Blog: What kind of computer do you recommend I purchase?

Modified on Wed, 19 Jul 2023 at 12:18 PM

At Faster Law, we work with thousands of different attorneys and paralegals and there are some unfortunate trends we see when it comes to the computers within law offices.  Frankly speaking, most attorneys do not know enough about computers to make educated purchasing decisions and as a result, many law firms spend extra time and money fixing, maintaining, and upgrading old computers.  
This article is designed to help you understand some DOs and DON'Ts about buying a new PC.

DON'Ts When Buying a New Computer

Do Not Buy a "New Computer" Made Out of OLD Parts

We have seen attorneys who bill $450/hr replace their paralegal's computer with a $300 computer from Walmart and then wonder why it is slower than their old computer. A brand new bicycle will never run as fast as an old NASCAR speedster. When you're replacing your computer, make sure you're getting a new machine that is actually going to be faster than your old one.

Do Not Buy an All-in-One Computer 
When you buy a computer, the price is generally a combination of three things: 
  • Age (how new is it?)
  • Size (desktop/laptop)
  • Speed

All-in-One PCs cost more and you get less speed because they are compact. With an all-in-one PC, you are paying for "small" not "fast".

Do Not Buy a Consumer-Grade Computer  
A consumer-grade computer is fine for your son or daughter who might use it for an hour or two of YouTube but it is not designed for the heavy use that computers see in law offices.

Do Not Upgrade Your Old Computer  
A "Model T" car was built to travel at 40mph.  Nobody would put a brand new engine into a "Model T" and hope to go faster.  Even if someone did, after buying a new engine and paying a mechanic to do the upgrade, they likely couldn't go much faster because the axles and tires were not built for a higher speed - in spite of the upgraded engine, they would have to drive about the same speed. Computers are the same way. Upgrading an old computer will leave you with an old computer that may run slightly faster but, unless you upgrade all of the parts in it, your brand new upgrade is likely slowing down for slower parts that can't keep up with it. When you have to buy new parts and pay your IT person to upgrade your computer, you're throwing away money.

Do Not Buy a Computer with Less RAM Than Your Phone

With all the documents, emails, PDFs and other files and programs you have open at the same time on a regular basis, you need a computer with a fair amount of RAM. Many popular phones (see below) now come with up to 16 Gb of RAM installed. Your computer should probably have at least as much RAM as your phone to perform well. 

RAM Installed
Samsung Galaxy
S21 Ultra
16 Gb RAM
ASUS ZenFone
16 Gb RAM
7 series
16 Gb RAM
8 Pro series
16 Gb RAM
ZTE Axon
16 Gb RAM
Ultra OnePlus
16 Gb RAM
Samsung Galaxy
S22 & S23
8 Gb RAM
Google Pixel
5, 6, and 7
8 Gb RAM
15 (Not released)
8 Gb RAM
13 and 14
6 Gb RAM
Google Pixel
6 Gb RAM
Google Pixel
1, 2, and 3
4 Gb RAM
11 and 12
4 Gb RAM
8, 9, and 10
3 Gb RAM

Do not Buy New Monitors 

(unless you really want them or need them for dual-screen) 

While computers get faster each year, monitors have not changed much since the advent of flat-screens.  By not buying new monitors, you can easily save $150-$300 dollars.

DOs When Buying a New Computer 

  Buy a Business-Class Computer.

Business-Class computers tend to cost slightly more but perform significantly faster and last longer. They also require less maintenance so you won't need to involve your IT company as frequently. Think of how many headaches you have when your computer doesn't work right or runs slowly. Usually the cost of a business machine is only $300-$400 more expensive than a consumer machine and they don't come with all those headaches.

Use Dual Monitors 
According to multiple studies, dual monitors help people work faster and more accurately because they don't have to keep switching between monitors.  The studies indicate an improvement between 5% and 42%.  That's a really big range but do the math: Five percent of Your Salary (or your paralegal's salary) pays for itself in a month or two. Imagine how much easier drafting would be if you could have notes open on the left monitor and you were doing all your typing on the right screen.

Business-Class Recommendations

If you are considering purchasing a new computer, we recommend the configuration below... 

A desktop computer with this configuration, without monitors, will generally cost between $1,000 and $1,500 and perform very quickly for 5-7 years.

Operating System: Windows 11 

You should not use Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8. If you're looking at a computer that comes with Windows 10, make sure it includes a free upgrade to Windows 11 (most do).

Processor: i7 Processor 

The processor controls how fast programs run.  An i7 processor is significantly faster than an i5 processor, which is significantly faster than an i3 processor.  If you are considering a computer with anything less than an i7 processor, stay away:  It is a slow computer.  

If your budget allows it, i9 processors are much faster than i7 processors, however they carry a premium price tag. When you purchase a new car, your car has a model and a year associated with it.  

Just because you buy a brand new car in 2023, doesn't mean it is the 2023 model - often times you might buy the 2022 model because it is slightly cheaper. Computer processors are similar and have a "generation" number with them.  When you see a processor, it will have a model such as... 

  • i7-13700K
  • i7-12700K
  • i7-11700k

The bold number is the generation number, and you should generally only consider the current or the previous generation. 

  • Generation 13 was released in Q1 of 2023.
  • Generation 12 was released in 2022.
  • Generation 11 was released in April 2020.
Do not purchase an 11th generation PC or older.

Hard Drive: 256Gb+ M.2 Solid State Hard Drive 

The hard drive controls how fast programs and documents load. There are three types of hard drives for sale today...    

  • Traditional (Spinning Disk) Hard Drives: Really slow. Originally released in the 1950s. There is no reason anyone should buy a new computer with one of these in it.
  • Solid-State Hard Drives: Much faster than traditional drives. Originally released in 1991.
  • M.2 Hard Drives: These are essentially "version 2" solid-state drives. They cost about the same (sometimes even less) than a regular solid-state drive but are generally 5-20 times faster.

RAM: 16-32 Gb of RAM 
RAM controls how many programs and documents you can have open at once. This might sound like a lot, but when you consider all the Word documents, PDFs, websites, emails and more that you have going on at any given time... 16-32 Gb or RAM is quite appropriate.

Example Configurations from Best Buy  
The following links will list devices on that meet our processor, hard drive, and RAM recommendations.          
We have not verified that these systems are dual-screen capable. (Links verified/updated July 2023)

Questions and Objections 
    Do we really need all that?   

If all your staff did was documents and email, one email and one document at a time, and they closed each application when they were finished, then your staff wouldn't need business computers. However, if you look at how legal professionals work, they bounce back and forth between Microsoft Word, Adobe PDF, email, websites, Pandora, Clio, Slack and more. Each one of these applications is a "medium" sized load, but when you're bouncing between each application and they are all open at the same time... 
It adds up and can really slow down a low-end computer.

Does $1,000-$1,500 buy a High-End Computer?   

The amount above will buy you a solid, business-level computer that is great for legal professionals, however, it is definitely not a high-end computer.  At Faster Law, we take our own advice and buy systems that are great for today and tomorrow.  The computers that our help desk technicians use (who do work very similar to paralegals) cost about $1,200 - $1,600. 

What does a High-End Computer have in it? 
A high-end desktop has specifications similar to the following:
  • Intel i9 13900k Processor
  • 64GB (or more) RAM
  • Two 1TB M.2 Solid State Hard Drive
  • Dual Monitors
  • Approximate Cost: $3,000-$4,000
A computer similar to above is appropriate for a software developer but is overkill for most legal professionals.

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