Are looking to replace your current PC and don’t know what to buy: PC, All-in One, laptop, ultra-light, tablet, phablet or hybrid. You’re not alone! There are so many choices and options that you don’t know what to do. Reading the following and other articles on this web site should help you sort things out.
With the advent of Windows 8 and now Windows 8.1, and the launch of the new Intel “Haswell” processors in June, 2013, the PC replacement market is full of new offerings. Here are the main categories of PC replacements products:
- PCs: the regular tower computer that we are all familiar with.
- All-in One: manufacturers have incorporated the PC tower into the screen (Monitor) so that you don’t have a separate ugly tower with all the cables to deal with.
- Laptop: the portable computer that we are all familiar with.
- Ultra-light / Ultra-book: very esthetic, thin and light laptops, almost half the weight of regular laptops because they’re generally made of aluminum and use circuit memory instead of a hard drive.
- Tablets: the iPad that everyone knows by now has a multitude of contenders running Android. Most offer similar functionality. It becomes a question of preferences and budget.
- Phablet: a larger smart phone (generally with a 5+ inch screen) that can be used as a mobile phone or as a tablet. It fits in most men clothing pockets.
- Hybrid: a portable computer that can convert into a tablet, either by folding the screen or by detaching the screen which can operate stand-alone.
- Multi Operating Systems Hybrids: a Hybrid Ultra-light that can run two operating systems, Windows 8.1 and Android, for example, on the same machine. You can switch, from one operating system to the other, by pressing a key and share data between the two. This offers the best of all worlds. You can run, on the same light weight machine, business applications. A second alter, you can use that same machine as a tablet running Android applications. Better you can share files and copy from one to the other. All in one light weight and compact format. I will talk about this later on.
Faced with such a variety of options no wonder most people are lost. The only way out of such a dilemma is to take some time and analyze your own needs and requirements. Let me guide you.
- Are you a heavy Windows PC user? Meaning that you pass several hours a day, on a Windows based computer, at home and/or at work, and use a number of PC based applications (Quicken for example) to accomplish your goals.
- Are you a Windows PC based application user that regularly needs to use a Windows PC based software (Quicken for example)? If the use of such software is indispensable, then you need a machine that can support this.
- Are you an Apple computer user? NOTE: This article does not deal with Apple PCs or laptops. Please refer to sites that cover Apple products unless you are considering moving to a Windows or Android based product.
- Are you a light PC user, not requiring PC based software applications? Do you mostly uses a PC to send and receive emails, lookup things using Google search or similar, read newspapers and similar internet browsing?
- Are you new or looking to start using computers?
Real life examples
To put things in a more realistic context, let me use my own family real life examples to illustrate different types of users and the solutions that best fits everyone’s needs.
A – My wife: a “light PC user”
Since I always stay up to date with PC technology, when I was upgrading to newer PCs, I would pass alone my older PC to my wife for emails and the like. She never used them. She found PC technology complex and confusing. She was always afraid of making errors that would stall the computer. She never found the time or the interest to sitting down at a computer to learn and use it. It got to the point that I gave the laptop that I had kept for her to my brother who could make better use of it. In other words, my wife was ready to stay computer illiterate!
Then, in the spring on 2011, we visited an Apple store in Palm Springs to buy an iPad for one of our daughters. While in the store, we noticed quite a number of older and some very old seniors learning to use iPads. With her consent, I decided to buy my wife an iPad. The rest is history. She uses that thing several hours a day every day. It has become indispensable. She could not pass a day without it! Why?
The iPad or Android tablets are the perfect light PC user devices because:
- They are not intimidating.
- They are light weight and easy to handle.
- They are easy to learn and use. Especially if you follow the training provided by Apple in their stores.
- They can be carried around and used anywhere in the house. On the kitchen counter for recipes, the living room for reading or gaming,…
- Easily transportable. A woman with a large purse can put a small tablet in her purse and carry it around. A man would use a briefcase. NOTE: generally a phablet is best suited for a man to carry in a pocket.
- Searching the internet, doing emails, reading the newspapers, play games and similar use are best suited for tablets.
