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laptop computerWhat's the best way to shop smart for computer bargains?

Whether you're in the market for a desktop computers, portable laptops, or notebooks's all about timing.

When new models come out ... and when to buy them

Although usually making a splashy debut during the annual CES electronics show in January, new model computers usually don't hit the shelves until May or June, when marketers introduce their new models to consumers.

May is the season when computers make great gifts for graduates heading off to college. Dad's are also in line for a gift with Father's Day just around the corner.

Next, it's time for this year's back to school sales when PC's and laptops are off-loaded by major retailers to make room for next year's models. In November, don't wait for them to fly off the shelves before grabbing a great deal with drastic markdowns during Black Friday sales.

If you can wait, you'll discover the best deals of the year during after Christmas sales. Meanwhile, in between the major buying periods, be sure to keep tabs on computer clearance pages to see what else is on offer during seasonal and clearance sales throughout the year.

What type of personal computer?

Before you buy a PC or laptop, the most important factor to consider is how and where you are going to use it. Obviously, if you're planning on detailed video or PhotoShop editing, or intend to load it up with memory-sucking video games, then a higher-powered desktop PC is likely your best best.

If you already own a desktop. then a laptop might what you're looking for -- to take on vacation excursions or business trips. If you're already a laptop owner you might want to consider something even smaller and more lightweight, such as a compact notebook.

Know before you go: it's no fun watching the whirling timer icon as you wait for a download,
so make sure you buy a computer with enough power and memory to meet your needs

Knowing what you're getting - technical specs

Many beginners go in blindly, never knowing what the gobbledygook means in the sales display. If in doubt, don't hesitate to ask a knowledgeable salesperson. Explain what you are planning to use you computer for and they can quickly guide you to a laptop or computer to best meet your needs.

Processor - The most common processors on the market are Intel and AMD. Both will be listed on the specs as either Core i3, Core i5, Core i7 or Core i9 -- translating to how fast your computer can process all the various functions you want it to perform. Core i5 is usually considered mid-range.

Another buzzword to watch for in terms of processor speed is GHz (or gigahertz) which tells you exactly how fast your processor performs. Typically, a 2.5 GHz processor level should be adequate.

RAM, or random access memory, tells you how much memory your computer has at its command. 'Random access' simply describes the sharing of memory with many of the different programs stored on your computer.

An adequate amount of RAM depends on how many programs you're running. The more programs, the higher the RAM necessary. RAM is usually listed in terms of GB or gigabytes. Nowadays, 8GB is usually recommended for casual users, 16GB if you use spreadsheets or other office programs, and at least 32GB for gamers and video producers.

Hard Drive - Simply put, this is how much storage space your computers have for your files, photos, music, and movies. A standard 512GB hard drive proves adequate for most users, although upgrades are available to more expensive 1TB (terabytes) hard drives that will ensure you'll never run out of space!

Graphics card - If you're streaming movies or watching YouTube, a standard 8GB graphics card is all you'll need. Gamers and multimedia producers may want to upgrade to at least 12GB or higher.

Ports are the slots built into the sides of the computer for connecting to exterior components like TV monitors, printers, and other equipment.

Before you make a purchase make sure all the slots you need are included. USB ports are the most common slots that are used to connect to other components. VGA ports are used to connect to TV screens (without audio, like PowerPoint presentations) while HDMI ports are used to connect to TV screens (with audio, like movies and videos) And then there's always the audio jack for ear buds and earphones.

SD card slots are commonly used as memory storage for smart phones and cameras.

NOTE: As laptops become even slimmer and more compact, CD / DVD players are no longer included. If you have a DVD collection you can't part with, you can still buy a cheap peripheral player that plugs into a USB port.

Computer & laptop deals & clearance sales

As mentioned above, you can score a brand new computer during annual seasonal sales, but many online retailers offer big bargains at any time of year or, for used models, at EBay or Craig's List. As always, it pays to shop around:

Best Buy Computer Deals Costco Wholesale Laptops
Office Depot Laptop Deals Lenovo Clearance Laptops
Staples Electronics Clearance HP Clearance Laptops
Amazon Warehouse Laptops Acer Laptop & Desktop Deals

More about buying a computer around the Web:

Around the Web, find out more about saving money on your next computer purchase with the help of top sites offering price comparisons on home computers, laptop and notebooks, including consumer info on easing the confusion and saving you time and money - on everything from simple laptop setups to desktop-ready multimedia studios...


Laptop Computers - Bizrate - Compare prices, options, online stores and user reviews of the most popular laptops.

Laptop & Notebook Reviews - Find the cheap laptop or notebook you need with PC Magazine's top picks of bargain choices searchable by name, processor speed, graphics system and several other options... - Start saving right from the homepage featuring the latest bargains for computers, laptops, software, hardware and electronics found on the Web, along with links to sites offering the most recent discount coupons and rebates.

CNet Reviews - Rated and reviewed systems by price and performance with categorized lists by price and manufacturer, consumer guide, editors' picks.


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