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Knowing what tech to look for in holiday shopping sales.

Every year we’re tempted with countless sales on seemingly endless numbers of devices, gadgets, and gizmos. With prices lower than you’ll see at any other time of the year, now is better than ever to upgrade or replace the old slow systems we rely on every day. But with so many new bits of tech year after year, it isn’t easy to keep with with what all the changes.

As tempting as it is to buy that $250 door-buster laptop, upgrade-largethere may be better options available. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for, and you may find that your shiny bargain doesn’t last as long as you hope. An old adage says that of the three most desired attributes to a new computer, high performance, low price, and long lasting, you’re only ever going to get two out of three. Instead of spending money on a laptop this Christmas, only to buy another one next year, you should consider upgrading the one you already have.

In recent years Solid State Drives, or SSDs, have become increasingly popular. They fill the same role as Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) have for many years, storing all of our files and programs. However, they do so by a very different method, using small circuits with no moving parts, rather than the spinning magnetic disks found in HDDs. The lack of moving parts brings not only tons of additional speed, but much greater reliability. And the best news is that the prices for this kind of upgrade are falling drastically. Just a few years ago, a tiny 64 GB SSD might cost you $400 or more, not including any labor for installation. Now you can find 250 GB drives for less than $150 at most retail shops. After upgrading to a new SSD, your computer can boot in mere seconds, not minutes. No more walking away to make lunch while waiting for your system to load.

Unfortunately, for some old computers, hardware upgrades won’t be enough. Eventually a new computer is going to be the best option, and not just any replacement will do. When buying a new computer, there are several questions you need to ask yourself before you begin.

How long are you expecting your new computer to last?

There’s no guarantee for how long any computer will last, but you can typically expect about a year of life from any system for every $200 you spend. If you prefer to not replace your computers every year or two, spending at least $600 is in your best interest. No amount of money will buy a computer that lasts forever, though, so don’t feel like you need to break the bank, either.

How much storage will you need?

Before retiring your old computer for good, take a one last look at your current drive, and how much data you have saved on it. Just because this computer has a huge terabyte drive in it doesn’t mean your next one needs one, too. If you find you’re only using a few dozen gigabytes out of the 1000 available, you’re an excellent candidate for a computer with an SSD.

Do you prefer power, or portability?

Performance comes at a cost, and not just price. While cramming today’s latest tech into the smallest package possible will certainly raise the price, powerful laptops, such as those designed for gaming, will naturally produce a lot of heat. More heat means more fans, and that means more weight. If you shop around, you may find that a high performance laptop may cost more than a powerful but stationary desktop, and moderately powered but portable laptop combined!