Computer Purchase Options and Decisions
Depending on your target budget and intended uses, there are several options for personal and business computer purchases. Desktop workstations for the office, family computers for internet surfing in the living room, home theater computers, and homework computers for pre-teens all do different things, and have different requirements.
There are certainly more features available with the newest computer hardware running Windows 7. However, computers several years older are also perfectly capable of more basic tasks such as surfing the internet, homework, even watching online movies and television.
Custom-Built PCs for use as part of a home theatre
The integration of computers and computer networks into the home theatre has made leaps and bounds in the past few years. It is now possible with a single computer to play Blu-Ray movies, record and replay television as a DVR, play online games, watch streaming movies/television, and manage entire music and video collections. Full 1080P high-definition video via standard HDMI and 7.1 channel Dolby digital surround sound, as well as complete control by universal remote (no keyboard or mouse required) are fairly standard in a home theatre PC ("HTPC").
By opting for a custom-built option, the case can be matched to existing stereo/theatre equipment. Modern processors are extremely power-efficient. When assembled with proper airflow design and ultra-quiet cooling fans, HTPCs can comfortably operate hidden behind the doors of your entertainment system. Depending on your own particular specifications, an HTPC with Blu-Ray movie capabilities can be assembled for not much more than a standalone Blu-Ray player.
Refurbished PCs for general surfing, homework, etc.
For simpler tasks such as surfing the internet, watching online videos, and homework for school-age children, a refurbished computer can extend even the tightest of budgets. Especially for use by children and teens, I recommend one of the current user-friendly Linux distributions over Windows for several reasons:
Even for those who prefer to use Windows over Linux, it is possible to make an older computer reliable and secure, including fully legitimate, licensed software, for any and all uses short of the most cutting-edge high-end computer games.
Depending on available stock, you can obtain a refurbished, fully tested, secure, and updated 'last generation' computer for between $100 and $200; complete with parts and service warranty.
Brand-new, custom built PCs for general use and gaming
You can opt to have a PC built to fit your needs exactly, in the outer case style and with the options that you deem important, without paying extra for features you will never use. Unlike many big-name manufactured PCs, all custom-built computers are made from parts following industry standard specifications. This means that any and all components remain upgradeable for the life of the machine.
If you wish to purchase a custom-built PC, contact me with your intended uses and I will produce a recommendation for a computer specifically designed and built to your specifications. At the lower end of the consumer PC market, that recommendation may be to purchase from a major manufacturer (It simply isn't possible to assemble a budget PC of decent quality components for less than Dell, HP, or eMachines' offerings).