After you get a computer, tablet or smartphone you usually gradually get to know it a bit better as you get used to it. You might never become a world class expert (you probably don’t need to) but you learn a bit more about how it works.
On the other hand when you first get it, you might really know very much at all.
Which makes it difficult to choose which phone/tablet or PC is right for you in the first place! You have to choose when you actually know the least about it!
So I thought it’d be useful for me to give you a few tips on what to look for when you’re choosing a new device. Of course, you might not be after one right at the moment, so you might want to keep this email to hand for the future!
(And you might want to make a cup of tea before you read this – it’s quite long! I’ve made myself one before I start writing it…)
I’ve avoided saying “You should get this model” or even “This is a good model if you want XYZ” because these things can change literally from week to week as companies bring out new versions, cancel old models, change prices and even change the specification (spec) of a model that was already out.
So instead I’m going to tell you about some of the things to think about and take into account.
I’ll assume you already know whether you’re after a phone, a tablet, a laptop or desktop PC but if you’re not quite sure, the best thing to do is think about how you’ll use it and where you want to use it – that should help you decide.
Then one of the big decisions is what Operating System you want. For PCs (laptops and desktop) the main choice is Windows and nowadays that’s Windows 10. There are other options (Macs, which tend to be very expensive, Google’s Chromebooks which only really work while they’re connected to the internet and Linux of various versions, which is great but not really so ideal for the beginner). For most people, unless you have a particular reason to choose one of the others, Windows is probably your best bet.
For tablets and phones, though, there are two popular choices: iOS (made by Apple) and Android (the system is made by Google but the devices are made by all sorts of companies). You can also get Windows phones and tablets but they tend to be much less popular so again, unless you have a particular reason for wanting one, I probably wouldn’t steer you in that direction.
I don’t have any great preference between iOS and Android – they’re both good systems that work well and are designed to be generally pretty easy to use. The main thing I’d say is if you’ve used one before, it’s probably simpler to stick with that rather than learn something more different. The other thing I’d say is that often Apple kit is quite expensive, so if you’re not wanting anything top of the range, I’d tend to go for Android. Up to you, though, and you can always try both out in a shop.
If you do go for Apple’s iOS, then the thing will be made by Apple, too, as they won’t let anyone else use their system. So you’ll be getting either an iPad or an iPhone. But if you want an Android one you also get to choose the make. Some people start by choosing this and if you’ve been happily using a Samsung (say) in the past, there’s some sense in sticking with them as it will be more similar.
Otherwise, though, I’d actually leave choosing the make until later and start with what you want the phone or tablet to be like. You may then find that leaves you with only one or two makes to choose from, which makes it easier!
Similarly with PCs – there are lots of makes but I’d start by deciding what you want it to be like first, rather than choosing a make.
The first thing to think about with PCs always used to be how fast the processor was and how fast it would run. This is still relevant for PCs and other devices, but it’s not just about the processor speed – it’s about how much memory it has and several other things as well. You can often get a rough idea of how fast a device is just by price – it’s often one of the biggest things that makes it more expensive. Or you can ask in a shop which one is quicker or read up on the internet about the models you’re interested in.
Before you do that, though, have a think about how you’re going to use it. A modern phone (even a cheap one) has more power than those old mainframes that filled entire rooms… whether you need even more than a cheap one depends on what you’re going to use it for.
If you’re just going to browse the web, send emails and maybe play the odd simple game, you probably don’t need anything very fast. Even watching videos or making video calls isn’t particularly demanding for a modern device.
On the other hand if you want to edit home video or play fast 3d games then you’ll need something faster – and if you want the device to be able to keep up as new versions of the software comes out, then it’ll need to be reasonably fast as well.
Another thing that matters, for laptops, tablets and phones if not for desktop PCs, is the weight. This can vary quite a lot, so again, think about how you’ll use it. If you have a tablet for use at home on the sofa, you might not be too bothered about how heavy it is. On the other hand if you’re carrying it in a handbag, you might want it nice and light. Similarly with a mobile phone.
In fact if you’re going to read a lot on a tablet, you might not want it too heavy anyway, if you find it more comfortable to hold the tablet while you read. On the other hand if you think you’d prop it up to read, then it probably doesn’t matter anyway!
Of course the weight often partly depends on the size – and the size is something else to take into account, particularly if you want to carry it out and about. So it’s worth thinking about whether it matters to you whether it fits in a pocket or not.
The size of the device usually affects the size of the screen, too, and that’s another important thing to think about. It’s more complicated than it looks, though, as it’s not just the size of the screen that affects how easy it is to see it clearly, and I’ve already written quite a bit for this email (and finished my tea!) so I’m going to come back to this next time.
I’ll also talk about the battery life, storage (and why it matters – but only for some people) and a few other things to take into account.
I hope you found that useful… or if you’re not after a new device at the moment that you’ll find it useful when the time comes!