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Buying A New Computer For Christmas?

The least important part of the selection process of buying a new computer for Christmas or any other time, is the brand name. While you should choose a brand that offers good, free support in the country you are located (not in some foreign country where they may not speak your language well), the brand name itself is not a guarantee of a great computer.

The most important thing to consider when buying a new computer is: What will the computer be used for? If you're buying the computer for heavy use by a gamer or a graphics guru, you're going to want the fastest processor, the biggest hard drive(s), the most powerful graphics card, and the most RAM you can afford. Games and professional graphics programs, especially 3D graphics programs require large amounts of RAM and extremely fast processors. Gamers and graphics designers are also going to want their games or graphics to look good, so a good monitor with high resolution capabilities plus a powerful graphics card and 3D-Accelerator are a must. Consider nothing less than a 3 GHz processor, 1MB of RAM, and at least a 512 MB graphics card. You might also want to consider a 19" or 21" monitor for this type of user.

If you're buying a computer for the casual user, who wants to browse the Web, send email, use chat programs, and do some word processing and use a few office-type applications, you don't need all the high-powered features that a gamer or graphics guru needs. We'd suggest that a 2 GHz processor (Intel or AMD) 512MB (preferably 768MB) of RAM and a 64 or 128 MB graphics card with a 17" monitor would just right for the casual user.

If you're buying someone their first computer, you should consider the amount of RAM more than anything else. There is nothing more frustrating to a newbie, who doesn't understand the concept of RAM, multi-tasking, or controlling the number of programs which start with Windows. They just want it to work. The most certain road to frustration for a new user is programs which constantly "freeze" or applications that take forever to load. You're not going to be able to teach a new user everything about computers at once. So, make sure, even if you're buying a low-end computer for a new user that you get plenty of RAM with it. We'd suggest no less than 512 MB of RAM for new Windows XP computer. 256 MB just isn't enough no matter what Microsoft says. Maybe in a perfect world 256 MB would work fine, but once you start adding startup programs and multi-tasking 256MB of RAM will be used rather quickly. We would suggest you not even think about a computer with less than 512MB of RAM and preferably 1 GB of RAm - not only for this generation of Windows but for the next generation (Windows Vista) as well (see the last paragraph of this article) for more information about the next generation of Windows coming late in 2006.

When considering a new computer, whether for an expert gamer or a brand new user, make sure the computer isn't overloaded with pre-installed software. Some computer manufacturers overload their computers with "shareware" programs (like Norton AV, McAfee, anti-spyware applications, and other programs that have to be purchased after 30 to 90 days. Most times people are not going to purchase them when the trial runs out, and in the case of a shareware anti-virus or anti-spyware application, this leaves them vulnerable. Consider a computer with the least amount of pre-installed software as the best choice. You can download free anti-virus protection, free anti-spyware protection and free software firewalls. Sometimes these are better choices than the bloated applications that computer manufacturers pre-install. You have to keep in mind that the computer manufacturer isn't putting this software on the computer to protect you, they are putting it on the computer to make money. They get a cut whenever someone buys the programs that they pre-install. Not a good thing because in many cases as the trials of the shareware applications expire, the user is totally unprotected.

And, beware of computer companies that pre-install questionable software (Dell for instance). Some consider "MyWay, MyWebSearch, MyTotalSearch, MyWay Speedbar" (Dell installs one or more of these, or did at last report). These types of programs are questionable at best and are what we call "SEMs" or Search Engine Manipulators. They make money by distorting your search results and making advertisements look like genuine search results. Until Dell stops the practice of putting this kind of software on most of its new computers we cannot recommend Dell at this time.

Some great deals can be found online. Shop online and compare features and prices - then purchase the computer online or visit your local computer retailer, armed with the knowledge you've gleaned from the Web. Try www.tigerdirect.comand www.newegg.com for some excellent computer deals. We've had good luck with both.

Finally, keep in mind that Windows Vista will be released late in 2006. Make sure the computer you buy will be compatible with the upcoming version of Windows. It can be quite a let down if you're using a computer that isn't powerful enough to upgrade to a newer version of Windows. For general requirements for Windows Vista see http://www.microsoft.com/technet/windowsvista/evaluate/hardware/vistahardware.mspx .

We hope this helps you with your Christmas "computer" shopping this year!


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