Every few weeks I get a phone calls or message from friends and family that go something like this: I’m buying a new computer / laptop, what do I need to look for?
For the past several years my first line of advice is increase the amount of RAM. I’ve always thought one of the best upgrades you can do to your computer is increasing the RAM so why wouldn’t the same theory apply when you buy a new computer?
PCWorld magazine included a great article this month listing specifications that don’t matter, specifications that sometimes matter and importantly specifications that always matter.
I couldn’t find an online link to the article but if you get a chance go out and get the October 2011 copy of PCWorld. The article not only covers computers but phones, tablets, cameras, HDTVs and more.
For computers here are the recommendations:
Specifications that don’t matter include minimal differences in CPU or memory speed. You probably will not notice the difference between a computer with a 2.3 GHz processor when compared to one with 2.5 GHz so don’t pay a good chunk of money for a small increase. Other items that don’t matter are CD / DVD / Blu-Ray write speeds. This speed only applies when burning discs and no matter what the speed you are more than likely going to have to wait for it to finish whether it is the top of the line or average write speed.
Specifications that sometimes matter include graphics ram and quad-core processors. Although one of my coworkers will cringe when reading this the graphics that come standard on most computers will play what the average user needs perfectly. Unless playing games or doing hard core graphic work save some money here. Quad-core processors in laptops do not seem to be taken full advantage of with today’s software. As such a dual-core processor will do just as well while saving a few bucks.
Specifications that always matter include the amount of RAM on your machine and your hard drive speed. Simply put the more RAM the better. If I had $100 to spend this would be where it would all go. Your hard drive speed will generally be 5,400 RPM or 7,200 RPM. The difference may seem small but in reality there is a big percentage change between the two. Go for the higher RPM drive.
In summary…get more RAM. 4GB should be the minimum for today’s applications. 8GB preferred. 12-16 is awesome.