What Kind Of Computer Should I Buy? {plus the important differences between laptops vs tablets}

This is probably the most common thing that friends approach me with.  "I want to buy a new computer, what kind should I get?"  The funny thing is -- this question was relevant maybe 10 years ago, but today the hardware is so universal and standardized that what's "under the hood" hardly matters anymore. That is, unless you're wanting a computer specifically designed for graphically intensive gaming, animation/video production, or CAD work.  And basically, if you're tech savvy enough to know that you need a computer like that, then you probably already know exactly what computer you need anyway and don't need to be reading this.  

But if you're a self-proclaimed tech dummy and simply want to get on the internet or write the occasional document, then just buy what you can afford.  There are slight variances, but any $500 laptop, whether its a Dell, HP, Toshiba or whatever, is all going to have pretty much the same stuff inside.  This same principle applies at any price point.  In the end -- it comes down to what you're going to use it for, and in the case of a laptop: how it feels in your hands.

Laptops come in all variety of shapes and sizes.  Buy the one that is going to be the most practical for you from an aesthetic and ergonomic standpoint.  Don't worry about what brand it is.  I have worked with nearly every major brand of laptop over the years, and no brand was immune to the occasional bad egg, meanwhile all brands made mostly good computers.  So go to the store, figure out the most expensive price tier you can afford, and buy the one that feels the best in your hands.  

They all have different surfaces, finishes, and keyboard/touchpad designs.  Maybe you don't want one with buttons that make a loud "click" when you press them.  Maybe you want one with spaces in between the keys on the keyboard, or maybe you don't.  Maybe you want one with a 10-key keypad, or one with a dedicated volume button.  These are the kinds of things you should look for because you're going to be living with this device for at least the next couple of years, presumably.  Buying online does not afford you the ability to feel it in your hands ahead of time.  Over the years I have ordered several laptops online only to find that they felt hollow or cheap once they arrived.  And invariably I would stumble on a friend's new laptop a week later with a much better design and finish that he picked up from the local electronics store for the same price.  I promise that shopping for laptops in person is worth your while.

An extension of this question is, should I buy a laptop, or can I just get away with buying a tablet?  The short answer is "no" you can't get away with just buying a tablet.  Tablets are great, don't get me wrong. In fact -- I am writing this article on one right now.  But they have their limitations.  This question is akin to what people were asking 10 years ago when they said "should I buy a desktop, or can I get away with buying just a laptop?"  There was a time when laptops cost twice as much as their desktop counterparts for the same computing power, and were extremely limited in capability.  Today it's tablets that are extremely limited in capability.  

Tablets are great for apps, media consumption, casual gaming, and are extremely portable.  However, they have a more limited capability for content creation (i.e. document writing, or anything that would be considered "productivity"), and they can sometimes suck for web browsing, though some are better than others.  There are many things a tablet cannot do that you simply have to have a computer for.  Not mention that if you want to get any of your existing music or movies onto your tablet, you pretty much need a computer to do so.  Unless you buy the songs directly from iTunes or Google Play and download them directly to the device.  Which is fine if you don't already own any digital songs or movies.  But that applies to virtually no one in this day and age.  

Furthermore, no tablet has anywhere close to the amount of storage space as a laptop or desktop.  So if you have a huge library of songs/movies/photos, etc. -- your tablet will be pretty much worthless. I suppose it could be noted that cloud storage can mitigate some of the space issue, but if you're traveling (especially internationally) and not always near an internet connection then it is less useful.

That said, tablets are great for traveling.  I am spending this summer traveling through Europe, and I just brought a tablet with me.  An Android tablet to be specific.  It's tiny, lightweight, has far better battery life than a laptop, and it allows me to watch movies, listen to music, take pictures, write blog posts, use Facebook, and look at web pages.  I am very grateful for this tablet and the freedom it gives me, but I would be lying if said it's anywhere close to as capable as my laptop.  In fact, techie that I am, I installed Teamviewer on my tablet and my laptop at home, and left it powered up on my desk back at my house so that I could remote control it whenever I needed to.  And sure enough, I have needed to about 50 times so far in the month that I've been gone because of one limitation or another on my tablet.  In the end, tablets have their place, but they are not a laptop replacement.  

There are some new devices like the Microsoft Surface Pro line that try to act as the best of both worlds, and they are getting closer by the day.  But at the moment they are really expensive and still have some issues to iron out.  Yes, they technically accomplish the goal of having a tablet form-factor, while still running a fully functional version of Windows 10.  But at the moment they can still only be described as a really expensive underpowered laptop, or an even more expensive, oversized tablet.  If you're a traveling business professional and money is no object, then you might still benefit from this new technology.  But if you're a regular Joe, I would wait until the Surface Pro (or a competing product) gets about 8 ounces lighter, a half an inch thinner, and about $1000 less expensive before considering one.  And with the rate that computer technology advances, all three of those things will probably happen sooner rather than later.


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What Kind of Computer Should I Buy? | Cock & Crow Blog #computer #laptop #microsoft