HOW TO DECIDE WHAT COMPUTER TO BUY

When buying a new computer, it’s easy to become confused by the sheer volume of technical decisions that you’ll have to make.

How to choose the best computer for you?

Applications

Take a moment to think about the sort of applications you’ll want to run on your new PC, as these will help to decide which features your system will need.

If you only intend to run basic tasks – browsing the web, sending emails, running office-type software like Microsoft Word – then the good news is that most computers, even at the budget end of the market, will be able to cope with your requirements.

An entertainment PC can handle those basic jobs, too, but might also be used to watch TV and movies, listen to music, play some games, perhaps share music and video files across a home network.

If you want to play the latest games with the best possible performance, then you’ll need a gaming PC. This can be much more expensive, as not only will you need a quality screen, a good sound card and speakers, but you’ll also require a powerful graphics card, fast hard drive and a decent processor.

And if you’re not a gamer, but need to run some heavy-duty software – editing HD videos, say – then you’ll need a high-end performance PC. This should include a powerful CPU, plenty of memory, and a large, fast hard drive, so expect a sizeable bill. But you may not need the large screen or powerful graphics card of theentertainment or gaming systems, which will help to keep prices down a little.

Mobility

This is pretty much deciding between a laptop or a desktop. If you’re somebody who gets called on business trips a lot, then you might consider getting a laptop. On the other side, however, If you’re a person who has computers all around him at home and at work, then a laptop will be a waste of money, considering the fact that a laptop usually costs more than a desktop. You can also look at a different idea of a laptop: a tablet. These are for people who don’t feel like spending a ton on a laptop, and at the same time want something portable and powerful that fits in their purse or bag.

Weigh all the pros and cons: Netbook, laptop or desktop?

Netbooks are compact notebooks with small screens (typically 10 to 12 inches), and components that are more about saving battery life than delivering raw power. So expect a slow CPU, only a little RAM (1 to 2GB, usually), no DVD drive, not too much hard drive space, and so on. This is all that you need for basic web browsing, emailing and similar tasks, though. Their small size makes netbooks extremely portable (most are only around 1-1.5kg), battery life is usually very good at 4 to 10 hours, and you can buy some great systems.

Laptops can seem bulky by comparison to their tiny netbook cousins: they might be more than twice the weight, with larger screens, and more powerful CPUs, which means battery life may struggle to reach 3 hours in some cases.

If you don’t need a computer you can carry around, though, a desktop will be your best option. These are larger, but deliver more power for your money, and are generally much easier to upgrade or reconfigure. So if you decide you need better gaming performance, say, you can just buy another graphics card at a later date, something that won’t be possible at all with most netbooks or laptops.

Hard Drive Space

Most of your files and data will be saved on your computer’s hard drive. While text documents, pictures, and music files generally don’t require much space on their own, it’s easy to quickly chew through the available storage as your collection grows. In general, you’ll get more hard drive space for your computer buying dollar by opting for a desktop computer instead of a laptop or tablet.

Memory (RAM)

While your computer’s hard drive determines how many files, movies, and songs you can store on your computer, your random access memory (RAM) determines the performance of multiple programs running at the same time. Large programs like video editors and games usually demand more RAM.

Most computer buyers will be satisfied with 4GB of RAM, while budget-conscious shoppers could make do with 2GB. A video gamer or heavy computer user will want 8GB or more of RAM, which represents the upper end of the spectrum for most computers. It’s important to note that RAM isn’t really a factor in choosing a tablet computer. While tablets do use RAM, you don’t get RAM options when choosing a tablet.

Processor Speed and Power

When it comes to your computer’s processor, the general rule is that faster is better. You can generally assume that the more cores you have and the higher the speed (measured in gigahertz or GHz), the better off you are. The more cores the processor boasts, the more computations it can do at once. Speed describes how quickly those cores can work.

Unless you’re trying to save every penny possible, don’t buy a single-core computer because dual-core processors are widely and inexpensively available. Those dual cores provide all the power most computer users need. Video editors, gamers, and other power users will need a quad-core or even six-core processor.