What’s The Best Computer For Your Home Office?

macFor home office work as a virtual assistant or online service provider, the first basic choice is between an Apple (Mac) desktop or laptop. As portability isn’t always important and desktops are generally faster, have more storage capacity, allow for component updates and replacement of faulty parts more easily, desktops will usually offer better overall utility and value.

Most Mac internal components are the same as those of personal computers (PCs). Component definition and terminology are consistent, so essential information on key components applies to both groups. Apple offers desktop computers with entry, mid-range and high end components built in or which can be customised specifically for their computers. In Apple’s desktop range are the ultra-compact Mac mini, the all-in-one iMac and the Mac Pro desktop, which is a revolutionary cylinder shaped tower. Each of the three desktops has two to four base models which can be customised somewhat with components on the Apple website.

The Mac mini is a small (7.8 x 7.8 x 1.4 inches), portable desktop that suits those with limited space and low budgets. With its 2.5-inch laptop-sized hard drive, the mini isn’t as powerful as the iMac but can become a mini-powerhouse with special-order upgrades. The latest model customised can offer up to 16 gigabytes of memory instead of the standard 4, a very fast hybrid-style Fusion hard disk drive, four universal serial bus 3.0 ports, and a high-definition multimedia interface port that qualifies it as a media hub.

The all-in-one iMac, the most popular Mac desktop, is available in 21.5 and 27-inch screen sizes with keyboards and clickers – the magic mouse and trackpad. The latest models feature ultra-slim screens but no built-in optical drives. As Apple’s most versatile computers, iMacs are suitable for home and business users. Their super-slim all-in-one design allows only very limited user upgrades, so it’s best to specify the highest affordable configuration at the time of purchase. Users can install additional memory for the 27-inch but not the smaller model, which essentially cannot be upgraded at all after purchase. An optical drive, if needed, is an available option as the Apple Superdrive at extra cost.

The Mac Pro is the Apple counterpart of the PC tower. Although limited to Apple components, an extensive list of options allows considerable customisation. Mac Pros can be customised and upgraded far more easily than iMacs, for instance with faster processors, more memory, extra hard drives and even additional graphics chips. As a practical matter though, this capability is mainly for tech enthusiasts and multimedia professionals. While suitable for home as well as office use, for most users the Mac Pro offers marginal benefit over the iMac. In general, Mac Pros are for professionals who do extensive 3-dimensional work, graphics or video editing. Most consumers will probably do just as well with an iMac at a significantly lower price point.

Apple computers use OS X, their own operating system based on Unix. The current version OS X 10.9 is the Apple equivalent of Microsoft Windows 8. For many Windows programmes, there are now corresponding OS X versions, but of course in different file formats. Moreover, the bundled OS X programme Boot Camp enables installation of Windows in a separate partition on newer Macs, giving users the choice of either operating system far more cost-effectively than the alternative of a separate purchase of another PC for Windows. Also, if you find youÕre working in OS X on a daily basis and you need to use Windows simultaneously – if you’ve enough RAM installed – ideally 16GB or more for a seamless experience, you can even launch a programme called Parallels, which you can get at http://www.parallels.com/ to virtualise the Windows operating system.

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