Buying a new computer is not a process for the faint of heart! There are so many options out there, and a never-ending stream of information and opinions for you to read online.
The price of a computer can vary between $200 and $4,000, depending on aspects like the hard drive space, RAM (computer memory), the inch-size of the display screen and more.
Did you know that, on average, a business spends 16% of its budget on its IT systems?
Whether you’re buying a new computer for an individual or for business purposes, your budget for IT equipment can vary a lot.
There are so many questions to ask yourself like
Should I buy a laptop or desktop? How much memory do I need? Which Intel processor suits my needs? What about an extra monitor or speaker? Which is better, Windows or Apple? (Have a look at our handy Mac or Windows guide)
Just looking at this list might seem overwhelming, but no fear because in this article, you’ll find the answers to all these questions and more!
Essential IT Equipment
Choosing between a desktop computer and a laptop is often the first question you’ll ask yourself. It can be difficult to choose between portability and comfort when working.
Desktops are generally a good choice for those who consistently work in the same area, or want a more fixed area for their gaming system. The more fixed your setup, the more comfortable you can make it.
You can also generally find desktops with larger display sizes compared to laptops, which can be important for those whose job involves looking at small details and need high-quality graphics.
A desktop will also have more processing power, with the ability to add on extras like hard drives, SSD cards and graphics chips.
This means that you'll generally be able to run more powerful software programs that will have a smoother and faster performance.
On the other hand, desktops and their tower obviously aren't easily portable, which can be inconvenient if your work takes you to different places, or you to take it in for repair.
Laptops have the obvious advantage of being able to move with you, which can be essential for people like students, who are constantly going to and from class.
It's also becoming easier and easier to find laptop computers that have more processing power, some even getting close to the power of a conventional desktop tower and display setup.
If you want to have the best of both worlds, think about investing in a high-quality desktop, as well as a cheaper laptop or mini tablet, so you can be portable when needed.
Once you've made your decision about PCs vs laptops, there's also a range of other components you need to consider when working.
Screens and Peripherals
When you buy a computer, there are a number of things you have to buy in order for it to work like a screen, a keyboard, and a tower, at least.
Even if you’re buying a notebook and all of these are built into one, you can still use some extras here and there to beef up your system.
In general, it’s a good idea to get your hard drives at the same time since you’ll need them to quickly and effectively save your data.
So when calculating the cost of your new system, you’ll also need to consider the prices of things like:
- A sound card, to listen to music, use Skype, and even watch films.
- A specific monitor with/without a built-in webcam.
- A card reader.
- A CD/DVD writer.
- An external memory storage component like an SSD drive.
Accessories: Keyboard, Mouse, Speakers
There are other accessories you might need to consider buying for your computer such as:
- Bluetooth keyboard, if you’re going to do away with cables and wires.
- Wireless, wired, or gaming mice, depending on your needs.
- Zipper sleeves or a case to keep your wires tidy
- An adjustable monitor stand
- Special chairs like gaming chairs
If you’re making videos or if you like watching series and films on your computer, a good set of speakers might be a must.
For more info about computers, check out our complete computer guide.
Other IT Equipment
Sometimes there’s equipment that you wouldn’t typically think of:
- A photocopier
- A printer
- A scanner
These items can be useful. Of course, these are an ongoing investment as you have to buy ink cartridges and paper. A household could spend around $100 a year on them.
Of course, you can also pay for an extended warranty in a lot of places. These can be replacement or repair plans and can cost anywhere from $5-$250 depending on the price of the product.
Choosing IT Equipment
The IT equipment you choose depends on a range of factors including your needs, what’s available, and your budget. Here’s some useful advice for those choosing what to buy.
Define Your Needs
There is a range of reasons for buying computer systems:
- Research and study
- Work or managing a business
- Using social media
- For fun and gaming
- Typical IT functionality like word-processing
- To improve staff productivity
The operating system (OS) is very important to take into consideration, and it runs all of the software and hardware on the computer, as well as managing its memory and processes.
Without the operating system, we would all have to learn to code to be able to use our computers!
The two main OSs you can buy are Apple or Microsoft, check our comparative guide.
You also need to consider the brand of your computer. This is different to the OS, as the OS is the software, whereas the brand is the company that makes the actual computer parts.
Most brands use a Windows operating system, except for Apple, which of course uses its own OS.
Different brands have different advantages. For example, if you travel a lot, you might want to take a lightweight MacBook Air over an Asus laptop, which can be quite clunky.
The most common computer brands include:
Carefully consider the Pros and Cons of Each Device
The goal, when choosing computer components, is to find the best value for money. If you use your computer every day, you might want to favour quality components.
In another case, if you rarely use your computer, it’s probably not worthwhile spending a fortune on it.
For example, computers for personal use won’t be of the same quality (or price) as those for professional use. This is normal because professionals demand more!
For example, if you want to play games online, you’ll want to focus on the processor (dual-core or quad-core?) and graphics cards.
