2013 Holiday Tech Guide: Desktop & Laptops

The holiday shopping season can be a time of joy and excitement. More new computers, tablets, phones, TV’s and the like are purchased this time of year than any other. How do you know what a good buy is and what tech traps to avoid? Working at WorldStart I’m always on the lookout for the newest tech at the best deals, so I decided to share some tips.

In this five part series we’ll cover a wide range of technology, and while WorldStart may sell some of these products, I’m going to give you as unbiased of an opinion as I can muster. I’ll let you know the reasons why I would choose one piece of tech over the other so you can make your own informed decision.

Part 1: Desktops & Laptops

A new desktop or laptop computer may be high on the list this holiday season, but what should you look for and what should you avoid? The latest generation of Intel processors was released a few months ago, hard drive technology has vastly improved in recent years and memory options have expanded. Scroll down to find out what options to choose and which to avoid.

You Should You Look For:

An Intel I3, I5 or I7 Processor: AMD, once a significant competitor to Intel, has fallen behind Intel in performance by such a large margin that it’s no longer worth buying an AMD over an Intel processor. When you’re shopping, look for a Intel I3, I5 or I7 series processor (I3 being the lowest performing/cheapest and I7 being the highest performance most expensive).

8 GB or 16 GB of RAM: While you may be able to save a few dollars going with 4 GB of RAM, it’s not worth the performance hit in most Windows applications. Eight to 16 GB represents the sweet point between price and performance.

7200 RPM Hard Drive or SSD: Some manufacturers will try to cut a few dollars by including a slower 5200/5400 RPM hard drive. A 7200 RPM hard drive will boost application load times and a SSD (solid state drive) will boost load times very significantly. A trend on some laptops is to offer a very small SSD (16 to 32 GB) which functions as a cache drive. This offers a pretty significant boost in boot and application load times over just a traditional hard drive.

IPS or Wide Viewing Angle Display: Since you’ll be staring at your monitor while you use your computer, it’s important to look for a high-quality display. A monitor made with IPS technology offers wide viewing angles, so the colors do not shift as you move your head or change the display angle. There are some competing technologies besides IPS, so the best test is to look at the display from off center and from a standing and sitting position to see if the colors remain the same. If they invert or change dramatically, avoid that monitor.

What Should You Avoid:

Extended Warranties: In almost every situation an extended warranty isn’t a good deal. Manufacturers don’t offer these warranties to be good Samaritans, they do so because it’s very profitable. If your computer experiences problems within the manufacturers base warranty, have it repaired by them. After that date, go to a reputable computer shop should you need any work.

Cables & Cords: Many retailers will offer you cords and cables to connect your device to your TV,  hook up the printer that doesn’t come with a USB cable or for provide power protection. While each is a good idea, you can save a lot of money shopping online for these items.

Setup Services: Most modern computers will come with a series of trial software and limited use programs which retail locations will offer to remove for you for a fee. You can download the same utility many retail stores use to remove this software, PC Decrapifier. If you want to install many of the freeware software suites these companies offer to install for you (Open Office, Avast Free Anti-Virus, etc) you can download them all in one simple installer by going to Ninite.


P.S. Don’t get too overly-concerned with brands of manufacturers. Most companies use very similar internal components and the differences in day-to-day performance from one brand to another of similar specifications is minimal. Compare warranty terms and pricing to decide which manufacturer to go with, or better yet, build your own! 

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