This is a question I get asked by someone every few months so I thought I’d write a quick blog post about it.
When you buy or recommend a PC/Laptop/Tablet etc to someone you should know that you are going to become their personal IT Helpdesk 24 x 7. If you’ve ever tried talking someone who is only familiar with the basics through Anti Virus updates, Windows updates or Windows pop-up messages which are terrifying to normal people you’ll know what I mean. I once had a late night call from a relative who was really worried about having done something ‘illegal’ after reading some unhelpful message that popped up from Windows.
What do they really want to do with a PC/Laptop?
These days I would completely avoid buying a laptop/PC or Mac if all people want to do is surf the web, do emails and occasional word processing. Instead they are better off using a simple tablet device (see below). These are a perfect all in one solution and are not subject to complicated software updates, installs, anti-virus etc. They can be set-up with external keyboards and easily pair with the current crop of printers from the likes of Epson and HP over WiFi.
I’d only recommend looking at a Mac or PC if they have a lot of video, photo’s, accounting, word processing, presentations or special software requirements. Even then most of these can be done surprisingly well these days on iPads.
For example if you want to write a novel then I wouldn’t recommend trying to do it on your iPad but if you just want to maintain a CV and write a few letters if would be fine. Also if you want to use Accounting software like Sage to be compatible with an Account you may be better off using a Mac running VMWare or a PC – although again Cloud based solutions like Xero work very well.
Mac or PC?
I work with both Mac’s and PC’s (and numerous other systems) but these days I always recommend people buy a Mac rather than a PC unless there is a good technical reason for wanting a PC.
Why Mac rather than PC? Well it goes back to my opening comments about you becoming your friends personal IT helpdesk 24 x 7. These days Apple do such a great job of providing technical support and after sales service it’s a joy in comparison to trying to sort most PC hardware problem out.
Generally I recommend people treat themselves a Mac Book Pro or Mac Book Air. If anything goes wrong with it they can make an appointment and drop in with it to their local Apple Store – job done! I also recommend that people get an Apple Time Capsule. These are simple WiFi based backup drives. They make sure all the content on you laptop are safely backed up – automatically. If the worst happens and your laptop fails completely you can just take the Time Capsule and you Mac Book into the Apple Store and they’ll fix the laptop and then restore it from the latest backup on the Time Capsule.
There is simply no where now that I would trust on the high street to provide this integrated high quality level of customer care for a PC based product. That’s not to say that there aren’t some good computer stores out there but the service and experience will be much more variable.
Apple iPad or Android Tablet for Parents?
If it’s for the children to play with then either an old second user iPad or a cheap Android base tablet. If it’s for your parents then go for the iPad. I’m not knocking Android, technically some of it’s latest versions have features you won’t see on the iPad for a few year if ever. The iPad is however a much more refined and curated experience more suited to busy people who just want to get on with emails, surfing, editing documents etc rather than learning how to tweak hundreds of settings and install lots of software from all over the Internet. To date the iPad has proven to be much more secure than Android. There is Anti-Virus software for the iPad but I don’t know anyone who has ever used it, on the other hand it’s recommended on Android because of it’s open nature.
Apple iPhone or Android or Windows Phone for Parents?
You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m going to say iPhone. If any of the other kit you have is Apple and you’re happy with it then it makes sense to go with the iPhone rather than another brand. The level of easy, quick and seamless integration you get between Apple devices is second to non.
To be honest there are some very good deals on Android and Windows phone. If the budget you are working with is limited then it may be a hard choice between a high spec Android or Windows phone and may be last years or the year before iPhone model. In my experience most people are perfectly happy with the iPhone 4S, especially if it’s their first mobile like this.
Let me know how you get on. If you have any questions leave it in a comment below and I’ll try and reply as soon as possible.