The fastest processors in modern PCs clock-in at roughly 1000 times the processor in the original IBM PC. And the clock speed is only part of the equation.
Modern computers can process tasks thousands of times faster than those original PCs but how powerful should your computer be? Let’s look at what to consider when buying a new computer.
Components to Consider in a New PC
When you’re comparing PCs, there are several specifications to consider:
- Processor (CPU)
- Video card
There are two companies making processors in modern PCs – Intel and AMD. They run the same software so you don’t need to worry about either one not working with any of the apps you need.
As a general rule, AMD processors are a bit cheaper than Intel and the performance is similar. Either of the two might be a bit faster in any given generation but they usually run neck-and-neck.
RAM is your PC’s short-term memory. This is where it runs the applications you’re using, stores the files you’re actively working on, and runs the underlying operating system (Windows or macOS, for example).
The more RAM you have, the more you can work on at once. You can multitask with more applications and work on larger files. More RAM will also help improve your PC’s performance.
Hard Drive or SSD Storage
Hard drive and SSD storage is your PC’s long-term memory. This is where your files, photos, and other data are saved and where all your applications and operating system files are stored.
Hard drives come in larger capacities than SSDs but have much slower performance.
The video card is what creates the image on your computer monitor. Modern video cards have processors and RAM of their own and offload much of the image manipulation work from the main CPU.
High-end video cards have more computing power than entire computers did even a few years ago but they’re only necessary if you’re using applications that will use that power, like video editors and games.
Wireless networking (wifi) is the most common type of network connection in modern computers but many of them also include wired network connections, especially desktop PCs.
Wireless networking is getting faster all the time but it still can’t compare to a wired connection. If you have a choice between the two, wired will give you faster transfer speeds and a more secure connection.
Laptop or Desktop?
All of the previous specifications apply to both desktop and laptop PCs. When deciding between the two, it comes down to how you use your PC. If you want to use it on the go, a laptop is the only option.
You can use a laptop as a “desktop replacement” that never leaves your desk but you’ll pay a premium for it. All else being equal, a laptop will cost more than a desktop. And it won’t be as expandable, at least not internally. If you want to add memory, storage, or anything else to a laptop, you usually have to add an external device of some sort.
What Are You Going to Do With Your PC?
The one thing that matters most when deciding how much processing power you need is what you’re going to use the computer for. If you have simple needs that even a basic model can handle, there’s no point in buying a high-end machine. You’ll spend a lot more money for the extra power that you won’t use.
Level 1: Entry-Level PCs (£250 to £400)
If you’re going to browse the internet, do some basic office work in applications like MS Word or Excel, and watch streaming videos on sites like YouTube and Netflix, an entry-level machine has plenty of power.
At this level, you’ll usually be looking at 4GB of RAM and hard-drive-based storage. Intel’s Pentium processors and AMD’s Athlon processors are both more than fast enough to support this type of work.
If you’re looking at a laptop, you could also consider a Chromebook. These laptops run Google’s Chrome operating system instead of Windows or macOS so they won’t run all the same applications but if everything you do is internet-based, they’ll work quite nicely.
Level 2: Mid-Range PCs (£400 to £800)
When you move up to a mid-range PC, you’ll get more RAM (usually 8GB) and usually SSD-based storage. The SSD alone will make the PC seem much faster than the base model because everything loads so much quicker.
At this level, you’ll be looking at either an Intel Core processor or an AMD Ryzen processor. There are various steps in each CPU lineup so there’s still a range of possibilities at this level.
If you’re considering a laptop in this price range, it may still have a hard drive instead of an SSD and possibly still only 4GB of RAM.
This type of PC is suitable for image editing, more advanced office and Internet work, and running more applications at once.
Level 3: Higher-End PCs (£800 to £1600)
When you move beyond the £800 mark, you’ll get a PC with 16GB or even 32GB of RAM. These PCs will have SSD-based storage but often have a hard drive as well. This gives you the higher speed of the SSD with the larger storage capacity of the hard drive in one machine.
The biggest change when you get into this price range is the video card. These PCs will include a much more powerful video card that will run modern games reasonably well and can support more advanced applications like video editing.
These machines are also well-suited for coding and multitasking several applications while working with large, complex files.
Level 4: Gaming PCs (£800 to as much as you want to spend)
Gaming PCs are on the high-end of the PC market. Modern games are one of the most processor and memory-intensive applications you can run on a PC and they need the latest and greatest video cards for the best results.
These systems come with at least 16GB of RAM but the more you have, the better. They’ll have both SSD and hard drive storage, both in the largest capacities possible. And they’ll come with gaming video cards that can drive the high-resolution graphics in today’s games at 1080p or even 4K resolution.
Gaming PCs usually include special keyboards and mice that are designed for playing games. They have faster response times and are built to be more durable.
If you are interested in having a custom-built gaming PC, take a look at our custom gaming PC page where you can build a machine to your own spec with prices starting from £850.
How Powerful Should Your Computer Be?
Armed with this knowledge, you can probably guess our answer to the question “how powerful should your computer be?”
As powerful as you need it to be. There’s little point in spending a bunch of money on a PC that’s overpowered for your needs. By the time you’re faced with replacing it with a new one, technology will have progressed beyond even the highest-end PC available today so it’s not going to give you much more time before needing to upgrade anyway.
Whatever type of PC you settle on, you’re likely going to need support to help keep it running at peak performance. Geeks on Wheels can help. With our remote IT support service, we can help keep your computer running smoothly and fix any problems that do pop up. Get in touch with us today to find out what we can do for you.