for Project 2 on page 109:
*These worksheets can be printed out, filled in, and submitted to
technology changes with great frequency. Sorting through the myriad of
computer choices and the accompanying jargon can confuse the most savvy of
shoppers. Finding accurate, unbiased advice can be difficult at best.
Check out our top ten tips for purchasing a new computer, below. You’ll
also be able to browse Web sites that provide computer buyer’s guides of
their own. You can also find links to computer buyer’s worksheets that
will help you to decide which components to include with your PC. These
worksheets allow you to compare prices with other makes and models.
Finally, there are links to shopping sites specializing in computer
systems and components.
- Consider the tasks for which you’ll
use the computer. Begin by making a list of activities you expect to
do using your computer system. For example, do you want to use your PC
for gaming, word processing, Internet access, graphics, music, or
something entirely different? Will you use your computer system for a
combination of tasks, or will it be dedicated to one particular task,
such as small business accounting? Do you want to use your computer
for applications, such as home security monitoring, that might require
specialized hardware or software? Does anyone who will use the
computer have special needs that might require adaptive equipment,
such as a voice synthesizer or one-handed keyboard? If you are
planning to use specialized peripheral devices or software, check
their system requirements to make sure you purchase a computer that
- Determine your budget. Ask yourself how
much money can you afford to spend on your new computer. Set a price
range and shop for the best computer in that range. As a general rule
or thumb, a computer priced higher than U.S.$2,000 is the computer
equivalent of a luxury automobile. A computer in this price range
contains, a fast processor, generous amount of RAM, and copious amount
of disk space. These computers contain state-of-the-art components and
should not have to be replaced as quickly as less expensive computers.
Computers that retail for between U.S.$1,000 and $2,000 might be
considered the four-door sedans of the computer marketplace because a
majority of buyers select computers in this price range. These popular
computers lack the flashy specifications of their state-of-the-art
cousins, but provide ample computing power to run current versions of
the operating system and popular application software.
n the computer industry, the equivalent of a compact car is a
sub-$1,000 computer. The technology in these computers is usually a
few years old and you can expect reduced processor speed, memory
capacity, and drive capacity. Nevertheless, these budget computers
feature many of the same components that owners coveted in their
state-of-the-art computers a few years back. You might, however, have
to replace a budget computer sooner than a more expensive computer.
- Select your computer platform. Before
you start shopping, you should determine whether you want a Mac or a
PC. To make this decision consider the platform used by the majority
of your friends and coworkers. If PCs are the standard platform at
work, you should probably purchase a PC for yourself. PCs are the
choice of most businesses, except those focused on artistic endeavors,
such as advertising agencies. Many elementary schools have
standardized on the Mac platform, so if you are a teacher or have
children who use Macs at school, that should be your platform of
- Choose a desktop, notebook, or tablet
configuration. If you want portability, or if you don’t have much
desk space, consider a notebook or tablet computer. Otherwise, a
desktop computer might fulfill your needs. The features of today’s
notebook computers essentially match those of desktop models, but at a
somewhat higher price. If you are on a tight budget and don’t
require portability, then go for a desktop model. Another reason for
selecting a desktop model is the amount of expandability it can
provide. If you plan to install lots of peripherals, and you want an
ergonomically designed keyboard, and you prefer a large screen display
device, you might not be happy with a notebook computer.
- Select processor type and speed. Even
after you’ve identified a brand and model, you might have a choice
of processors. Processor speed directly effects computer performance.
A fast processor is essential for some applications such as desktop
publishing, video editing, and serious computer gaming. Fast
processors are expensive, however, and unnecessary for most routine
- Select an operating system.
Macintosh computers are shipped with the current version of Mac OS, so
Mac buyers don’t have much of a decision to make when it comes to
the operating system. PCs can be shipped with Windows or Linux, but
that choice is typically easy to make. Linux would be the operating
system of choice if you are planning to operate a network or Web
server. For the typical personal computer system, Linux limits your
choice of software applications and might not provide device drivers
for some of the peripheral devices you want to install. PC buyers
typically choose the Windows operating system because of its
flexibility and because it is the PC standard.
- When you purchase a PC, you might have a
choice of Windows versions. Microsoft typically offers Windows in a
Home version and a Professional version. The professional version
provides some enhanced security and networking options not available
on the Home version. Unless you are planning to operate a small
business network, the Home version should be sufficient for your
needs. Don’t be intimidated, however, if the PC you purchase comes
with the Professional version of Windows—it operates in basically
the same way and has essentially the same graphical user interface as
the Home version.
