Storage space has become so cheap that I have more space on my laptop than my company does on some of its servers, shared between a number of employees!
From a software perspective, what used to be large, resource hungry programs and applications, are now lightweight, if not on your computer at all, and all that is required is a browser to use them. It is important to note this trend to ensure that you make a purchase that is both future proof, and cost effective.
OSX or Windows? In my personal opinion, the answer to this question has never been a static one, and it has changed with time.
If you are predominantly a ‘PC person’, then get yourself into an Apple store and familarise yourself with OSX (The UNIX based Operating System on an iMac, Apple’s desktop computer), and if you have always used a Mac, then it shouldn’t be too hard to find something running Windows 7, and have a play with that.
From a family perspective, the Mac’s OSX stands out with the inclusion of their Photo, Video and Music Composition applications with iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand all included. The operating system is highly secure straight out of the box, it isn’t plagued by constant attacks from PC viruses and malware, plus you can run Windows easily on a Mac, and have the best of both worlds, if you just can’t escape the need for Windows.
Desktop Vs Laptop
When considering a computer for the family, consider which is more suited, a desktop, or a laptop or computer. Firstly, its much more likely that a laptop will succumb to accidental damage or breakage than a desktop computer. Laptops are convenient, and space saving, however they are fragile and much more expensive to repair than a desktop computer. If the primary purpose of the computer is for family use, then go with a desktop computer, as there will be no requirement for mobile computing.
If design is important to you, then you will look no further than an iMac for a family computer. An iMac is a desktop computer with only 1 cord, the power cord. iMac reduces desktop clutter, a wireless keyboard and mouse as standard, out of the box. Less electrical cords also significantly reduce the risk of accidental damage, making the iMacs ‘all in one’ design a money saver in its own right.
One thing you should consider when purchasing a family computer is the peripheral devices you want to connect and use with it, like digital cameras, music players, video recorders, microphones, printers and storage devices.
For the most part, almost all of these devices will connect to a PC via USB. Apple peripherals are generally more expensive, but what they lack in affordability they make up for in usability. All Apple products are extremely easy to use, and all devices connect and talk to each other seamlessly. For the family on a tight budget, a PC will stand out here, because of the sheer volume of manufacturers that create products for PC, they are effectively a lot cheaper.
Never buy the latest and greatest performing machine in the shop. The technology is new and overpriced, offering little value these days. When considering a PC you will only require a dual core processer with 1.8Ghz – 2 GHz clock speeds will suffice. Most PC’s now have Intel Core i7 Processors, which are more then enough for anything a family will use.
Don’t skimp out on memory. Firstly, you need to know that there are 32 bit operating systems, and there are 64 bit operating systems. If your going to buy a PC, and the salesmen says ‘this has 8gb of RAM’ and that particular PC is running a 32 bit version of Windows7, you can smile and tell him that 32 bit operating systems only recognize up to 3Gb of RAM! When you look at the specifications of a computer, under “memory”, the “UP TO” is referring to the number of slots available on the motherboard sitting inside the PC’s tower can accept that much, but a 32 bit version of Windows will never use more than 3Gb.
Do not be fooled. This is the cheapest thing in a computer. Get a minimum of 1TeraByte and you’ll never need to buy an additional hard drive, connect any more cables, or be concerned with deleting files to create space. It’s just not worth it.
Future proof now by getting enough space internally from the start and save yourself a headache, and parting with more money down the track. Photo’s, video, and music will take up almost of all your hard disk space and with faster broadband speeds, and more and more cloud computing applications available, large local storage is a thing of the past. Pretty soon you’ll never need to backup or hoard thousands of photos, & files again.
I touched on this point previously. You cannot beat Apple for their design qualities. The sheer fact is that companies like HP, and IBM are always going to make PC’s, and they will always lose that battle.
When considering either an iMac or a PC, consider the size of the monitor, and the cost implications of going bigger can be significant. A PC monitor is significantly cheaper than upgrading your iMac to a larger size. For the family, consider the entry-level 21.5 inch iMac, or if purchasing a PC, get a 22” monitor. You can find the cheapest monitors online, not in retail stores!
When you buy an iMac for family use, you will be able to take it out of the box, turn it on, and never need to install another application. Consider a PC running Windows, and the cost of the additional software you will have to buy, configure and install, including office applications, antivirus, photo, and video editing, etc.
Service and Support
The positives with a PC is that you can source different products, from different suppliers or retailers for pure cost effectiveness, from different manufacturers. So, what happens when something goes wrong with these products?
All Apple hardware comes with a one-year limited warranty and up to 90 days of complimentary telephone technical support. To extend your coverage further, purchase the AppleCare Protection Plan. Because Apple makes the hardware, the operating system, and many applications, Apple products are truly integrated systems. And only the AppleCare Protection Plan gives you one-stop service and support from Apple experts, so most issues can be resolved in a single call. So there you have it. At first Apple looks more expensive, but consider what is included in the software when you purchase it.
When buying a PC you will have to make several other software purchases to get the same level of security, and useful applications anyway. Hands down, for the family, my consider the iMac, which you should get at around $1499.00 AUD.
If you haven’t budgeted for this amount, ensure you consider the additional purchases, and lack of support before buying a PC at a lower cost, as it will generally cost you just as much in the long run at this price.
About the author:
Ryan O’Connor is the founder and Editor of savingmoneyexpert.com.au, an online personal finance magazine and has worked in the technology industry for 10 years, working for leading software companies in Australia.