How to buy a computer (part 2): what’s in the box

British gas engineers use toughened laptops that you may drive your car over and expect them to continue to function. By contrast, it would be ridiculous for them to arrive at your house lugging a desktop box, monitor and keyboard. In the same way, the right computer for you is one that supports your current needs and anticipated use at a comfortable price. Following on from choosing the right type of computer in part one of the article, we now turn to how to choosing the interior specification of your lovely machine according to format: desktop, laptop or tablet.

Tablets fall into three camps at present: Android, Apple or Windows. Apple still holds the lead with its range of applications. Next month’s article is devoted to choosing a tablet but a rough summary would be: once you know the screen size and type of tablet you want, do check whether you can supplement its memory. If not, such as iPad, then buy one with the most memory you can afford as you will likely need it over time for apps, photos, music and other memory-munching data.

Turning to laptops and desktops, your preferred computer format will come in a great range of specifications and prices. Like dresses at fashion shows, the current crop of machines changes fairly rapidly so it is useful to have someone else to draw out their finer points for you to consider: online reviewers. An effective way to draw up your shortlist is to browse recent reviews for the type of computer you want. This will not only guide you away from the squibs but also highlight the different options open to you such as a touch-screen. Here are some links to help you  to get started in researching your chosen type of machine:

When assessing a computer, one of my first points of call is what processor they use. While you can typically upgrade your system’s memory and hard drive, your processor will largely define how long your machine can usefully serve you. Like a brilliant team of chefs who produce a steady flow of luscious dishes, the processor co-ordinates everything on your computer from crunching your numbers to editing your photographs. An under-powered processor will increasingly leave you doing the equivalent of fiddling with the cutlery while waiting for your meal.

So what are you to look for? Drastically simplifying the range of processors on offer, I expect a basic system to sport a minimum of an i3 processor while mid- and high-range systems should come with an i5 or i7 processor. There may be excellent reasons for using a different processor such as one made by AMD, or Intel’s remarkable battery-saving Core M range that offers reduced processing power in return for a silent, thinner computer with significantly longer battery life. Reviewers’ comments will guide you regarding how powerful they found the system in practice.

Touching on memory, I would feel unhappy about having less than 4GB of active (RAM) memory and 256GB of storage space.

Now that you have eliminated the definitely poor computer choices with their unreadable displays and found the ones with a competent processor, you will be left with the comfortable choice of which machine offers you the right combination of price, oodles of memory and perhaps a generous solid state drive for really zippy performance. And buy from John Lewis if you can for their excellent guarantee.