is always better, this is it. I recommend a bare minimum of 1 gigabyte of memory, more if you can afford it.

Bus speed determines how fast information can be moved around inside your computer. This factor can significantly affect your computers performance. The only time to review Bus speed is when the price may be unnaturally low for a particular computer. Sometimes a bargain price means the components do not match well and/or out of production.

Many brand-name manufacturers pre-load Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) versions of Windows and other software often without a recovery disk. Recovery disks often require reloading part or all of Windows or other software, which can cost you many hours or days of work. If you want brand name products, make your life easier and spend the extra money to buy a standard copy of Windows.

What should you know about printers? Laser printers are faster and more costly to buy, but they are less costly to operate than ink jet printers. Ink jet printers are priced lower initially, but the cost-per-page for ink is much higher than for laser toner. Ink jet printers may be more economical if color printing is required. Purchase a printer that matches your software requirements , but remember a cheaper purchase price is often not a better deal when buying printers.

Getting the right monitor is another key to computer purchasing. Flat panel monitors are the most prevalent monitors available today and should not be confused with flat screen monitors. If you are looking to conserve desk space, choose a flat panel, LCD or plasma monitor. If the price seems too low compared to other monitors of the same size, it is probably a flat screen not a flat panel and will not conserve space.

These are not all of the considerations in selecting your computer hardware, but hopefully they will help you make a more informed choice which meets your needs.

Vol 3, Issue 6

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