Which Computer is right for me?
Which Computer is right for me?
The ideal computer can vary from one situation to another. There are some questions you would have to answer before you figure out the right answer. The first question you need to answer is your need for mobility. A laptop is portable, fun to play with, goes anywhere, works when electricity goes out, and so many more perks. The point is a desktop will always out perform a laptop that costs the same amount. Laptops are not very friendly when it comes to hardware maintenance and repair. Upgrades are extremely limited on most models. Laptops overheat easily and need their air ducts cleaned frequently. So, choosing the right laptop is a bit tricky. For more details on laptops, please visit my guide on “Which Laptop is right for me?”
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to say that laptops are not good computers. But, unless you need to take your computer with you on the road, or want to read your email or check your Facebook in the backyard, I suggest you look at what a desktop can do for you.
Desktops are extremely customizable; you can pick and choose almost every component from the most important to the plastics and color choice of the case. Unfortunately, the flexibility a desktop provides usually means you have to make a lot of decisions to be able to answer your ultimate question.
To start, I will repeat what we tell every customer asking this same question, “The most important question to answer is how much you are willing to spend on the computer.” This is not a sales technique or anything. We are truly able to build or customize a computer for just about any amount of money.
Once you answered the budget question, then we can dive into the details of the computer.
- How many people will use the computer?
- For multiple users you need a bigger HDD (Hard Drive), more RAM, and a faster CPU (more cores, quad better than dual…etc)
- How much media will you save on the computer?
- As of last month (May 2012) the average media database for a backup we do is 120GB. That’s just pictures, music, and videos. Other than games and such. We don’t suggest getting less than 500GB for a HDD. The bigger the HDD the better.
- Investing in a backup solution is a good idea.
- Does the computer need to join a Domain?
- If you don’t know what that is then don’t worry about it and buy a Home Edition of the OS. It’s for company networks.
- Well, most people play at least a couple of games on their computers. Not all games need a major video card though. Playing Facebook games, or online Flash games don’t use the video card that much, they actually use the CPU the most. 3D rendered games though; they are the ones you need to spend some dollars on a good video card for. For the last 10 years or so, the best cards have been around $400-$800. You don’t need to spend that much, $150-$300 would get you a video card that would play most games you want to play on the highest settings.
I would suggest you get a minimum of 500GB HDD, 4GB of RAM, and whatever you can afford on the CPU and Video Card.
So far we just answered some questions that determine the primary components of the computer. You now have enough information to go to any of the major manufacturer’s websites and start putting together your new computer. If, however, you want to build your own computer or just want to learn more about that machine you’ll be spending a considerable amount of time with, then continue on reading.
Let’s talk about supporting hardware a bit. Supporting hardware are components you don’t usually deal with directly. I don’t think I can possibly cover all the possibilities in just one article, but here are some of the most important ones:
- Full ATX is larger than Micro, it will support more add-on cards but needs a bigger case.
- You have to match the LGA (socket) to the CPU you want.
- Solid caps are better.
- Sacrifice the speed on the CPU to get a more expensive Mother Board. That way you can upgrade to a better CPU in a year or so.
- Power Supply
- Calculate about 100Watts for every HDD you use and another 100 for the CPU. 150 for a very strong Video Card. Add 150 for the rest of the components. Calculate and find your minimum “Wattage” you need.
- An 80Plus power supply is worth spending the money on.
- Spend some money on a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Source, or basically a battery).
- Cooling System
- Liquid cooling is more efficient, but more expensive and I don’t suggest you use it if you’re not willing to take the time to learn about it and how to maintain and handle it.
- Fans are just fine if you setup your airflow in the case properly. Intake fans in the front and/or bottom, output fans in the back and/or top. A side air duct for the CPU and Video Card will do you some good.
- If you choose an ATX Mother Board, make sure you get a case big enough for it.
- Aluminum cases help with the heat but are quite expensive.
- Full tower cases are bigger, heavier, more expensive, and most don’t help with the airflow as much as you may think. Unless you need the extra space, you don’t need to spend the extra money on it.
By now, you have either gotten a paper and started taking notes or just decided you’ll buy a prebuilt computer from one of the major manufacturers. Sometimes at our shop our customers would ask us to build the computer for them as they watch. This is something that really brings them an extreme amount of joy. You can call your local computer shop and see if they’re willing to do that with you for a fee or something (we don’t charge for it).
Like always, if you are interested in more information or have some question that need answers, please don’t hesitate to call or email us at The Computer Guild.