How to choose the right computer?

Dec 17, 2018 | Blog

Choosing a new computer can be hard. Here’s our simple guide to making the best choices for your needs.

Intel, AMD, Pentium, Sata, SSD, HDD, RAM, Dual-Core, Quad-core, Octo-Core, Over-clocking Hyper-Threading. I3,i5,i7, 256GB, 1TB….

These are just some of the confusing acronyms and numbers that make the world of computing as mystifying as an episode of Stranger Things. But in order to choose your next PC or Laptop – you’ll need to grapple with some of these terms.

Unless you have the team of University Challenge sitting next to you – it can be a difficult and stressful decision to choose the right PC for you and your family.

To help you ensure you get the most suitable computer at the best price, we’ve come up with a way of simplifying your decision making and clarifying the jargon.

So how do you choose?

Well, there is really only one main question you need to answer:

What are you going to use your computer for?


Considering your lifestyle, daily needs and hobbies will help you to determine the right computer for you. But mainly it will decide the computer’s brain size. The brain needs to understand instructions (fetch), interpret the instruction (decode) and then carry it out (execute).

If you need it to perform simple tasks then you’ll need a smaller sized brain – also known as a central processing unit (CPU). If you are going to create the next Facebook, then you are going to want a highly intelligent, fast thinking CPU – possibly more than on to enable multiple processing at the same time. Dual core means two CPUs on a single chip. You can also get quad and octo – to perform even more tasks. Hyper-threading is a super processor operating as if it had 16 cores.

With more tasks, you are going to need lots of short-term memory (RAM) as well as good quality images (Graphics Card).

If you are wanting to store information to rival the British Library or just a lot of family photos and documents then you are looking at a large hard disk drive (HDD) or solid state drive (SSD). With an SSD – information is stored in microchips. With an HDD information is written and read using a mechanical arm. SSDs are faster, better multitaskers and energy efficient – meaning your battery should last longer. Plus they have less capacity for failure. HDDs are cheaper and can store more but they can be slow. You can put your OS (Operating System) on an SSD – to makes sure your computer boots up quickly and opens programmes at light-speed, but then store files like your 20-year old dissertation that you will never read again, but can’t bear to delete, on a slower HDD.

So now you know the basics – but what type of user are you?


Retirees / Older Generation

Grandmother Grandson Family Laptop Digital

If you are like my mother – you still think a cloud lives in the sky and have a habit of turning the CD over after the last song – so her computer needs to be highly user-friendly, but also support her love of photography.

For general retirees who just need a computer or tablet to check email or for other communication – then your processing and storage needs are likely to be on the lower end. This is great – as it means you can get some quality computing for a lower price.

  • Usage: Very light – email, social media and some online entertainment, speaking to the grandchildren on FaceTime or Skype.
  • Processor: Core i3
  • Drive: HDD or SSHD
  • RAM: 4-8GB
  • Screen: Basic 1080p

Young family

Image of little child girl lies on bed indoors using laptop computer. Looking aside.

For families with young children, you are probably going to want to store a lot of photos, speak to friends and family as well as be able to access entertainment. While it may be impossible to find something that is completely baby and toddler-proof, you are probably looking at the following robust set of specs below.

  • Usage: Light –  email, internet, Word and Excel
  • Processor: Core i3
  • Drive: HDD / Small SSD for your OS and larger HDD for files.RAM: 8GB
  • Screen: Basic 1080p

Family with teens

Now we are looking at multiple users, more downloads and storage space.

  • Usage: entertainment, listen to music, share files and view and edit photos, light gaming
  • Processor: Core i5
  • Drive: SSHD – this is a solid state hybrid drive. Essentially it works like a typical mechanical hard drive but has a bit of solid state as well. It shows up on your Finder or Windows menu as a single drive. But there will be a chip inside which will determine where the data is stored – the SSD part or the HDD part.
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Screen: 1080p / 1440p

Power user – Entertainment

Grandmother Grandson Family Laptop Digital

For tech-savvy families using their computer to store photos, music and use it as an entertainment hub, you are looking for a bigger machine that is fast and can hold a lot of data.

  • Usage: Editing photos and videos
  • Processor: You are going to need something more powerful to handle using work-related software and video editing. Core i3, i5 or i7.
  • Drive: Large and fast HDD or SSD
  • RAM – 8GB is the minimum, but you are looking at 16Gb for photo editing and 32Gb for video rendering
  • Screen: As high a resolution as you can afford, ideally 4k or 5k IPS screen will give the best colour reproduction, where the frame rate is not as important as in gaming
  • Other: It’s worth considering the number of USB ports, memory slots and whether there is a disc drive – as you may be importing music and photos from multiple sources.

