A Guide to Buying Computers for Older Adults
Ideally, when you walk into a store like Best Buy to buy yourself a brand new computer, you'd expect someone to guide you through the process, to help you figure out what you need. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen, and recommendations skew only towards what costs more or has more features, and not what you need.
The aim of this guide is to help you navigate through the first few questions you may have when buying a computer either online or in a store. Hopefully this will be a stepping stone in helping you figure out exactly what you need!
There are three main types of computers you can buy – a desktop computer, a laptop, or a tablet.
A desktop computer consists of a big tower, a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse. They're usually the most bulky and only needed if you want to do more than browse the internet, use email, or watch videos. Complex programs and activities like playing video games will often be the deciding factor in if you want this kind of computer. When buying this computer, always factor in those additional costs.
A laptop is similar to a desktop computer but is contained in one device, so you don't need to buy the additional accessories. Laptops are portable and are much smaller, but aren't as powerful as desktops. So if you want to play some heavy duty Flight Simulators, a laptop wouldn't be ideal, but it'd be perfect for browsing the internet and organizing your photos.
Both laptops and desktop computers are most commonly run in Windows Operating System (OS), or in Mac (sometimes still called Macintosh). Whether laptop or desktop, the below points apply to both.
Can be prone to more security issues and viruses, so if this is a big concern, Windows may not be for you.
Tends to be cheaper than Mac OS, especially if the computer has been refubrished.*
New computers, whether desktop (without the additional items) or laptop, will usually be in the range of 500$. You should feel confident that a new computer at this price will work well. But any Windows computer within the $200 to $500 range should work perfectly fine for anything you may need. Here is a link to a page of decent, lightweight computers (but remember, you also need a monitor and the other items for a desktop!) And here are some links for affordable laptops.
*A note on refurbished electronics: These can be a gamble, as refurbishing can be a label put on computers that were simply opened and then returned by the customer within the same day, or on computers that have been in someone's possession for years and just received a new reset. It is advisable if you buy these computers to get them from a big chain store like Best Buy or Micro Center, and not from eBay or Amazon.
More pricey, with the cheapest desktop options, without any accessories, usually costing about 500$. The most common price, however, is closer to $1,000.
These computers have one great advantage over Windows OS and that is increased security against viruses.
Here is a link to Best Buy's catalogue of all Apple (Mac) products, from which you can find iPads, computers, accessories, and smartphones.
3. A tablet is the lightest, most portable type of computer widely available. It doesn't
have a keyboard or mouse, but works with touch screens, so you don't have to purchase any additional hardware. However, a tablet is limited in what it can be used for. But if you want access to the internet and to common applications, like messaging, Facebook, Zoom, Amazon, and other popular services, a tablet should be able to accommodate your needs. Similarly, a smartphone, such as an iPhone, will be able to do almost everything that a tablet can, and if you have experience with smartphones, a tablet is essentially just a larger version.
Tablets are often treated similar to phones. If you have bought a smartphone at any point, you may find the process for buying tablets similar. Tablets often also are connected to your phone, allowing you to take calls and get messages on it alongside your smartphone. While Apple iPads are most common, they are not the only types, though you will find they overwhelm the market. Some notes about tablets:
Easy to use
Much more limited in their use
Can be offered in monthly payment installments like a phone
Unlike laptops and desktops, tablets are much more user friendly and require less maintenance. They're much easier to use, if you can get a good one, and so are the best option if you just want to use the internet, Zoom, watch Youtube, and do online banking.
An average price for a good tablet is between $300 to $500. But you can get a great one for just 130$ or so, and even pay in installments for many options.
There are also All-in-Ones, which combine a laptop with a tablet. These are a lot more pricey though.
If you are buying a computer that is not a tablet, you will be bombarded with lots of information on the box. The main things to look for are:
This is your long term storage, like a bank. Most computers come with a ton of it, but the cheaper ones may have less. This will allow you to store more items on the computer, and unless you plan on having a lot of videos and photos, you likely don't need much. You can also add more storage later.
This refers to a different type of storage. If a hard drive is a bank, a RAM is your wallet. It keeps all the information you need right now at your finger tips. The less you have of it, the slower your computer will be.
A processor, sometimes called a CPU, is essentially what makes your computer do what you tell it to do. There are a lot of different ones, and often come in complicated names. Generally, companies name them with numbers, and the lower the number ('cores'), the slower your computer will be.
Computers can be confusing, but they're a great tool that can help you connect, learn, and explore. The best option, if you don't want to spend a lot of money and just want to be able to video chat with your grandkids, is to buy a lightweight tablet that will be delivered straight to your door. This link will take you to Best Buy's tablet section, where you can find options below $100!
Written by Aleksandra Bator