Saturday, November 14, 2015

Get The Best PC For Your Buying Dollar This Holiday Season

Apple's CEO Tim Cook this week may have questioned "Why would you buy a PC anymore", but the cold hard truth is many of us are still turning to laptops and desktops when it comes to filling the need for speed, power and raw multi-tasking. Ironic as Cook's statements seem to be that happens to be a good thing for Apple as they just recently reported record sales of Macs!

Like most geeks we have held fast to our belief that no matter how great that tablet or smartphone may be and how much you can accomplish with them these days. When it comes to performance you just can't compete with the capabilities of a full blown desktop, high-end laptop or a newer Intel 2in1 device.

When it comes to buying the best device to suite all your needs there are several schools of thought, all of which generally involve weighing your overall actual wants and needs. We know this can more often than not be extremely confusing especially during the upcoming holiday shopping season when we start seeing lots of bargains. So we've put together a little guide that we hope will help you out.

Desktops offer the most performance, upgrade-ability and longevity!

When it comes down to pure outright computing power nothing has yet to displace the Intel based desktop at the top. Even at what is considered the entry level you'll see more performance for day to day tasks than the average user would ever need. In addition to offering great performance desktops offer something few other platforms do, the ability to be upgraded and repaired which in turn gives them an incredible amount of longevity.

A $400-500 investment in a desktop today should very easily net you 4-5 good years of hard work, whereas most people purchasing tablets or smartphones at similar costs are generally swapping devices every couple years. Of course there is some trade-off, you obviously don't get the portability, but the overall investment is generally the best return. Steeping up and making a bit higher purchase now in the $700-800 or even the $800-1000 range will net you even more bang for your buck as you'll get much improved hardware that should be a little more 'future-proof' (a term I actually hate).

When looking at purchasing a desktop I almost always give then same one line of advice, "Buy The Best You Can Afford At This Time!" This doesn't mean you need to run out and buy the newest CPU's, the fastest or most RAM or dump $2000-3000 on a new machine. In fact, unless you are a gamer, you can avoid all of the above and get a great machine that will still offer you the best bang for your buck!

What it does mean though is try to keep a balance and learn where you can 'skimp' and where you can't. Typically you want the best CPU and GPU you can buy and can skimp on easier upgrades like RAM and hard drives, both of which are much easier and cheaper to upgrade down the road if needed. I always suggest avoiding slimline or none traditional cases as they can really limit your upgrade options down the road. During the holidays you also want to avoid the luster of those cheap $200-300 deals as they generally feature lower-end CPUs that may be perfectly fine for some basic uses they just don't offer the best in performance. Try to stick with an Intel Core i5 or better, or for more performance an Intel Core i7. Also try to stick with the newest generations.

Laptops and Intel 2-in-1's offer the most balance for the money!

When it comes getting the most overall value laptops and especially the new Intel 2in1 devices are hard to beat. Your costs might be a little more upfront when looking at a one to one comparison to a desktop but the benefit of portability can easily outweigh any performance that might be lost by going with a laptop over a comparably priced desktop. And while most of us geeks hate to use the words desktop replacement with today's technology and performance we are seeing from laptops and Intel 2in1 devices you really are given a full desktop replacement option.

Selecting a laptop or 2-in-1 device brings up a completely different set of questions and factors from trying to find a desktop. First and foremost is going to be deciding on use and how much portability you really need. If you are someone in school, working or always on the go then you'll likely want something that is slimmer and lightweight, more compact and easily carried which generally means smaller screen size. If you are a big gamer or need something with a ton more power or are someone that doesn't plan on totting that laptop with you everywhere you go then you can opt for a heftier package and in the end a larger screen.

I've always recommended getting a super portable option that packs the most power you can get. My train of thought is a simple one, most people start using their laptops on the go more than they generally think they would and having the most portable option you can get now saves you later. Additionally, monitors are cheap these days (heck most of us have an HDTV) making it easier and more cost effective to add a larger secondary screen down the road if you need to.

I personally opt for a 2-in-1 device, preferably something with a detachable or convertible screen. This gives me the option of using it both as a traditional laptop when I need my keyboard and more multi-tasking and tablet when I'm just doing my basic tasks.  I also look for as many connections as possible. I suggest HDMI so you can easily get video out (great for sharing to a TV), and at least two if not three usb ports. I connect a couple external devices like my usb mouse and hard drive so more ports are needed. Windows 10 these days is also a must have for me (it is still free as an upgrade but nice to have right out of the box!).

Closing thoughts on holiday PC shopping

As I mentioned above a few times, I always try to avoid some of the flashy low costs sales items of the holiday season especially when it comes to laptops and desktops. Generally these cheaper deals are cheaper for a reason and that is typically because they are lower specs or older tech. Saying that doesn't mean some of the deals aren't going to be great, especially deals in the mid to high end range, I'm talking more about the cheap, get you in the door $150-250 deals you see.

Again, if you are looking for something to last a few years and give your more bang for your buck you want to buy the best you can at this time. If you just want something that will 'make due for now' then those deals might work out for you. Just be sure to weigh the pro's and con's of each option.

So now the big question, what are you planning on buying this holiday season? Are you going to be out shopping for Black Friday 2015? And if so what tech deals are you looking at? Comment below and let us know!

#spon: I'm required to disclose a relationship between our site and Intel This could include Intel providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

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