How to choose a new computer

Do you want to buy a new PC (Personal Computer) but you don’t know which is the right model for you? Are you undecided between Windows, Apple or Linux ?

Choosing the right Operating System

Let’s clarify: Linux is an operating system that can be used on any hardware, as well as Windows . The Apple operating system, on the other hand, can only be used with its hardware.

An Apple computer costs much more than the offers that we find for Windows, but only because they have chosen to sell expensive systems. The corresponding hardware for Windows exists, and at the same price the systems are completely similar.
So the choice between Windows and Apple is only aesthetic, usability or brand, technically (hardware) they are similar (at the same price). It is obvious that it is useless to compare a 2,000 euro Apple notebook with a 300 euro Acer.

Hardware

First you need to decide if you want a new laptop (notebook) or a new desktop PC.

Notebooks are comfortable because you take them everywhere, and have everything integrated, but they cost more, as the components are miniaturized and require the battery. It is difficult – and expensive – to repair, update or upgrade them.

On the other hand, you cannot bring Desktop computers with you, but – for the same power – they are cheaper and have other advantages such as being able to choose individual components and be able to repair or update them over time (increase RAM, change CPU, webcam, use more hard drives , etc).

All-In-One computers can be a good compromise, the monitor and the computer are a single piece, therefore easier to transport, have fewer cables, and – if chosen the right one – it can also be a design object.

For laptops, other important features that affect the price are:

Display (Monitor or video)

Generally the cost is in proportion to the size. If touch screen the price increases. Laptops with very small screens fall into another even more expensive category. Here you can find a selection of monitors.

Battery

The cost is in proportion to the duration

Having decided this, we must understand how they are composed and dispel a bit of old myths.

Processor / CPU

The calculation engine is no longer measured by the speed (the famous Ghz) but by the number of Cores (2, 4, 6, 8 cores) and the size of the Cache (L1, L2, and L3 – and they are very expensive). Simplifying: the “Core” are the “engines” at the same time as processing, the large “Cache” “help” the engine to exploit its power. I often hear a comparison between the Ghz of the CPUs but it is useless, because a 1Ghz quadcore CPU (4 cores) is much more powerful than a 1.2 Ghz dual core CPU. With the same Ghz, a CPU with 2 Mb L2 cache is much faster than a CPU with 1 Mb cache. The “famous” Intel Celeron use this feature to sell: same Ghz as normal CPUs, but very small Cache. We consider that 70% of the price of a CPU are the Cache!

Computer cpu, cache operation scheme

Understanding which CPU is better than another (perhaps found on a flyer offer) is very difficult because it would take a lot of technical knowledge, but an excellent site for a quick evaluation is www.cpubenchmark.net where we can find all the cpu and their score. Just compare it with a higher price (for example a pc that costs 1000 euros and the one you want to buy). The list is searchable with the browser, so you just need to “search” for the cpu code that all sellers indicate. If they don’t indicate it, it’s because they don’t want you to make comparisons, so I don’t recommend buying, obviously they just have to empty the warehouses.

RAM

Unless you need special uses, such as video games or professional graphics, 4 GB is sufficient, 8GB better, 16GB for professional use. Update 05.2020: If you develop using Node.js (React, Angular) and you need maybe also Visual Studio / Visual Studio Core, or similar IDE, I strongly suggest 32GB RAM today!

Hard disk / Hard disk

Size is not important on performance, but typology is.
Disks SSD (Solid State Drive = 10 times faster than a normal disk). Today is the most important parameter, which makes the difference. 128 GB SSD disks cost about 80 euros, the same price as a 1 TB “normal” disk (1 TB = 1000 GB). For example with a SSD disk Windows starts in a couple of seconds, with a normal disk in about 30.
For a magnetic disk (the classic economic hard disk) the rotation speed is imported: 7200 or 5400 rpm (revolutions per minute). The 7200 rpm have the best performance, and are also available for laptops, but cheap notebooks rarely mount them as standard.
For fans, even for hard disks we have the convenient comparison site www.harddrivebenchmark.net

Here you can find a selection of SSD disks.

Some laptops allow the use of two hard drives, so my advice is: an SSD (fast, but expensive) for the operating system / programs, and a normal disk for documents (inexpensive but slow). In this way we have a good price / performance / convenience balance. This is the configuration of my work laptop.

How do you know if the computer you choose supports the two hard drives?

  • A desktop computer definitely supports it, unless it’s a super compact all-in-one! If in doubt, check the data sheet or ask the seller.
  • Many manufacturers omit it, but just ask their help desk. So I did with Fujitsu.
  • Much depends on the size, for example in the 17 “it is easier, and can be specified in the data sheet.
  • Or if they indicate that the hard drive supports RAID, most likely the slot for the second disk is there.
  • Alternative is to use a “hard Drive Caddy” which allows you to replace the CD / DVD player with a Hard disk.

Do not forget to install a sw to check the health of the disk (SMART data) as I explained to you here.

Video card / Video card

There are two basic types: integrated and not integrated. The integrated video card uses computer resources (e.g. RAM), which is not recommended. The dedicated video card is independent and makes the computer more responsive. In the case of video games or video editing it is a forced choice. I do not recommend the purchase of integrated video cards, for the savings of a few euros, the difference is considerable.
Also for video cards we have the convenient comparison site www.videocardbenchmark.net

Brands and manufacturers

The choice of the brand / manufacturer for a new computer is a very subjective thing, for example, I found myself very well with Dell, Fujitsu, Lenovo.

Dell is little known because buying their products, until recently, was the prerogative of wholesalers, that is, they were not sold in stores (like MediaWorld) for their pricing policy. In practice, you purchased directly from them, from the manufacturer, eliminating the problem of the quality of the assistance (as not provided by them) and of the top-ups, allowing a high quality / price / support ratio.

Conclusions

I hope I have clarified your ideas a little and dispelled old myths, and perhaps helped you make a purchase more suited to your expectations. If you have any doubts or questions write a comment I will try to answer everyone.

In the article “Quick guide on how to choose a new computer” you can find a quick guide, which summarizes all the points in a simple and understandable way even for the less technical.

Now you are ready to make a beautiful gift to your loved ones!

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