What to Look for When Buying a New Computer

By Jonathan Wylie

Are you in need of a new computer? The spec list on new computers increasingly looks like it was written in a foreign language, but this handy guide will tell you exactly what to look for and give you some tips on how to snag the best deals.

CPU – The CPU, (central processing unit), is the brain of your computer. Its job is to tell the other components what to do. As with human brains, some CPUs are better than others. Some multi-task with ease and can handle tasks quickly and efficiently. So, look for Intel’s Core i3, i5 and i7 processors. The i3 is a good all-rounder that will easily handle internet, email, office applications and more. The i5 and i7 are aimed at power users and are geared more towards intensive gaming or video editing tasks.

RAM – RAM is the muscle that helps execute the tasks set forth by the CPU, and is sometimes referred to as memory. Generally speaking, the more RAM you have, the faster your computer will run. Today you should really be looking to get at least 4 GB of RAM on a new computer.


Hard Drives – A hard drive is used to run your operating system and to store all your files, photos, videos and music. In these days of large megapixel cameras and HD video files, you want to be sure that you have enough storage for your needs. So, look for at least 500 GB of hard drive space, but don’t be surprised if you find 1 TB (1000 GB) drives or bigger.


Operating Systems – For PCs, Windows 7 is going to be the obvious choice, but it comes in a number of different versions. The Home Premium edition is the most popular one, and if you can get the 64-bit version, all the better. There are other Windows 7 versions above and below this, but Home Premium offers the best value for money.


Mac users don’t really have a whole lot of choice because any Mac you buy will be pre-installed with the new Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion). However, this is not a bad thing as it has proved to be a very popular operating system.


GPU – The GPU, (graphics processing unit), is responsible for displaying video or images on your monitor, and it comes in two varieties – integrated or dedicated. An integrated graphics unit comes built-in to your computer’s motherboard and shares some of your system’s RAM. It is fine for everyday tasks, but if you do a lot of gaming or photo and video editing, you may want to consider a computer with a dedicated graphics card. They are more powerful and will speed up some of these tasks considerably.


Buying a new computer is typically about compromise unless you have a large amount of money to spend. However, if you go for the best CPU and the most amount of RAM you can afford, you will be off to a great start. Look for brands like Lenovo, HP, Acer, Gateway, or Sony for the best reliability and customer support.


Jonathan Wylie

Jonathan Wylie

Jonathan Wylie is the owner of The Education Technology Blog, a website dedicated to helping teachers advance the use of technology in the classroom. He is a teacher, husband, and proud father, but also works as a freelance writer for several online publications. Jonathan is originally from Scotland, but now lives and works in rural Iowa. He has a love for education, photography, computers, and just about any gadget that he can get his hands on.


Posted in Technology on August 10th, 2011 | Permalink | 1 Comment »

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