Henry’s Tech Tips: Holiday Buying Guide
Written by Henry Chen, Grade 12
Tis the season to be jolly… and to be on the hunt for new electronics. In this special holiday edition, I’d like to share some of my tips on getting the electronics that fall on the “good quality” side of the spectrum.
Let’s run through some common electronics. First of all, flat-screen TVs. Holiday shopping season is indeed the time to upgrade your TV, but be warned – don’t fall into the many marketing tricks out there. For instance, always note the refresh rate of your TV. Refresh rates measure the response your TV delivers. This rate is measured in hertz (Hz). Standard flat screen televisions offer a refresh rate of 120Hz. While this may be an acceptable refresh rate for most people, it is also the trick a lot of electronic stores are playing. You have 2 TVs side by side; one is priced cheaper and looks fancier than the other. However, what you don’t notice right away is that the one looking fancier has a refresh rate of 120Hz while the not-so-fancy TV offers up to 240Hz. Still, most people would fall for the cheaper TV since it looks prettier than the other and purchase it. Of course, if you’re just looking for a basic TV, that choice is fine. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a high quality TV, you would have just been fooled by that marketing professional hired by BestBuy, Future Shop, or any other electronic stores. Always note the refresh rate before purchasing a TV. It may play a part when Bluray / HQ movies get more popular in the future, rather than the standard definition DVDs.
Second up, tablets—these little gadgets come in so many variations that it’s almost impossible to pick out a perfect one. You’ve got the ones advertising with the latest Android; a gold, silver, and black version of the newest iPad; even tablets running Windows 8 with full gaming hardware. But which one? Consider how you’re going to use your tablet: Are you a fan of customizing to the max? Do you need to use the power of Windows while away from your home? Or do you just need to use the internet and run a few apps? Tablets ship with 3 different main operating systems: Android, iOS, and Windows. If you’re into customizing your tablet with different themes that match your personality, Android is probably your best choice. If you require the full power of Windows, you’d need a PC tablet. And iPad… well… if you love your iPhone but wish it came with a bigger screen, you know what to get. Also – if you’re purchasing an Android tablet, always make sure you know you absolutely want that particular model before buying; there are very many different variations of an Android tablet from the same company and each serves a different purpose (thickness, weight, portability). If you’re still unsure about which to get but still have some time before Christmas (or Boxing Week), look through the different electronic stores’ website and have a read at all the different models. Sometimes the “perfect” one you just saw in-store may not be the most reliable in the long run.
Lastly, the computers – also known as the next best place to fall into numerous traps set by electronic stores. There are three items you should notice while purchasing a new computer: processor, RAM, and screen resolution.
First – the processors. Processors are split into 2 different categories according to the manufacturing company: the Intel processors and AMD processors. They are also split into sub-categories. Here are a few (but not limited to) that you can consider: an Intel i3 or i5 processor will get the job done for you. It will power your PC through your every tasks like word processing and internet browsing. An Intel i7 processor is what you should consider for gaming and heavy computer use. More specifically, if you’re purchasing a desktop PC or building your own, make sure you get the unlocked processor. You will know when it has the letter “K” after the model number. (eg. 4770K instead of just 4770.) The second company that makes processors is AMD. An equivalent of an i3 is AMD’s A4 and A6 processors. It’s an extremely basic and low end / low cost solution. An equivalent of a higher end i5 is AMD’s A10 processor. This is the processor for your web browsing, document editing, and a bit of graphics editing. Finally, AMD FX core is Intel i7’s equivalent. This is the core that will power your games and bring fast speed, similar to the i7.
Next, note down the RAM. RAM is the acronym for Random Access Memory; this does not help your computer run faster, but instead, smoother. Ever find your computer lagging while you try to do a task? That’s most likely due to running out of available RAM to utilize. Nowadays, standard computers come in 4GB of ram. This is enough to get you through the basics of computing. A middle tier will get you to about 8GB ram while a higher end will get you up to 12 or 16GB. For standard computing use, you’ll want to look for 4GB or even push it to 8GB to ensure your computer runs smoothly. 12GB or 16GB is for anyone who is into rendering videos or playing intense games. Always know what you’re looking for; the “more is better” doesn’t always work here.
Lastly, if you’re looking for a laptop or Windows tablet, look for the type of screen it comes with. I’ll get into the more detailed description about screen resolutions in the next article but for now, I’ll just give you the very basics. Screens come in different pixel resolutions; these resolutions are measured by the width of the screen pixels by the height. Looking for a basic everyday-use laptop? On a PC, you can check by going to the desktop (where your wallpaper is) and right click + Screen Resolution. On a Mac, go to System Preferences + Displays and the top one is the highest supported resolution. 1366×768 will be enough to get you through the day; most PCs come in this resolution by default so unless you call the manufacturer and custom order, this will be the resolution for everyday-use laptops. However, if you’re going to be relying on your laptop for graphics design, photography, or gaming, look for the ones with higher resolutions. The default high resolution nowadays is 1920×1080 and this is perfect for all of your heavy computing needs. You get more screen “real estate” and a much higher and crisper image.
These are just a few tips to keep in mind while you do your holiday shopping. Electronic stores love setting traps and throughout the years of shopping at these peak seasons, I gained a lot of knowledge on how to avoid these techniques salespersons use when they’re at the “clearance” stage. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me. I built my own gaming desktop PC in summer of 2013 so I’m more than happy to lend a hand if you need any assistance with parts and maintenance.
On behalf of the Student Tech Team, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!