Here is some advice for buying a computer:
- Intel makes the best processors. AMD makes next best, but Intel are definitely considered the best. i3 is the newest "basic" processor from intel. i5 is their premium processor, and the i7 is the expensive top of the line processor fro real graphic intensive programs like video games.
- Windows laptops need more memory than Apple laptops. I think 4GB of memory on an apple is comparable to 6GB on a PC, or 2 GB on Apple is like 4GB on PC.
- Hard drives - you want more size so you can store more videos, songs, files, etc. You also want to look at speed 5400 rpm are slower than 7200 rpm hard drives. Hard drive speed has a big impact on how quickly or slowly you can save and open files and programs. However, faster also means less battery life, since a bigger motor is needed to spin it faster. 5400 rpm seems to be the happy medium right now, unless you want a really fast computer - go for 7200. They also are making flash drive hard drives. These are nice since they have no moving parts (reliable and quiet), are VERY fast, and use very little battery. downside - they are very expensive, and they are usually much smaller storage capacity than older hard drives.
- Displays - do you like glossy or matte? Glossy makes pictures, movies look awesome, but you can have glare issues in bright sunlight, like near a window, or in flourescent lighting. You also need to decide if you want 13 in, 15 in or 17 in. The bigger the display, the more room you have, but the bigger and heavier the laptop becomes. I think 15 inch is ideal balance for a home laptop.
- Extras - backlight displays are nice in my opinion, as they keys light up in the dark. This is nice if you plan to use the laptop in living room while rest of family is watching TV or a movie, but may not be necessary. Do you want it to have a DVD or blue-ray drive? What about a web cam? Would you like to be able to hook it up to a TV so you can stream and watch movies and TV from the internet or use the laptop as your blue-ray player for your hi-def TV? If you want to do those kinds of things, you will want to see if it has an HDMI out.
I bought a 13 inch macbook pro for $1100. You can get a teacher discount from Apple. I love it! Would like to have afforded a 15 inch macbook pro, which I think is my dream computer, but then you're talking almost $1800. The macbook Airs are also REALLY nice, and super fast since they have flash hard drives. I don't like how small the storage is on those, and that you can't burn DVDs with them - you'd have to buy an external DVD drive. Apple computers also strongly encourage you to buy a $99 Apple TV to hook your mac up to your big screen TV. Once you do, however, you wireless connect your laptop to the TV, so you can stream content to your HDTV from your macbook without hooking up any cables. The movie can stream from the macbook on top of the TV cabinet, the coffee table, etc. It works really great. If you go PC with an HDMI cable out, then you just plug in the cable to your laptop, and your streaming, plus you saved $99.
Apple does not offer blue ray drives for HD movies. Some people like buying PCs with a blue ray drive so they can use their laptop as a blue ray device. Personally, I think the time of buying media, like a DVD or Blue Ray, is over. People would rather just pay $5 to watch it on demand, then save the hassle of having to store all the movies. How often do you really watch same movie anyway? You would need to buy it on-demand four or five times to make buying it a better deal. I don't pay to watch the same movie that often. ; )
Finally, I just helped my parents buy a PC Gateway desktop computer. They spent about $600 on it, and it seems pretty nice for what they needed. They have had it for a month, and they seem pretty happy. So, really, as long as you visit the store, get a chance to try it, and you like how it looks and feels, then you'll probably be pretty happy with your purchase! Its very much like buying a car - if you're happy with your test drive, and it does what you need it to do for a price you can afford, you'll be happy.