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When purchasing a new computer whether it be desktop, laptop or tablet there are certain components which define the performance and usability of the machine.


Below is an explanation of these components.






CPU (Processor): Intel Core i5 or Intel Core i7

RAM (Memory): 8Gb +

Disk (Storage): 256GB + SSD (NOT HDD)


Processor (CPU)



The processor is the brain of the computer that processes instructions and performs tasks. Your processor sends and receives information from the different parts of the system (hardware and software)


There are two main brands of processor available, Intel and AMD - I would recommend choosing an Intel processor where possible as these are generally faster, the AMD processors are more often found in budget models and don't tend to perform quite so well when compared to an Intel processor. If you do go for an AMD then make sure it is one of the faster models as per recommendations below


Most new processors are designed to work with a 64-bit version of Windows, which means it works a lot quicker and can make use of more memory (RAM) in the computer (32-bit processors and operating systems are limited to 3Gb of RAM)


You also need to take note of the speed shown for the processor (shown in Ghz) as each processor model comes in many different speeds and this can make quite a difference, I would advise avoiding any of the lower price computers which only have processor speeds of 1.5Ghz or 1.7Ghz as they can be very slow at times, try to go for a minimum of 2.3Ghz




Desktop/Laptop - Intel Core i3 (for basic use), Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 (for general home computing) - Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7 (for high end computing and gaming)


Tablet - Intel Atom, Intel Core M, i5 or i7




Intel Celeron, Intel Pentium Silver and Intel Pentium Gold - these are very slow processors designed for budget / lower end models

Memory (RAM)



The physical, working memory of a computer where data is temporarily stored whilst a program is running. A higher amount of RAM means there is more space available for temporary data storage, which speed up processing making the computer work faster




4 Gb minimum (watch out for lower priced models that only have 1 or 2 Gb!)

Storage (HDD / SSD)



Area of the computer where all your files (data) and programs are stored. The larger the disk the more space you have to store your documents


There are two main types of drive you will find in a computer:-


HDD - a traditional mechanical drive which spins at high speed and stores all the data on metal platters - these come in a variety of sizes ranging from a few hundred Gb to several Tb - most computers which come with HDD have drives that contain more space than an average user will ever need


SSD - these devices don't tend to store as much information as a traditional HDD but they are much quicker as they don't contain any moving parts and instead your data is stored on flash memory chips.  Without going into technical details there are two main types of SSD you will come across - SATA and NVMe, where possible go for NVMe as it is the fastest of the two

Some computers will come with both drives, a SSD to store Windows and all your applications so that the computer boots and works quickly, and a traditional HDD for you to store all your data


See more information here explaining the differences between these two types of drive



SSD where possible as computers with these drives are much quicker than equivalent models with HDD


Avoid any computer which comes with eMMC storage


256 Gb+ (SSD)

1 Tb+ (HDD)

Graphics Card



Component that handles all areas relating to graphics and video output to the monitor


Most computers have an "onboard/shared" graphics card, this is part of the motherboard (main circuit board in the computer) and is fine for most uses of a computer, but if you intend to use your computer for gaming or other graphic intensive tasks then look for a computer that has a "dedicated" graphics card installed

Monitor / Screen



Screen size is also something to consider.  Most modern laptops come with smaller screen sizes e.g. 14" rather than 15.6" which was more common in the past.  Whilst this makes the laptop lighter and more portable it can for some make viewing text on the screen more difficult, so I would suggest looking in store at the various sizes first when purchasing a new laptop


For a desktop computer then the bigger the better, depending on available desk space of course, but a larger screen will allow you to view photos/videos in a much clearer resolution and at full size, and will make using multiple applications at once easier


N.B. Screen size is measured diagonally (e.g. from corner to corner) not horizontally

CD/DVD Drive




Allows you to insert CD or DVD disks to install programs, view photos and also to use blank disks to back up your data


It is worth noting that a lot of laptops and all tablets DO NOT come with CD/DVD drive now - this is mainly because most people use USB memory sticks and hard drives instead, and the majority of software, music and videos are downloadable nowadays rather than being supplied on a CD/DVD


If you do need a CD/DVD drive for a device which doesn't come with one fitted internally, then you can purchase an external drive which would connect via USB



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