You don’t need to spend a fortune on a family computer

These days, having a household computer is a must. Not only does it provide a way to keep in touch with relatives, friends, and acquaintances, it’s becoming an increasingly important mechanism for your kids’ education and entertainment — a place where they can play educational games, watch videos, and listen to music. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on your family computer. Use this article to help you assess what you really need from a household computer — and what your best bets may be when it comes time to buy.

Assessing the Family’s Needs

Before you get all swept up in the product dimensions and features of the new MacBook Retina Display or Maingear Alpha All-In-One, take a moment to identify which features are absolutely essential to have on your home computer. Your teenagers will surely need a word processing programme to complete their essay and schoolwork assignments, but they can probably do without a top-notch graphics card—leave the gaming specifications for the Xbox or the PS3. Likewise, your hubby may need a fast internet connection to check work e-mails when he’s not in the office, but he probably doesn’t need a Blu-ray drive for watching movies on the home computer. And while you may want to make sure that your home computer has enough RAM to store your family photos, be careful you don’t go overboard with the specifications. Getting back to the basics will cut down the expense of a new computer—and potentially free up some funds to invest in a printer or scanner!

The Purchasing Process: Your Best Bets

Unless you’re catering to a graphic artist or an extreme gamer, you probably don’t need a performance desktop and workstation. As well as being pricy, they take up a lot of space in the family home. Better alternatives for families are all- in-one desktops, or even a family laptop or netbook. Laptops and netbooks are particularly attractive because they are ultra-portable, meaning that your teenager can carry it to class to do her note taking and then have it home to you by mid- afternoon so you can keep up with the latest in social media. You can purchase good-value HP Pavilions, Lenovos, Dells, and Toshiba laptops starting around £330 and up. For desktop PC users, you can find some great budget all-in-one PC models including the HP Envy 23, HP TouchSmart, Dell Inspiron, and Lenovo IdeaCentre, all of which generally come in the £500-£600 price range. Make sure you do some comparison shopping online and in stores to get the best deal, and don’t be tempted by those extra features — they can really ramp up the total price of the computer, and you probably won’t end up using them in the long run.

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