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Ask the Readers: What computer would you recommend?

Today’s question is from Shannon:

I’m looking to buy a new computer that will be dependable for homeschooling and other uses, but not cost an arm and a leg. Any suggestions?

I’m so out of touch with the latest technology that I really don’t know what to look for in a new machine. I’m not a “techie” and I generally use things until they die! -Shannon

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  1. says

    I definitely agree with everyone who said to get a Mac. I bought a Mac used 1o years ago from a co worker and we just replaced it in February 2012. In those 10 years we never had a problem-no viruses, and just some minor problems toward the end (speaker went out, discs didn’t always play). We knew it would be worth it to buy a new Mac knowing it will last, and we are like Dave Ramsey with cars-we won’t buy a new computer unless we really, really, need it (except we will buy new for a computer, unlike cars, where we will buy used like Dave suggests). So, we know we’ll be happy with this purchase for a long time. Oh, and we paid cash for it!

  2. Sarah in Alaska says

    Computers get rated annually for reliability.

    I think the biggest question you need to ask yourself is how much do I need. If you’re just going to use the computer for checking email and writing papers using Word, any old computer will work fine. If however you have quite a few homeschool programs that you need to run or if one of your children is interested in graphics, music, programming, or gaming you will need to be somewhat careful to make sure you get enough memory to run everything.

  3. says

    I would look into getting an Apple Computer. To be honest – they just plain hold up better. If you are going to use it until it dies, then I would spend the few extra dollars. You will have a lot less problems in the long wrong. Plus, I like to buy my computer on Ebay. If you buy an Apple computer that is only 1 or 2 years old, then you can get a really good deal. When they are only 1 or 2 years old, they are still under the warranty.

  4. Jan says

    We always buy Dell desktops- if you go on Dell outlet they usually have refurbished machines that are less expensive but still under warranty

  5. Linda says

    We really, really like Dell laptops. We’ve had very few issues (replaced power cords and batteries — some were probably user issues!) I agree that you need to assess your needs first. We usually buy ours at about the middle specs offered. Not the cheapest, not the most expensive. I use free anti-virus and anti-malware software and keep my software updated. Laptops also make it easy to take the computer with you if needed, work outside, or wherever.

  6. Deidre says

    I’m a huge Macbook fan, I bought mine 4 years ago and it’s held up through everything. I love it!

  7. says

    I had a Mac Book and adored it, but when it broke we simply couldn’t afford to replace it.

    I got an HP laptop from the Pavilion g series, and so far (knock on wood) it’s done just fine.

  8. Jenny says

    Hey. I would never recommend anything other than a mac. Truthfully, it will save you money in the long run, and the ease that comes with having not only something that works well but such a competent customer service that desires to help you can not be underestimated.

    Most people freak out because of the price, but if you’re fine with a desktop and aren’t planning to do any heavy computing (think web development/design/video editing), you can get away with a mac mini (http://www.apple.com/macmini/ $599) and a non-mac monitor (http://www.amazon.com/HP-S2031-20-Inch-Diagonal-Monitor/dp/B003FMUL7M/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1338416644&sr=8-2 $99). It takes up very little space as well.

  9. Courtney says

    Get an Apple (MAC) computer. You will have less issues and it will work with out problems. It will cost you more but last longer :)

  10. Em Robin says

    Go with a Mac. We’ve had them constantly since the early ’80s. We’ve had a PC at one time as a supplemental computer (and use PCs at work) and Macs are far better. Macs hold up, the screen/visual is superior (and eye saver), they don’t get viruses like PCs, and have FANTASTIC customer service. They will cost a bit more upfront but will be more cost effective in the long run with less frustration. Look at getting a refurbished one through Apple and save some money. That’s where we’ve purchased all of the laptops for our college kids. When I say Macs are durable, my kids have proven it!

  11. says

    They may cost more, but I’m an Apple girl all the way. After losing three non-mac computers in less than a year (our old one, my husband’s laptop, and the replacement that was a hand me down from my grandfather) we bit the bullet and got a Mac desktop. They are definitely more up front, but they last a lot longer and are way more durable. After three years, mine is still going strong!