Therefore, if you basically do the above, and lots of people only do the above, you are a prime candidate for a tablet. You have the choice between an iPad from Apple or an Android tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition).
Which one to buy?
Buy an Apple tablet if you have someone close to you who knows Apple products well, to help you get started and when you encounter problems. Otherwise, buy an Android based tablet since it is more similar and compatible with Windows technologies and approaches, therefore, most PC knowledgeable user should be able to help you. Pick the size best suited for you.
B – My sister in law: a “light PC & mobile phone user”
One of my in-laws wanted to have both: a mobile phone and a tablet, but did not want to dish out the money to buy both. The solution is simple: a phablet (combination mobile phone and tablet).
She bought a Samsung Note 2, at the time, and is very pleased with it. I personally own and use a Samsung Note 1, since it first became available in December 2011. Even after two years, this device still fulfills all my requirements. If a phablet would suit your needs, I strongly recommend the Samsung Note 3. With a gorgeous screen the Samsung Note 3 is powerful, supports 4G internet communication and has a 13 MP camera,… This is it! No need to look further unless you want a bigger model that does not fit in most of your pockets. You can also look at the new watch Samsung Galaxy Gear that goes with the Samsung Note 3. Quite neat!
C – My daughter business requirements for a “business laptop”
For her business use my daughter needed a powerful laptop to connect with her company web site. With the advent of Intel Haswell chips, if you need battery life, you should buy a computer with a 4th generation Intel processor chip as described below in “heavy user”.
D – Myself: the “heavy PC user”
I own three computers in different locations: two Windows 7 traditional desktops with towers and a Windows 8.1 (14”) Lenovo laptop. All these configurations are for heavy business computing. I also use a Samsung Note 1 phablet as my mobile phone and tablet. I am in the process of looking to upgrade my hardware to Windows 8.1 and the newer chip technologies. Before I get into what I am looking at, let me review some important hardware selection parameters.
Hardware selection parameters
To understand the basics about computers please review the following articles: 04.1 – What is a computer? and 05.1–Personal computing architecture-2012/01/13 and 05.2–Personal computing architecture-Updated-2012/10/15 and 05.3 – Personal Computing Architecture – Current computing technologies positioning! – As of – 2013-04-11 These articles will provide the background to better understand the rest of this article and the following parameters.
The processor is the engine in a computer. If you want a powerful computer you need a powerful processor. I recommend that you always purchase the latest processor technology, unless you are budget conscious. In the fall of 2013, the latest Intel processor technology is their 4th generation, processors numbers that start with the number “4”. Examples: i5-4200U, i7-4500U, i7-4700MQ,…
Once you have identified a 4th generation Intel processor, you want to get a general idea of its power relative to others. The easy way of obtaining this information is to do a Google search using the processor descriptor (Ex.: i5-4200U). Pick the web site that has “cpubenchmark” in the web site address such as: http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu.php?cpu=Intel+Core+i5-4200U+%40+1.60GHz&id=1947
That web site will provide you with a “CPU Mark” score for this particular processor. This “CPU Mark” is the number you want to compare other processors with. For example, the i5-4200U has a 3361 CPU Mark, versus the i7-4700MQ with a CPU Mark of 7921. This means that the i7-4700MQ is twice more powerful than the i5-4200U. This is one measure but not the only thing to take into consideration to assess the potential throughput of a computer. Other factors are described below.
Main memory size
Main memory is where the computer active instructions are stored for execution. Windows swaps these instructions, as needed at any one time, in and out of memory from auxiliary storage. The size of main memory is therefore important to store, at any one time, more instructions readily available for execution. This will increase the overall computer performance by minimizing the swapping delays that slow the computer down.
For heavy users using Windows 8 & 8.1, I recommend a minimum of 8 GB. The more you have the better!
Auxiliary memory speed
Since Windows swaps, from auxiliary storage, into main memory, the instructions it needs at any one time, the speed of auxiliary storage is important to increase the overall performance of a computer, especially if main memory is small, 4 GB or less.
