Ask the Laptop Advisor: Lightning Round, Vol. 1

Last updated on 01/18/2013

This week, the Laptop Advisor answers a handful of quick questions about RAM, an over-powered computer, and whether a casual user really needs a Mac.
By Liam McCabe

I received a handful of good questions this week, most of them short and sweet, so I’ll answer a few of them in a similarly short and hopefully sweet format.

Tammy Asks: “Which is better. Acer with 4GB RAM and a 500GB hard drive or an HP g62 with 3GB RAM and 320GB hard drive.”

More is almost always better when it comes to computers. 4GB RAM will make it easier for you to run multiple programs as well as to run demanding programs. A 500GB hard disk holds more stuff than a 320GB hard disk. Depending on your media habits, you may or may not actually fill up all that extra space, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

But what processors do those models have? If the Acer has a modest Core 2 Duo, while the HP has a mighty Core i5, the HP will outrun the Acer every time. That spec is just as important as RAM, and much more important than the capacity of the hard disk.

The next question comes from S Wirtz: “Will an i5-2410m along with 8 gigs of RAM handle large graphics files in a program like Gimp? Also would a machine with these components play back DVDs without much problem?”

That computer could most certainly handle huge graphics files. 8GB of RAM can handle just about anything you throw at it, especially with a serious processor like an i5 behind it. And, uh, yeah it can play DVDs. Nothing had 8GB of RAM 10 years ago, and DVD players worked fine back then.

And then a classic Mac or PC question from an anonymous reader -- these never get old: “I had a Macbook and the hard drive just went up. So I am in the market to buy another laptop. I am just not sure if I should buy another Apple or switch to a PC. The only reason I would switch to a PC would be because of the cost. Is the Mac really worth the money that Apple charges for their computers or is it more so the name I am paying for? I use my laptop mostly to surf the net, watch movies, play games and occasionally use it for school to download material for class.”

First off, you can probably just get the hard drive replaced for a nominal fee, probably much less than the cost of a new laptop. It sounds like you want to keep using a Mac, but can’t afford another smooth grand for a new one -- I hear you there.

But onto the subtext of your question -- if you just need a “casual” computer, you don’t need a Mac. I mean, nobody really needs a Mac. It’s a matter of wanting one. You want one, but would rather save the money. That’s fine, just get a cheap PC. You don’t even particularly need a good PC. Any $400-500 will get you through for a little while. Check out our Best Laptops roundup for a few options.

Cheers,

~ The Laptop Advisor

Do you have a question for the Laptop Advisor? Please feel free to submit it in the comments section below, or to editorial@digitaladvisor.com. We can't send personal responses, but we may select it for next week's column.

Previous Columns:

5/16: Best for Streaming Movies?

5/9: Which Specs Are Important?

4/28: Which Laptops Can Connect to My TV?

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