This is the third in a series of three blog posts on the subject of buying a new computer. If you would like to receive all of the information now and in one go, just drop me an email and I will send you a pdf file.
It is very difficult to give more than a very, very rough idea of price as there is so much variation depending on the exact specification. For any given specification, there isn’t very much difference between different manufacturers. We no longer have the situation, for instance, where Sony build high quality laptops and charge more for them (Sony having pulled out of computer manufacture some years ago).
A very, very, rough guide for laptops built around Intel processors might be as listed below. Desktop computers without monitors (but possibly with keyboard and mouse) might be a bit less:
i3 – £250-£400
i5 – £350-£800
i7 – £600-£3500
A good place to start to get a feel for what there is and how much it costs might be Laptops Direct. Despite the name, they also supply desktop computers. I have no experience of buying from Laptops Direct, but they seem to have a broad range of products on offer and you can narrow down the range of your search by selecting criteria from the column at the left of the web page.
For Apple Mac computers, the price is as defined by Apple themselves.
John Lewis / Peter Jones are good because they include a two year warranty, they never quibble, and are always helpful if you have a problem.
PC World are OK as far as prices and products are concerned. However, I am wary of them as far as technical advice is concerned.
The advantages of seeing a machine before buying include being able to assess:
•The feel and size of the keyboard. Some people like a “clicky” feel: others a softer one.
• The screen. In particular, the amount of contrast and whether the finish is matte or shiny.
• Overall build and finish.
• Perceived speed to boot up and to use.
• The weight.
It would be nice to judge whether a computer seems loud or quiet in operation, but the ambient noise in a shop will drown out the noise from a single computer.
If you do not feel the need to see something in the flesh before buying it then Amazon and Laptops Direct are probably good on price.
This is only a general guide, of course. It is prepared with my “typical” computer support client in mind.
If your computer use really is limited to internet browsing, email, and some light word processing, then an i3 machine might be enough. However, i3 machines, even when new, tend to be slow to start and can seem sluggish even with light use. After a year or two they can seem tediously slow.
More typical requirements might include all internet activity, Microsoft Office (the cost of which I have not included above – £119.99 at the moment for Home and Student 2019), “light to medium” photo editing, playing music, watching movies, and so forth. For these uses, a machine with an i5 processor is probably most suitable.
If you anticipate editing movies, playing games online, or a lot of sophisticated photo editing, then I would recommend focusing on i7 machines.
As for make/model, you pays your money and you takes your choice. I have listed links to the major manufacturers and suppliers below.