Thinking of buying a new computer? Baffled the bewildering array of choices? EDDIE TRUMAN guides you through the jungle of jargon to help you decide what's best for you
Your new computer will be a triumph of human engineering, more powerful than the technology that put man on the moon and yet costing about the same as a colour television.
When selecting what model to buy you’ll be confronted by the seemingly impenetrable language of processor numbers, gigabytes and RAM.
Desktop or laptop?
There are traditionally two principal makes of computers (at least insofar as home computers can claim to have been around enough to have a tradition). These are the desktop and the laptop.
In the past few years, they have been joined by other devices, such as the netbook (actually just a cut-down, low-powered laptop); the tablet (such as the iPad); and even mobile smartphones which are now, in essence, mini-computers. However, many people now combine ownership of one of the small portable devices with a main laptop or descktop computer.
The desktop has a separate monitor, keyboard, mouse and box containing the hard drive and other parts vital to the computer’s operation. A laptop – along with the other smaller devices – has all of these elements integrated into one.
In the past laptops were far more expensive than deskstops. You can still get more power per pound from a desktop. But as technology has evolved, the price gap between laptops and desktops has narrowed.
Increasingly the laptop is seen as the computer of choice, offering portability and not requiring the permanent space that a desktop and computer desk and chair take up in the home.
The three fundamental components of a computer that make up the power of the machine are:
If you download a photo from a digital camera the following sequence of tasks is performed by each of these three elements:
What to look for
The more you spend on a computer, the more powerful these basic elements will be.
Although it’s a bit more expensive you should get at least a dual core processor – effectively more than one processor on the chip – which gives a far more responsive machine able to carry out multiple tasks simultaneously. It’s now possible to get triple and even quadruple core processors, but for now, a dual core processor is probably powerful enough for most non-professionals.
You will want at least two gigabytes (GB) of RAM – and preferably more, depending on what you use the computer for. If you only surf the net, send emails and work with text files or spreadheets, 2GB is plenty. But if you play games or use sophisticated image, video or audio-editing programs, it’s best to invest in 3GB or 4GB.
These days, hard disk drives start from 250 gigabytes upwards. If you envisage storing large numbers of photographs or sound files then you’ll want a larger hard disk – anything from 500 gigabytes to 1000GB, otherwise known as a tetrabyte (often shortened to 1T).