Ask Buster: Buster answers reader email
Published: Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 12:01
Adam S: I'm thinking about replacing or upgrading my older desktop computer. I bought it almost ten years ago and it's still running Windows XP.
I'll be using the computer mostly for things like checking my e-mail, using Microsoft Word, making Excel spreadsheets, watching some YouTube videos, and checking my Facebook. I probably won't be using Photoshop, but I will be viewing and downloading some photos. I've been looking at computers with 4G hard drives and am seriously considering buying one built at Computer Deli. I've also looked at HP Pavilion and Novel (IBM) laptops, all of which come with 4G, although their speeds vary.
What's best? Should I get a laptop, a desktop or a tablet? What do you recommend?
Buster: "What's best?" is a pretty broad question. There are a few factors in determining which system is best for you: Is cost a big factor? A bigger monitor, faster processor, better video card, more memory and more storage are better but they come at a price. Will you be using the system away from home a lot? Desktops are generally cheaper and faster. They're also a lot easier to upgrade. The larger keyboard and mouse are easier to use, and monitors can be much larger. Desktops can even be connected to most new flat screen televisions! Laptops are good for those who frequently use their computer away from home, but are not as fast and are more expensive. They are more difficult to upgrade, maintain and repair. Tablets are fun toys, great for checking email, reading documents and spreadsheets, watching videos, and checking Facebook. However any extensive typing or document creation is a bit of a hassle. Tablets are also slower than laptops and much slower than desktops, are usually impossible to upgrade, and very difficult to repair. They are, however, very convenient and easy to carry around. For the most part, tablets are similar to smart phones with a larger screen. I personally find that I use my home desktop the most, although I do have a laptop for those times when I really need to do some work away from home, school, or the office.
As for the systems you are looking at, I should point out that 4G is a term which usually refers to mobile data service. The G stands for generation, since it's the fourth generation of cellular wireless standards. It's generally applicable to mobile phones and tablets, is sometimes available on laptops, but is usually not found on desktops. 4G service will usually require the purchase of a monthly data plan from a carrier such as Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint. 4G is most useful if you're frequently computing while on the go, away from home, work, or anywhere else that has a Wi-Fi hotspot you can access. So, if you're in your car on the highway, or in the supermarket, 4G service can come in handy. However, many locations now have Wi-Fi hotspots which can be accessed for free with a laptop or tablet without the need for a monthly service contract.
What I think you're actually referring to when you say that these systems have a 4G hard drive is that they have 4 GB of RAM. RAM stands for random access memory, which is different from the memory found in a hard drive. RAM is the workspace used by your computers processor to store the information it is currently using. When you save something to your computer, you store it to the hard drive, and nowadays these are generally much larger than 4 GB.
For what you say that you'll be using the system for, you can get a fairly inexpensive desktop quite easily, but if mobility is a key concern, the tasks you mention can be accomplished quite easily on any of these devices. I personally have not purchased a computer from the local company you mentioned, but in my dealings with them, I have found them to be knowledgeable. When purchasing any system, make sure you receive a good warranty which covers parts and labor for at least a year. If you have any further questions, please feel free to let me know.
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