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 (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; the iPhone Xr is probably the best value of the 2018 iPhone range. New iPhones are revealed each 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. Though this is changing, some carriers disguise their plans by giving you a large amount of credit to spend on overpriced phone calls. For example, a $60 plan might give "$550 worth of calls, with a call rate of $1.10/minute + 29c call connection fee". The fine print can make a big difference too.

However, if you go over your plan's included phone or data allowance, you're suddenly spending real money on vastly overpriced calls or data. Doing this even once can cost hundreds of dollars, so you have to keep a careful eye on it, or sign up for a more expensive plan than you think you need.

How about pre-paid instead of a 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. Currently, Telstra's prepaid plans fit my needs for $30/month, and can be set to auto-recharge.

How about overseas travel?

If you buy a phone which support dual SIMs (the latest 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.

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).

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.

Importantly, if you only sometimes need to run a PC-only app, 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 uses 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. For gaming, you can dual-boot a Mac into Windows using Boot Camp — meaning that you start up in macOS or Windows, not both at once — but you'll probably still get better performance out of a dedicated PC.

Laptop or desktop?

If you need to carry it sometimes, laptop. If you don't, or you can afford both, a desktop will be faster, have a larger screen, and may be cheaper, with more storage.

Which laptop?

My general recommendation is for a MacBook Pro with Retina screen. The high-resolution display is fantastic and I won't go back to anything else. The 13" is fine as a companion machine, but the (more expensive) higher-end 15" is better as a desktop replacement as it has a better graphics card and faster processor.

For less money, the MacBook Air is lighter and cheaper, with exceptional battery life, but without the great screen. I wouldn't recommend an older MacBook Pro without Retina screen, and the in-between MacBook (neither Pro nor Air) is lovely but expensive, and needs more ports.

Which desktop?

A top of the line iMac (the 27" iMac 5K) for editing video is the best choice for most users, but a Mac mini could be fine for basic needs on a minimal budget, and if you're working with high-end raw video, the iMac Pro is a good bet. You'll need some kind of external storage, though.

What do I do for storage?

A solid-state drive will make your computer much faster at almost everything, and is strongly recommended. It's built into the MacBook Pro with Retina display, to the MacBook Air, and in iMacs as part of the hybrid "Fusion Drive" — though a pure SSD option is also available. For storing larger files, an external spinning hard drive is the best option. Portable hard drives require no power, yet hold less and aren't as fast as their desktop counterparts. If you're editing 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 3 drives, and use Disk Utility on your Mac to reformat them to 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, and there's less to go wrong.

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?

ADSL uses the existing copper phone line to connect to the internet, and will probably offer download speeds at around 5-10Mbps, though it's advertised at up to 24Mbps. Cable is much faster, at up to 115Mbps, and if you can get Fibre to the Home on the NBN, you may eventually get speeds up to 1000Mbps. Upload speeds are slower on all these services (sometimes much slower) so if you want to share images or video online, or work from home, be extra careful.

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.

Photography What kind of stills camera should I get?

For casual users, use your phone. For better photos, use a DSLR with a decent lens — it gives the best quality. If you don't want the weight of a DSLR, consider a mirrorless camera which still allows interchangeable lenses, or a higher-end point-and-shoot camera. These can produce decent results, but won't save much money over a cheaper DSLR. 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, and typically even slower once you zoom in.

A faster lens, with f/2.8 or a lower number, lets in much more light and lets you shoot with a faster shutter speed in darker environments. A better zoom lens might cost $600 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 $100 and good for the money.

Video What kind of video camera should I get?

Remember that most DSLRs, phones and other still cameras also shoot video, and you may not need a dedicated video camera. If you really want a camcorder, my general advice is to look for a low-to-mid-range Canon which records to SD cards. Avoid cameras which only have a built-in hard drive, and focus on image quality and handling. Unfortunately, very few camcorders approach even the picture quality of a DSLR.

I'm happy to take more care for a better image, what should I get?

For professional control and high-quality images, I like the Panasonic GH5 a lot. Great stabilisation, great for high-speed, great quality. I've written about it for macProVideo, so take a look at my review.

One good cheaper option is its baby brother, the Panasonic G7 I reviewed here, which shoots 4K, is under $1000, and has many, many options. I've used mine in combination with my Blackmagic cameras and my current Panasonic GH5, and it's been very effective. Get a better (faster) lens as soon as you can for indoor or night use.

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

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

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