Choosing computing devices for home, business, or school
Today’s consumers have a wide variety of personal computing devices from which to choose, ranging from the smallest smartphone to the largest desktop. The range of price, functionality, data storage, power, speed, security, and sturdiness also varies. When my clients ask me for recommendations, I tell them to consider what size, computing speed, data, and mobility is needed for work, school, and/or home.
Since 1992, when IBM released its Simon Personal Communicator, mobile smartphones have taken over the communication process. The early prototypes, such as Blackberry and Palm, turned the mobile phone into a personal digital assistant, or PDA. Apple released its first iPhone in 2007, and wowed the market with what it could do. Google followed a year later with Android, which is a mobile operating system for touchscreen devices based on Linux. These ubiquitous little handheld devices make users happy, because they function like a mini computer at your fingertips.
That’s why Germans call it a “handy.” Your typical smartphone provides a search engine (such as Safari), wakes you up, manages your emails, connects you to social media, and allows a multitude of useful and entertaining applications. And what would we do without that built-in camera which documents our lives through photos, videos, and countless selfies?
I am not a cellphone addict, but I can hardly imagine getting through a work day without my handy contacts, emails, messages, bank access, maps, weather, TomTom, Facetime, Skype, and various online stores–not to mention my personal health, medical, and entertainment apps. But the problem is that small screens are really rough on the eyes, and it’s hard to type accurately on a tiny touchscreen keyboard. They’re also frustrating when you don’t have a good connection. And, as we all know, they are really easy to loose, drop, and break.
This brings us to the iPad and other tablet devices. Your average purse-sized “computer on the go” has a seven to nine inch screen, which makes it easier to watch movies, read emails and books, and surf the net. Why buy that expensive, heavy textbook, when you can get the cheaper digital version for Kindle?
Tablets operate on WiFi; some allow cellphone data access. The lightweight but bigger touchscreen is helpful with typing. Several models provide detachable keyboards, too. The battery life is impressive. Because of their size, mobility, and relative ease of use, many workplaces have shifted to tablets instead of computer stations; the most modern hospitals outfit their staff with tablets for entering and looking up medical data. But you have to remember that these miniature computers don’t have much data storage. If you have gigabytes of personal data, it has to be stored in online accounts. And, like the phone, tablets are easy to break and very expensive to fix.
There are several hybrids between a tablet and laptop. Microsoft has developed the Surface Pro Windows 10 computer that runs all the Windows software on its 12.3 inch screen. The magnetic keyboard is light and can be detached easily. This system is as powerful as most desktops and laptops on the market, and is promoted as ideal for normal business and school use.
Another favorite is the Chromebook, which also has the larger 12 to 15 inch screen, keyboard, and touchpad of your typical laptop. Like a tablet, it’s relatively light, because it’s stripped down to the basics. It is much cheaper, but limited. Essentially, it’s just a Cloud access device that runs on a Linux-based Chrome operating system. If you work primarily through Google, Gmail, and the Chrome browser, you can get a lot done with it. But when your internet connection is down, it’s useless.
If you need the ability to compute faster and store a lot of data on your device, you need a full-fledged computer system with a larger hard drive. For the average household and business use, the choice is between a portable laptop and a desktop computer.
A laptop or notebook ranges from 11 to 18 inches in screen size, which is much better for processing graphic oriented data. A laptop is relatively light in weight, small enough to fit in a backpack or bag, but still very fragile. The smaller and more powerful computer will heat up more and it is easier to drop, damage, break, or spill liquids on it. If you don’t backup your data regularly on an external device of some sort or into the cloud, you are doomed if your drive fails. Because of this, I always recommend replacing the hard drive with a solid state hard drive; with no moving parts it becomes much sturdier, and also speeds things up.
If you don’t need to take your computer on the road with you, I still recommend the old-fashioned desktop. Desktops can provide more processing power and speed than a laptop, are solidly built, sturdy, secure, and incorporate a good amount of internal hardware. They even have more built-in ports for external components, such as screens of any size, special keyboards, projectors, printers, and hard drives. Additionally, these computers have room for larger vents and bigger fans–even a water cooling system–which keeps down the heat.
The price range for a desktop is wide, anywhere from $300 to several thousands of dollars, depending on the power, speed, data capacity, cooling system, custom features, and operating system you want. And be aware that desktops come in many different sizes, even as small as 6.1 x 7.6 x 0.9 inches!
A client recently asked me to get a desktop where she can put in the hard drive from her old computer as well, but most of the desktops I found would not have enough space inside to do so.This is because of the trend for our electronic companions to become lighter, faster, and more powerful. Big desktops will slowly diminish, except the “smaller sized” desktop that I see in places like banks and government offices. However, it is easy to connect to a bigger screen like your TV screen when needed.
So what is the best choice for you?
Most people have several computing devices nowadays. My belief is a combination of these options may work for your daily needs.