Phillips: More tips on making right computer buy

Phillips: More tips on making right computer buy

September 11th, 2010 by Ellen Phillips in Business Ellen Phillips

If you couldn't decide upon a new computer purchase featured in last week's column, perhaps you need some more information. Whether desktop or laptop, money to burn, or you're Fannie or Frank Frugal, we all need to know how best to choose a computer, before even thinking about a brand.

Be sure to time your purchase right, especially if you didn't take advantage of the tax-free sales. Usually, new computers come out in January, July and October; sometimes prices drop on older models.

Speaking of "oldies," check websites for older models with a warranty from the manufacturer. Before we turn up our noses, just think: we can get a super deal on returns or refurbished models that might suit a consumer just fine. While some computers may have a scratch or two, often they perform just as well as a brand-new one.

It's important to match the new computer according to your needs. Frankly, it doesn't really matter if it's a desktop

or a laptop (except by personal preference); the main difference, need-wise, is size and necessary workload. Again, back to the point I made a couple of weeks ago about a home office or a small desk in the bedroom: A full-size desktop takes a lot of space, and a compact desktop saves space.

However, if you tend to squint in order to see, your monitor should be larger to avoid eye strain. As a matter of fact, if you want the monitor to double as a TV screen for playing games and movies, then the larger the better.) Along the same line, if you're thinking about a laptop, be sure to try it out in the store; the ergonomics are pretty important if you plan to spend a pile of time at this type, including touchpad buttons, large enough touchpad, and so forth.

If you're like me, you're awash in cords coming out from every direction. ( I've gathered them all together with a hair clip - still somewhat untidy but more workable.) To be even more shipshape, think about a wireless keyboard and mouse. And if you don't listen to music on your computer, then avoid speakers. Between deleting the wireless and speakers, your workstation will thank you!

Editor's Note: Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at under Local Business. E-mail her at