Windows PC buyer’s guide: 7 Tips you must know to make a smart choice

Understanding how to buy a PC

Get ready! If you think that getting a new Windows PC has become easier, think again because many people, even advanced users, could find themselves disoriented with the many choices of new PC form factors (touch, hybrid, tablet, laptop, Ultrabook desktop, etc.) we have in the market today, and it might just become more complicated when shoppers need to decide which version of Windows 8 will be best suited for them.

No to fear, to make it a little easier, I would like to share my buyer’s guide tips that everyone should consider when making a purchase decision about a new Windows 8 PC.

Tip #1: Touch

Buy a laptop or desktop PC with a touchscreen: Windows 8 is a touch-first operating system, which means that it was designed to be used with touch gestures, like the new Surface, Sony VAIO SVJ20217CXW All-in-One Computer or an iPad. Although Microsoft also made sure that anyone with a keyboard and mouse can operate the computer.

Tip #2: Windows 8

Buy a computer with Windows 8 (core) or 8 Pro if you are planning to run old programs: Why? Microsoft has released another flavor of its OS called Windows RT that runs on ARM-based chipset, for low-powered devices like the ASUS VivoTab RT TF600T-B1-GR, Surface RT, Acer Iconia W700-6607 and the Samsung ATIV Smart PC. And this stripped-down version of Windows is not compatible with any of the traditional programs that you use everyday such as Photoshop, iTunes, Google Chrome, Outlook, among many other applications. Win RT only runs the new Modern Windows 8 apps that you can only download from the Windows Store and Office 2013 RT, which is a special version of the productivity suite that includes: OneNote, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. So for compatibility do not buy a machine with the letters “RT” on it!

Tip #3: Surface

Do not buy a hybrid (convertible) laptop or Ultrabook, if you want to use your new Windows 8 device primarily as a tablet and for a long period of time. Of course this is not a problem for anyone that uses a convertible PC “occasionally” as a tablet. But you should know that they are not very conventional and the battery do not last a long as an actual tablet. Besides they are also heavier, which means that you are going to end up with a thick and bulky device. If you want a tablet you should buy a Microsoft’s Surface or a Samsung ATIV, just to name a few.

Tip #4: Windows 7

Buy a computer preinstalled with Windows 7, if you already know that you don’t like Windows 8. Downgrading is possible, but it is not an easy task. You can always buy the upgrade for $14.99, that of course if you buy it before January 31st, 2013.

Tip #5: Which OS

Even though Microsoft has cut-down the number of versions for its operating system. It still can get a bit confusing. This time around there are only two main versions that you have to worry about: The plain Windows 8 or the Pro edition. The core edition provides everything a home user will need, while with the Professional edition offers a lot more features, which can be really useful in a corporate environment — Head over to this previous article to understand feature-by-feature each edition.

Note: There are other editions such as the Enterprise, RT, N. But these are not a concern for home users. The Enterprise is specific targeted to companies, the RT is not a version which you can buy out right, it only comes preinstalled specific devices, and the N is the European edition.

Tip #6: Size matters

Whenever possible buy a laptop, Ultrabook or desktop computer with the highest resolution possible. The bigger the number the crispier the image will be. Try to find resolutions like 1600×900 pixels, 1920×1080 pixel or bigger.

Tip #7: SSD, CPU and RAM

SSD: Windows 8 has been rewritten to be lighter, fast and fluid, but without the right hardware, it will not make a difference. The OS will really shine with the right hardware, consider buying a computer with SSD (Solid State Drive). These type of drives don’t have moving parts and they are a lot faster than traditional hard drives with rotating platters.

CPU: Most processors in the market today will do just fine with everyday tasks such as web browsing, casual games and simple applications. But the problem is that there are so many that normal users may not realize that instead of getting a bargain, they are getting something of 2 or 3 years old — in some cases. Be smart and when shopping follow these additional tips: If you are buying a PC with an Intel CPU, make note of the processor model to know what you are really buying, e.g., in a Core i5-3210M processor — The “M” indicates that it is a mobile processor and the number “3″ next to “i5-” indicates that it is a 3rd generation CPU (this is a good thing in 2012). Older processors will have model numbers like this: i5-2xxxx.

Also you should choose your next Ultrabook, laptop or desktop PC according to your needs and which applications you run everyday: The Core i3 and low-end i5 Intel family processors can be well suited for basic gaming, web browsing, basic productivity application and media sharing; while a Core i7 and high-end i5 Intel family processors will work best for heavy transcoding, complex applications and more demanding workload rendering like gaming.

RAM: There is not too much to say here, just as a rule of thumb, the more the better, consider getting a computer with at least 4GB, 6GB or even 8GB. But note that if you are buying a tablet, 2GB is also a good buy.

Wrapping up

To wrap up, this is a great time to buy a new Windows PC, that being a new Ultrabook, tablet, or an All-in-One touch-enabled desktop computer, and it is especially exciting because Windows 8 is here, an operating system that enables a whole new wave way of apps ecosystem and brings a radical shift in the way we interact with devices. But consumers has to pay attention when shopping, there are many options to choose from and it can well be the best purchase you make this year or the worse.