A layman’s guide

Buying a new PC or laptop can be confusing.

We live in an age where owning a computer has become borderline essential. You need it for everything from paying your accounts to managing your daily life.

But not everyone who buys a computer is an IT whizz. In fact, most of us aren’t that clued-up on hardware at all!

So, here is a quick guide on what to look for when you buy a computer.

Desktop or Laptop?

If you don’t know too much about tech, it would be natural to assume that laptops are better than PC’s, owing to the fact that they are generally more expensive. However, this isn’t strictly true.

The reason why desktop computers often work out cheaper than Laptops is because they are easier to build and can make use of bigger (ergo cheaper) technology.

The real question here is: Do you need a computer you can move around a lot?

If you need to take your work station around with you wherever you go, you will have to get a laptop. A laptop is also preferable if you have limited space and need to pack your computer away while you’re not using it.

If you have enough space at home for a computer desk and you don’t need to take your computer with you when you leave the house (and your Smart phone is enough to tide you over till you get home) then you can probably save yourself some money by buying a desktop. Alternatively, you can spend the same money and buy a more powerful machine.

Mac or PC?

The Mac (Apple) vs. PC (Windows) debate can (and usually does) get pretty heated! There are staunch advocates on both sides of the fence. There are those who swear by Apple and there are those who swear by PC and Android.

If you’ve never used an Apple computer (or conversely, a PC) it can be quite a huge adjustment. PC is a lot more cost efficient if you’re on a budget.

It all comes down to what you’re used to and what your budget looks like.

If you have the time to learn a new operating system then buying a new machine can be a great time to explore. In South Africa PC is the more popular choice, and the two don’t always integrate well –so if you’re a first time computer user then you may want to stick with PC. Mac is less common and more expensive. Apple machines tend to be preferred by designers and those needing extreme power in a small package.

Choose a Microprocessor

If you’re buying a new PC you want to make sure you are getting the latest microprocessor. You will look at how many cores it has and what speed they are.

Don’t go for anything short of a Dual Core processor.

The processor is essentially the “brains” of your machine. The more “CORE”s your machine boasts, the more brains it has at its disposal. More cores means your PC can manage more different tasks at a time, and they will be processed faster.

You will see PC’s boasting CORE i3, CORE i5, CORE i7, etc. If you are using your PC for run-of-the-mill browsing, emails and photo viewing you can get away with an i3 machine. Anything more complicated and you should get at least an i5 machine.

The speed of the processor tells you how much data it can process in a given time.

It’s measured in GHz. So a 1.5GHz processor is half the speed of a 3GHz processor.

So, long story short, a single core 3GHz processor is a lot slower than four core 3GHz processor. If you start pairing speed and number of cores against each other things can get pretty complicated pretty fast!

If you’re not sure, stick to checking the Core status as a benchmark.

How Much Memory should your computer have?

Memory is measured in gigabytes, commonly referred to as gigs or (Gb). Needless to say, the more you have, the better.

But how much is enough?

2 GB:   Fine for sending and receiving emails and browsing online.

4 GB:   Fine for browsing, emails and offline functions like creating documents, presentations and spreadsheets.

8 GB:   If you’re using more complex programs, such as Adobe Suite, you shouldn’t go smaller than this.

16 GB: Your Adobe packages will really start to fly at 16GB, and you can use all kinds of programs, apps and heavy-duty online connections (such as webinars and VoIP) without hardware based speed issues.

32 GB+: For those who really need nothing short of the fastest, most powerful machine. If you need a machine this fast you probably already know more about hardware than we can cover in this article!

Just remember that most computers allow you to add more memory as you go along. So in theory, if your budget is super tight, you can start with a smaller memory on your PC and add more gigs as you go along, provided you have a decent enough processor to handle it. If you have to choose between the two rather skimp on memory initially and get a higher level processor. That said, the better your processor is the more memory the machine usually comes with (and the more it will cost).

How big should your machine’s Hard drive be?

Every time you open a program on your computer, it has to be stored on the hard drive while you use it. Your hard drive is also the place where your files get saved and a lot of other stuff.

If you have ever stayed in a flat without enough shelves and storage space you will understand why your computer doesn’t operate well with a small hard drive.

Most computers these days come with a decent sized hard drive built in.

500GB:            For the most basic user. You don’t need to do a lot with your machine.

1000 GB:         Stock standard, this is a good size for most people.

2000 GB+:      This is pretty huge, anything this size is more for your super users rather than most of us every day folk.