• CI in the Journal
  • PC Buyer’s Guide

    by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

    Each year, the editors of Computerized Investing offer their suggestions for those looking to buy a new PC for investment analysis, along with the most common computer-related tasks. They issued their recommendations in the November CI Online Exclusive, which is available at the Computerized Investing website (www.computerizedinvesting.com). If you are a subscriber to CI and do not receive our monthly e-newsletter, sign in to your account at AAII.com, go to the My Account area, and click on “Update My AAII E-Newsletters.” The monthly CI E-Newsletter arrives the first Friday of each month.

    Define Your Needs

    Before you begin looking for a new PC, it is a good idea to determine what you are looking to do with your computer and how much you are willing to spend. This will ensure you buy enough computing power to suit you for the next few years but do not spend more than you need to.

    Desktop or Laptop?

    The first choice you will want to make is whether you want a laptop or desktop computer. Unless you are cramped for space or need to use your computer in multiple locations, you are probably better off buying a desktop system. You generally get more “bang for your buck” with a desktop computer—pay less than for a laptop with similar features—and desktop systems are more easily upgraded down the line.

    Windows Versus Mac

    Today, the two most popular operating systems are Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. Putting aside the discussion of which operating system is “better” or more secure, what most users are concerned about is whether Windows or Mac can run the software they wish to use, especially for investment analysis and tracking. With its overwhelming market share, the majority of investment software titles on the market today are for Windows.

    If you do buy a Mac, but still want to run Windows software, you can run Windows on a Mac using utilities such as Boot Camp, Parallels, or VMware Fusion. However, these still require the purchase of a Windows license.

    Recommended Systems

    Table 1 summarizes the recommended specifications for buying a desktop computer today that will allow you to perform the most common types of investment analysis and general-purpose computing tasks for the next few years.

      Windows Mac
    Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium Mac OS X Snow Leopard
    Processor 2.0+GHz AMD Athlon II X2, Phenom II X2; Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, or Core i5 3.06GHz Intel Core i3
    Memory 4G RAM 4G RAM
    Hard Drive 500G 500G
    Video Card dedicated ATI or NVIDIA DirectX 10-capable graphics ATI  Radeon dedicated graphics
    Sound Card built-in audio built-in audio
    Network Adapter wired Ethernet wired Ethernet
    Monitor 22” widescreen LCD 21.5” widescreen LCD
    Price* $625 - $1,000 $1,199

    Technology is constantly evolving and advancing, so don’t be surprised that a system you buy today will quickly be relegated to second-class status in a matter of just a year or two. The systems we have recommended here should suit your needs for the next few years. However, the ultimate choice is yours to make.

    For a more detailed discussion of the choices that go into buying a new computer, be sure to read “Computerized Investing’s Annual PC Buyer’s Guide” at the CI website.

    Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and the senior financial analyst at AAII and former editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneTAAII.


    Charles from PA posted over 5 years ago:

    I have been a member of AAII for a long time and am a Lifetime member. My working career was in commercial lending and my lifetime avocation has been in investing. While the Mac operating system may be more expensive at the outset, it is highly stable AND provides the flexibility to co-exist with Windows on a partitioned drive. I have a stable of PC which I am currently converting to Macs, as time and money permits. I see no reason why anyone would want to limit themselves to the Windows world when the Mac world offers ease of use, creativity, stability, security....just to name a few.

    I am quite disappointed that AAII has taken the rigid position of not supporting Mac with respect to Stock Investor Pro. IMHO, I think this represents hubris and lack of support to the membership. As an investor, just look to the price history of Apple vs Microsoft and I think it is easy to determine what the investing world thinks of the two companies.

    Lawrence from VT posted over 5 years ago:

    Charles... I concur on all counts. However, I've found that the screening tools available at Fidelity.com are more than adequate for most AAII stock screens, and the act of translating the stock screens to the Fidelity tools allows one to gain an understanding of the underlying screen.

    I've had the best luck with ETFs, and use the Fidelity ETF tools extensively. They compare favorably with the online tools discussed in the most recent CI, and after looking at the CI suggestions I see no reason to change.

    I've given up on Windows for my own use; the only Windows program I miss now is Visio. Otherwise, the stability and simplicity of the Mac is unbeatable... I can spend time actually working with my Mac instead loosing minutes or hours each day waiting for dozens of updates, or tracking down viruses and trojans on my Windows machines.

    I subscribed to Stock Investor Pro some years ago, when it was based on the Microsoft FoxPro database. I don't know if it has been changed since, but that was a Windows-only platform, and would not have been easy to change without a substantial rewrite.

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