Are you looking for a new device? Here's a quick guide to help you choose by asking yourself a few questions.

Do you need this device to be mobile so you can use it away from home?

If not, a desktop computer or tower may be your best option. A desktop can be quite pricey, but overall the value is in the ability to later upgrade the machine and get better computing power if you intend to use it for more memory intensive things such as gaming or graphic design. If your budget is tight you can get a newer motherboard with cheaper additional hardware that you can later upgrade. If you're curious about the various parts of a computer you can check out our article on the anatomy of a computer.

If you need mobility you still have multiple options to choose from.

Do you want something that has just a little bit of 'oomph' to it, but is still easy to transport? A laptop computer may be your best option here. Like a tower computer it can be upgraded, but upgrades can be tricky due to the limited space and specific requirements of each machine. You may be better off hiring a professional to do such upgrades for you. There are a variety of laptops to choose from, depending on what your requirements are. 

Not in need of anything fancy, but you need a larger screen for reading messages and even eBooks from? A tablet is your new best friend. These too come in a variety of options and sizes, but are difficult if not impossible to upgrade. They are, however, ideal for eBooks and general day to day messaging. Be sure to know exactly what you intend to use it for though - some brands are strongly geared towards a singular function. Amazon's Kindle, for instance, is primarily for use as an eReader and cannot run some messaging applications such as Discord. If you want a more generalist tablet, a Samsung Galaxy may be the better choice.

If you want maximum mobility, but the ability to use messaging applications and see your emails is still very important to you, a smartphone is your next option. Again, with these devices there's a broad spectrum of prices and qualities to choose from, from screen size to how crisp the camera is. Depending on your budget and what you need your device to do, you can find many devices that will suit your needs. 

What are You Using Your Device for?

Are you using it for gaming (ex: World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Valheim, or other graphics heavy internet based games)?

If so, either a desktop or a gaming laptop with a wired connection are your best options. A wired connection would mean plugging your computer into the router, so that your connection is more stable. 

Are you using it primarily to connect to social media (ex: Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram) or to check your email?

Any device can do this easily, so this is more a question of your comfort. A tablet or smartphone may be your best options.

Are you using it primarily to read eBooks from either Amazon or from the digital library lending program, Libby?

A tablet is likely your best option here. Some smartphones are capable of opening eBooks, but the comfort of reading them from a tablet is far greater.

What are the Pros and Cons of Each Type of Device?

Desktop Computer Pros

  • Can be upgraded far easier than any other device, giving it a longer overall lifespan
  • Can be built with more powerful computing ability
  • Better for doing graphic design and visual editing
  • Better for gaming
  • Better for typing for long periods
  • If one component fails, such as a power supply or monitor, you can just replace that single part in most cases
  • Can connect to internet via wifi, mobile hotspot, or wired connection

Desktop Computer Cons

  • Can have a higher initial cost 
  • Must purchase all peripherals separately (mouse, keyboard, monitor, etc)
  • If purchasing piece by piece, you must either assemble it yourself or have someone else do it for you
  • Cannot connect to internet without access to a wifi connection, mobile hotspot, or wired connection
  • Cannot be easily transported, stationary

Laptop Computer Pros

  • Portable
  • Can be almost as powerful as a desktop computer depending on the model
  • Many are capable of running graphics intensive games such as World of Warcraft
  • Many are capable of doing graphic design and visual editing
  • Upgrades are possible but should be done by a professional if you are uneasy working with small components
  • All peripherals are built in (touchpad, keyboard, and monitor), some are even touch screen
  • Can connect to internet via wifi, mobile hotspot, or wired connection

Laptop Computer Cons

  • If one component fails, such as the screen, it can be a very expensive fix
  • Cannot connect to internet without access to a wifi connection, mobile hotspot, or wired connection
  • Larger than a phone so does require a bag for hands free carrying

Tablet Pros

  • Best option for persons with visual difficulties who need a highly portable device
  • Best option for reading eBooks
  • Most can be put on a data plan with your mobile phone provider
  • Depending on the brand tablets may or may not have access to certain applications (a Kindle, for instance, cannot connect to Discord properly)

Tablet Cons

  • Either cannot be upgrades or it is very difficult, depending on model
  • Cannot connect to the internet without wifi, mobile hotspot, or a data plan
  • Larger than a phone, so does require a bag for hands free carrying

Smartphone Pros

  • Highly portable, often fits into a pocket or purse with ease
  • Can access almost all messaging applications
  • Can play some low impact mobile games depending on the phone model

Smartphone Cons

  • A smaller screen can be difficult to read
  • Some models are too large for pockets, making them harder to carry hands free
  • Most cannot be upgraded and must be replaced for better specifications
  • Shortest lifespan and resale value compared to other devices because of rapidly increasing technological breakthroughs
  • If a component such as the screen fails or is broken it can be costly to replace, sometimes exceeding the current value of the phone

Microsoft, Windows, Apple, macOS, iOS, Linux, Android, Google, ChromeOS? What Are Those?

Those are all words used to describe your operating system. Think of your operating system as the command center of your device, it tells your device how to convey information to you. On computers there are two major operating systems, Microsoft Windows and Apple macOS. Some people also use Linux or a similar different operating system but this is rare. Laptops also sometimes run on ChromeOS.

For tablets and smartphones there are three major operating systems: Android, iOs, and for tablets there is also ChromeOS. Like Linux for computers, there are also other operating systems for phones and tablets, but they are uncommon.

The biggest question when choosing an operating system for your device is the question of how you will use it.

Apple computers and phones run on their operating systems, macOS and iOS, so if you already have a lot of Apple devices you may wish to stick with the same system for familiarity and ease of connecting to your other devices. Apple computers are known to be very good for sound and visual editing, but come with a higher price tag and are difficult or impossible to repair on your own. Some programs or custom content such as game mods will not work on an Apple device. The upside of this is that there are many viruses that will not work on an Apple device either, though that is not to say there are none.

Microsoft computers run on Windows. Windows devices offer a lot of flexibility and are designed to be very user friendly. Almost all programs will run on Windows, but most viruses are written for Windows machines.

Google laptops and tablets run on ChromeOS, which is very user friendly. Many programs will run on a Chrome device.

Android is intended entirely for mobile devices such as smartphones, it is currently the most popular operating system for mobile devices.