The Ultimate Computer Buying Guide
Table of Contents
Finding the best computer buying guide you can understand is sometimes difficult. Many of them are written using language the normal person will never understand.
We attempt here to provide this best computer buying guide while highlighting that “buying a computer for dummies” would indeed be an appropriate title that is not disrespectful. People are not dummies however, and the terms used to describe computers can be listed in language that is easy to understand. That is what we try to accomplish here.
Families today own more than one computer which may be a desktop computer along with a laptop computer or some other type of configuration.
It is not unusual too, for an individual to carry a computer, in this case a laptop or tablet computer, with them on vacation.
It being able to move around with a computer is important, then, a laptop computer may be what you need to buy. If you need a computer for serious computing work such as gaming or video production, then a more robust system such as a desktop computer may be the one you need to buy.
In the desktop category, there are a number of choices available; these are the all-in-one computers without a separate monitor, the mini computers that rival the size of a laptop and the traditional tower computer.
In an attempt to clarify the buying process, this best computer buying guide wants you to bear in mind that there are more options available than those just mentioned. There are laptops that are now as powerful as a traditional desktop computer and some even operate like a tablet. Then there are those with names like netbooks, and ultra-books, and a host of other names.
Now that we have provided the overview of what to expect, let us dive into some of the more important items we need to know.
Best Computer Buying Guide: Desktop Computers
Note that there has been a downturn in the use of desktop computers today compared to some years ago. There are areas where desktop computers are still important however and vendors still offer them for sale.
A desktop computer will typically have better performance when compared to a laptop (even though there are laptops that match or are better in performance than some desktop computers).
Desktop computers are also less expensive than the typical laptop, is less expensive to repair and sometimes, more economical and easier to upgrade. [You can click here for more information on desktop computers]
Full Size Desktop Computers
These types of computers often require a lot of space. However, they are often cheaper and are easier to upgrade.
All-in-One Desktop Computers
Also known as “all-in-ones”, all-in-one desktop computers are designed with the computer and monitor combined. Typically, the components are not easy to work with unless you know what you are doing. Modern all-in-one designs are attractive like the current iMac series from Apple.
Note here that current all-in-one models are expensive. However, if the budget is available, then by all means go ahead and buy the model you need.
These systems will come with very fast and expensive processors along with powerful graphics cards. They will also have large hard drives, sometimes more than one, and lots of RAM. The case for these systems will be large and in some cases, vary in design to accommodate heat distribution and other components. Overall, gaming desktop computers will be more expensive than the regular desktop computer.
Laptops allow users some mobility. You are able to use your laptop in many places just because it is easy to take it with you. There are many cases and bags available to assist in carrying these devices.
Laptops however, can be more difficult to use especially if you are used to using the keyboard attached to a desktop computer.
Note too that the screen tends to be smaller in laptops when compared to those available for desktop computers. Some individuals overcome this by attaching the laptop to a larger screen but this too can be costly. Depending on the laptop you decide to buy, it may offer reduced performance when compared to the desktop computer.
You can take a look at our guide for the best laptops for business and personal use.
Individual hardware Components
Now that we have identified the different categories of computers (they are called form factors), let us take a look at some of the components and what they do.
Buying a new computer can be a daunting task especially if you are unfamiliar with the individual components which make up the computer. The following is a list of common components and their functions within the computer.
CPU or Processor (Central Processing Unit)
Processors work in tandem with the software and other components. Typically, the faster the CPU the faster your computer will be able to perform some task. However, be careful here, the newer faster processors are more efficient than past models. It is therefore not recommended to compare an old processor against a new processor with similar speed rating. The speed of the CPU is measured in gigahertz GHz
Example of a common specification: Intel 3.2GHz dual Core CPU, translates into: processor made by Intel, which has two “cores” which run at 3.2 GHz each.
RAM (Random Access Memory)
We will not get into the technical jargon associated with RAM in this best computer buying guide. Just think of RAM as computer memory, the more of it you have the more efficient your computer will run. For example, a good supply of RAM allows some programs such as games and video editing software to run without much trouble.
With enough RAM, you can also have a number of programs open at the same time without causing undue strain on your system. All modern computers have some type of RAM or memory that allows the system to perform.
Do not be confused with the term RAM and storage that is traditional used to describe the hard drive. RAM is used by the computer to perform tasks, that is where the computer will store programs or data it is actively using.
You may hear the term main memory associated with RAM. However, this best computer buying guide notes that you need not be concerned at this time.
When talking about the amount of RAM think in terms of Gigabytes or GB, for example, 16GB or sixteen gigabytes of RAM is quite common these days. Wen talking about the speed associated with RAM think of Megahertz or MHz.
Example of a common specification: CORSAIR XMS 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800), translates into: Two 4 Gigabyte RAM components made by Corsair which use the DDR3 chipset and form running at 1600MHz.
The hard disk is the component which actually stores all of your data. Photos, emails, documents and music are examples of files which might be on your hard drive.
The hard drive is also where your operating system resides. Hard drive capacity is measured in Gigabytes and the speed of the drive is measured in RPM (Rotations per minute)
Example of a common specification: WD Caviar Blue 1 TB 7200 SATA, translates into: drive made by Western Digital which has 1 Terabyte capacity, runs at 7200 RPMs and uses SATA as the interface.
Many people are confused as to exactly how much “stuff” a hard drive can hold. As an example, a 1TB drive can store approx. 200,000 photos or 76 hours of video or 250,000 songs.
Hard drives are routinely oversold by computer manufactures for this very reason. This is why many people end up using less than half of the storage space on a drive. It is one area that can be bought small and increased relatively cheaply later on.
There are many other components which together make up a computer, however, the CPU, RAM and hard disks will determine the cost of your computer’s hardware more than any other single item.
Hopefully this best computer buying guide will be useful to you as you contemplate buying your new computer.
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