We’ve all had the pleasure (or displeasure) of buying a new computer. We often make the mistake of thinking that within 15 minutes we’ll choose, pay for and set-up our new computer.

Then we are bombarded with a wide variety of technical specifications that sound like references Stars Wars movies. Before you know it, you are pushed to buy something a little bit out of your price range. Why? Because the sales person says you need it. You end up realising that you don’t know what to do, wishing someone could do it for you.

Buying through your local IT guy can make buying a new computer faster and definitely less stressful. Sometimes it could also end up being more cost-effective in the long-run. Still, you might want to familiarise yourself with some of the basics. This will help you to better identify exactly what you’re looking for. Who knows, you might realise you need less than you think!

What Processor Does It Have?

We start with probably the most critical part of any computer, the micro processing chip. You can consider the processor to be the brain of the computer. This is because it is responsible for all the computation and logic that’s necessary to run the programs on the computer.

Common processors are mostly produced by the tech giants Intel and AMD, with the most popular Intel processors being the Intel Atom, Celeron, Pentium, i3, i5 and i7. When choosing a processor, you should consider the requirements of the software you use most. Most applications nowadays require an i-range processor. For example, Atom, Celeron and Pentium processors are good for day-to-day web browsing, while the i3 and i5 are ideal for users who perform tasks on Microsoft Office. The i7 is considered more appropriate for gamers and for use with high-end software packages, like AutoCAD.

Note that choosing the right processor is critical as it can be extremely expensive to upgrade later. It is also often more cost-effective to replace a whole PC than it is to replace just the processor.

RAM – How Much Is Enough?

Often confused with storage, a computer’s memory module acts as a short-term data host while a computer is on. You could thus liken it to a human’s short-term memory. On a computer’s specs you will see the size of the RAM modules in Gigabytes.

In 2017, most computers use 2-4 GB of RAM. While general theory is that “more is better”, most computers only support a limited amount.

RAM modules are also considered FRPs (Field Replaceable Parts) and are upgraded rather easily and fairly cheaply by qualified engineers. This is important since RAM modules can give problems as they age.

All About Storage & The Hard Drive

The hard drive is the part of your computer that stores all your files and applications. Average computers make use of hard drive with a 500GB or 1TB capacity, although we’ve seen smaller. The best way to determine how much you need, is to look at the size of your current hard drive. You could also play it safe and just get a 1TB hard drive for a little bit more.

It is important to remember that good quality hard drives can save you thousands of Rands in the future, as a failed hard drive could mean the loss of all your files and folders. It can cost a small fortune to recover this data.

The Graphics Card & Screen Size

Unless you are an expert gamer or make use of graphic-intensive software, like AutoCAD, you don’t have to worry about graphics cards. The graphics card is simply a chip in your PC that controls your screen and speakers.

We recommend any graphics card in the Intel HD range for everyday use.

Measure a screen diagonally across the screen, and it is taken in inches. Most laptops have screen sizes between 10” and 20”. Smaller laptops are often more expensive since parts are made specially to fit the small casing. Here you can go on personal preference though – some of us prefer bigger and others prefer smaller screens.

When To Consider Antivirus, Office and Backpack Bundles

Laptops can be sold in “bundles”, grouped with a combination of antivirus, Microsoft Office and printers or carry cases. Try and work out and compare the price of the laptop alone with similar computers in the same range. You’ll find out that you’re possibly paying more for the bundle than you would if you bought each item separately. Also, don’t fall trap for fancy looks or pretty colours – laptops should perform, not decorate.

Operating Systems – Why It Is Still Important To Look At

When it comes to operating systems, you generally have three options: Linux, Microsoft or OSX (Apple). When buying a computer outside the Apple range, it will most likely come bundled with either Windows 10 Home or Pro. Although you won’t see much difference, Pro has more functionality. The only warning we have is that you DO NOT buy a PC that come with any versions other than Windows 10. These are extremely difficult to maintain since Microsoft no longer supports or releases security updates for them. It is also expensive to upgrade an operating system. You should also not buy computers loaded with the Linux operating system, unless you are familiar and comfortable with using Linux distributions.

Warranties – How, Where and When

We recommend that you ALWAYS ask about any warranties or guarantees that you get when buying the PC. Common important elements include the length of a warranty, who is responsible for fulfilling the warranty (is it the supplier or the manufacturer) and whether there any restrictions on the warranty.

Remember that IT technicians often add additional warranties for computers bought through them. With warranties it is always important to keep the invoice or till slip for the computer in a safe place.

What Would The Experts Say?

Finally, we recommend that you ask your IT expert for past reviews and experiences with the computer you are about to buy, before you buy it. You will find that most IT guys can name parts that often give problems early from certain manufacturers or can give you background information on previous queries about the same computer or its manufacturer. This can really help you save a lot of time and money!

Still have more questions? Or need help buying your next computer? Why not contact us and we’ll do all the hard work for you!