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Tips on Buying Your Next Dell Computer (and Others)

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I bought a refurbished Dell laptop back in 2015. It was made in 2013. Two years later, in 2015, the price dropped dramatically and I got a great deal and I still use it everyday in 2021. It is a 3rd generation i7 CPU running at 3 Ghz, SSD, 8 Gigs of RAM, 12 inch screen, Win 10 Pro. My experience should tell you that old laptops (by tech standards) are still very good depending on the hardware and that buying "refurbished" can save big $$$. Maybe, when it first came out, there were some issues and the buyer returned it and now it is fixed. That happens with new units all the time. My unit is quite fast.

How to read Dell product numbers

Dell has a weird way of assigning product numbers to their units, but there is an easy way to decipher it. In my case, it is Latitude E6230. The E means Improved over just a 6230. The 6 is the Series, the 2 indicates it is a 12" (had it been a 5, the screen would be 15"), more importantly, is the third digit, the 3. This is the manufacturing date, which is 2013 (had it been an 8, it would be 2018, a 0 is 2000). The last digit is usually a 0, which means it is just a standard product. Being able to find out when it was made will help you decide, old is not bad, it depends on the hardware!

Critical hardware to consider

We all know the more RAM the better. We know the CPU is the heart, but sometimes a 3rd gen CPU can equal a more up to date CPU (right now, CPUs are in their 11th gen for new computers) depending if the CPU is boosted to be faster or not and the speed. As a general rule, try to stay with 5th or 6th gen or higher especially when buying with limited funds. But, how can you know what generation a CPU is if they don't tell you?

Intel CPUs are numbered a specific way. For instance, my CPU is a i7 3540. The 3 tells you it is 3rd gen made in 2013. That's all you really need to know. A new CPU would be like 10100, the 10th generation made in 2000. There some letters sometimes for CPUs at the very end. K means the CPU is boosted for faster speed, while a TE, T, U, means the CPU is throttled for more power but less performance\speed. Avoid CPUs with TE, T, U, when you look at the computer spec sheet.

Other key hardware to consider, depending on needs are:

  • WIFI 6 (802.11 ax) which allows for up to 10 Gbps speeds, this is the latest in 2019. One cannot upgrade WIFI speeds via software. The current more popular is WIFI 5 (802.11ac) with up to 7 Gbps.This came out in 2014. Older computers will have WIFI 4, from 2010, 802.11n, with a capability of just 200 mbps!
  • HDMI port to connect your computer to display on a much bigger screen
  • LCD brightness levels of at least 250 nits, the higher the better but more $$$
  • LCD high ppi like 1920x1080 or better. PPI is pixels per inch, the more, the more detailed the picture will be
  • RJ45 (ethernet) port, so you can plug in directly to the server or modem\router for the fastest Internet speeds on your plan because using Wifi will cause a large loss of speed when downloading.
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Getting Wifi 6 is fairly recent, but as the future arrives, you will be glad you did, but Wifi 5 is the most common in configurations since 2014. As I said, as you read a computer's specs, keep all these things in mind and your budget and needs. Many will have a Thunderbolt, which allows one to plug in devices for amazing transfer rates. Adapters are available to also hook up HDMI, USB, Ethernet, so if your computer choice lacks these BUT has Thunderbolt, no worries, just but the adapter for $20. For around $700, you can get a i7 or i5 (both are fast) made in 2020.

A Dell Latitude is a great buy and solid performers for business and some gaming but so is the Acer Swift. Good hunting!

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