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Computers Buying Guide

Computers are a necessity in today’s world. The Sears Computers Buying Guide will start you down the road to choosing the computer to suit your needs.

 

Computers have now reached the point where they’re a household staple like a refrigerator or vacuum cleaner, but it’s important that you get the right computer to suit your specific needs. If it doesn’t, you could be stuck with a machine that can’t help you to the level you anticipated; or on the other hand, you may have an overwhelmingly expensive computer that features many elements that you’ll never have an opportunity to use. Doing suitable research before you buy will ensure you get the perfect computer for your needs.

Types of Computers

There are a few types of computers to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. A firm grasp on each will go a long way to helping ensure you choose the ideal one for you or your family.

Laptop

Laptop computers (which are sometimes called notebooks) are the portable option that can have all the same features, benefits, bells and whistles of a desktop computer in a much smaller, all-in-one package. The screen sizes vary greatly, from as small as 8” up to 19” or more. A smaller screen will provide a lighter, more compact laptop, but if you’re going to be using your unit for gaming or watching movies/TV shows, you’ll probably want a screen on the larger end of the spectrum.

Generally, a laptop computer with comparable specs to a desktop will be more expensive due to the smaller size. A laptop can run on either battery power or AC power and is ideal for use during travel. They are ideal for small business owners who are constantly heading for one meeting to the next, and also for students heading off to college or university.

Desktops

Desktop computers are the tried and true computers that have been around the longest. The prices are as far-reaching as are the specs they provide, but when you consider the most bang for the buck, desktop computers win. They may not have the portability of a laptop or the low price-point of a netbook, but if you want a solid machine that has all the features you want at several price points, then a desktop computer is what you need.

Desktop computers come in all-in-one packages that have everything you need – monitor, CPU, mouse and necessary software. So all have to do is simply set everything up and start surfing. On the other hand, you can shop more “à la carte” and purchase each component separately. This may save you some money, but make sure you know what you’re looking for so that all pieces are compatible. The one major drawback of desktop computers is the space they take up. Most feature a separate CPU and monitor, which necessitates a desk to handle it all.

Netbook

If you’re looking for a simple little machine with good battery life that is capable of basic computing needs like email, surfing the web, basic spreadsheets and/or word processing, then a netbook is the way to go. In essence, a netbook is a mini-laptop with many of the same features, such as a webcam, keyboard and trackpad. The screen is smaller, at about 10” and they weigh far less (as little as 2 lbs).

Netbooks are great for travel or for commutes and are far more affordable, with some costing as little as $100. If you’re looking to edit images or tackle other multimedia needs, then a netbook may not be exactly what you’re looking. They feature less RAM than regular-sized laptops or desktops and it’s important to note that netbooks don’t feature a CD-ROM (or “optical”) drive so if you want to watch a movie or install any additional software, you’ll have to buy an external drive or find another way to get it onto your netbook. Netbooks make an ideal secondary computer.

Tablet

The new kid on the block, tablets are a handheld, highly portable, all-in-one hub that allows you to surf the net, read/write e-mail, watch videos, view photos, read ebooks, listen to music, download apps, play games, and get some work done if time permits. They are lightweight (under 2 lbs) and have touchscreens whose sizes rival those on most netbooks – from 7” to 10”, and they also feature webcams.

One caveat would be that a tablet may not be ideal for students who are looking to take notes in class. The on-screen keyboard isn’t really conducive to typing quickly, or for extended periods. It works fine for emails and typing in web addresses, but transcribing full lectures in real time or large, multi-page assignments may be more than it can handle. As well, tablets aren’t really designed for tasks like spreadsheets and word processing.

Ebook Readers

While not really a computer, an ebook reader performs some simple tasks that some computers are used for, and there is some overlap in features (particularly when compared to tablets, most of which now feature ebook reader capability). In essence, ebook readers do one thing – provide an avenue for you to read an electronic version of your favourite books, magazines and newspapers. Newer ebook readers may feature Wi-fi functionality so you can download new books quickly and easily, and some even feature music playback. Ebook readers have a display from 5” to 10”.

Keep in mind what you'll want from your ebook reader screen - basic ones feature a technology called E-Ink to accurately duplicate the look of paper, which will provide an experience closer to that of reading an actual book or newspaper. Another option is an LCD screen, which provides a more lively display with colours and other graphics, and sometimes features touchscreen technology.

E-Ink screens are easy to read outdoors and in bright light and are much easier on the eyes than LCDs, whose screens can strain your eyes when used over extended periods. However, E-Ink is not backlit, so you can’t use them in the dark unless you have a booklight or other external light source. LCD screens are very hard to read in bright light (due to reflections), but their backlit display makes them ideal for reading in the dark. Finally, E-Ink screens are far less battery-draining than LCDs. There are some ebook readers with a hybrid display using both technologies, but they will most likely be more costly.