2013 Computers & Laptops: Which Systems Work Best?
2013 Computers & Laptops: Which Systems Work Best?
If you’ve decided it’s time to upgrade your computer system, there’s good news: No matter what your budget is, there’s one for you. Looming holiday sales could bring some great deals for discerning buyers who take time to research what they want and are ready to jump when the price breaks.
However, there are more things to consider these days when deciding which PC is perfect for you. Even before you think about whether to choose a laptop or a desktop, you have to decide on an operating system.
A few years ago, real estate was a Windows world. That’s changed with the dominance of Apple’s iPhone and iPad. Their popularity has also made many real estate practitioners receptive to Apple’s OS X-based systems. And if you rely on cloud-based real estate services, most of those will work with any up-to-date browser.
In This Guide
- How to Tell You're Getting the Right Computer
Don't just consider cool gadgetry when choosing your next computer. Ask yourself whether it meets these key criteria.
- What Your Colleagues Are Using
Find out what types of computer systems are working best for other real estate professionals.
- Tech Terms You Should Know
Confused about what some technology terms mean? Use this as your dictionary.
- Slideshow: What's on the Market
Take a look at the types of computers for sale and their price points.
Windows or OS X?
The first big decision is whether your next system should run Windows or Apple’s OS X. On the Windows side, the latest systems come with a version of Windows 8, the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system. Bargain hunters can find more bang for their buck if they buy systems bundled with Windows 7 and then upgrade later (provided your new system meets the recommended specs). Some computer makers sell you a system with Windows 8 and offer you a “downgrade” to Windows 7, too.
With the right software, Apple’s iMacs and MacBooks can be equipped to run Windows, too, but you’ll pay for that convenience. Across the board, pricing on Apple systems start in the $1,000 range. If that’s too pricey, there’s a new Windows system — or maybe a Chromebook (laptops designed by Google and sold by different manufacturers using the Chrome OS based on Google’s popular browser) — in your future.
Still, since the debut of the iPhone and iPad, MacBooks and iMacs have become more popular among real estate professionals as their primary PCs. That’s because Apple’s mobile devices are more easily integrated with its computer systems. And as Mac loyalists have long maintained, Apple’s OS X offers a more intuitive user experience and is not fraught with the malware issues that have plagued Windows.
That said, Windows remains the dominant platform in real estate because it has the broadest selection of software applications designed specifically for the business. But with the shift to the cloud and browser-based software as a service, Windows isn’t as critical as it once was. Deciding which system to use for your next computer is largely subjective, and you should take into account the mobile devices you use as well as the software you rely on day to day.
Desktop or Laptop?
Once you’ve decided on the OS, the question turns to: What do you want and need in your next computer? Anyone shopping for a PC should weigh the merits of a desktop versus notebook system. Each has advantages and drawbacks.
The most obvious issue is portability vs. flexibility. While a desktop is stationary, it gives you a bigger screen, a real keyboard, and more ports and expansion options so you can add storage and connect a variety of peripherals. The biggest trend here is in All-In-One systems, sleekly engineered with all of their components — processor, RAM, hard drive, webcam, optical drive, and input and output ports — housed inside the same thin case as the monitor. Computer towers and mini towers are still an option for those with the space who want a lot of flexibility in system configuration: Those typically have multiple expansion bays for adding additional hard drives or optical disks, room for significant RAM upgrades, and the most options for connecting peripherals.
If you’re shopping for mobile systems, your choices widen. There’s the traditional notebook, which comes in a variety of sizes, including small ultrabooks. Those include systems like the MacBook Air and the Chromebook, thin and light and designed to take full advantage of cloud services. There are also hybrids, compact notebooks that can also function as tablets.
The tablet’s impact can also be seen in computer systems that now feature touchscreens, which eliminate the viewing problems associated with earlier LCDs.
Processors: You Need Speed
A computer is its processor, functionally speaking, but processor names don’t tell you much. What matters is the processorspeed, measured in gigahertz, and the number of cores, or processing units. Faster speeds and more cores mean better performance. The newest systems have quad core processors, able to handle four tasks at a time; less-expensive systems have dual core processors. Also, with increased speed comes more RAM, or computer memory,measured in gigabytes.Four GB is now the typical standard, but many systems can include much more RAM. In the long run, the ability to easily upgrade RAM will boost your computer’s performance.
Unless you’ll be saving a lot of video files to your hard drive, newer systems should prove more than adequate for the typical practitioner’s needs. The capacity of a hard drive is also measured in gigabytes and terabytes; 500GB is standard these days for most desktop systems with hard disk drives.
The type of drive can be important, especially on portable systems. Traditional internalhard drives that use disks can drain battery power and add weight. Solid state drives have no moving parts and store data directly from integrated circuits in the computer and are faster, lighter, and suck less battery power, but cost much more per gigabyte.
A few systems now feature hybrid SSD/HDD drives that combine the advantages of both in a single drive. Optical drives, capable of reading and writing CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray discs, are on their way out. If that feature matters to you, it will narrow your choices.
Networking capabilities and input/output ports all add versatility to any system for connecting with networks and devices. For connecting peripherals such as printers, external drives, digital cameras, and camcorders, USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt are the latest standards for high-speed connections. For wireless sharing, there’s NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, and the latest iteration of Wi-Fi networking, 802.11 AC. For added mobility, look for notebooks that come with 4G capability, using high-speed mobile data.
To maximize the working life of your next computer, you’ll want all the latest innovations you can afford at your budget and needs. Every computer maker offers a good/better/best selection of products, priced accordingly, with multiple upgrade paths.
A computer is still the most productive hub for all you do — online and offline — to meet the varied needs of clients, promote listings, and manage sales. A system upgrade can also help advance your career.