Home
Categories Buying Guides Safety & Security Gift Giving Smart Finances - Debt Consolidation


Printable Version

Computer Buying Guide

Picking out a PC can be a daunting task if you're not familiar with what the various features are and how they can help you. You may run into a situation where you are being pressured by a sales clerk to buy something that you do not even need. The purpose of this article is to guide you through the PC buying process so that you are better informed to decide what it is you need. Throughout this article we will focus on the needs of people who use their computer for Word Processing, Internet, and Email (WPIE). If you use it for more advanced things we will sum up the differences at the end.

Processors.

By far the biggest myth in the consumer PC market is that everyone needs a faster processor. Well the truth is people were doing word processing, surfing the web, and sending email fine when processors only reach 1ghz, so if WPIE is all you want to use your PC for then why would you need a top of the line system?

Also there is a drastic price increase between top notch processors, and those maybe only 80% as good. This price increase can often be as much as 2-300%, making it hard to justify the cost for only a small increase in performance. If you are presented with a choice of 3 or 4 processors your best solution will be to pick the slowest processor available. You will save money, and you will have all the speed you need. All in all any processor above 1.5mhz should be more than adequate for typical home use of WPIE. However most new PCs will carry processors even faster than that, so just choose the cheapest one offered.

Processor Brands

Intel

Intel is the best known processor manufacturer but they aren't necessarily the best. Intel knows that big numbers are impressive so they have focused on developing faster processors as opposed to better processors. Intel's processors perform well in streaming multimedia type applications, but they do not perform quite as well in office or productivity type applications.

Under the Intel name there are 2 main consumer lines: the Pentium, and the Celeron. The major difference between these two is the fact that the Celeron's contain less internal cache. Internal cache is like temporary storage within the processor itself, it gives the processor a shorter time between command executions. If you were using your computer just for WPIE a Celeron should be enough for your uses. You would want the Pentium if you wanted to do more multimedia type work or if you wanted to play games, or if you like to run multiple programs at once.

AMD

AMD is a lesser known brand, but they are a better choice for the typical WPIE user because AMD performs better for productivity or office based applications like word processing, web browsing, and email. AMDs are also typically cheaper than Intels.

One thing that often confuses people is how AMD names their products. AMD's chips are not as fast as Intel's, but they are more efficient. So instead of calling their processor an "Athlon 1.7ghz" like Intel does, AMD names them like "Athlon 2400" unofficially that means that the chip performs like an Intel 2.4ghz, even if it only runs at 2ghz or slower. So while AMDs are technically slower, they can outperform Intel's at higher speeds.

AMD also has a new 64bit processor. The differences between a 32bit processor and a 64bit processor are very technical and beyond the scope of this article, however suffice it to say that if you do not know what the difference is, you don't need it. It is really for people who need ultra high end systems.