Regardless of the operating system you
select, make sure it is the most recent version. Older operating systems
might not support the newest software applications or some new peripheral
- Consider your storage needs. A hard disk
serves as the main storage device for your computer. Most of today’s
computers offer at least 50 GB of hard disk space. That amount should
be sufficient for most personal computer owners. Music, video, and
graphics files are large, so if you plan to store many of these files,
you might want to upgrade to a larger hard disk.
Most computers include a floppy disk drive and it adds very little to
the sticker price. You might consider eliminating the floppy disk
drive in a notebook computer with limited system unit space. That
space might be better filled with a writable CD or DVD drive.
Your computer should include at least one rewritable CD or DVD drive
for making backups and installing software from distribution disks.
Many computer buyers want two CD or DVD drives, with at least one of
them providing rewritable capabilities. With two of these drives, it
is possible to copy CDs.
- Consider RAM and video memory capacity.
Today’s computers include between 128 MB and 2 GB of RAM. Higher RAM
capacity is better for memory-intensive applications such as video and
music editing. Additional RAM raises the price of a computer. If you
are on a tight budget, remember that you can add RAM later if your
applications demand it.
If the computer you’re purchasing has a graphics card, it contains
some amount of video memory. You’ll want the maximum amount of video
memory if you intend to use your computer for 3-D action games, video
editing, or desktop publishing. On some computers, the graphics card
circuitry is built into the motherboard and a section of RAM is
dedicated to graphics handling tasks. This technology, usually
referred to as “shared memory,” does not match the performance of
a dedicated graphics card and video memory.
- Evaluate the computer’s upgradeability.
Some computers are easier than others to expand and upgrade. As a rule
of thumb, desktop models are easier to upgrade than notebooks, which
often contain specialized components designed to fit in the small
system unit. If you want expandability, look for open drive bays that
can hold additional hard disk, CD, and DVD drives. Ask about the
number of expansion slots provided for network, video, and audio
expansion cards. Also, look at the position and number of ports for
connecting peripheral devices. Multiple USB ports are
handy—especially if they are easily accessible.
- Select Software. Most computers are
shipped with the operating system preinstalled. Remember that Windows
includes several utilities and applications, such as rudimentary
graphics, compression, backup, defragmentation, Web browsing, and
e-mail software. Many computer vendors also install a “bundle” of
application software packages. A typical software bundle includes word
processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and antivirus software. This
software is handy for just about everyone, and computer buyers can
typically save money by purchasing this bundle along with a new PC.
Additional software bundles offered as incentives might appear to be
attractively priced, but if you don’t see a need for the software,
then perhaps you should put the money into some more useful component
for your computer system.
- Select peripheral devices and
accessories. Always find out what is included in the price of a
computer system, and think carefully whether each device will be
useful for your computing projects. Many companies advertise low-cost
computer systems that don’t include monitors. After factoring in the
price of a monitor, these systems might not be such a good deal. In
contrast, some vendors offer special hardware bundles that include a
monitor, printer, PDA, and digital camera! When purchasing a notebook
computer, you should consider buying an extra battery, carrying case,
A/C adapter for using an electrical wall outlet, and D/C adapter for
in-car use. Because many of these accessories are designed
specifically for a particular notebook model, they might not be
available in a year or two.
- Evaluate manufacturer and vendor support
and warranty. When you encounter hardware and software problems, you
want them fixed as quickly as possible. Technical support and repair
service is usually available from the company that manufactured the
equipment or published the software. Support and service might also be
available from the merchant or vendor. Before you make a final
decision on computer equipment or software, ask the following
questions: Does your new equipment or software come with technical
support? How long does the support last? How can you contact technical
support? Is it free? Is the support staff knowledgeable? What is the
duration of the equipment warranty? Does it cover the cost of parts
and labor? Where do repairs take place and is there a shipping
cost? How long do repairs typically take?
Shopping for computer
equipment and software can be a challenge, but if you take a careful,
organized approach, you can usually buy with confidence. Remember to use
all available resources, such as vendor Web sites, magazine reviews, and
recommendations from friends and experts.
Worksheets Many computer retailers’ Web sites have worksheets that
potential customers can use to specify their preferences in a PC. Users
can then compare the results provided with other models and brands to find
the best computer for the best price. Visit any of the sites listed below
to access their worksheets. Each site uses different worksheets with
questions ranging from specific needs, to opinion- based desires.
Buyer’s Guides Below are some of the best computer buyer’s guides
to be found on the Internet. These sites provide tips, links, and current
articles about new PCs in addition to buyer’s guides. With the rapidly
changing computer market, some of the information on these sites
might seem out-of-date. However; much of the advice they offer is valuable
regardless of the specific computer models listed.
Additional Links Once
you have decided exactly what kind of system you want to purchase, visit
the sites listed below to compare prices. If you find the model you want
at a fair price, many of these sites will be more than happy to take your
order as well.