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Thursday, April 17, 2014 |

Three Considerations for Buying Your Next Computer

A few weeks ago, my fiancé’s beloved eight-year-old laptop finally bit the dust. It was a sad day, but we knew it was coming. The signs had been there for months.

Our mourning period was short, however: Since my fiancé is in graduate school, he needed to buy a new computer quickly. Also since he’s in grad school, he needed to find a model that fit his budget. Before making his purchase, we spent a few days discussing his needs and doing some research.

I thought I’d share some of the considerations we found most helpful in finding the best computer for him:

  • Where do you do most of your work? If you’re self-employed and work from home, you may want to consider a desktop for its sheer level of performance. Desktops are less expensive than laptops, as well as cheaper to repair. However, if you need a computer you can take with you from place to place (or from class to library to study group, like my fiancé) you probably need a laptop. Just know that you could end up paying for that convenience, since laptops are more costly to fix.
  • What are your computing needs? Those who use a computer for low-intensity tasks, such as writing short emails, watching movies, listening to music and Internet searching, may only need a tablet. Lots of options at various price points exist in the market today, so you can upgrade with data packages and other extras if you wish. But if you’re doing common office tasks, such as word processing, building presentations, or crunching data, stick with a laptop or desktop. You can buy keyboard attachments for tablets, but they’re a little uncomfortable to use for extended periods of time.
  • How fast do you need to be able to work? In other words, what kind of processor do you need? If you rely on your smartphone to download and view content and use a computer as a back-up, you can probably get by with a slower processor. But if you use your computer to enjoy movies and music, go with a faster processor. And if you’re a serious gamer or do any kind of work with high-definition video, go high-end on your processor.

These are just a few of the questions we asked before finding the right laptop. My fiancé now has a new computer that fits his needs as a student and came in at just the right price for his budget. For more advice, check out the helpful buying guides at Consumer Reports. The organization digs deep into other features you’ll need to consider, such as memory, hard drives, operating systems, and more.

And if you need a little extra financial help to fund your new computer, talk to the professionals at your credit union about a personal loan. Credit unions typically offer lower interest rates and better loan terms than other financial institutions, so you’ll save more money in the long run.

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