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The Complete Guide on How To Choose Your Next PC

The eternal guide for non-geeks on how to choose wisely

Photo by Tianyi Ma on Unsplash

So, the time has come for you to buy a new laptop, or maybe you want to try out a desktop computer and you don’t know which one and how you must choose, don’t worry, I’ll do my best to help you out.

I’m a PC lover, all my life I’ve interacted with computers. I’m the kind of geek who reads about the new CPU that launched, the most recent advances of quantum computers, etc.

However, it truly bothers me when my friends send me a message asking for advice on which computer they should buy and I’m at the movies, so when I can finally respond, they’ve already made the wrong choice. That’s why I’m writing an article on how to know the answer to all these questions:

  • Will this laptop be enough for what I need?
  • Which one of these is the best choice for me?
  • Should I buy a Mac or Windows laptop?
  • Desktop or laptop?
  • And many, many, many more questions.
Photo by Olena Sergienko on Unsplash

First, grab a seat, get comfortable. This will take a while. I want to help you know how to choose a PC, not give you some approximation based on this year’s technology. Therefore, in order to achieve this, I’ll have to go over everything and explain the how’s and why’s.

I’ll explain to you from the most basic, to the most difficult parts. Be patient, I’ll do my best to keep it simple and easy to understand.

I’ll explain the desktop/laptop choice, operative system, screen, CPU, RAM, hard/solid-state drive, etc.

Ready? Set… Go!

Desktop or Laptop

I believe this one is the easiest of them all. It all depends on your mobility needs. The more you’ll need to move your PC, the more you’ll need a Laptop. But what happens if I don’t need to move it a lot? What difference does it make if I buy a Desktop or a Laptop? Let’s find out.

Desktops are normally cheaper, and if you own a Desktop, you’ll be able to upgrade most (if not all) the components of your PC over time. If your PC is running slow you could buy more RAM, upgrade to a SSD (I’ll explain what it is later), or even change your CPU!

In brief: Go for desktop if you won’t need to move much, you want to save money and you need it to endure longer without the need of buying a whole new PC.

Photo by Lorenzo Herrera on Unsplash

The Operative System: Mac vs Windows vs Linux

First, what is an operative system?

Well, it is the medium between you and the PC components. You could think of it as a type of car: you can drive an automatic or a standard, some will give you more control, and some will make your life easier (but they will be more expensive).

In other words, some operative systems will make your life easier, and some will grant you more control (but remember, with great power comes great responsibility). There exist many OS out there, but odds are you will only find PCs with one of the 3 I mentioned above (MacOS, Windows, Linux). I’ll go over each of them for you to see which one fits you the most.

Mac OS

This one is the easiest to use. Mac OS is, in fact, the most optimized and user-friendly OS you’ll find. It will use the PC resources more efficiently than Windows and it’ll give you (almost) no trouble.

Linux

If you are a programmer (or insane) you’ll go for Linux. Remember those movies where people used to interact with old PCs using commands? Or have you watched any movie with hackers? Yes. That’s what using Linux looks like.

You’ll have to do almost everything (and I mean, everything) by yourself, like installing drivers for your PC components, obviously using the command line (terminal). If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just forget about using any Linux based OS (like Ubuntu, Debian, Linux Mint, and so on).

Photo by Kevin Horvat on Unsplash

Windows

If Mac and Linux were heaven and hell, respectively. Windows would be purgatory. It is the middle point between those two. It will give you some freedom over your PC but not even close to how Linux based OS do. It will be user friendly, yet not as gorgeous as Mac OS.

However, there’s something more to take into account when considering Windows. There’s a reason why most of PCs around the globe use Windows, and that’s because most of PC brands (Dell, HP, Acer, Toshiba, etc.) can use it, while Mac OS only exists on Apple PCs. This is the same reason why most PCs with Windows are considerably cheaper.

There’s a downside to this, though. As Windows needs to be “universal”, your PC will have old drivers and files which probably aren’t needed anymore. Therefore, Windows will probably need more storage and have more efficiency issues.

In brief

If you have the money, go for Mac OS. If you don’t have the money, choose Windows. But unless you know what you’re doing, don’t go for Linux.

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

How to choose the CPU

The CPU is the brain of your PC, this is where you won’t want to save money. Otherwise, you’ll regret it.

Ok, I told you I wouldn’t mention anything related to a specific year. However, as of 2020 there are only two ways to go: Intel or AMD. Those are the only ones and they come with their pros and cons.

Intel:

Intel has been walking this earth for a while, they truly know how to make the CPU in order to provide quality, they’ll be fast, powerful and enduring. However, they are usually much more expensive than AMD. If you need your PC to last for many years, you’ll probably want to spend more and go Intel.

