How do you get the best home office computer bargain? We show you how to optimize your selection and get the best deal possible. We show you where to buy, both online and physical stores, and get the best bargains.
We also recommend brands and models of computers and list the important features you need in a home office computer.
Should you use a desktop computer, or a laptop, or an all-in-one computer in your home office? For many people the solution is simply personal preference. We favor a larger screen device, such as a desktop computer, over a small screen device. A larger screen is easier to use when you have a fixed home office, and not a mobile application.
On the large screen scene, there is a growing list of all-in-one computer models that combine the computer and the monitor into one package. This type of computer configuration may be useful in a home office because it is more compact, and there is no separate monitor to buy.
Below is a list of the features you need in a best home office computer. Select a computer that has at least the features shown below. The following features apply to both desktops and laptops.
Processor (CPU) performance is determined by number of cores and clock speed. For normal office work, such as accounting, word processing, spreadsheet work, and internet searching, the minimum processor type you need is Intel Pentium or the faster Intel Core i3, or the AMD A4 or AMD A6. But faster processors should be used especially if you plan to do video editing, animation, 3D CAD and graphics.
Memory (RAM) requirement for home office work is 4 GB (gigabytes).
Operating system (OS) – Either Windows or Mac can be fine for a home office. If you have specific software in mind, check to see that it is available for the OS you plan to use.
Graphics card (GPU) – For most office tasks built-in (integrated) graphics is sufficient.
Hard disk drive data storage (HDD) – Many computers are now offered with 1TB (terabyte) of hard drive space. You probably ought to have at least 500GB (1/2 TB). You can use cloud storage in addition or instead.
Optical drive - Have one optical drive that will read and write DVDs and CDs.
Monitor or display - For a laptop or an all-in-one the display size is a little smaller than the case size. A desktop can use compatible monitors of different sizes. A monitor size that will hold 2 pages side-by-side is convenient for many home office operations. An example is composing a Word document while reading from a web page, with both pages open on the same screen.
Mouse or touchpad – A wireless mouse is more convenient to use than a wired one. Laptops employ a touchpad, instead of a mouse, for a pointing device; but you may want to add a separate mouse for ease of use with a laptop.
Keyboard – We prefer a wireless keyboard because it also is more convenient to use.
Sound system – An audio card with speakers is not essential, but you will find uses for it in the home office. These uses include watching video instructions, playback of messages, language translation, and simply listening to music or radio.
Ports (cable receptacles or sockets) – For a desktop we recommend 2 USB ports in front and 4 in back (1 or more can be the faster USB3). You also should have an Ethernet port (RJ45) to connect your desktop with the internet, and the video VGA, DVI and HDMI (TV) ports. For laptops there are usually fewer ports of any type. Most laptops have 3 USB ports, an Ethernet and video VGA & HDMI ports. Google for pictures of these computer ports.
The best place to find low prices is often online. But you will probably benefit from examining computers in a physical retail store. You may find deals in retail stores when there are clearances or other sales. If you are willing to buy a refurbished or used model you can pay much less than retail.
Take a look at physical computers at Best Buy, Office Depot, Wal-Mart, Fry’s Electronics, and other large retailers.
At retailers ask about any “open box” computers. They may give you savings of 10% or more, and have the same warranty as new sales.
One advantage of a physical store is to be able to speak with a salesperson and ask about good deals that are available. Also, you may as well bargain for good price with a physical store department manager when you find a store model with the same model available elsewhere at a lower price.
Online, you can search for computers and computer sales. Go to the retailers above and also Amazon, Costco (membership), EBay, NewEgg, Micro Center, CDW, Tiger Direct, Overstock and others.
Consider refurbished computers. Refurbished computers are units that have been returned to manufacturers. Often they are unused or hardly used, but selling at significant discounts. Computer manufacturers, such as Dell, sell refurbished computers on special web sites. Refurbished and auction computer sites are:
Dell - www.dell.com/outlet, and www.dellauction.com.
Lenovo - http://outlet.lenovo.com/outlet_us/.
HP - www.hp.com/sbso/buspurchase_refurbished.html.
Acer - www.acerrecertified.com/.
Toshiba - http://us.toshiba.com/refurbished-laptops?N=4294967173+20203.
Decide on a configuration or a computer package with all the features and components you want and then compare it to deals among at least two retailers. You can make a spreadsheet or list to compare several models and deals offered by retailers.
Avoid buying a new computer if a computer that you already own will do. An existing computer may be upgraded by adding memory and other components. Ask your retailer’s tech staff when you go to look at computers.
Most computers and components from major manufacturers are remarkably reliable. Desktops tend to have better reliability than Laptops. Check online reviews and comments for the model you are interested in.
Models offered online and in stores are in constant change. The models we recommend here may not be available, but similar models, often improved, may be offered instead. Check the models offered against the models we list below. Prices listed below are current as of latest update, and do not include shipping (if any) or taxes. We do not receive advertising or other compensation from the computer manufacturers detailed below.
Desktops (including all-in-one computers): All have built-in WiFi (WiFi 802.11ac is compatible with latest high-speed routers). Most desktops are offered without monitor or speakers. A monitor can be added for $90 to $150 and more. Speakers range from $20 to $60 or more.
Laptops: All below have built-in WiFi (WiFi 802.11ac is compatible with latest high-speed routers), webcam & mic, memory (media) card reader slot, and of course keyboard and touchpad. You can upgrade most components and also add components. For example, upgrade to a faster processor or larger hard drive. You can add a wireless mouse for around $20, speakers for $40 or headphones for maybe $30.