Buying a new computer is expensive, and you want to make sure you get one that will work and at a great price. But what is the difference between the Processor, Ram, and the long lists of specs that make a good computer? This is what you need to know and the best Cyber Monday deals you can get!
When you see a computer online, you’ll notice a long list of “specs” about your computer, and it can be very confusing figuring out what you need to know, so let’s break down the three ones and recommended computers.
The three most important components are the Processor, RAM, and Storage, they all work together and are key to a fast computer. Read on to get a better understanding of them, but here’s a quick synopsis:
- The Processor
The ‘brain’ of the computer. It runs the whole system and the smarter it is, the quicker it can startup, get programs to load, view files, save, browse etc.
- RAM (Random Access Memory)
RAM is its headspace. You can only multitask on so many things at once no matter how smart you are. More RAM equals more headspace to do more things, while the processor can help you do all those things faster and smarter.
- Storage – HDD and SSD
Whatever you can’t add to your headspace right now, or don’t need to think about, you’ll put away in storage, and pull it up to your headspace (RAM) when necessary. The less storage you have the less you know, and the ability to do more is limited.
Now, let’s dig into it! If the above was enough, scroll down to see some great Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals on computers!
- The processor (also known as the CPU) is basically the brain of the computer, and how much it can handle. All action you do from booting up a computer, opening programs, and saving files all take up energy from the processor. If you generally have several programs and tabs open, you need a good processor.
Processors are measured in speed called GHz (Gigahertz) and the more speed you have the better the computer will perform since your computer can do more calculations faster.
The speed of the processor is also affected by the number of “cores” it has. Cores are mini-processors, and having multiple cores means your computer can run multiple programs at the same time, and it is also important since many programs rely on your computer having multiple cores that it can run different tasks on each core.
Today, the processor comes in single-core, dual-cord, quad-core, and so on. Though keep in mind, even though more cores means it can process things faster, it doesn’t always mean a faster computer, since there are many components to your computer that need to work together (see the analogy at the end of this post). In addition, programs can utilize the multiple cores to “multi-task”, but a lot of programs don’t need to multitask and can run perfectly well on a dual-core computer. And if you generally don’t run several programs at the same time, likewise, you don’t need too many cores.
The two main CPU manufacturers in the computer industry are Intel and AMD. The specs will tell you which one it has, and what specific model it runs. There are differences between the models which are beyond the scope of this post, but for a basic understanding of a proccerser, you need to know about Ghz (speed) and the number of cores a processor has, as mentioned above. Most commonly with Intel chips, there is the basic i3 (slowest), the i5, i7 and i9 (fastests) and there are many generations of chips. Every generation has different models along the I’s. The latest generation is the 11th, so any chips from generations 7 and lower isn’t recommended
To summarize: when looking at a computer, check specifically the Ghz speed and the number of cores, an average person can usually be fine with anywhere from 2 – 3.6 GHZ and quad-core (dual-core, on a low budget), but if you come across a higher Ghz number, and a quad-core for a decent price, it is definitely worth it.
- The RAM (Random Access Memory) stores all short term memory for right now and imminent use, so if you want to pull up a file or a program, instead of needing to pull it out of the main storage (more on that soon) it will be stored in the RAM (memory). Imagine it like a desk, whatever you’re working on now is on the desk, and in the draws, you’ll keep items you’re not currently using, the bigger the desk the more quick access to what you need. With that being said, if you need to work on very little at once, then you can manage with a small desk space. This brings us to our next question, how much RAM do you need?
RAM is measured in GB, starting at 2 GB (slower), 4, 8, 16 and 32. If you have many tabs open at the same time, with a few programs, you need enough GB (desk-space) to have them all open, instead of needing to pull things up from storage.
We recommended 8 GB, though 4 GB can work for basic computing, streaming and web browsing if you don’t have too many tabs open. You should only consider 16 GB run heavy programs like gaming, editing, graphics work or if you know you use several programs, files and tabs at the same time.
RAM is for what your computer thinks about at any given time, anything it isn’t thinking about (or on your desk) is in the storage. This is the probably the easiest of all the specs to understand, the less closet space you own, the less you can keep. The computer system and all the programs take up space, and like RAM it is measured in GB ranging anyway from 128 GB and up to 1,000 GB (Terabyte) and even more. 256 GB is the recommended amount you should get, but to really understand how much you need, check on your current computer how much you use, since it depends on the amount of files (any type, like videos and photos) you have.
Storage is now available in two major formats:
HDD (hard disk drives) consists of mechanical spinning platters and moving pieces that write all of the data on your storage. HDD drives have become very cheap, and you can easily find computers with 1TB (1,000 GB) of space,
SDD (solid-state drives) has no mechanical parts, rather is flash-based memory, which is significantly faster, and also much lighter than HDD.
When you open your computer or pull up a large folder of pictures (or really anything), it would take much longer for your HDD to get the files ready, while the SDD is significantly faster because it doesn’t need to turn all it’s mechanical parts to get the information. But for mass storage, SDD is much more expensive than HDD which you can get a tremendous amount of storage for very cheap.
HHD is also very fragile, compared to SDD for when you drop your device or move it around too much, the HDD can break, but the SDD won’t, which is why all tablets and phones are basically SDD.
Besides being quicker and more durable, they generally use less energy which will save on battery and makes less noise
A great analogy to understanding how these three components work together is the kitchen analogy.
The processor is the chef, the RAM is your counter space, and the storage is your pantry. When you start using your computer, the processors (chef) gets ready, and then when you open the tabs, files and programs to run it will get all the information you need from the storage (pantry) and bring it to the RAM (counter space), now whatever the processor (chef) needs to do, it is all at hand. So, even though you may have a quad-processor (4 chefs), if you have no RAM (counter space), there is limited amount of space they can get work (food) done, and vise-versa, a massive RAM, with only one processor, is simple a waste as it cannot really utilize that space. A quicker processor (more GHz) is a quicker chef that moves faster as well as cooks faster.
What else to know:
There are more factors to consider when buying a computer, like desktop vs laptop, screen size touch screen, 2-in-1, and the number of ports your computer has. These factors will generally range on how much space you have at home or work, and whether the computer will be stationary or moved around.
There is also a graphics card (GPU), but if you don’t do much photo and video editing or gaming then you can save money, or invest in a better CPU and RAM. Most CPUs come with an integrated graphics card, so it is usually enough for your average user.
Black Friday (November 27) and Cyber Monday (November 30th) is the best time to get a good deal on a computer, check back this space over the next few days for some great deals!