One statement I repeatedly am given when asked to suggest a computer purchase is, "All I do is play on the Internet, stream videos or play some online games every now and again. Not much."
Mundane, every day tasks.
A purchase of the "cheapest" computer will not grant this user satisfaction. The "cheapest" is generally pushing its limits to just produce a text-only document.
Let's break it down and look at the subsystems your computer has to employ to play a video in a web browser:
1) Web Browser - yep, it got you there.
2) Anti-Virus - I hope you didn't disable it.
3) Anti-Spyware or Malware - This is different than Anti-Virus protection and you should always have both of them run. Many will constantly scan the web pages you access and the good ones scan your download stream for malicious code hidden in the video, music or photo you are accessing. AV and AS/M have huge foot prints and require many resources.
4) Network subsystems - this is the communication method for accessing the content
5) The player for the rich content: Photo viewer, music or video player, etc. - not really so much storage or RAM requirements that get you down, but very CPU intensive. The CPU is the brain of you computer. Good sound or video cards will relieve the CPU of some of the strain, if you have them. The cheapest computers have neither a good sound or graphics card.
And, there are more. Look at your Task Manager, you will be shocked.
At this point, people usually walk away from me and go and buy the "cheapest" only to complain about it and wish they would have bought an Apple. Note: Apple controls their product from cradle to grave. You have very little freedom of choice. That is why there is no "cheap" Apple computers. If you spent an equivalent amount on a Microsoft-based PC as you are willing to spend on an Apple, your performance is likely to be superior to that fancy Apple, last longer and provide a better user-experience.
So, now, we got rid of the "bottom-end" computer purchase. "How strong a system do I need?"
My answer is always: "What is your budget?"
See, there are a myriad of configuration options out there when you get off the bottom. I admit, it is confusing. There is no right answer, only one that is better than several others. Budget comes into play here. You want to get the best system for whatever money you are willing to spend. Too much money spent, will leave you wishing you hadn't spent that much. Too little money spent, and you will not be satisfied with what is sitting on your desk.
For my personal purchases, I short-circuit the entire system and by a re-manufactured system. I'm an engineer. The warranty is invalidated about 30 minutes after I unbox it and take it apart to improve it. It drives my wife crazy, but she has learned to accept that this will happen and why it happens.
The problem with re-manufactured systems is that you have a shortened-life warranty and you could end up with a bum system. So, stick with the off-the-shelf selections, or customize one at a major brand's website. Stay away from companies that have been sold and re-sold. There are reasons for that. They are not selling quality products.
Where does this leave us?
1) Budget - always start with a range you are willing to spend.
2) Most common use - identify what you are going to do on a regular basis.
3) Most resource consuming task that you must do - you will be horrified to find out you can't do it when the deadline is on.
4) Outlets that you can purchase quality products from and be happy with the price.
Don't forget that Office suites are an additional cost!
Good luck with your purchase.
Thanks for reading,
Jay C. "Jazzy_J" Theriot
Jay C. Theriot can usually be found as “Jazzy_J” on the IRC Channel #ExtremeSpasticity on Freenode.net –> see: irc://irc.freenode.net/ExtremeSpasticity. You will need an IRC Client such as HexChat to connect.