Computing buyer's guide

From organising your photos and DVDs to catching up with friends and work, the PC has become an invaluable part of the home. And the latest models are even quicker and better looking than ever before. Here’s an essential four-step guide to choosing the perfect one for you…

1. Where do you want to put your PC?

If you have a permanent desk in an office or bedroom, then a desktop PC or All-In-One would be ideal. If however you share a house or flat and plan to work in the kitchen or living room, a laptop or netbook would be best as these can be stored easily.

2. What do you want to do with your PC?

Decide how you are going to use your computer: will you just email from home, work on the move or play games? Once you know, select a system that has a suitable graphics card and processor, such as the ones suggested in the glossary below.

3. How many films, photos and music files do you have?

If you plan on storing large numbers of files it’s wise to double-check capacity. Films and TV shows can take up a lot of space; around 4GB for a HD film – the same as approximately 1,000 MP3 audio tracks.

4. Do you plan to travel with your PC?

If you need to work on the move then there’s plenty of choice. For basic features and a small system choose a netbook – they’re ideal for email and browsing. If you need a larger screen or want to run multiple applications then you need a full laptop.

Glossary

Processor

Like the engine of a car a more powerful processor will make your computer run faster. Processors such as the Intel Celeron, Pentium and Atom or AMD Sempron are good for basic tasks such as email and browsing. Faster processors such as the Intel Core range or AMD Phenom and Turion are far better at complex tasks like gaming.

Memory

Used to store the current running applications and the data they’re using. A basic system with 1GB will struggle running more than a few web pages and email. With 4GB it will easily manage running multiple applications at the same time.

Display

A graphics card is used to create the picture that you see on screen. Cheaper systems use integrated versions that have very limited gaming abilities. If you plan to play 3D games, opt for systems that use dedicated graphics that are made by NVIDIA or ATI.

Hard drive

The part of a computer that stores all the files, programs and the system itself. After programs and Windows a 160GB drive can hold around 32,000 music tracks or 25 HD films. A 500GB drive will handle around 110,000 music tracks or 100 HD movies.

Optical drive

Most laptops and desktops systems come with an integrated optical drive. These enable you to easily install new software and games, while writers can burn files to writable DVDs, CDs and even Blu-ray discs if you have a suitable drive.

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