AMD:

As I mentioned, AMD cpu’s usually are cheaper than Intel. However, they tend to have overheating issues, which normally make them endure less. If you won’t need heavy usage from your laptop, you could save a little and go AMD.

The numbers

So, you have decided which way to go. Nice. Now it’s time to choose which of the products they offer is better for you. I’ll explain them as fast as I can. There’s no great science here, though.

CPUs normally come with 2 parameters: speed and memory. Speed is measured with Ghz, obviously the higher the number is, the better. An example could be 2.6 Ghz (yes, it looks like a very small number, but as of 2020, 2.6 would be a good number).

Memory is measured as any flash drive, hard drive, or any other memory you know. Because I want this article to be as general as it can possibly be, I’ll give to you the smallest-to-biggest list: Kb, Mb, Gb, Tb. Therefore, when the CPU details mention a memory number (called cache), you want to aim as high as possible.

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

RAM

The Ram is where all your active applications store their data.

This one is a little tricky, but I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible. As it is with almost everything, it is possible to fall into excess. Most people don’t need too much RAM, however, most PCs come with either too much or not enough. If you want to get it as precise as possible here are some tips based on how much you could use your pc:

I need my PC to write emails, use office apps, and internet.

You don’t need too much. You can buy the one with the least RAM you find. However, I recommend finding the PC with least RAM and buying one with a little more. This will garantee that your PC won’t suffer from lack of memory. Specially if you are of those who have 20 open tabs simultaneously.

I’ll use my PC for casual gaming

You are in the average. Go to your local PC store, find the one with most RAM and the one with least, then find the one between those 2.

I’ll use my PC for heavy programming, 3D modeling and/or gaming

Aim high, buy the one with most RAM. It’s that simple.

EXTRA: I bought a PC and it gets slow when I have multiple open programs

Don’t worry, you can always upgrade your RAM. There are several articles out there explaining how to find a compatible RAM with your PC and how to install it yourself (by installing I mean opening your PC with your hands and inserting it. There’s no such thing as downloading/installing more RAM from the internet, you’ll only invite some nasty virus into your life).

Photo by Michael Geiger on Unsplash

Storage

HDD vs SDD. Which one should I choose?
Short & Sweet…

HDD is the “old” way to store information. They are cheaper than SSD’s but considerably slower. Having an SSD instead of an HDD will make your PC to boot and open programs faster (you’ll thank it if you use programs such as Archicad, Maya, Unity, etc.).

However, I also recommend buying an external HDD to do backups and save those files you won’t use frequently. This way, hopefully you won’t face any lack of storage scenario.

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

Graphics Processing Unit

If you’re not into gaming, you can skip this section. You will do fine with the integrated graphics which come with your CPU.

Fortunately, as of 2020, GPUs are having an amazing rate of evolution. They are almost as complex as the PC itself. Because of this, it is extremely hard to write a general guide on how to choose these. I apologize for this, but the best I can do here is to recommend you look for multiple GPUs and check how they perform with the game you want to play. Look for the one which will perform with no problem, that way it will suffice you for a long time.

Photo by Sean Do on Unsplash

Screen

I believe this one’s the easiest to choose. If you find multiple PCs that fit your CPU, GPU & RAM needs with different screen sizes, go for the one that will help you the most. Personally, I like PCs with bigger screens because it helps my eyes. However, there are people who prefer smaller screens for mobility. Choose according to your needs.

My Project

I believe everyone should be able to use their computer’s full potential. It is achieved by knowing how to program, how to create unique solutions to problems only you know about.

Learning to program can be as easy as making a sandwich, yet it can be as hard as climbing the Everest. It all depends on which path you take, but how can you know which one, amongst the million learning options available, is the right one?

This is why I’m writing a book on programming, but not any kind of book. I’m making a book thinking about this exact problem, I want it to be a learning resource which allows everyone to understand how coding works so it can be applied to any kind or project or day-to-day task.

I’m running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the completion of this book. I invite you to check it out and, if you wish to support it you can share it and/or make a donation (there are multiple rewards, I suggest you check them out!). I’ll leave a link to it here during the campaign (and a video about my project).

Link to the Kickstarter campaign.

Conclusion

Choosing a PC can be a daunting task for some people. Friends of mine ask me for advice on how to choose a PC frequently, that’s why I wrote this article, I wanted to write something to help them, and along the way, help you. I hope you found this useful. I know it was quite long to read, yet I wanted to cover as much as possible, as simple as possible (I’m sorry if you were looking for something more specific).

Thanks for reading!

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SSAM

SSAM

27 Followers

I’m a computer science student and I write about programming, roleplaying games, sci-fi, movies, books, finances, and anything that comes into my mind.