Our Advice On Buying A New Computer

Kelly's Getting A New Computer
I have heard a lot of bad comments about Dell and Gateway in your newsletters.  I am needing to buy a new computer. (As I have Windows 98 and want something that will work with an Ipod.)  What kind on computer do you suggest for your subscribers.

We've revised our opinion of Dell since they've shown they are indeed sensitive to their customers. In our Rant called "I Got A New Dell, Dude!" we state the reasons for our initial recommendation against buying Dell computers and the reasons why we changed our minds. So, while we feel that Dell still overloads its computers with too many applications - most other computer companies do the same - Dell is no longer putting adware/hijacker "Ask Bar" (SmileyCentral, FunWebProducts, MySearch, MyWebSearch) on any of their new computers. So, you can feel comfortable about purchasing from Dell. Dell provides a standard "Restore" disk with their computers. Not good. But they do provide an option where you can order the full Windows XP CD-ROM for around $10.00 which is well worth it. Even though we think they should provide it free, as far as we know Dell is the only one of the major computer brands which provides a full Windows CD for a very low additional cost. A good Dell computer configured properly will cost between $900.00 and $1100.00. Of course you cheapen one down or load one up and the price will vary quite a bit. If you want a simple computer that will get the job done, you can get a Dell, including shipping for around $500.00. And trust us: If you're used to Windows 98, you'll be thrilled with any new computer with Windows XP on it :)

As far as Gateway is concerned, every Gateway we've had the opportunity to see or work on (back in our "computer repair person" days) was slow because they were really overloaded with pre-installed software (even more than Dell and about the same as HP/Compaq). In all fairness to Gateway it's been several years since we've worked on one or even used one. But in talking to a computer tech I know, he informs me his opinion of Gateway is about the same as ours. Not very good. And, for the most part, they're overpriced.

HP/Compaq computers are over-priced and they suffer from Nortonitis. Nortonitis is a computer-borne disease named after Norton (Symantec) software products - which are generally bloated, consumer-unfriendly, and sometimes barely compatible with the operating system for which they were created. While HP/Compaq's customer service appears to have improved, we can't say much for their computer. HP/Compaq computers do not come with Windows CD (at least not the ones we've seen). They come with a "Restore" disk. Not good. Many people swear by HP/Compaq - if you've had one and been satisfied with it, that's great. Our opinion of them is not that good.

Actually, we've heard good things about the new E-Machines. E-Machines is a company that nearly went broke a few years back. Now they've apparently made a commitment to improving quality and they've stopped using low-end component inside their computers. For a low-priced, low-end computer, E-Machines provide a lot of bang for the buck. But, they come with a lot of (read: OVERLOADED WITH) pre-installed software, and the ones we've looked at do not come with a Windows CD-ROM. They come with a "Restore" disk. Not good. Expect to pay around $600.00 for decent "E-Machines" computer.

Alienware provides top of the line computers if you have money to burn. Alienware is the choice of demanding gamers. Even if you're not a gamer, you can be sure that extreme gaming computers are very powerful and very robust machines. If you want to spend a lot of money for a very top-quality computer, you might want to consider Alienware. Expect to pay about $1600.00 or more for decent Alienware computer. Most Alienware computers are not over-loaded with software and do include a full Windows CD-ROM. (Late addition- We've just learned that Alienware computers, arguably the best computers you can buy, are now available from Dell.com.)

More important, though, than brand name, is what's inside. Here are a few things you should consider when buying a new computer:

1. Get the new Intel "Intel® Core 2 Duo" processor if you can afford it. However if you don't need a super-computer you might be able to find a real bargain on slightly older Pentium 4 computers right now. Intel phased out the "Pentium" processors this past summer and is now offering "Intel® Core 2 Duo" processors.
2. Make sure the computer is "Windows Vista" capable - Make sure it can run Vista Premium
3. Make sure the computer you're consider has a separate graphics card of at least 128MB. You don't want "integrated graphics"
4. If you're an audio-freak and use your computer as a movie theatre or MP3/Audio entertainment center, you don't want "integrated audio" you want a separate "audio card". And you're going to want some good speakers with your computer. We're not audio buffs so if you are, you probably know more about speakers than we do. If you just want you computer to make nice sounds and play a few MP3s, etc. integrated audio is fine. The low-end speakers are fine too if you just like to hear buzzes, beeps, and John Fogerty sing "Bad Moon Risin'"
5. Since Windows Vista is supposed to be released by February 2007 and that's just a few months away, either make sure the computer you buy comes with a coupon for BIG discount on Windows Vista or, preferably, a coupon for a free upgrade to Windows Vista. You're going to want to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows Vista at some point, so consider this when buying a new computer on the cusp between Windows XP and Windows Vista. If you buy a high-end computer, that comes with a full Windows disk, insist on an upgrade coupon or certificate entitling you to a Windows Vista DVD free.
6. And last but not least...GET LOTS AND LOTS OF RAM. Do not buy a new computer without at least 1 GB of RAM. We highly recommend 2 GB or more. You cannot have too much RAM and we can only tell you that as time goes by, applications running on Windows Vista and Windows Vista itself, are going to chew up huge chunks of RAM. Get as much RAM as you can afford.

We hope this helps you Kelly - and we hope it helps any of you thinking about getting a new computer now or during the Christmas season. (Yes, we said "Christmas"!)

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