As the ’00s roll ever closer to the ’10s, buying a new computer becomes equal parts easier and tougher. Constantly declining hardware prices, coupled with always-improving technology, mean that every time that ball drops on Times Square, you can get a brawnier PC than you could at the same time the previous year. The flip side, though, is that your options have also expanded, so you’ll have much more to consider at checkout time. Nowadays, the questions seem endless: Dual-core or quad-core processor? DDR2 or DDR3 memory? DVD burner or Blu-ray drive? It’s enough to make the eternal “desktop or laptop?” dilemma look simple by comparison.
So if you’re starting off the New Year—or ending the old—shopping for a new PC and are bewildered by the plethora of choices, this guide is for you. We’ll look at where desktops and laptops have been in the last year, where they’re going in 2009, and what you need to know to find the one that’s just right for you, your family, and your finances.