290B Parker Farm Road, Buxton, ME 04093
(207) 929-9149 (ph), (866) 459-5150 (fax)
Scott Nason - Director of Technology

Friday, July 8, 2016

What to Look for in a Computer

Computers have many different parts that can be upgraded to better suit your needs. Some of the main components that you may look at when buying a computer would be things like the Memory (RAM), Storage (Hard Drive) and Processor (CPU). While there are other factors such as Screen Size, Keyboard Layout, Speaker Quality/Volume and so on, those 3 components will primarily determine how fast your computer is and how well it runs. Below I will explain the 3 main components, what they do and a basic rule of thumb when it comes to purchasing a new computer.

Memory (RAM)
Every computer must have Random Access Memory or RAM in order to run, on most modern computers this will range for 2GBs to 64GBs on the higher end. More memory is very important for multitasking on a computer. Every application that’s open will use at least some memory. The more applications you have open the more RAM you need. Some applications such as those used for editing photos will require more than those used to type a simple note.

My personal recommendation for a new computer would be to get a minimum of 4GBs of RAM and aim for 8GBs if possible. While you may not always need the extra memory it’s nice to have it when you do. 8GBs will be more than adequate for most modern applications.

Storage (Hard Drive)
Storage comes in many form factors. Technically any device that stores files such as a Flash Drive, CD, Hard Drive or Solid State Drive all fall into this category. When it comes to picking the right storage for your computer you will have 2 primary factors to look for. Those factors are Speed and Capacity. There are 2 main types of storage drives found in a computer, you have either a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or often referred to as a mechanical drive or a Solid State Drive (SSD). Both drives have their advantages.

If you need lots of storage, 500 GBs or more, you are more than likely going to need a HDD which has been around for quite some time and is much more cost effective for higher capacities. If you do not need a lot of storage but want your computer to run faster you will want to look for an SSD. Another advantage of an SSD is that you will be able to move the computer around without chancing damaging the drive, this is a serious concern with HDDs and will often cause the drive to die before it should.

In most cases a 128GB SSD is adequate however you may want to consider a 256GB if the 128 is not enough.

Processor (CPU)
Lastly you have the Processor which is what actually drives the computer and does all the work. CPU stands for Central Processing Unit which handles any and all data that goes through a computer and it connects all the other parts together. A CPU also has 2 factors, Speed and Number of Cores. While speed is important cores is also a key thing to look out for as each core is like having an additional processor. If you have a single core 3.0GHz CPU and compare it to a dual core 1.6GHz CPU you will likely find the dual core 1.6 to be faster as 3.0GHz x 1Core = 3.0GHz and 1.6GHz x 2 Cores = 3.2GHz.

Most modern computers come with at least a dual core CPU in laptops and often quaq core in desktops. My personal recommendation would be to look for at least 1.4-1.5GHz dual core on any new laptop you buy today. If you plan on running programs that are more of a resource hog such as photo or video editing applications the CPU will be a main factor. If this is your intention you will want to look for a faster CPU if at all possible, it’s not that the slower CPU won’t be able to handle it, it’s just that the slower CPU will take significantly longer than many faster CPUs on the market.

Clearly there are other factors when deciding what to buy for a computer and you will be able to know if you want a larger screen or any other key features but the components will determine how well it runs overall.