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BEACON Senior News

Considering a computer for Christmas?

Nov 06, 2018 03:14AM ● By Adam Cochran

With each passing week, as Christmas approaches, I receive an increase in emails, phone calls and texts from friends and acquaintances asking for advice on technology gift giving.

The most common question by far is, “I’m in need a new computer. What should I get?”

I recommend laptops far more than I recommend desktop computers or tablets. In many cases, a budget laptop (under $400) has exactly the same internal components as a budget desktop.

Laptops can be a little more difficult to repair, but if you take care of your machine, it will likely become obsolete before it ever needs repairs.

Some people avoid laptops because of the small screen size. However, any external screen can be connected to a laptop. This means that you can either use a larger screen by itself or you can have both screens running simultaneously so they work together as one large panoramic screen.

If laptops can do anything desktops can do, why get a desktop?

Desktops usually give you a little more bang for your buck. Laptops typically cost 20-50 percent more than their desktop counterparts with comparable features.

If you have kids at home, a desktop computer is often best for homework because it’s less likely to be abused or accidentally damaged. Spilling soda on a desktop computer keyboard is a $20 mistake. But the same accident on a laptop can mean the total loss of the machine.

If you’re shopping for a new computer, I recommend starting with a decision on whether you want the mobile lifestyle that a laptop provides or the power and less costly repair or maintenance of a desktop computer.

Once you know what device you want, the only things you really have to worry about are cost and features. Brand does not matter. At each price point, almost all computers are the same on the inside.

I typically don’t recommend buying the cheapest computer. They’re often too underpowered and will have problems within weeks after purchase.

I usually expect a laptop to last about five to seven years. In order to get this type of longevity, get one with enough power that it will still be able to function well with future updates.

Look for a machine with an Intel i5 or i7 processor or an AMD A10 or higher processor. Make sure you have at least 500GB of storage space on the hard drive and more than 4GB of RAM.

If you have those features, you will own a machine that can edit photos, play streaming videos, and even do basic video editing.

If you don’t do multimedia work with the computer, you’ll likely replace the computer for something better long before it loses its total usefulness.