Thinking About a New Computer?

By Joe Callison
2 July, 2024

Thinking About a New Computer?

Happy 4th of July! This is the beginning of the busy time of year for new PC sales as the new models are becoming available and the previous models are being discounted. There is more interest than usual in PCs this year because of the emphasis on artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, that has also been the cause of a lot of confusion. We have new “AI” PCs with Intel or AMD processors with Neural Processing Units included that will not meet Microsoft’s Copilot + criteria coming this fall, and PCs with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite processor that runs a different version of the Windows operating system and apps that does meet the Copilot + criteria, but has software glitches that have not been resolved yet. Newer models with Intel or AMD processors that will meet the Copilot + criteria are expected to be available by the Christmas shopping season. What is a person to do?

My recommendation is, if you are ready for a new PC before the end of support for Windows 10 next October, don’t let the AI capabilities influence your decision. We likely will not even know the benefits of AI features until they mature over at least the next couple of years, nor the real hardware requirements for a good experience using them. The new AI PCs do use less energy and therefore laptops should run longer on battery, unless the battery size is reduced to achieve lower weight instead. On the other hand, previous models with Intel 12th or 13th generation processors or AMD Ryzen 7th or 8th generation processors will save you hundreds of dollars. Many well-equipped laptops with up to 17-inch screens are available between $500 and $600 now, whereas the newest models with smaller screens start at around $1000.

Newer laptops have been pushing the limits of design to be the lightest and thinnest possible. As a result, they can be less durable and forgiving of abuse, as are phones and tablets. Dropping a device and liquid damage are the most common and obvious problems, but there are others to be aware of for laptops.

The budget laptops typically have all plastic cases and with the thinner designs, the hinges are especially susceptible to breaking loose from the case when the screen is opened. Always opening and closing the lid at the center instead of a corner will put less stress on the hinges and case.

Laptops typically have air intake openings on the bottom and very small standoffs for air to flow under the case. They are suitable for use only on a hard, flat surface. A tablecloth, bedspread, carpet, or sofa will completely block the air and cause overheating. Even using one on your lap can block much of the opening.

Laptop screens are very vulnerable to damage from pressure from your fingers or closing the lid with an object such as a pen or pencil left on the computer. When cleaning the screen, be very gentle and only use a clean microfiber cloth slightly moistened with water or a special-purpose screen cleaner, with the laptop powered off. Touchscreens should also be operated with very light touches, not pokes. Most use a technology that senses the presence of your finger, not a press, some without even requiring an actual touch of the screen.

The charging port and USB ports are vulnerable to damage from rough use or even long-term normal use, Some designs are more prone to damage than others, and some are designed to be more easily replaced than others. It is best to be as gentle as possible by always inserting and removing devices without wiggling them up, down, or to the side which is likely to eventually break them loose from the edge of the circuit board. The USB A design only goes in one direction and is often attempted to be pushed in too hard in the wrong direction. The laptop ports typically have the plastic insert at the top of the port and so your device or cable plug should typically have the plastic insert at the bottom. You can visually check to make sure. The USB C design is bidirectional and is rapidly replacing both the charging port and USB ports in laptops.

Most newer laptops these days have batteries and RAM memory that are non-replaceable by the user. It is important to be aware that sometimes batteries start swelling up as they age and can put pressure on the keyboard or trackpad area or the case depending on where the battery is located. If signs of swelling are noticed, the laptop should not be plugged in or used anymore to avoid even further damage to the laptop before being repaired.

If you want to know more about selecting a new computer, their features, or reliability, you can reply below or contact me as listed under About Us – Board of Directors in the menu at the top of the home page.

Posted by Joe Callison

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