Working from Home

If you work from home, you are likely to need programmes that boot up quickly, as well as running multiple programmes and having multiple tabs open for multi-tasking.  This means you are going to want a pretty powerful processor and some good amount of RAM to handle all your multiple tasks. However, the majority of your software could come from the cloud.

Project management tools like Trello, Slack, Click-up,  Asana and Basecamp now enable you to communicate to teams, manage tasks, sprints and projects online. G-Suite and Microsoft 365 now offer all word processing, data management and presentation tools online – as well as cloud storage.

  • Usage: Home working
  • Processor: You are going to need something more powerful to handle using work related software. So a Core i5 or i7.
  • Drive: Large and fast HDD or SSD
  • RAM: Between 8-16GB
  • Screen: 1440p or higher

Hardcore Gamer

If you having been an avid gamer since Pong and your main parenting conundrum concerns whether to start your child on Mario World 1 or just jump straight into Mario Kart – then you are going to need some impressive kit.

  • Usage: A lot of PC and online gaming
  • Graphics card: For gaming, this is very important and will determine the quality of graphics and how smooth they are (frame rate). Ideally a Nvidia GTX 1070 or above. Lots of controversy about the new RTX cards, but if you want your PC as future ready as it can be, this is the way to go. RTX 2080ti the current Pinnacle … or even 2 of these in SLI mode!
  • RAM: As of 2018, 16Gb of RAM is plenty for even the most demanding games
  • Processor: A core i7 or i9 will be best (or a Ryzen Threadripper if you can afford it!). Overclockable processors preferred to give an extra boost if required, but make sure you have the top air coolers (such as the BeQuiet Dark Rock Pro 4) or a good liquid cooler.
  • Drive: Run your OS and maybe your favourite games from an SSD, put the rest of the games on an SSHD.
    Screen: Speed is of the essence, so most panels will be of the TN variety. Pixel count will depend on what graphics card you have, but as you’re sitting close, the higher the better. A 1440p screen will look great, but a 4k screen will look awesome, as long as your graphics card can keep up! (Only a GTX 1080 Ti and above need to apply!).

A combination of everything?

  • Usage: Everything under the sun and watching cat videos.
  • Graphics Card: GTX 1080 ti or RTX
  • Processor: i7 or i9
  • Drive: SSD / SSHD / HDD combination
  • Screen: 4K TN for gaming, IPS for photo editing

Next – mobility? Do you need this computer on the move?

If the answer is yes – then you want a laptop or tablet.

If not…

Then you want a desktop PC. Desktop towers can be easily customised and upgraded when needed and therefore last longer.

If you need a space saving option, then you can go for an ‘all in one’ – this is where the PC is contained in the screen and does not have a separate tower.

Don’t be swayed by looks. It’s what’s inside that counts.

At their heart, both MACs and PCs have similar processing components. So pick what’s going to work for you and your family. List your requirements and pick the ones that match.

And this final tip, that comes from our heart

Remember that you can get what you are looking for at a significantly reduced cost if you consider refurbished models. Refurbished options are often not even on most families shopping radar, but they are a hidden secret in the world of computing.

A report in The Independent recently showed that parents were now reconsidering refurbished in order to save money but were worried that they would need replacing or upgrading very quickly, or they didn’t trust where it came from.

So let’s shatter some of these misconceptions. These are not second-hand, or “used” in the conventional sense of the word – but refurbished computers to an as-new state. These ex-lease business computers may only be a year or two old, with light use, but have been thoroughly cleaned, components replaced, keyboards resprayed, security checked, operating systems re-installed, stress tested, and where required – RAM and HDD/SSD upgraded. Think turning Steve Rogers into Captain America, or Luke into a Jedi.

Secondly, our refurbished computers come with a 6-month warranty with the option to extend. This is because we trust the quality of our product.

Thirdly, our refurbished computers often come directly to us from the manufacturer, like Dell, IBM and Fujitsu. These manufacturers operate a leasing scheme to large organisations across the UK and when the lease come to an end the units are returned to the manufacturers where they undergo data wiping and testing. IT leasing operates in a similar way to leasing a car, meaning that hardware is often only in the field for a year or two before it returned in exchange for an upgrade. Companies return computers for a variety of reasons; downsizing or upgrading to new software or OS that is incompatible.

Once you have determined your usage requirements – we hope you’ll check out our offers. We are sure we can find or customise you a computer to fit whatever your needs. Give us a call at SecondLife-IT today.

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We love singing the praises of refurbished IT. Get started by calling our expert team to discuss your options.

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