Choosing a new computer

My quarterly survey on what’s available, and which is best, has revealed some interesting trends. PAUL WALLBANK

Paul Wallbank Tech Talk blog

By Paul Wallbank

Every three months or so I look at what’s available in the computer market and post some recommended budgets and specs on the PC Rescue website.

October’s survey is important, because many readers are considering buying new systems as Christmas presents or getting one for school or work in the post-Christmas sales.

The first step I usually do when preparing the survey is have a look at the big vendor’s websites, wander through a few electronics superstores and stop in at my local shopfront computer dealers to get a feel for what is available.

Once aware of the trends and what’s on the shelves, it’s possible to put together a specification where the typical home or business computer buyer can get the most for their money.

This month, I’ve moved the memory up from 2Gb to 4Gb, the desktop hard drive from 300Gb to 500Gb, and the monitor size from 20” to 22”.

A constant is the budget for the Windows desktop, which always seems to come in around the $1800 mark. Despite the massive price drops for entry level computers, we still find the mid range system barely changes price as the manufacturers throw in more features and power.

Portables though are another story. Over the years I’ve been doing this survey, the price of a mid range unit has steadily fallen as the price gap between laptops and desktops has narrowed.

Interestingly this quarter, the recommended laptop price has jumped up due to the 2Gb memory increase. This probably indicates vendors are using hardware upgrades to recover some of their cut throat margins on cheaper units.

Another eyebrow raising point from this quarter’s exercise has been the clear indication that Apple is falling behind the market. MacBooks in particular are looking a bit outdated and short of features for their asking price.

Apple will be making a product announcement tomorrow, and the speculation is it will announce a new range of portables. My guess is Apple will revamp pricing across the entire range of personal computers.

Regardless of what Apple or any of the other vendors do, it’s important to shop around and get a system that meets your needs. As computers are an essential business tool, don’t skimp on features and make sure you have a three year warranty.


Paul Wallbank is Australia’s most heard computer commentator with his regular computer advice spots on ABC Radio. He’s written five computer books and just finished the latest Australian adaptation of Internet for Dummies. Paul founded and built up a national IT support company, PC Rescue and has a free help website at IT Queries. Today he spends most of his time consulting and advising community and business groups on getting the most from their technology.

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