It doesn’t matter if you are a techie or not. We all use computers everyday. Everything we use is beginning to use more technology. They even have fridges that tell you when you have room out of something. Asking yourself “What desktop computer should I buy?” is something that we’ll all ask at some point.
Living with all of this tech doesn’t mean we need to live life in the dark about what we are actually purchasing. Just because you found a killer deal on a computer for $150 doesn’t mean you’ll be happy with your purchase afterward. On the flip side, spending $1000 to keep in contact with the grand kids is outrageous.
How much you spend on a computer should be determined by the activities you plan on using the computer for. There are a few items in the computer that can drive the cost of a computer up. With a little bit of computer knowledge, and my advise it’s easy to get a great computer for a great price.
CPU – The Brain!
Every computer has a chip that solves the logic on the computer. The central processing unit (CPU) is the brain of the computer. Whether you are building a computer or buying one, picking a CPU affects everything else you can pick.
This is one of those items that will determine the overall cost of the computer. you don’t have to be surprised about what you are getting. There are two things in a CPU that you can look for to get at idea of what you can expect.
The first is called the frequency. This determines how many items the computer can complete in a second. It can typically range from 1.25 GHz to 3.25 GHz. The bigger the number the faster your computer can do things, but the more it’ll cost you.
If you plan on using the computer to play newer games, you’ll want to stick closer to the high side. If all you are using the computer for Facebook, email, Instagram, Netflix, or the occasional word document, than you can get a slower CPU an you’ll never know the difference. But you don’t want to go too low.
It maybe fine right now, but every computer slows down after time. You don’t want your computer to go so painfully slow in 3 years that you can’t stand it.
The second item to look at is the number of cores. There cores determine how many things can be done at once. A single core CPU can only do one thing at a time, but if it is a 2.0 GHz CPU it can do 2,000,000,000 things per second. That many seem like a lot, but every action you take makes the computer think.
That blinking cursor when you type, that’s two of these items one to make it appear and one to make it disappear. When you hit a button that uses one for the computer to know what you hit and one to put the letter on the screen.
It may look like your computer is performing lots of things at once but with a single core it is just switching between tasks like crazy. Some of the things it is doing happens without us knowing about it.
With a dual core CPU there are two processors working together. Your computer is actually performing two tasks at once. That 2 billion items from before can be done in half the time.
With a quad core your computer has four cores and can do for things at once. As cool as that sounds, there really aren’t a lot of things you can do on your computer that require that much.
If you are doing anything really intensive, there’s a good chance that you’ll already know it. For everyone else, I’d recommend a dual core. Most video games aren’t optimized to use more than two cores and will limit you anyway. Even if you’ll only be using one core for email and Facebook.
I’d still recommend a dual core processor rather than single core, because during start up one core will be used almost exclusively to get the computer up and running. A single core computer will have a much longer boot up time. If your budget can afford it, I’d always opt for a better CPU.
Graphics Card – Visuals Make All the Difference
The graphics card is another item that can greatly increase the cost of a computer. Most CPUs have the ability to process a basic graphical functions. This will work perfectly for all of your basic computer needs. This includes Instagram, Facebook, web browsing, and the rest of typical everyday stuff.
Playing games, and I don’t mean the Facebook game, or solitaire, or any number of the games you can play on a website, or having a large number of displays will require something a little bit more powerful than what a CPU can do.
If you decide a graphics card is important to you, selecting the right one is very similar to getting the right CPU. You’ll look at frequency (sometimes referred to as core speed) and number of cores. The frequency will be measured in MHz or GHz. Just like before, a bigger number means it’s faster and more powerful.
For the graphics card, the number of cores doesn’t work the exact same way as the cores of the CPU. The bigger the number the more power the card will have, but you can’t compare cores across manufacturers. Cards from different manufatures can have a vastly different amount of cores and still achieve the same level of performance.
There are some other features you can look for and get, but they aren’t needed for a basic home computer. I’ll go into these features in another post. As well as what you really want to look for when selecting a graphics card. The biggest take away is that you need to know if you need an independent graphics card or not. Modern video games are the biggest reason for separate video cards.
RAM – Even A Computer Needs Short-term Memory
RAM stands for random access memory. Your computer uses this to store temporary information while it processes the actions it has. When you restart your computer, it clears the RAM. RAM comes in pairs. You can have one chip, or you can have two chips that are the same.
You can’t mix a 2 GB piece of RAM with a 1 GB. If your computer has four slots, you can have two 2 GB and two 1 GB chips, but how they are positioned is important.
RAM is important. More so if you are like me and you never close windows down when you are through with them. When you buy a pre-built computer it doesn’t matter if you have DDR3 or DDR4.
DDR4 is a newer technology and costs a bit more than DDR3. But it really isn’t needed. There are some people that will want it anyway though. What you really need to be looking for is the amount of RAM you have.
With everything that comes pre-loaded on a computer, you’re going to want at least 4 GB of RAM. This will be plenty for older games, Facebook, email, documents, etc. You’ll start to see issues if you keep lots of things (more than 20) open especially if any of these are embedded in another document. If it’s in your budget, I’d get at least 8 GB of RAM.
If you want a high end computer (>$750) than you’ll want:
- 3.0 GHz dual or quad core processor
- A graphics card (I like Nvidia, but others are good too)
- 8 or 16 GB of RAM
Depending on the graphics card, there really isn’t much this basic setup will do.
If you have a tight budget (<$250) or aren’t planning on doing a lot with the computer, than consider looking at the following:
- 2.0 GHz dual core processor with an integrated graphics card
- 4 or 8 GB of ram
This won’t handle all of the requirements of those modern video games but it’ll function for Netflix, Facebook, and general web surfing
If you have a little bit extra left in your budget, the single best upgrade you can get on a computer is a Solid State Drive. Even if it is a small 128 GB drive with just Windows installed on it. This will significantly improve your startup time.
When you ask “What desktop computer should I buy,” This depends on you. How much is in your budget and what you’re going to use it for. If you want to get a computer based entirely upon what it will be used for, great! If you want to max out your budget because you can, awesome!
If you just need to something that will get you by check out the Acer Aspire Desktop. It’s a low end model that work great for your basic needs like surfing the web, and streaming Netflix.
If you want something with a little more power, and have the budget to afford it. Then check out the SkyTech Archangel II. This is a gaming computer that is designed with video games in mind.
If you have the budget to get all of the bells and whistles, then check out the iBUYPOWER 9200. Not only does this beat come with liquid cooling, it a a six-core I7 processor. With this computer you’ll be able to enjoy everything virtual reality has to offer in the highest settings.
There is a lot more that you could know about hardware, but I’ll save those for another day. This will at least let you get a feel for what kind of computer you should be looking at and how much it should cost you.