Which PC Should I Buy?

Terabytes, gigabytes, RAM, processor, hard drive…If you’re in the market for a new computer you’ve seen all of these terms.

“But what do they all mean, and how can I pick the right choice for me?”

As with any new purchase it’s good to do some research beforehand. Most people want to have a basic idea so they aren’t completely lost when it comes time to buy.

Just about everyone owns a computer, but not too many people understand the many components inside that make it all work.  This guide will attempt to explain what to look for when purchasing a new computer.  We’ll go over just the cliff notes and important points of each part to pay attention to.

Laptop vs. Desktop

The first step to take when looking for a new computer is asking yourself this question:

“Do I need my computer to move with me, or can it stay in one place?”

The only real benefit to getting a laptop instead of a desktop would be mobility.  Laptops are more expensive to repair, have a higher risk of damage, and are generally less powerful that most desktops.

Processor

Most computers will use Intel processors so that’s what we’ll discuss here. The most common types you will see are i3, i5, and i7’s.

The i3 processor is generally a lower power processor and will work for someone who is basically just going to browse the internet.  They aren’t very fast, but get the job done for the most basic of tasks.

The i5 processor is a good middle ground.  It takes the power/speed up another notch.  An i5 will work well for anyone using the computer for web browsing, word processing, and a little bit of multi-tasking here and there.

The i7 processor is very powerful.  A computer with an i7 can be used for any high-end processing.  This would include gaming, CAD workstations, video/photo editing, and almost anything else you can throw at it.  If you’re looking for the best you’ll want an i7.

We also use this general rule of thumb:

An i3 has the power and technology to be relevant for roughly 3 years, an i5 will last roughly 5 years, and an i7 will last roughly 7 years.

The cost goes with each step up, but for the increased power and longevity it’s usually worth it to go with at least an i5. It’s also worth noting that you should be buying either a 6th or 7th generation processor. They are the newest models, so don’t let anyone sell you a “new” computer with anything less than that.

RAM

Ram gives your computer the capability to multi-task faster and run programs quicker.  We find that 8GB of RAM is sufficient for average users.  You’ll only need more if you plan to use the computer for gaming, video editing, or other high-end processes.

Hard drive

This is where all of your data and program files are stored.  The more you save files to your computer the more space you will need.  For most people, a 1 TB (terabyte) hard drive provides more than enough storage space.  A lot of people can even get by with 500GB.  If you’re looking to make your computer lightning quick you need to look at getting a solid state hard drive (SSD). If you’ve never heard of an SSD you can read our article here and skip to point #5.  If you want to stay with a mechanical drive we recommend looking for one in the 7200 RPM class.

Video Card

You may come across a computer that states it has ‘dedicated graphics’ a ‘GPU’ or ‘graphics card’.  This means the computer has the capability of extensive graphics processing.  This would only be necessary if you were gaming or doing video editing. You may also need a graphics card if you wish to use multiple monitors. A computer can work just fine without having a graphics card though. Many motherboards and processors have it already built in for basic users.

Operating System

Any new computer should have Windows 10 on it.  If you haven’t used Windows 10 you can check out our beginners guide here! Microsoft will be ending support for Windows 7 by 2020, and many programs will start to have compatibility issues.  It’s probably in your best interest to start learning Windows 10 now.

Case

It’s also important to measure the space you’re going to place the new machine.  The last thing you would want is to purchase a new computer and have it not fit in the same spot as your old one.

Other Parts to Consider

A quick list of new components you might want to add:

  • Wireless card
  • Keyboard / Mouse
  • Monitor
  • Card Reader (for camera memory cards)
  • Additional storage
  • External backup drive (read more about backups here!)

Conclusion

So, which PC should I buy? A good thing to do before you buy a new PC is to sit down and think about what you’ll be using it for.  Based on our quick guide you can get a decent idea of the hardware you’ll need.  It’s also worth noting that many times you get what you pay for when it comes to computers.  If you’re thinking of buying a computer because it’s cheap, there is a good chance it won’t be capable of doing much more than browsing the internet.  In terms of longevity, you’ll be replacing a cheaper computer sooner than you would if you invested a little extra in more powerful hardware. There is nothing wrong with that, but just understand the limitations of your new hardware.