  12. Vanessa says

    We had been PC people until about 1.5 years ago when we bought our first Mac. In our 13 married years, we’ve replaced like 4 PCs (HPs and Dells) and got tired of them failing us after life expectancies of 2-3yrs. We talked to a lot of people that owned Apples and many had their Macs still working after 7-10 yrs. We were also intrigued to learn that Macs don’t have the virus problems that PCs are prone to. I think we were sold on Apples when our then 3, 5, and 7 yr olds took to the demo Macs in a Best Buy when we went to see them close up. Our children just picked it all up so easily in just a few minutes w/o any help. And at that time they had had limited PC access, so they are not computer “geeks.” We still own a Dell laptop that we bought for homeschool purposes but we have agreed that when it fails, we will purchase another Apple. There is just such an amazing difference. There are so many applications for Apple that are free or inexpensive that we use for educational purposes and that has been such a score for us. While the upfront purchase of a Mac was more expensive, we figured in the long run it would be worth it instead of having to replace HPs or Dells every 2-4yrs; as had been our experience. You can buy a refurb Mac from Apple and it will come with the same warranty as a new one and save some $$ there. You may also look at Mac Mall for savings. We bought an iPad through them and they are an authorized Apple dealer (so same warranty applies).

  13. Martina says

    we bought a gateway from best buy 6 years ago… yes its very very slow now, but for a kindergartner and first grader just right, we usually don’t buy any expensive computers, and i think the most we spend on one was like 700 dollars.

  14. Susan says

    We have been very, very happy with our Mac after making the “big switch” 3 years ago. Its still going strong!

  15. says

    I would love to have a new computer ! When my nephew or brother in law upgrades they share the newer “used” one with me and that makes me really thankful. What they always get are HP,Im a QVC Shopper and dont have any idea if you like it or not but there is a computer which I believe is an HP and it has several terra bytes of memory ,a jillion extras,and five years of free virus protection. I think If I were buying a computer I would check out what they have and see all the extras you get with each brand and it will also tell you when they will have them on a show again to show all the bells and whistles,they always give all the information about all the extras they throw in for much less than you would find if you bought at any store. No I dont work for Qvc and Im no expert but I would take on of these in a heart beat.

  16. Kacie says

    My husband is a Mac guy and I’m a PC girl. Honestly, if you aren’t running anything crazy, it’s not worth it to get a Mac. They are very good for graphics and creating videos, but if you’re running basic programs a PC works just fine. Yes, you won’t get viruses with a Mac but you won’t get many viruses with a PC either if you’re careful about what you click on. Even if you got a cheap pc that you had to replace every 3 years, it wouldn’t cost as much as a Mac. And if something does go wrong with a Mac, it costs an arm and a leg to fix. It mostly depends on what you’ll use it for. And if you can, get a desktop instead of a laptop. They usually last longer.

    • says

      I agree with everything you said!

      We have both Mac and PC, and I use both at work. We have free virus software on the PC and no problems with it or the last PC we had (over the last 8 years). I even switched to using the PC for videos because our home Mac is old and now very slow. Mac is great for video making & music recording – especially when you want easy programs kids can learn quickly. But with good software, our PC does just as well (and is faster because we can afford to replace it much more often than a Mac)! Our current desktop PC cost 1/3 the price of the cheapest Mac at the time, and at almost 3 years old, it’s still fast and perfect for our video making, music recording, and small amount of graphic work.

      For us, saving up for a Mac isn’t worth it. If you’re saving money so fast that it just means waiting another three months, it might be different. I’d only seriously consider it if a child or elderly person in my household needed easier to understand software.

      • says

        I wasn’t completely clear – all I wrote above only refers to DESKTOPS!

