What Kind of Computer Should I Buy?

Desktop PC

by Steve Deal on January 25, 2014

What kind of computer should I get?  It’s a fairly common question, and there’s a lot of options now!



For hours of heavy keyboard and screen work, nothing yet beats a traditional desktop for the classic office.   The ergonomics are good – big, full sized keyboard, mouse and a large, bright monitor or two.   You can easily arrange multiple workspaces (Outlook, QuickBooks, WordPress, a note space and a browser).

For most traditional office tasks, this is still the right solution.   Windows 7 is the most common O/S.   Yes, Windows 8 will work for most environments, although there are a few applications that haven’t been updated for it yet.  We’ve had good luck with Dell Optiplex hardware for businesses.  For home use, consider a refurbished Dell from Walmart.



 If you travel regularly, or use multiple offices, a laptop might be a good solution.  It’s only one (small) screen,  one  (small, less ergonmonic) keyboard, and a touchpad mouse.   But all your programs, data, and settings travel with you.

If you have several permanent destinations (e.g., home, office), you can configure them with ‘docking stations’ that connect the laptop to a traditional keyboard, mouse and display.  And you can still use the laptop standalone at the beach house!

Most new laptops are Windows 8.  Lenovo & HP brands have been reliable for us.

The specific laptop you need tends to be a ‘personal’ decision.

  • Some people like a big screen – great for displaying lots of data.  It usually comes with a nearly full size keyboard.  But this tends to be a heavier machine, so you should plan to use it on a desktop or table.
  • Some people want something they can literally use on their lap (on the couch).    There we look for a lightweight machine, typically with a smaller screen and keyboard.
  • The ‘best of both’ laptops are ‘ultra-lights’ – large and lightweight.   These tend to be more expensive (~$2K).

Apple iPad 3G Frontansicht

Tablets & Phones

Tablets may have originated as media devices, but I use mine for business – taking notes and checking email.  The applications tend to be more limited – you get a simple mail client instead of Outlook.  And most line of business applications are not available yet, or have limited features.

Your smartphone can double as a tiny tablet – looking up something on Google, or taking a few notes.

Microsoft recently released the Surface Pro.   This interesting hybrid (the Pro, not the RT version)  has a desktop processor – so it runs all the classic desktop applications.  But it has a tablet form factor, with a cover that doubles as a keyboard.  I’m still undecided – I like portable desktop applications, but miss the laptop keyboard, limited though it is.

Tablets & Phones tend to be a great ‘add on’ computing device.  Any IOS, Android or Windows 8 device will probably meet basic needs.  IOS (iPhone) tends to be simple and rock solid.  Android tends to be more flexible.

King Cloud

The Cloud

Is the ultimate computer no computer?   The promise of ‘cloud computing’ is that everything is out there on the Internet – your files, your pictures and the applications to access them.   This works reasonably well today for some things – Gmail for email, Flickr for photos.  And more line of business applications are going web-based too – Salesforce, eTapestry.

Google’s Chromebook – a tablet that is ONLY a browser – embodies this concept.   The catch is that without an internet connection you have access to nothing.   Microsoft’s Windows 8 also implements many cloud features – synchronizing settings and files via the Internet to all your computers.

The ‘cloud computer’ probably is the future – but still a work in progress.

And the winner is…

The one that works for you, of course.  You may find two or three devices is the right mix – a desktop at home or work, a tablet for the den or working on the go, and a smart phone for the gym!




{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Steve Deal October 27, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: