I’ve heard that question a lot and it’s hard to give an answer as straight forward as the question.
People these days generally just want to browse the internet, email, type documents, download music and play videos. In this case any computer off the shelf should do fine. If however you’re looking to make an informed purchase you need to understand a couple of things.
- Do you want a laptop or desktop? One is designed to be mobile, the other isn’t… it’s that simple but remember laptops cost manufacturers more to produce so you will always get less performance than you will from an equally priced desktop computer.
- After sales support: When you buy a computer it’s very important to consider the warranty – whether you buy online or walk into a shop, you should get the same warranty and after sales support. The advantage of walking into shop of course is that you can return your computer directly, should a problem arise. If you buy online on the other hand, you can typically expect to deal directly with the manufacturer…
Most manufacturers supply 1 year warranty. They usually contract a local IT company to meet the warranty service agreement. When it comes to this issue, my advice would be to get a minimum of 1 year warranty. Insure it includes next business day pick up, all parts, labor and return. If for example, your new computer won’t power on 1 month after you purchase it, you can simply call the manufacturer and log an issue expecting an engineer onsite the next day to collect, repair or replace your laptop. Remember to find out if the battery is covered under warranty too – in most cases it’s not.
- Performance and Specification – This is a tricky one as both laptops and desktop computers are made up of 5 core components which are responsible for the speed of a computer. They are outlined below:
- CPU (Central Processing Unit) The higher the speed the better, but look for at least a dual core, if for example you see an Intel core two duo 2.2 GHZ Dual core processor – this means the CPU clock speed is 2200 MHZ x 2, so technically you should have a 4400mhz or 4.4GHZ clock speed CPU which is quite good, however be aware that it is not that simple! Let me explain… the CPU gets data fed back and forth from the hard disk drive via your motherboard and uses RAM to store data temporarily while processing this, each of these 4 components talk to each other using a FSB (front side bus). This is the most important part when choosing a CPU; Think about it… if you have a high clock speed CPU and a slow FSB your CPU cant input or output data from its core’s as fast as it can process, so your CPU is only as effective as your FSB! Therefore if your FSB speed is low this will result in a bottleneck. So a high CPU FSB is very important: 1066Mhz is a good speed – 1333Mhz is really good. The last thing you need to beware of when choosing a CPU is the L2 cache. This is the memory inside the CPU Chip. This memory is super fast, the fastest memory the computer has. It runs at the same speed as the CPU itself – so once again the more the better! 3Mb + is good. Also worth mentioning is the fact that should this CPU memory become full your CPU will overflow to a second type of memory that it can access, this is your RAM (covered below) and in turn when this memory is taken up it writes to the last type of memory it has access to, which is your hard disk drive. In conclusion, computer memory works in a hierarchal way, so when choosing your new computer to be sure the CPU, RAM and Motherboard all use the same speed FSB speed because if one has a slow speed the three are effectively limited to the slowest speed of the three.
The two leading brands when it comes to CPU are Intel & AMD – I personally prefer Intel, but that’s another story.
- Motherboard: You don’t need to know much here apart from the FSB speed which should be equal to the CPU.
- RAM: For a good spec computer you would want at least 4Gb of RAM, assuming you are buying a computer running the Microsoft windows 8 operating system – 4 to 8 GB would be ideal.
- Hard drive: This is the long term memory which stores information when your computer is off and is measured in GB when choosing a computer’s Hard drive I personally consider anything over 320Gb more than enough. If you need more space you can also buy an external Hard drive with about 2000Gb for less than €100.
- GPU: This is the part of a computer responsible for what is displayed on your screen, you can have two types – integrated (your CPU and RAM process your video) or dedicated (an extra standalone processor that does the work alone and has its own RAM) . If you simply want to view online movies, DVDs, listen to music or browse the internet then either of the two types are fine. If however you want to play games or use your computer graphics to do intensive work such as CAD or graphic design, then you should consider a dedicated GPU. There are two leading brands when it comes to GPU – ATI (this company is a partner of AMD which also make CPU’s as mentioned above) and Nvidia -I personally prefer Nvidia, but again that’s another long story.
If you have problems finding any of the data mentioned above the best place to look is the manufacturers website.