A Short Buyer’s Guide to Technical Specs

Written by on July 19, 2012 in Technology - No comments | Print this page

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from freedigitalphotos.netBuying a new computer can be a confusing if you don’t know what’s going on inside that case. Sure, you know what to look for in terms of disc drives, hard drive space, input and output ports, but what are you to make of all those technical specs?

 

Processor/CPU: The processor is, essentially, the heart of the computer. It does the lion’s share of processing data and sending I where it needs to go. The processor is central the speed of the rest of your computer, so you want to make sure you get at least a decent speed in yours (measured in gigahertz/GHz).

Multi-core processors have been on the market for several years now and should be a factoring decision in your purchase. A multi-core processor allows the computer to process two separate tasks at once, allowing it to complete twice it’s workload at once. Single core processors are mostly being phased out now, with dual core processors being the de facto minimum standard. Quad core processors are popular at this point as well. You will always pay more money for a slower GHz speed if you get a processor with more cores than another model, and the best choice between the two can be hard to discern. If you are simply using your computer for light tasks then I suggest a dual core with a higher clock speed.

RAM/Memory: A common source of confusion for prospective computer buyers in the difference between memory and hard drive capacity. The capacity of your hard drive is the amount of data you can have stored on your computer at any given time, so what is memory then?

To use the analogy of a brain: You have many memories stored on your brain (hard drive), but you don’t need or want to think about all of them at once, so you have a certain set of things you think about at a given time (RAM). So basically, RAM reads data from the hard drive and stores it on itself for easy access for fast access.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking more RAM makes your computer faster. It will, to a certain point, as the more RAM you have gives the computer more capacity to juggle data, but past a certain point your computer simply does not need the extra RAM and if you’re looking for more speed you should look to other components (like your processor).

 

Video Card: A video card adds a separate processor dedicated to the rendering of video, and is mostly only necessary for 3D gaming. If you’re not going to play many games I recommend investing any extra money into a faster processor than on a video card, though a cheaper video card may be worth it for overall speed.

The power you need for your computer depends on what you will be using your computer for. An expensive computer will most likely run fast, but there is a point where, if you’re just using your computer for email and Skype, that all that extra power doesn’t get used because it’s simply not demanded.


A good place to start figuring out what you need is to decide what software you are going to use on your new computer, and looking up the system requirements for that software. Aim a little higher than what it recommends.

And keep in mind that though technology does get outdated fast does not mean it gets useless just as fast. With proper maintenance your computer can perform reliably for a very long time.

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About the Author

Tony Locurto

Tony Locurto is a writer, roamer, and game designer. American born, you may find him working organic farmlands or reporting on major events all throughout the world, but never too far from the comforting glow of a computer monitor. View all technology articles.