Walt Mossberg recently posted a PC buying guide for AllThingsD. You can find that post here.
If people are looking for a computer, my advice probably isn’t that different.
My first question would be, “Do you need something more than an iPad?” Many people don’t. But if they do, I have other suggestions.
First, if you aren’t opposed to Apple products, you can’t go wrong with any MacBook. I could easily survive with the MacBook Air, particularly when iTunes Match is released and I could store all of my music online. If you need more storage space, you have to get a MacBook Pro. Most people have no need for an iMac or a Mac Pro.
If you hate Apple or don’t have the money to spend, you might as well buy a full-sized notebook computer at a low cost. Hardware failures happen on all devices, including Apple products. Purchase a non-Apple computer with 4GB of RAM and at least a 500GB hard drive. If you are buying a computer with an SSD drive (no moving parts, very fast), try to get the largest SSD drive you can afford–they are expensive! If you’re running a Windows PC, you certainly don’t need to purchase the most expensive notebook. Just make sure that you’re happy with it, and it can meet your needs. Obviously, if you are a gamer, you need much higher performance, but at the same time, you would never need this blog’s advice on picking out your next machine.
As for media players, the iPod Touch is the easiest option, but you might want to look at some of the smaller Android tablets, including the new Nook Color or the Kindle Fire. If you buy an iPod Touch, get the 32GB version. The extra $100 is worth the expense for three times more memory (the entry level iPod Touch only has 8GB of storage, which isn’t that much when it comes to media).
Need a tablet? Only look at something other than an iPad if you have a compelling reason to look at something else. Don’t let price be the key factor, because you’ll probably regret that decision later. I have an HP TouchPad which runs both Web OS and Android 2.3. Although those operating systems are nice, they lack the polish of iOS, and both platforms lack the breadth of apps that are available (especially for music education) on iOS.
Overall, I’ve been very pleased with my Apple products in terms of durability, lifetime (or length of time before being marked End-Of-Life), appearance, performance, and compatibility with other Apple products. I know that my MacBook can communicate with my iOS devices, my Apple TV, and with nearly any network. There is a small Apple Tax, which pays itself back in quality customer service (in person at Apple Store Genius Bars), upgrade costs ($30 for OS X Lion), and reliability. Although I’ve had some small issues with my MacBook, such as a failed optical drive and a couple of situations where iTunes wouldn’t update (I also think that Spotlight lost its index twice), Lion has been rock stable, and I’ve never had the Blue-Screen-Of-Death experience that was rather common on my PCs prior to October 2008.
Ultimately, buy what makes you happy…but it’s hard to go wrong with Apple.