You’ll want something like a 1.7GHz Intel Core i7 (or an Intel Core i5, at least). In terms of graphics, you probably will want at least 4GB of RAM. Of course, you’ll want at least a Full HD screen, too.
Making Your Choice
There are three main criteria when choosing IT equipment:
- Performance needs
- Device storage capacities
Before beginning your search, consider carefully what you need from your new computer and make a mini checklist that you can use to keep you on track during your search.
This can be a very helpful way of making sure you don't get overwhelmed while trying to find the best computer!
Hopefully, you won't end up spending money on something you really don't need or getting something of lower quality just because of a low price.
You can easily compare different models and prices online. Some brands and stores also offer promotions when buying PCs, such as including Microsoft Office for free.
There’s always a way to save a few bucks if you're willing to take the time to do a little extra research!
Given that I work from home, I have to make my decisions mainly based on performance and my needs. It’s important that to be able to replace any component as my needs change. I also need a resistant, portable, and reliable computer that won’t constantly crash. While I use a PC, there are a range of Apple products that have caught my eye as a replacement.
Professional Budgets v. Personal Budgets
For professionals, IT systems are a professional working tool. According to a URSSAF study, 97% of self-employed workers have a computer and 54% of them have both a desktop PC and a laptop.
That means that the two are used in complementary ways as we mentioned earlier.
Of course, you may need also cloud memory storage (with some services offering up to 1Tb of storage).
There is still a lot of difference between professionals, and this is reflected in the range of computer prices.
For example, the MacBook Pro is well known for its large-inch display, clear graphics and processing power, meaning it's a great option for professionals in creative fields like design.
These start at around $1,800 and go up to $3,500, depending on factors like the inch size of the screen, the type and brand of the processor (Intel or Apple), storage capacity and more.
Of course, buying a computer for yourself is different from buying one for a business.
If you only need a computer to do PowerPoint presentations, you can get very affordable entry-level laptops. If you need specific programmes like iMovie on the MacBook Pro, you’ll probably need to spend a bit more.
You also need to choose components based on your needs. It’s probably not worthwhile investing in a photocopier if you have one at work. An individual will usually spend between $500 and $2000 on their computer.
If you are new to computers, you might want to consider taking computer courses so you have a better idea of how you are going to use your computer - that way you will know what you need when buying your computer.
Check here for some great coding courses.
The Average Costs of IT Components
It’s difficult to put together an exhaustive list of IT components and their price, given how many brands and formats there are. We’ve got a few average prices for you, only taking the main purchases into consideration:
- Laptops or PCs with a basic screen, keyboard, tower, and mouse (around $1000 AUD)
- Bluetooth accessories (keyboard, mouse etc) ($50-100 AUD)
- Set of decent speakers ($200 AUD)
- Basic printers ($150 AUD)
You also need to consider repair costs. PC repairs can cost anywhere between $30 and $150 per hour.
On average, someone changes their computer four times throughout their life. However, in some cases, you have to get them repaired. You might need to:
- Repair a hard drive
- Restore lost data
- Replace a broken monitor
- Replace a PC case
- Update antivirus software or firewall
If you take good care of your hardware, you should be able to avoid spending too much on repair costs, but it's something you won't be able to avoid forever!
Did you know that Macs are less susceptible to viruses? This means you should be safer with an Apple computer and won't have to spend much (if anything) on anti-virus software.
However, because you can generally only trust certified Apple resellers for repair work, it can cost you much more for repairs and replacing components.
Mac computers also have very specific accessories, that often only work with other Apple products, meaning you might end up spending a hefty sum on any extra accessories.
There are also all-in-one desktop computers available if you're short on space but don't need to take your computing outside of the house. These can still connect to peripheral devices but come as a single unit.
If you're putting together your own computer from scratch, your motherboard (the main circuit board) will be one of your most important decisions as this will define the maximum RAM and CPU speed you can have on your personal computer.
It will also define how many ports you have for expansions and other devices. Of course, if you need to add more, you can think about buying an accessory like a port splitter or hub.
A laptop computer can't install anywhere near as many upgrades as a desktop. In fact, this is why it's more common to have a gaming desktop rather than a laptop as you can futureproof it more easily.
For those not particularly familiar with computers, it might be worthwhile investing in tablets. They come in sizes from mini to 13-inch, just like a laptop display.
They're far more intuitive and better than a home computer for casually browsing the internet, and also have the great feature of being easily portable.
While there is a huge range with different features, they'll probably only set you back around $500-$700 for more basic models.
You should now have a better idea about buying computer equipment for your personal use or your day to day business.
Here's a quick summary of the steps to making the best choice for you:
- Work out exactly what you need (including accessories and extras)
- Have a clear idea of what you're willing to spend
- Don't be afraid to ask questions about the product
- Make a pros and cons list of the different options you're considering
- Make sure you take your time when deciding what to buy.
While there is heaps of information out there for people looking at a new computer, we promise that it doesn't have to be a stressful or overwhelming search.
Check out our other articles on different computer brands, which operating systems you should choose, and which type of computer you should choose, to get an even deeper understanding.