Choosing a computer is both exciting and overwhelming. There are hundreds of computers to choose from. Computer newbie or not, it’s important to know and understand the right specs for you. If you’re having trouble deciding what computer to get because you don’t know the right specs, here’s an easy-to-understand guide for you:
Laptop vs. Desktop
If you haven’t decided between a laptop and a desktop, here are the basic pros and cons of each that you need to know.
A laptop is a portable all-in-one device, which is great for people who are always on the go. This is great for students who need their computers in class. They are more fragile than a desktop and is usually better for light work and activities. But, some heavy-duty laptops perform just as well as a desktop PC –– it’ll cost a lot, though.
A desktop is obviously not easy to carry around. You’ve got plenty of components to think about, such as the monitor, keyboard, mouse, and speakers. The desktop may not be portable, but it’s more versatile and customizable than a laptop. If you find that your current PC isn’t performing at the level you’d like, it’s easy to upgrade its parts. It is also more durable and doesn’t rely on a battery to perform. It’s surprisingly cheaper too.
In the end, it all boils down to personal preference. Just keep in mind that a laptop with the specs of a high-performance desktop will cost much more.
PC components and specs
When you’re buying a laptop or a desktop, the most common PC components and specs you will see are the motherboards, processor, clock speed, random-access memory, storage, and graphics card.
This is the most important part of your computer. You will only have to worry about the motherboard if you’re getting a desktop PC. You won’t have to worry much about this if you’re getting a laptop. This is where all the other components of your computer are connected. The processor socket, DIMM slots (for RAM), USB ports, and display interface (i.e., HDMI, DVI) ports are all connected to the motherboard. It’s important to understand your motherboard because not all motherboards are compatible with certain processors.
The processor is the brain of your computer. It handles the speed at which your computer can run applications. The two most common processor manufacturers are Intel and AMD. There are currently four kinds of Intel processors: the i3, i5, i7, and i9. AMD is somewhat the cheaper counter-part of Intel.
The Intel Core i3 is the cheapest, most basic, entry-level processor there is. This is great if you only use your computer to stream music, use office tools, browse the internet, or look at emails.
The Intel Core i5 is the minimum requirement for certain applications and games to perform. This is faster than the i3 and is great for light gaming and photo/audio/video editing.
The Intel Core i7 is the best for playing games. It allows for faster and heavier gaming and photo/audio/video editing. This is great for animators as well.
The Intel Core i9 will be the most advanced out of all these processors. It is also the most expensive. If you need a high-performing processor, an i7 will do just fine. Maybe even an i5 if an i7 doesn’t fit into your budget.
- Clock speed
The clocks speed determines how many clock cycles your CPU can perform per second. The higher the clock speed, the faster the CPU. A 1.5GHz clock speed is great for the basic stuff, such as streaming, internet browsing, and office tools. You might need a clock speed of 2.3GHz or higher if you plan to use plenty of applications, games, together with the basics.
Take note that the higher the processor and the clock speed, the more energy your computer will use. That means if you’re buying a laptop, its battery life will most probably be weaker because of the amount of energy it’s using.
The random-access memory or RAM allows you to multitask without your apps freezing or being so slow. 4GB of RAM is the minimum amount for computers sold these days. But, the general rule is the more RAM, the better. If you want a computer that allows you to do all the basic stuff and more, such as gaming and editing, 8GB is the ideal amount. It’s common for a gaming PC for sale to have a RAM of 8GB minimum.
Keep in mind that your processor and RAM have to be compatible. If you have a good processor, you also need a good amount of RAM to use your applications without them freezing or buffering all the time. A high processor with low RAM will result in freezing. A low processor with a high RAM will result in slower computing.
Also, take note that 32-bit systems can only handle up to 4GB of RAM. If you want or need 8GB (or higher amounts) of RAM, you will need a 64-bit system to handle up to 192GB of RAM.
There are two kinds of storage, the hard disk drive (HDD) and the solid-state drive (SSD). This is where your computer stores all its permanent data and files. These are where your documents, photos, and videos are stored. The bigger the drive, the more files you can store. Most computers start at a minimum of 256GB of space.
Some people would prefer to have more HDD than SDD, or vice versa. In contrast, others prefer having just HDD or just SDD. Most would opt for an SSD because it allows you to access files and applications faster. It is more expensive, but it is also more durable than an HDD. If you don’t mind waiting a few seconds before your files open, then an HDD would be fine. It all depends on your budget and personal preference.
- Graphics Card/GPU
If you plan on using your computer for gaming, the graphics card is essential. Most gamers avoid integrated graphic cards (such as those found in MAC computers). They prefer to use dedicated graphic cards because they have more power. A good graphics card doesn’t only benefit gamers. It also benefits those who do plenty of photo/video editing and animation.
In the end, if you only use your computer (desktop or laptop) for basic things such as office tools, streaming, and internet browsing, an entry-level computer with the minimum requirements will do just fine. Upgrade and customize your computer to your personal needs.