Buying a New Computer for College
Not only is a computer needed in college but these days its nearly impossible to complete college assignments without one. The next big question is how does one go about deciding which type of computer, with what kind of specifications is needed. Here’s a comprehensive overview of the various components of a computer and what each one does. Based on this and your needs you can figure out whats best for you.
Processors/CPU Chips for Desktop PC
The CPU isn’t that big piece of metal on your desk — it’s actually the central processing unit or in laymen’s terms, the chip inside the computer which works as the brains of the computer system. As one of the most expensive components of the computer, it is the single biggest factor contributing to its performance. Selecting the proper CPU will determine how many years you will get out of your computer and the speed in which it processes applications.
Here are a few basics:
This number, followed by “GHz”, is the speed in which your central processing unit runs. Generally speaking, the more you have of it, the better.
Today’s CPU’s usually have more than one core. Having a dual-core or quad-core CPU can give you a huge advantage.
There are two forerunners in the CPU field — AMD and Intel. According to the benchmarks, Intel is the preferred processor to have.
Computer Monitors for Desktop PC
Choosing a monitor can be a pretty easy task if you know what you want. The single biggest factor is the size of the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), but you will also want to take a look at the features and design.
Buying from the same manufacturer or store that you are getting your computer from doesn’t always make sense (unless you are getting a sweet bundled deal), because displays are a) universally compatible, b) available very inexpensively, and c) are available in a multitude of different sizes and styles.
Here is a breakdown of some of the different features available:
This is a number that refers to the diagonal measurement of the screen. The larger the size of the screen, the more that can be placed on the screen at one time, which is also very helpful for productivity.
This is the number of pixels on the screen. For example, the common resolution for a screen that is labeled as a 24-inch screen is 1920 x 1200. This size is described as width x length.
Monitors can do more than just display the internet and word processing programs. Some can even show a television signal or connect to video game consoles. Outputs, such as, HDMI allow for output to a larger screen.
Some monitors are more adjustable than others and some sit on less stable stands. Height adjustment and rotating capabilities can be extremely use and important aspects as well.
The Aspect Ratio affects the resolution of the screen. Older monitors were set to display images in a squarish 4:3 aspect ratio, while newer models display at a 16:10 or 16:9 ratio. The accounts for the rectangular shape of new screens.
The operating system (OS) is the foundation of your computer’s software. Everything that runs on the computer is based on this in one form or another. The OSs functionality and stability will determine the use you get out of your computer.
At this time, there are three popular options — Windows, Linux and Apple’s OS. Each OS has their own strengths and weaknesses.
The vast majority of computers sold run on Windows. The most current version of Windows, Windows 8, debuted on October 25th, 2012 and features built in security software (virus software), app integration through the Microsoft Store, faster start-up and shutdown, and more stability.
Apple’s OS X, current version “Snow Leopard”) is an excellent OS and it’s generally seen as an excellent choice for home users, ranging from the casual user to computer professionals. The unsurpassed stability of this OS as Apple compiles all of the components of their computers to work in perfect sync with each other.
Some types of Linux are also fantastic for home users, but Linux is not something which people generally have experience with, so it is not normally recommended, unless you have a close friend or family member to help get you started. It also cannot run popular applications, such as iTunes and Photoshop which can be an issue. Linux is free and easy to run through, so any computer you build/buy will be able to run in trial mode (via LiveCD or USB) without having to install it. This is an ideal way to give it a try prior to fully installing it.
Computer memory, often referred to RAM (Random Access Memory), is one of the most technical portions of a computer. What’s important to understand is that memory is not storage. A computer may have only 4 GB of memory whereas it will have hundreds or even thousands of GBs.
What’s important to understand about RAM is that the more of it you have, the better. Unlike older operating systems, like XP, today’s operating systems run on a 64 bit system, which means they can work with huge amounts of RAM. When you’re working with more demanding software, such as Adobe programs, they will demand more memory.
Computer Storage/Hard Drives
Part of the advantage of having a desktop computer versus and all-in-one or laptop is that there is extra room for hard drives. Most cases are able to hold, at minimum, three standard 3.5 inch
drives whereas some cases are able to hold more. The standard hard drives range from 500 GB to 2 TB.
In addition to the storage capacity, your should also look at the rotational speed. The higher the rotational speed is, the faster the drive will be able to retrieve data. The standard operating speed for most computers are 7200 RPM, while some may run at 5400 RPM to conserve power and for quiet operation. However, performance drives can run at 10000 RPM.
The standard hard drive connection is known as SATA (Serial ATA). This is available in various speeds, but are very limited on the effect they will have on your computer’s performance.
For the lowest cost-per-gigabyte, you may want to consider using the standard mechanical hard drives (HHDs) which are still in use today, rather than purchasing a computer with a solid-state disks (SSD and also referred to as electronic disks). SSDs are still seven to eight times more expensive than HHDs and for good reason. SSDs contain no moving mechanical components making them less susceptible to physical shock, run more quietly, have lower access time, and less latency.
The term “RAID” was first described in a published paper called, “A Case for Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks (RAID),” published in 1988. RAID is now referred to as redundant array of independent disks which is a storage technology that combines multiple disk drive components into a logical unit. Some higher performance computers may offer options for RAID. RAID1 technology requires two drives and will have the computer mirror what is on one drive, exactly the same as the second. Therefore, there is always a backup copy in the event that one drive were to fail. In RAID0, data is striped across the two drives and is put in place for performance so that the two drives can work at one. The downside to RAID0, which isn’t really RAID, is that if one drive were to fail, the second would be useless as well.