Heart set on a new personal computer? It's no longer as simple as an Apple computer or a machine running Microsoft Windows. Here's a few things to consider before you spend your hard-earned cash.
Before we even get into the Apple verses Microsoft debate something more fundamental needs to be decided. Do you need a top of the range, high powered, machine for processor hungry tasks like photo and video editing or something for more basic computing such as emailing, web browsing and writing documents?
The faster the processor and the more RAM the machine has the better it is at the high end stuff. But these days a slower, lower RAM, machine actually meets most people's needs quite comfortably.
Once that's decided you'll want to consider form factor. That's tech talk for the sort of machine you want. Not so long ago this was a simple choice between a desktop machine, which is permanently placed on a desk, or a laptop machine, which folds into something very portable. Now there's a whole range of new classes of computer in between those familiar models and the manufacturers are coming out with new varieties almost every day. The middle ground is the touch screen tablet, driven by the success of Apple's iPad, but this is not the only choice in the market.
Microsoft's Surface is a traditional personal computer in tablet form. Manufactures like Hewlett Packard package different sized tablets with keyboards and connect them like a laptop to give the user the best of both worlds. These machines are known as hybrids and a good example is the HP Split X2.
Once the form factor has been decided it's time to check out the options. Do some research online before you hit the street so that when you enter a bricks and mortar store you know exactly what you are after.
If you've had a computer before you will want to decide, around about now, whether to stick with what you are familiar with or try something new. Your final decision will probably come down to whether you have invested a lot of money in either Apple or Microsoft's ecosystem. If you have a number of Apple devices, such as an iPad, iPhone or iPod already and have bought a lot of apps and music on iTunes then sticking with Apple is a no brainer. Apple's devices synchronise data nicely when they are connected to the internet making it easy to access that important work document created on your iPad on your iPhone or Apple personal computer.
All Apple hardware now comes with iWorks, Apple answer to Microsoft Office, for free. While it's not as powerful as Microsoft Office it does offer good functionality for most users.
If you're not tied into the Apple ecosystem consider the alternative.
Microsoft has taken a leaf out of Apple's book with its own ecosystem complete with an app store like Apple's. So you can buy music and apps from within Microsoft Windows 8.1 and 8.1 RT as well as Windows Phone 8.
Windows 8.1 will run most of the old Windows software you may be using, so you won't have to break the bank with new software.
Windows 8.1 is nothing to be scared of. Its bright and colourful Start screen may seem complicated and mesmerising but it is really designed for touch screen machines. If the one you are looking at is not a touch-screen, you can turn the Start screen off so that when the machine starts it goes straight to the traditional Desktop.
The other thing to be aware of, before you buy, is the difference between Windows 8.1 and 8.1 RT. The RT variant comes on some tablet machines and is more limited than the full Windows 8.1. The most notable difference is that it will only run apps from the Windows Store.
If you discover some older Windows 8 and Windows 8 RT machines in your research you can add extra Windows 8.1 functionality to them for free by searching for Windows 8.1 update in the Windows Store.
Whatever you decide be sure of what you want before you hit the store. Sales people often get commission so it's in their interests to sell you something that they currently have in stock, as opposed to something that is suitable for your needs. Once you have decided on what you want shop around. Alternately you can have Need A Nerd assess your requirements and supply you with something that fits the bill. We can also migrate all the data from your old machine to your new one and make sure everything is set up and running smoothly for you.