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Shopping for a computer depends on what you plan to use it for.
Research, research, research!
Whichever model you end up liking is worth reading reviews about before purchase. Places like Costco, Best Buy, Amazon.com and Newegg.com have extensive user reviews for most of their products. Reviewers will not only praise the good ones and warn you about the lemons, but they will also tell you what application they use the computer for. Choosing the right features can make all the difference. Read reviews!
If there’s only ONE recommendation I can give you
Get an SSD (Solid State Drive) or SDD Hybrid. An SSD is an upgrade from traditional mechanical platter hard drives and is responsible for the greatest leap in computing of the last decade for folks like you and me. Unless you’re planning on using the computer very little an SSD is a worthwhile low cost upgrade.
Ok, so I want a desktop for work!
Many of us spend a great deal of time working in front of a computer. Choosing your method of engagement with your device is important. If you are going to be working on a computer most of the day, adopt good posture and choose a computer that makes sense for the type of work you’ll be doing. You’ll have more energy during the day and not go home nearly as tired. For more info read a WikiNow article on How to sit at a computer. There is a recent movement in favor of standing desks. Let the technology support you, not the other way around.
I’m going to travel with it!
You’ll probably want to strike a balance between weight, screen size and battery life. Beyond this criteria it’s really up in the air. I would recommend some sort of device that utilizes a touch screen, such as a hybrid pc/tablet or sub-notebook. The Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro is a bit spendy but innovative in all the right ways. After a bit of a learning curve it makes using Windows 8.1 genuinely engaging. If you’re going to want to play hefty PC games make sure the model has dedicated graphics. If you’re looking for higher performance for apps like Photoshop or audio/video applications, look for a faster processor and 8Gb+ of Ram.
I want to game with it!
This is a very tricky category. Are you thinking about graphically intense games or something like Farmville? For the latter any computer will do. To play the heavy hitters you’ll need a powerhouse to get good frame-rate, screen resolution and graphic eye candy like dynamic lighting, shadows and lens flares. Generally a desktop computer is going to be a much better performer for less money, but there are nice gaming laptops out there if you’ll be travelling and playing.
I want the most powerful desktop computer ever made!
Ok, so you want to control the universe from your desk throne. Just remember, getting that fuzzy feeling of satisfaction you’re getting the cutting edge is going to cost you. You can get 90% of the gains by taking a little step down. That said here is the short list components that will make your computer rock’n’roll: SSD, 12Gb Ram, dedicated graphics, Intel i7 processor and an IPS panel (screen). Don’t skimp on the screen.