Computing for the beginner: with Colin Cartmell-Browne


WITH a wide range of options to choose from making the right choice when buying a new computer can be difficult. It can be easy to end up spending more than you really need to. Colin Cartmell-Browne offers some consumer advice when choosing a new computer.


First you need to choose which operating system (OS) to buy.

The OS is what runs the computer and determines what programmes are available for it. There are three main choices of OS for mainstream computers:

Microsoft Windows – this is the most numerous operating system. Version 10 is the latest version although the numbering is pretty meaningless.

With regards software there is more choice for Windows than any other of the operating systems, although it should also be noted that there is also proportionally, more inferior software available for Windows computers.

Apple Mac OS – Macs tend to be more expensive than their windows equivalent, basing their price on being better designed and reliability.

But it is worth pointing out that my father-in-law has taken his newer, more expensive, Mac laptop back to be repaired more times than my much cheaper windows laptop.

Most software which is available for a windows laptop is also available for Macs.

Google Chrome (Chromebook) – this is the new kid on the block of operating systems. A Chromebook will need a reliable internet connection as most of the storage is done online (more of which in a future article).

Chromebooks do not have the same variety of software; for example Microsoft Word or Excel is not available, with users instead having to use Google’s own Google Docs or similar software.

All new computers come with an assortment of software, some of which is free and some of which is ‘trial’ versions which expire after a fixed number of days.

It is worth checking out whether this software covers your computing needs.

Once you have decided which operating stems to use there are only a few other decisions to make.

Desktop or laptop? Laptops are self contained, they have everything you need all in one handy package and, generally, are easy to set up.

Desktops take up more room and will require additional things like monitors, keyboard and mouse.

The one advantage of a desktop though is its upgradability – should you decide you need more memory or a bigger hard drive you can buy a new component, this is not really possible with laptops.

The final choice is what you want to do with it. If you are going to use your computer to search the internet, create word documents or email friends then you don’t need to spend huge amounts of money.

For example my cheap laptop from Acer fits my needs nicely. It allows me to write for E2D, do basic photo manipulation using Picasa and use the internet. A similar laptop would cost around £250.

However if you want to do more advanced photo manipulation using Photoshop then you will need a more powerful processor as well as a bigger hard drive.

The price of these would vary but you are looking at spending around £500 to fit those needs.

If you want to get into some serious gaming (think more high end graphics games rather than Candy Crush on Facebook) then you will need to get a computer which is up to the job.

These come at a hefty price, in order to ensure that the computer can cope with the sort of processing required to make the game run smoothly.

A gaming computer can cost anywhere from £800 and upwards.

Finally, it is worth looking at a variety of computers before making you choice.

Ask for a demonstration and have a go using the laptop, including trying to type on the keyboard.

Keyboards, particularly laptop keyboards, can feel very different depending on manufacturer so it’s worth seeing which one ‘feels’ more comfortable or easier to use.

If you have any comments on this article or would like help and/or advice in future issues of Egremont 2Day then please write to or email Colin.