In Part I, “What computer should I buy?,” we discussed the basics of selecting computers. In this article, we are going to explore the selection of computer components. As with the general nature of purchasing a new computer, you need first to decide what you will use your new PC for and how much will you be using it.
Once you have determined the type of computer you want, desktop or laptop, and you’re caught up on the various models of each brand, taken into consideration weight, screen size, and operating system, it is time to look over the
Though I understand it may be difficult to categorize all the features and components you are looking for, it is best to separate them out to help you do a better comparison within your budget.
As with most selections we make on a daily basis, price might possibly be the highest priority on your list. I can say that it is certainly possible to over-spend on a new computer. There are times when you feel it is necessary to get the most powerful and fastest computer, only to be outdone within a matter of months by advanced computer hardware.
The price point of a modern computer, for what you get, has come down considerably over the years. I recall my first branded computer I purchased back in 1995; it was a Gateway desktop computer. I believe it had a 50 MHz processor (CPU), a 300 MB hard drive, and 17 inch CRT monitor. The cost for this computer was over $3000!
Today, you can spend well less than $2000 to get a very fast performing PC, one which will last for a number of years. If you are like me, you may be able to actually spend less than $1000, and leave room for expansion and ease of swapping out components down the road. I’ve been able to do this by building my own computers, reusing the case and installed components.
Discussion about computers processing power, i.e. CPU, has curtailed a bit in the light of the multiple cores such as Dual Core and Quad Core processors. This does not increase total processing power by the number of cores, however, it does increase the performance. Multiple cores will help you with performance, allowing you to browse multiple sites and run multiple applications at the same time. Though no one specific application may be faster than with a single core CPU, you are able to better multi-task.
When you’re comparing processors, it is always better to go with the processor which has more cores than it is to gain a slight edge in processing power. For example, if you are comparing a 3 GHz CPU and a 3.2 GHz CPU, if they are equal in the number of cores you will not see much value in the price you pay for the extra 2 MHz.
Granted, you certainly do not want to overspend on processors either, but if at all possible, always go with the CPU which has the greatest number of cores.
Outside of your computer’s processing power, the amount of RAM your computer has will be the telling tale on your computer’s overall performance. It is in this situation that if you need additional money spent to put in a maximum amount of memory into your PC, take money away from one of the other components, this includes your processor.
Not only why adding more RAM to your system benefits you are providing more horsepower, it will also extend the life of your computer by reducing its workload, energy needed, and the amount of heat produced by a working computer.
For those computers which have Windows operating systems of Vista or less, you can get by with a mere 2 GB of RAM. However, since Windows 7 it is best to have at least 4 GB of RAM, 8 GB if you can afford it.
The amount of hard disk storage space needed has changed immensely in the past decade. Due to streaming of videos, downloading and transferring of pictures from the net, cameras, and smart phones, in the increase in recorded TV sessions, has become a factor. Thank goodness though, the price for space is relatively cheap in comparison to what it cost some years past.
The amount of hard disk storage you should go for truly depends upon the type of computer you are going to get. If your household cannot afford a home server or NAS, and you are looking to buy a desktop PC, get the maximum storage space you can afford. If you are selecting a laptop to purchase, it is best to go with a standard size internal hard drive, and add to it an external drive with a much larger capacity.
For desktop computers, more than likely the motherboard you select or which is included in your PC will most likely have Ethernet networking capabilities. However, if you wish to connect to your router and other computers wirelessly, you may need to purchase either a wireless PCI expansion card, or a USB wireless dongle. For laptop users, you should be able to get both Ethernet and wireless connectivity in almost any model you choose.
Also for laptop users, you can get a mobile broadband card installed into your computer and along with appropriate software, connects to the cellular market just as you do with your mobile phone. This cost more not only in hardware, but it will require you to purchase a data and service contract with the cellular provider you select.
Software applications is wide open as it really depends upon your personal use of your computer. If you are buying a pre-packaged desktop PC or laptop, you’ll probably get a hard drive full of limited or trial software. Do your due diligence to compare software applications from one manufacturer to another, but do not make your final purchase selection based upon the software installed.
It’s possible that you are a heavy document and spreadsheet user, and familiar with Microsoft Office. However, if you’re on a budget, you can always go with open source applications that not only will provide you the same accessibility to document writing and spreadsheet creation, you can work with the same documents and spreadsheets you did with Office.
Also consider how you’re going to handle media. And once again for those purchasing a pre-configured computer, there were already be some sort of media player and a limited version of some video production software application.
Last but not least, make certain that you purchase a security suite from a reputable company such as BitDefender, or McAfee. Though Windows operating systems come with a pre-installed Firewall, you may want to utilize the Firewall associated with your security software as it will be stronger and provide more flexibility per your use.