Buying a computer can be almost as stressful as getting a car or a house. But before you start stress-eating that extra large pizza, here are seven questions to ask yourself that will make the process more smooth. Not Rob Thomas and Santana “Smooth,” but close enough.
1. What do I actually do on a computer?
What you realistically do on a computer makes a huge difference—and it may have changed dramatically since the last time you bought one. Before, you may have needed it more for work or school, but that doesn’t apply anymore. And if you’re running bigger apps, like Adobe Creative Suite, what you need may be much different than someone who’s only watching Netflix and chilling (or stalking people on Facebook). So try to focus more on the things you’re doing day-to-day on a computer, now, instead of what you were doing a few years ago.
2. What are the changes in technology since you last bought a computer?
Like our friend Ferris Bueller noted, life moves pretty fast. And technology? Well, it’s moving at warp speed. For example, you may have purchased a laptop because you wanted something portable, but couldn’t do what you wanted on a tablet. But with the new features in iOS 11, an iPad might be the best choice, now. Or you stored all your music and photos on your computer. But now, you use streaming services like Spotify to listen to music. So learn your options. Because you can now easily do on a laptop—or even a tablet—what you needed a desktop for five years ago.
3. Do bigger specs mean it’ll “last longer”?
Does more horsepower in a car engine mean it’ll last longer? Nope. It only means you can drive faster. So don’t spend money on bigger specs if you don’t know what they mean or won’t give you a significant difference in performance. Instead, think of accessories or other devices that’ll enhance your experience with that computer.
4. Does your computer need to be portable?
Where do you like to use your computer most? On the couch? At a desk? The less portable it is, the less it usually costs. So if you don’t need to it move around with you everywhere, think about a computer that stays in one place, like an all-in-one computer— or even a mini desktop or Micro PC like a Mac mini or ASUS VivoMini. You’ll not only save (a lot of) money, but you’ll get more bang for your buck. And with that extra cash, you can buy a tablet, if you still want a computer with some portability.
5. Who else is using it besides me?
If you’re sharing your new toy with a roommate, kid, or partner, make sure you have a computer that supports multiple user accounts (that means iPad is out). And if one of you is going to be using this device for work or school (or if you have a questionable browser history), consider getting two. You may spend a bit more (then again, you may not), but you’ll both keep your sanity.
6. Do you need to accessorize?
The accessories you currently have, like a wireless mouse or external hard drive, might still work with your new computer or may need an adapter. So, take a moment to find out if your accessories are compatible or if you’ll need to buy new ones. Because realizing you need to spend even more money after spending thousands on a new computer is frustrating.
7. What’s your budget?
We all have champagne wishes and caviar dreams—but sometimes we’re on a Kool-Aid and Cheez-Wiz budget. And that’s okay because they’re all delicious. If you know what you’re looking for, you can find a device that meets your budget.