I am asked all the time “What Desktop computer do you recommend for me”?

I feel this is like asking me “what car should I buy”?  There are so many different types of computers on the market it can be overwhelming to find that right computer for your needs without breaking the bank.

After thirty years in this business I have come up with a simple set of questions that helps narrow down the selections.

First off – ask yourself the hardest question; “What are you going to be doing with this computer”?

My selection process is in 3 categories:

First category is the Gaming computer running massive GPU (Graphic Processor Units) like halo, Hitman, or Grand Theft Auto.  Gaming computers are the most expensive computer of my selection.  They need tons of RAM (Memory), an extremely fast hard drive, and a graphics board with multiple gigabytes of RAM and the graphic processor speed to power these massive graphic intensive games.

You will also need a high refresh rate display monitor and special keyboard and mouse to enhance the experience.

A starting price for a good Gamming computer is over a grand and goes up from there. Most gamers want to build their system to get that exact fit to their gaming needs.

Second category is CAD (Computer Aided Design), or other type of math intensive computer.

These computers need a high end processor like a workstation using an Intel Zeon or AMD Opteron type processor. They need lots of RAM based on the software recommendation and a power graphic card.

These machines start in the thousand dollar mark and are truly a workhorse.

Now let’s calm it down a bit for those of us who do not game, or do CAD drawings and look at the average Business computer.

Third category – Business computer. These computers run Business applications like Word, Excel, e-mail, and web browsing (Microsoft Office).

I touch a lot of computers daily, and I sometimes don’t know how some users can stand using a computer that they have to wait on. These computers are simply misconfigured or outdated.

My suggestion is to buy a computer that is name-branded like HP, Dell, IBM, etc. But when I say this I am not referring to the home version of these computers, even if you will only be using this for personal use.

Most computer manufacturers put out a computer line targeted for the “Bottom Dollar Consumer”. These computers are built very inexpensively and usually aren’t meant to last very long.  They are generally slower using the slowest CPU and RAM combination they have at that time.

Business Class computers will cost you a hundred or more additional dollars, but the payoff in the long run is you or your employees saved time and reduced frustration.

Other questions to ask yourself:

– How much disk space do I need?

– How much memory do I need?

– What kind of processor do I need?

In every circumstance now, I try to use a Solid State Disk (SSD) instead of the traditional Hard Drive in these computers, which speeds up response time.

Use the professional version of the Operating System, ie Windows 10 Pro. The reason for using the Pro version is to give you several features that take full advantage of the operating system, which makes managing the computer and users easier.  Remote desktop features, encrypted drives, faster updates, integration features to a Windows Domain, better logging and debugging utilities.

Again, Home operating system versions tend to be more limited than the business version.

A good starter Business Class computer can cost as little as $500, but as you add additional features can climb rapidly, depending on your need. Some of those needs can be:

1) Two monitors, requires a dual video card, and an extra monitor, some already have this feature built-in;

2) Wireless mouse and/or keyboard, vs hardwired;

3) Extra USB ports or USB 3.0 ports;

4) Card bay expansion; some do not offer this;

5) Camera (built in, or external);

6) Physical size – desk space can be a premium; some are small enough to mount on the back of the monitor;

7) Network port – some no longer come with a physical hardwire port but are WiFi network only

The amount of disk space needed is based upon the amount of space the operating system needs now, and for future updates/upgrades, and the applications and documents you will be using (for some it may include pictures, music, drawings, etc). For the operating system we tend to figure 90 gb to start out with.  For the application and data side of the equation you might look at what you are currently using and allocate some extra room for future growth.

I have customers that have massive Excel spreadsheets. In this case you want to make sure you have plenty of RAM and ensure you have Microsoft Office installed using the 64 bit version.  The 64 bit version of Office Excel can access more memory thus allowing the entire spreadsheet to be loaded into RAM.  RAM is much, much faster than swapping the spreadsheet out on the hard drive, which maximizes your Excel performance.

Speaking of RAM, I am frequently told “I just bought a computer with 16 gigs of RAM”. That is like buying a Corvette and only driving the speed limit.  The computer is only going to use as much RAM as it needs.  The issue becomes apparent when you do not have enough RAM.

For an example, let’s say you only have 2 gigs of RAM and your computer needs 3 gigs. This will cause the computer to swap out memory with what is called a swap file on the hard drive. This will greatly degrade the performance of your computer because the hard drive swap file is considerably slower than the RAM on the computer.  The traditional hard disk is limited by its mechanical speed.

When you upgrade your computer from 2 to 4 gigs, you will see a tremendous performance increase.

Now let’s take that same analogy and take a computer that is only using 3 of its 4 gigabytes of RAM. You upgrade that computer to 16 gigabytes of RAM.  The system is still only using 3 gigabytes, thus you will not get any increase in performance doing the memory upgrade.

I generally recommend 8 gigabytes to start off with for normal Office use to ensure you have plenty of RAM. If you are using an application such as CAD or heavier spreadsheet use you might monitor your memory use via the built-in “Task Manager” application to see if you need more memory.

Processors – More internal CPU’s are better, there are also a lot of good brands out there. CPU speed matters most.

The last category is a discussion in itself – The mobile/portable user, AKA the laptop.

A good Business laptop should not cost you an arm and a leg. A standard laptop, with a fifteen inch monitor, 4/8 gigabytes of RAM, and a 250 gigabyte Solid State Disk should only run about five hundred to six hundred dollars.

They get expensive when you want to add options such as a long life battery, and or a compact size, or touch screen. Again, I highly recommend a Solid State Drive, as they will make your laptop come to life in responsiveness and overall performance.   I will discuss in my upcoming blogs the pro and cons of all the different types of portable computers.

Bottom Line – Get a good Business Class computer from a manufacturer that is solidly placed in the Business market; use an Operating System that is Professional rated, not a home version.