        Our PC laptop experience is not nearly as good, and I could see a MacBook being worth waiting / saving much longer! Obviously desktops are cheaper, but with space and portability are higher concerns, then kindly ignore my PC recommendations. :)

  17. Rachel says

    Only a Mac. It’s the only computer worth getting. Save longer if you need to , to be able to get one.

  18. Leslie says

    I bought a Mac desktop two years ago and it is takes about 5 minutes to turn on and is constantly freezing on me. I am afraid to take it to get fixed though because the repair might cost as much as buying a new PC.. haha… Does anyone have any tips on how to get it repaired at a low cost? Or even how to clean it up? I know I’m the oddball here being the one with a Mac that gives her problems…

    • says

      Do you download updates on a regular basis? That makes a huge difference – and you can get low cost/free programs that help you clean up memory, etc. I dropped my mac book pro (many times, as did my toddler) and I had to get something fixed on it, and it didn’t cost me much! You can have the Apple store figure out what’s wrong before getting it fixed – they will tell you upfront how much that fix would be – can’t hurt to ask! They might be able to tell you why its running slow by just describing it too?

  19. says

    I’d go with a refurbished Mac is you can’t afford a new one. No problems with mine for 3 years now! None! No viruses! No stalls. No crashes. Don’t even have to have virus protection software! Everything works fine! I had Dell for 20 years….would not buy another one now that I’ve had a Mac. Although they cost more, they are worth it. Also, ask about the discounts for teachers and students. I got mine on a sale with $100 discount and a free iPod, plus discounted printer and extra software.

  20. Ashley says

    I’m a Mac girl as well. I love my MacBook. My husband (a Computer Science student) LOVES his Sony Vaio. He’s owned 2 in the past 12 years and I have a feeling he’ll purchase another one once he needs to replace his current laptop.
    Make sure you check out discounts the company your family works for. I sell Pampered Chef and we get a discount on Apple and Dell products. When I worked at a local hospital, they had a computer deal through a local computer company.

    • Ashley says

      Also, if you don’t care if things don’t “match,” consider a computer student building a computer for you. My husband has built a few computers and each of them cost about $300 for a good quality desktop. You’ll have to purchase the monitor as well, but I’ve seen larger monitors at Goodwill for $10-$15. Plus you know who to call if your computer needs repaired!

  21. Lindsay says

    Also a Mac girl here! After having countless crappy PC’s I bought a refurbished Mac Book 4 years ago and it is still going strong, not 1 SINGLE problem. And it is so user friendly!

  22. Marce says

    I worked in the data center for a school district that was strictly PC. I bought a mac iBook on eBay used as an email/web surfing machine at home. On a lark. SIX YEARS LATER it could load and run the most current, up-to-date operating system with no additional upgrades. Never a repair. This was unheard of on a PC. At work, we would have rotated a machine that old out of service as unserviceable – parts and upgrades too expensive.
    I bought a new mac desktop for myself and gave the ancient iBook to my grandson. He could play kid games, surf the web and watch DVDs (way ahead of the curve in it’s day) on it.
    My new laptop is going to be Apple brand no matter new or used.

  23. Shelah says

    I agree with many of you….definitely a Mac. It may cost more to buy, but it will last through all the upgrades longer. It nearly never gets viruses. We bought a reburb from the apple website.

  24. Elizabeth M. says

    I agree with many here – go with a Mac or Macbook. And buy a used or refurbished one. They last forever, the don’t get viruses, they rarely have a software issue and (did I say this already?) they last forever. I have had a Macbook since 2007. My daughter dumped a 24 ounce glass of ice water on it, I shook the water out, let it dry, and not a problem since. I’ve never had an issue with it except occasionally running out of storage space. It has a 250G hard drive and I have a teenaged girl who has built up our itunes files to be really, really big. A TB external drive for under $100 from Target solved the storage problem though. Yes, an Apple machine costs more up front but I have never had a PC that I didn’t have to replace after three years.

