Purchasing a computer

Devices available for purchase are constantly changing. New models of CPU (central processing unit), graphics card, and new laptops are released while existing devices become discontinued. Consequently, specific device model names are current only at the time of writing.

To further complicate the situation, the assumption that a new device will always provide better performance than an older device may be incorrect. This is because individual devices are released to particular market segments based on performance, power usage and cost.

To understand and compare the performance of devices, some understanding of component classes is required and benchmark test results should be reviewed before any purchase.

Understanding components

There are several major computer components that affect the overall performance of a computer system.

CPU selection

CPUs are released in brands based on performance, cost and energy use

Intel release a series of CPUs under various brands simultaneously every 4-8 months.

Each brand of CPU is grouped to satisfy a particular market segment based on performance, cost and power usage.

Current Intel brand examples include:

Within each brand, desktop and laptop CPUs are released.

Within the release of each series, individual CPUs with variant features, performance and different price points are released at the same time.

When comparing the costs and features of individual devices carefully review the CPU details provided. Then research the available benchmark test results.

Be aware of Ultra-low power CPUs

The desire for laptops with extended battery life while also having a minimum form factor and minimum weight has resulted in the release of ultra-low power CPUs. With such CPUs resources such as the number of physical cores, the cache and the processing speed are limited to minimize form factor and battery drain.

Graphics cards

Devices such as laptops and desktops can have integrated graphics or dedicated graphics.

The use of integrated graphics can result in poor user interface performance and limit the performance of applications such as Echoview. The use of a dedicated graphics card, even when not showing 3D visualizations, will significantly free CPU and system memory resources, which will then provide better overall performance.

A dedicated graphics card is recommended

For laptops we recommend the purchase of a device with dedicated graphics. When purchasing a desktop select a device which includes a dedicated graphics card, or ensure a separately purchased graphics card can be installed.

Graphics cards are released in classes based on performance and cost

Graphics cards are released as a series incorporating GPUs (graphical processing units) manufactured by Nvidia and AMD, with graphics cards named based on the GPUs fitted.

Aim to purchase a graphics card listed within the midrange to high end graphics card classes

Research various benchmark test results available before purchase

Various websites publish CPU, graphics card, and laptop benchmark test results.

Before a purchase review the currently available devices to:

Benchmark tests and reviews

Benchmark test and review websites include:

Laptop and all-in-one upgrade limitations

Reviewing components is particularly important when planning to purchase a laptop or an all-in-one device. Unlike desktops, the internal components of such devices cannot be upgraded easily. Increasingly, laptop and all-in-one devices cannot be upgraded at all post the initial device purchase.

See also

Computer requirements
Echoview Editions
Echoview and Windows memory management