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How to Select a Cheap Computer That Truly Meets Your Needs
Free computer shopping can be fun and exciting. Or it can be mysterious and end up costing you more than it should. Here are some ideas to help. Choosing a computer depends on your needs and the power of your computer. You should understand both before shopping.
Computer power is determined by several key components. They are CPU, RAM memory, hard drive, graphics card and sound card. This article will examine these parts and explain them, so you will be able to avoid the many pitfalls in the selection when buying any computer or laptop.
Your intended use
First, it is important to determine exactly what you intend to use the computer for. That’s because you need to buy a computer that fits your needs, and NOT just because of price, color, cabinet design, or because it’s what a store has in stock. Your main considerations should be a balance between your ability to pay and whether the computer is powerful enough to handle your computing needs. Otherwise you are paying for excess processor and RAM that will never be used.
I recommend writing down on a piece of paper exactly what you want to do with a computer. If you know which software programs and games you will be using, write them down. If you have these programs and still have the box they came in, look in the box and see what operating systems (O/S) they will run on and the amount of RAM and other requirements your programs require.
note that the most popular O/S today is Microsoft Vista©. Unfortunately, many or all of the software programs and games you have now probably won’t work on Vista.
Vista is a more complicated system and software usually has to be created specifically for Vista in order to work. If you want to keep the programs and games you use now, you may only want to look for a new computer that has Microsoft XP (usually Microsoft XP Professional) or you will need to purchase upgrades or new programs and games that will work on a new computer that has Vista.
Most new computers will come with some software already installed on the computer, such as Microsoft Office, which includes some programs like Microsoft Word.
You will need to consider your budget when buying any computer or laptop. Standard or entry-level computers are low-end systems that will handle most of the everyday computing needs of home users, light offices, individuals, and students. Such uses would include browsing the Internet, using e-mail, writing and editing reports, keeping accounts, downloading and listening to some music, watching some videos, and editing light graphics. Many games will play on a standard PC if an appropriate graphics card is installed.
However, dedicated gamers, and those who want to do significant graphics and photo and video editing, will need the more expensive higher-end systems that have the right Athlon or Intel processors, the right graphics and sound cards. and plenty of RAM for good 3D rendering and heavy graphics use.
In determining the needs of your computer, you need to estimate how much power you need. If you have specific graphics software programs, such as an Adobe program, or games that you have or want to purchase, look in the software and games boxes for recommended system specifications.
These specifications should be your guide when looking at computer systems.
Okay, so it gets a little complicated here, but I’ll keep it simple. It is important to understand computer components so that you have a better idea of what makes computers work. Here are the most essential components and parts in a computer.
The processor, or CPU, is the brain of the system. It is just one chip and it is located on the motherboard, which is a large system board in the computer. All other computer components are designed around the processor because the processor is the main regulator of the entire system. It is the most expensive item in a computer, so the overall strength of a computer is determined by the quality of the processor.
Currently, AMD Sempron and Athlon are common low-end processors. Low-end RAM chips will only handle minimal graphics, meaning older or non-demanding games and typical screen graphics. AMD Phenom Quad and Intel Core (TM) 2 Duo are mid-range, which means they are stronger and can handle more. While the AMD Phenom X4 and Intel Core(TM) Quad Q9450 are high-end, they are fully capable of full 3D rendering and heavy graphics usage.
System memory, or RAM or RAM Memory, is the computer’s temporary memory. Typically, the more RAM you have, the better your computer will perform. A decent standard computer not too long ago would have 512MB of memory. Things have changed. Now, many low and mid-range computers today will have up to 1GB of DDR II RAM. High-end computers will have 2GB or even 4GB of DDR II or DDR III RAM.
The hard drive is the computer’s permanent memory. In general, it is better to get as many as possible, and hard drives are not expensive anymore. Today, a typical hard drive in a standard computer should have a minimum of 40 GB, but will usually be around 80 GB. Mid-range computers will often have 200 GB or more. While the high level will have up to 1000 GB. Look for the drive speed, 7200 RPM Serial ATA is desirable.
A person who downloads a lot of MP3s or edits videos (non-professional) will want at least 160GB, minimum.
Low-end computers and some mid-range computers will have an integrated motherboard, meaning that the graphics card is part of the motherboard. This will work fine if you will be using the computer primarily for non-graphics intensive programs, including non-3D games.
Serious gamers, photo editors, video editors, and those into graphics creation will want a dedicated, higher-quality graphics card, sometimes called a video card. Popular graphics cards include NVIDIA® GeForce® 9300GE and ATI® Radeon(TM) HD 4870 X2. At the moment, high-end high-end cards include Dual ATI Radeon® HD 4850-CrossFire and NVIDIA® 9800 GTX.
In many low-end systems, the sound card is “integrated” into the motherboard. In other low-end systems and some mid-range systems, the sound card is “integrated” with the graphics card.
A separate sound card (not integrated with the graphics card or motherboard) may show a better sound system, but it depends on the quality of the card. High-end sound cards include Creative Labs Sound Blaster® Audigy®2 ZS High Definition and Intel® High-Definition 7.1 Audio.
Monitors are a matter of personal taste. Some people still prefer the older CRT monitors, even though they take up more space on a desk and are heavy. However, many LCD monitors are now being sold. LCD is now the standard even for low-end computers. I recommend at least a 17 inch screen. Of course, the bigger the screen, the better.
Check and make sure the system has support for the latest USB 2.0 specification. If you plan to do any video recording and editing, make sure the computer has FireWire ports.
By understanding computer components and other vital parts, and understanding your computer’s needs, you can make a wiser choice of cheap computer. Buying only what you need is good for the environment and you’ll save money in the process.
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