Computer System Specifications

Okay so you've decided on what you want to use your computer for, and you are now in the shop, faced with dozens of different computers that all like pretty much the same. How do you choose? How can you be sure it's the one you need?

A little bit of background information on system specifications is all you really need to make an informed decision. Each specification should appear on a sheet with the computer, and will provide a different benefit to you as the user.


Let's start with your CPU. CPU stands for Central Processing Unit, and is basically the brains of the operation. A decent CPU is going to be important, no matter what you are doing, so it is worth investing in a machine with a good one.

There are several types of CPU chips out there, as they have developed quite a bit over the years. The older type are the single core processors which we recommend staying away from as they are too slow for modern day processing. More recent developments of the processor chips have produced CPUs with 2 or 4 cores, which make them capable of multitasking. Dual Core, Core 2, Core 2 Duo and Quad Core processors are all examples of these.

Now this explanation is not 100% technically accurate, as there is quite a bit more complexity involved in the way these chips operate, but it is the best way of defining the difference between these processors. Think of your CPU as a freeway, and the information needing to be processed as the traffic. A single core processor has only one lane, so come rush hour, the cars are backed up for 20 miles. But if you add another lane, the congestion is reduced, to say 10 miles. Add another two lanes and you've got free-flowing traffic.

As well as their different types, CPU's will be rated with different operating speeds. The higher the speed (measured in Ghz), the higher the speed limit on your freeway, and therefore the faster your traffic can move along it. For most applications, we suggest you get yourself at least a 2.2Ghz processor, and at least 2.4Ghz if you are gaming. 2.8Ghz+ is a better gaming benchmark.

Now if you are only planning to use your system for some basic number-crunching, to do up some school or uni assignments, or purely to run a basic business accounting program, then you wont neccessarily need a four lane freeway. A Dual Core or Core 2 will usually suffice in this case. We recommend going to the Core 2, just to be sure.

If you are the kind of person that like to do a lot of things at once when you use the computer, for example you may surf the net doing research, while working on typing up your assignment, listening to some music in the background and checking your facebook while watching a video on youtube. If that sounds like you, then you are going to want a Core 2 Duo at least.

If you want a computer for gaming purposes, you need to get yourself a good performance chip. A Core 2 Xtreme or Quad Core will be the most suitable chips for you, as they have high data flow and multitasking capabilities.

There is no hard-and-fast rule regarding which chip you should get, as long as it is above the minimum type recommended here. If you choose to get a chip that is faster than the recommended type here, that's perfectly fine, you can simply expect your new system to give you a longer service life.

The next specification to understand is your RAM. See the next page for details on this important spec.