How to: Talk Computers Like a Pro
More than any other piece of technology, shopping for a new home computer requires a long slog through a near-incomprehensible laundry list of specifications. Here’s what to look for.
How quickly your processor performs calculations (a.k.a., gets stuff done). Most folks will do fine with something in the 2.5 GHz range, but if you’re up all hours of the night gaming and editing video, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got at least 3.
The “brain” of the computer, it’s at the centre of all computing activities. Manufacturers have reached the single-corespeed limit, so in order to keep increasing productivity, they’ve started planting two, sometimes even three or four, identical cores in CPUs. Again, unless you’re big on gaming and editing, you don’t need more than two cores.
When performing most tasks, your CPU needs to go all the way to the computer’s main memory system to retrieve information. To cut down on travel time, there are conveniently located memory caches where frequently used data (like, say, an anti-virus program) is stored for quicker access. You’ll likely get the most bang for your buck with 4 MB of L2 cache.
Random Access Memory:
RAM is often explained as short-term computer memory. The more RAM you have, the more applications you can run simultaneously. 4 GB of DDR3 (as opposed to last-gen DDR2) memory is ideal for most general users.
Sticking with the metaphor, your hard drive can be seen as the computer’s long-term memory—it’s where all your program and file data is permanently stored. Assuming you’re indulging in a fair share of multimedia stuff, make sure that you’ve got at least 320 GB of space and a speed of 7,200 rpm to be safe.
If you’re big on movie-watching, you’ll want a 24+-inch monitor with widescreen (16:9) aspect ratio, 1,000:1 contrast (for optimum bright and black levels), 160+-degree viewing angle (for consistent viewability regardless of where you’re sitting) and DVI for best possible picture. You might also consider an all-in-one system, with all of the aforementioned hardware built right into the back of a (generally pretty epic) screen; many multimedia-geared models (or “living room PCs”) offer pot-sweeteners like 3D capability, multi-touch interface and built-in HDTV tuner. MC