If you consider buying an Ultra-light, the fact that it uses circuit memory as auxiliary memory versus a hard drive, can compensate for a slower processor or less main memory, but not both. The Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro Ultra-light (Model# 59394173)($1,599) with a configuration as in this hyperlink for a powerful Ultra-light. It has an Intel 4th generation i7-4500U processor, 8 GB of main memory and 512 GB of circuit auxiliary memory for a powerful combination. In addition the machine has great “look and feel” and is my top pick for a competitively priced powerful Ultra-light, in early November 2013 (Several hundreds of $ less than a comparable configuration in the Samsung ATIV or the Sony VAIO Ultra-lights).
Computer hardware packaging
The size and type of the computer you want is very personal. For example:
- PCs with towers are on their way out, unless you are the type that plays inside the computer tower to optimize its power and functionality. You can also buy one if you have the space and don’t mind the wiring, since you can get power at a lower price tag.
- If you want a large screen (Monitor) and don’t want the wiring of a tower PC, buy an All-in One. Here are some examples: the Dell XPS 18 Touch for a portable All-in One OR the Dell XPS One 27 Touchscreen All-in-One Desktop for a large touch screen powerful machine. Once you get used to a large monitor you will not want to work on a small monitor again. One very nice All-in-one is the Lenovo Horizon 27” Table PC (Model# 57315588)($1,199 with an eCoupon)(CPU Mark= 3,912).
- If you want a traditional laptop with a DVD read/write and hard drive and don’t mind the weight, then buy a traditional laptop with the size screen you want. Here are few examples: HP ENVY 15.6″ Touchscreen Laptop – Silver (Intel Core i7-4700MQ / 1TB HDD / 16GB RAM / Windows 8) / Lenovo – IdeaPad U530 Touch Ultrabook 15.6″ Touch-Screen Laptop – 8GB Memory – 500GB Hard Drive
- If you are looking for a modern, very nice looking, light weight and easy to transport device, buy an Ultra-light. As mentioned earlier, the one that I recommend right now, in November 2013, for a serious user, is the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro Ultra-light (Model# 59394173)($1,599) as per the configuration in this hyperlink.
For all the above, the right configuration parameters for your needs, as described above, should be applied. Remember that bargain prices on many computers are for suppliers to get rid of their old inventories and older technology. The newer technologies will generally cost you more. But many times the difference is not major. In summary, buy discounts on the newer technology for serious computing:
- Buy computers with a 4th generation Intel processor for extended battery life. Not as important for desktops and traditional heavy laptops. Use the processor power search as indicated above to get a better understanding of what you are buying. For example, i7 does not mean faster than i5. You have to check one processor against the other. Buy CPU Marks above 3,500 for Ultra lights and hybrids, and higher for desktops, All-in One and traditional laptops.
- Get 8 GB or more main memory, or more.
What I am considering for my own needs right now
With the computing power I have available, I am not in a hurry to buy any device that is more modern or powerful.
In the spring of 2013, I bought an Android Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet only to discover that I had little use of a tablet that I could carry in my pockets and had to carry around in my hands. I immediately sold it back to my daughter. My Samsung Galaxy Note 1, that I bought in December 2011, still fulfills my requirements for tablet like computing when I am away for my desk.
Multi Operating Systems Hybrids
What I have really been waiting for, since June 2013, is a Multi Operating Systems Ultra-light Hybrid such as the Samsung ATIV Q announced in June 2013 for delivery this fall. Since then, it seems that Samsung ran into patent problems that have prevented Samsung from releasing the product. The current rumors are that the product might be dead but would not become available before the fall of 2014.
For the time being, I am waiting to get further news on the Samsung ATIV Q before I make a move. In the meantime, you should give a look at the Samsung’s Side-Sync application. This application allows a Samsung mobile phone user to operate the Samsung smartphone from a Samsung ATIV Ultra book equipped with Side-Sync such as the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite. Since you can zoom the size of the Smartphone image on the ATIV Book screen you can actually run Android applications on your Ultra book. Take a look at this Samsung Side-Sync video to better understand the power and benefits of this application. Is this a clever way by Samsung to get around the patent problem? Maybe! Anyway, Side-Sync is available right now. You can see a demo at certain BestBuy stores.
This is it at this time. Do your homework in order the get the most out of your hard earned dollars when buying new computer products. I hope the above has provided some guidance in selecting the right product for your needs.