We answer your questions about technology in straightforward language and without bias. We can advise you on software, mobile phones, tablets, computers, photo and video gear, broadband, and more.

Everyone’s needs are different. That’s why we are happy to offer a one-hour consulting session where we visit you, discuss your needs, then advise what your best solution could be.

As a member of the Apple Consultants Network, we use and often recommend the latest Apple technology, but if the best solution for you is made by someone else, we'll tell you so.

A one-hour session costs $100 online or $150 in person (within Brisbane) or can be included at no additional cost as part of a training session. However, if you'd rather hear our general opinions on tech, here's a selection of our answers to questions we've frequently been asked on a range of topics. Technology doesn't have to be hard, but it often is.

Please note that this page contains general advice, which may or may not suit your particular circumstances.

Mobile Phones What kind of phone should I get?

If you're asking for advice on what kind of phone to get, you're probably not a hard-core techie, so I'd recommend an iPhone, and generally one of the latest models is the best choice. New iPhones are usually revealed around September, and buying shortly after release means you'll have a newer phone for longer. Apple's software updates are free, and most (but not all) new features will work on older phones.

Some people prefer Android for the ability to totally customise their phone, or for price, but most people will find iPhone easier to use, with a better range of high-quality apps, and no viruses or malicious apps.

What kind of plan should I go on?

This is a tricky one. Generally I prefer Telstra as they have better coverage, but other carriers can be fine. Most plans include unlimited calling and text, so the choice between plans is mostly about data inclusion, or perhaps the amount of data you can use at full speed, before slowing down for the rest of the month. Note that prepaid offers are more competitive.

How about pre-paid instead of a plan?

If your data needs are light, a prepaid plan will be a lot cheaper than a postpaid plan. One big strength of prepaid is that you can't be stung for hundreds of dollars in excess usage fees, but prepaid does require more management, and you'll have to buy your phone outright.

How about overseas travel?

If you buy a phone which support dual SIMs (all current iPhone models support one regular SIM card and an eSIM) then you can sign up for a second mobile data plan when travelling overseas. This means you don't have to worry about how expensive your local carrier's roaming data is — you won't be using it. Alternatively, if you need a lot of data, you can switch to a Vodafone plan (no long term committment) and pay $5/day to use your huge local data allowance while overseas.

With an older single-SIM phone, you'll have to choose if you want to keep your own mobile number active (and use your carrier's roaming data) or use a local SIM card (but not your own phone number). That can be problematic if you rely on SMS-based two-factor authentication, so remember to take your home SIM card with you at all times while overseas, in case your bank needs to authenticate a payment by sending a text to your Australian number.

Computers Mac or PC?

As with mobile phones, if you're asking for advice, you're probably not a hard-core techie and will probably be served better by a Mac in terms of ease of use, functionality of included applications, and integration with iPhones and iPads. However, if you're buying a machine solely for accounting, for 3D modelling or for gaming, you may prefer to use a PC. In the future, Windows-on-ARM may make virtualisation of older x86 Windows app functional again, but support is a little shaky on newer Macs right now.

Older Intel-based Macs can make use of virtualisation, where you use VMware Fusion or Parallels to run Windows on your Mac; either in a window on its own, or mixed in with your Mac applications. I've used VMware Fusion and the free VirtualBox to test websites against PC-only browsers, and any virtualisation program would also suit an accounting setup. However, they aren't great for 3D performance, and don't currently support running standard x86 Windows apps on newer Apple Silicon Macs. Going forward, if you're a serious gamer, you'll probably want to get a console and/or dedicated PC — but perhaps the generation of Macs will bring a surprising boost in 3D performance.

Laptop or desktop?

If you need to carry it sometimes, laptop. If you don't, or you can afford both, a desktop will have a larger screen, and may be cheaper, with more storage, though a desktop probably won't be any faster if it's based on Apple's excellent new Apple Silicon chips.

Which laptop?

My general recommendation is for a MacBook Air with an M1 or M2 chip — it's fast, silent, and the battery lasts much longer than older Macs. The high-resolution display is great, and you can use an external display for more space. The 13" MacBook Pro with M2 chip has a slightly brighter screen, a Touch Bar, and a larger battery, but in general, if you're performing video editing, you'll get better results with a jump up to the much better 14" or 16" MacBook Pro. Those Macs come with either the M1 Pro or M1 Max chips, and with their much better, brighter screens and additional ports, make an excellent desktop replacement. I can't recommend buying any Intel-based Mac.