  25. says

    After a lot of research, we replaced our dying PC with a Mac and we couldn’t be more happy with our choice. They DO offer a homeschooling discount and every little bit helps. We have Word and Excel installed on our Mac. You can also check Craigslist – my teen son got his at a really good price. It’s 2 years old and has an “older” operation system (Lion), but it works for what he needs. We have started doing college visits and decided to take note of the computers/laptops we see on our college visits. 4 out of 5 laptops (carried by both students and profs) are Macs and many of the colleges we visited have Apple products.

  26. Becky says

    We bought a refurbished laptop from Dell’s website. It allowed us to get more computer for our money! It came with a warranty and looked and performed completely brand new. We couldn’t be happier. The trick with refurbished is to know exactly what you want and then buy when they have one available. I am sure there are refurb Macs out there too if that is the way you are leaning. Just make sure it comes with a warranty!

  27. Tina says

    I just purchased a refurbished Gateway from Amazon and I love it! It came and looked perfect I would have never known it wasn’t brand new. I just ordered my husband one because he keeps stealing mine because he loves it too. Good Luck!

  28. Carrie says

    My Dell Laptop is less than 3 years old. The key for the number six is gone. I have to press hard and sometimes it will work and sometimes not. The screen has three areas with black streaks. They will not go away. The laptop also gets very warm when it’s been on for a long time. I will never buy another Dell.

  29. Betsy says

    ASUS is a great quality but very affordable computer brand. We have a laptop that we really like.

  30. Paul W. says

    I would get a Mac. They have a refurbished site that all machines have the full warranty but you pay less than full retail for them.

  31. CJ says

    I’ve never used a Mac and dont care too! I bought a Toshiba Satellite laptop last Nov for around $300 and have been very happy with it.

  32. Fay says

    Get a Mac. You can even purchase a Mac Mini and just attach it to your existing desktop monitor. It will be cheaper but faster. If you use wireless, look into getting the best and fastest router from apple also. you will not regret it.

  33. Mel says

    Dell Desktop computer. If you are getting a laptop, anything other than HP is fine. HP doesn’t make very good quality laptops.

  34. Xay says

    I have nothing negative to say against Macs. If your budget allows it and the OS is your preference then go for it. Personnally, I have been way too cheap to fork out the additional amount for a Mac. FYI, though, our HP desktop finally crashed on us after 10+ years and it ran everything current plus more (even with a 6 & 2 year old as sole users). We also have two toshiba laptops (1 is 7+yrs and the other is 6+yrs) and both are still going strong with no issues. I personally use a Dell laptop for most of my work and have had it for over 4+ years. If you maintain it according to the manufaturers suggestions plus common sense, I think most computers can last 10+ years. The question is preferences and knowing the difference between the needs and wants you want from your computer. After you have this figured out, the next thing would be setting a budget that is aligned to you and your family’s. Good luck!

  35. Lauren says

    My 2 cents: I do not recommend Macs for people who don’t need them for design purposes. My husband is a designer and made me get one 5 years ago b/c he didn’t want to be tech support for a Windows machine, which I understand. Also, you may have fewer issues with Macs. However, I generally don’t think it’s worth the price tag, especially considering how cheap you can get some Windows machines. But I’m going on 5 years with my Mac.

  36. Debbie says

    I’m a PC and Mac user and a bit of computer geek. Don’t get me wrong, I like Macs! But if you don’t need one, you can get a lot more PC for the money. By the way, Macs can and do get viruses. That’s a myth. As far as brands of PCs go I have had had great success with Acer and Dell. My first computer almost 20 years ago was an Acer and my most recent computer purchase was an Acer ($600 Costco – great place to buy a computer BTW). In between I had a Dell for 10 years and the only reason I decommissioned it is I could not upgrade the hard drive (other than external but I wanted internal), otherwise I’d still be using it. I’ve also got an HP laptop and another HP desktop and all I’ve had is trouble with them. I will never purchase another HP computer. You can’t go wrong with a Mac, but if you are looking at PCs, I’d suggest taking a look at Acer or Dell. And if it’s Acer, go through Costco – good price, warranty, tech support.

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