In this article I will show you what the specs mean so when you go to a store you will have a general idea of what the specs mean. This a heavily simplified tutorial intended for people who have little to no knowledge of computer components. I hope that by the end of the article you will at least have a general knowledge of how to gauge the performance of a computer.
RAM (Random Access Memory)
RAM affects the speed of a computer because programs run from the RAM. If there isn’t enough RAM on your computer then the computer will simply wait until there is enough space in the RAM to run the program. This is what causes lag and your computer to go into waiting.
The more RAM you have the faster your computer will perform.
Typically RAM sizes retail stores carry are 4GB, 6GB, 8GB, 12GB 16GB.Note: RAM should not be confused with hard drive storage or video card memory all which are measured in GB. I would recommend 8GB for a computer that performs decently.
CPU (Central Processing Unit)
You’ve probably heard that the CPU is the “brain” of the computer. Much like a brain in the human body tells the arms and legs to move, the CPU fetches instructions from the RAM and executes them.The two biggest factors that determine the performance of a CPU are clockspeed and cores. A higher clockspeed means better performance.
Clockspeed is measured in GigaHertz (GHz)
2.8 GHz intel i7 > 1.8 GHz intel i7
More cores = faster CPU
intel i5 (4 core) > intel i3 (2 core)
Below I will include a list of the general hierarchy of the Intel line of CPUs starting from low end processors to high end processors.
General Intel CPU hierarchy:
Use the above list only as a general guideline because there are many factors that play into a CPU’s speed. Some of those factors include clockspeed, cores, and mulithreads. For AMD simply buy a computer with their most recent line of CPU’s which are the Ryzen CPU’s. Any other CPU is either outdated or will be outdated very soon. For a CPU I recommend either an i3 or i5 for a computer that performs well.
A hard drive is were the computer stores programs and files. Unlike the RAM which only stores files until the computer is shut down, the hard drive stores files even after the computer is turned off. In other words the hard determines how much storage you have on your computer.
There are two types of hard drives that you can get and they are HDD’s and SSD’s. SSD’s (solid state drives) are faster than HDD’s (hard disk drives) but they usually have less storage and cost more than HDD’s. Next you will want to choose the size of your hardrive. 500 GB is a good amount if you are a casual user but if you download a lot of content then you will probably want 1TB or more. 1000 GB is about 1TB.
Video Card (GPU)
The video card, also known as a graphics card and GPU, is used to render video, images and 2D/3D models. Computers either have an integrated or a dedicated GPU. An integrated GPU is built into the computers motherboard and shares resources with the CPU. A dedicated GPU has its own RAM and cores.
If you are gaming, work with CAD, are an illustrator or video edit then you will want to choose a computer with a dedicated GPU.To choose the best GPU you have to look at the VRAM (video memory) and the type of VRAM it’s using. As with regular RAM you will want more VRAM as well. Then to choose the best type of VRAM simply choose the most recent type for best performance.
VRAM Hierarchy: GDDR2 < GDDR3 < GDDR4 < GDDR5 < GDDR5X < GDDR6
Picking the Best Computer
In conclusion to pick the best performing computer amounts to choosing the biggest numbers. If you want a fast computer choose 16GB of RAM or more, choose an Intel i7 or Ryzen 5 or higher, pick an SSD instead of an HDD, and if you are gaming pick a dedicated graphics card like the GeForce 1070 with 8GB GDDR5.