Which desktop?

A new iMac (the 24" M1 model) is the best choice for most users, but a Mac mini (M1) will be cheaper and just as fast if you would prefer a different display. You'll need some kind of external storage, though.

What do I do for storage?

An external solid-state drive won't be quite as fast as the drive inside a new Mac, but it'll be far more economical, and is strongly recommended. For storing huge amounts of files in one place (or for backups) an external spinning hard drive is still a good option. Portable hard drives require no power, yet hold less and aren't as fast as their desktop counterparts. External SSDs aren't huge, so if you're editing a lot of video, look to a Thunderbolt RAID array (here's one I reviewed) for speed and massive storage. If not, go with cheap PC-friendly USB-C drives, and use Disk Utility on your Mac to reformat them to APFS or HFS+ for best results.

How do I back up and archive?

For backup, use Time Machine, built in to macOS. Whenever your chosen backup drive is connected, everything on your Mac is backed up, once an hour. Old files are kept until there's no space to hold them, then the oldest files are thrown away. It's easy to use and very strongly recommended, but eventually you'll want to archive files you don't need to access all the time.

For archiving those files, I recommend either lots of external hard drives, or a USB hard drive dock and plenty of bare internal hard drives to plug into it. Though internal drives aren't always cheaper, they mean you're not tied to the interface that came with the drive, as you can just upgrade your dock. You also don't have to manage countless power supplies and cases.

Archive important files onto two drives that you store in two different locations in case of fire or theft. You need to power up hard drives every few months to prevent failure, and maintaining a regular archiving strategy is the easiest way to make that happen.

Broadband InternetWhat are all these different types of broadband?

The older ADSL solution, using the existing copper phone line to connect to the internet, has been largely replaced with the NBN, but different connection methods mean that not everyone will be offered the same speeds.

Fibre offers by far the highest speeds in both directions, so if you want the fastest connection, get Fibre-to-the-Premises/Curb on the NBN if it's available in your area. Second best is HFC NBN or cable internet, then fixed wireless, Fibre-to-the-Node NBN, ADSL, then finally mobile internet if you have no other choice.

But I thought mobile internet was much faster these days?

Broadband connections are all shared between whoever is connected at a particular time. The maximum advertised speed for your internet connection is only true when nobody else is using it, so at peak times, you will be competing with your neighbours for bandwidth. Mobile connections have less total bandwidth available than hardwired connections.

Mobile has the additional problem of being more affected by the weather and the nearby environment. The bottom line is that a hardwire into a box in your house that provides wifi to you is the fastest, most reliable solution — and will be much, much cheaper. While a modern 5G connection can provide very fast speeds, you'll probably pay more for it, especially if you want a truly unlimited service.

Photography What kind of stills camera should I get?

For casual users, use your phone. For better photos, use a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a decent lens — it gives the best quality. I generally like Canon and Panasonic, though Nikon is also well regarded. Currently Canon have several entry-level cameras at a good price, but I prefer other options if you also want to shoot video — see below.

What kind of lens should I get for a DSLR?

Better lenses, but not necessarily the most expensive. If you only buy the kit lens, you'll be limited in what you can do. Typically these lenses are at best "OK" optically, but the main problem for indoor use is that they are "slow", meaning they don't let much light in (e.g. f/3.5), and are typically even slower (e.g. f/5.6, f/6.3) once you zoom in.

A faster lens, with a consistent f/2.8 aperture across all focal lengths, lets in much more light and lets you shoot with a faster shutter speed in darker environments, and my go-to lens for my GH6 is this Olympus 12-40mm. A fast zoom lens might cost $1000 or more, but you can save money and increase quality by getting a prime lens instead of a zoom. Canon make a 50mm f/1.8 lens which is about $150 and good for the money, though it's less convenient than a zoom.

Video What kind of video camera should I get?

For professional control and high-quality images, I like the Panasonic GH6 mirrorless camera a lot. Great stabilisation, great for high-speed, great quality, and unlimited recording times. I've written about it for ProVideoCoalition here.

One good cheaper option is its older sibling, the Panasonic GH5 Mk2, which doesn't have quite as many options. There are many other excellent options from Sony, Canon and Blackmagic which will suit different needs better.

I want a sports or action camera, what should I get?

The latest GoPro should be fine, though there are many other models that are fine too. Avoid the cheapest ones.

Need more information?

Request a personalised consulting session here.

Visit funwithstuff.com