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 Thought this might be useful ? pc knowledge

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PostSubject: Thought this might be useful ? pc knowledge    Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:23 pm

Thought this might be useful for everyone whose pc knowledge stops at once it's switched on and you visit your favourite sites.....

This might get a little long winded but I will try and keep it simple.........

When buying a pc you first need to define what its going to be used for, there are broadly 3 categories most home users will fall into.

1, A basic machine - an internet box, a basic system to get online, view web pages, e-mail, maybe download music and video.

2, A media centre, A more powerful machine, used for the above, viewing high definition video, photo/video editing and playing music, possibly connected to a large tv.

3, A gaming system, A very powerful machine, used for all of the above, Playing games that use a lot of 3d graphics, if developing software may be used for 3d model rendering and animation.

Now comes the technical stuff, this should be your shopping list when looking at the technical specifications of the machine you want to buy.

Hardware,

Hardware is the stuff you can physically touch, screen, mouse, keyboard, case, internals of the case etc. This is opposed to software which produces everything you see on your screen and hear through your speakers.

CPU - Central Processing Unit, This is the main chip in your computer, it does ALL the work when you are using your computer.

Basic machine: a single core cpu of a reasonable speed will be all that is needed.
Media Centre: a fast single core or multiple core will deal with everything you ask of this machine, multiple cores will help with processor intensive tasks such as video rendering and photo editing.
Gaming machine: as with the media centre a fast single or multi core is used. Most gamers are pretty tech savvy so have multi core cpu's as gaming machines tend to be able to handle everything you might want to do. Although there are not that many games that utilise a multi core cpu, however this is changing and most if not all new release games will use a multi core to its fullest potential.

Memory - RAM (Random Access Memory), Contrary to what a lot of people believe this not the storage memory, this memory is only used when the machine is on. it stores the data of the programs you are using so that the programs will respond quickly.
32-bit operating systems can only address (use) a maximum of 4 Gigabytes of ram. 64-bit operating systems will address many times this amount

Basic machine: 1 Gigabyte should be sufficient, although with a windows vista or windows 7 machine I would recommend 2Gb
Media Centre: 2-4 Gigabyte, Possibly more if you plan on editing big photo files or a lot of video rendering.
Gaming: 4+ Gigabytes. With gaming machines more is definitely better.

Hard Disk Drive (HDD), this is the main storage on your computer, everything you use software wise is stored here and I mean EVERYTHING, photos, videos, programs, games, everything. These are mechanical devices so at some point they WILL fail. It might take years for this to happen but once they do fail unless you are willing to spend hundreds and sometimes thousands of pounds with a specialist data retrieval firm your photos, videos and documents will be lost. BACK UP regularly as they sometimes fail totally with no advanced warning.

Basic machine: 80Gb- 250Gb Should give enough space for a modest music and video collection
Media centre: 250Gb - 2 Terabytes (1 Terabyte= 1024 Gigabytes) Plenty of space for videos, music and photos
Gaming machine: 250Gb - 2 Terabytes (1 Terabyte= 1024 Gigabytes) Plenty of space for videos, music, photos and games.

Graphics Card, this produces the visuals you see on your screen, they come in 2 flavours, on-board, where the graphics chip is part of the motherboard and separate video cards, these slot into a specialist slot on the motherboard, are easily upgraded and tend to be more powerful than on-board graphics. (note: most on board graphics can be upgraded with a separate card as there is usually a slot on the motherboard for this.)

Basic machine: On board graphics will be fine
Media Centre: A high end on-board, with 3d capability will be ok, but you may find a separate card will be better.
Gaming Machine: A high end separate card with lots of on-board memory, basically you want the best you can afford, with the new extreme high end cards retailing in excess of £600 your budget is your limit here.

Sound Card, as it says on the tin really, produces the sound through your speakers. On-board or separate.
Basic: on-board is all thatís needed
Media: High end on-board, supporting surround sound up to 7.1. A separate card is not really needed but the separates do tend to produce better quality sound at higher volumes.
Gaming: the same as the media centre

Monitor, TFT (thin film transistor) monitors are pretty much the norm. However all flat panel monitors are not the same. Cheap ones have very poor viewing angles, colour depth and contrast ratios. If its cheap and nasty, the best picture from it will be when sat directly in front of it, the colours may seem washed out and blacks may not appear truly black. The other thing is size and how many you want to use. As the monitor size or number of monitors increase, the more powerful the graphics must be to run them. You also need to look at supported resolution. the higher the resolution supported the sharper and less grainy the picture will appear.

Basic: cheap tft monitor will do fine.
Media: Monitor with good viewing angles, good colour balance and good contrast ratio. Basically, get them to switch it on and play a video on it then wander around to see if the picture looks ok from anywhere.
Gaming: Viewing angle not so important here as you will most likely be directly in front of it when gaming, unless you use it as an all round machine. Multiple monitors are also useful, game on one screen, skype, msn, web browsing and if your card is powerful enough video on the other screen. If you spend a lot of time on the pc and try out the multiple monitor set-up within a week you will never go back......

Tv Card, allows you to watch tv from your aerial on your screen, the more powerful ones allow you to watch/record multiple channels at once.

Basic: Not needed
Media: A must have, the more powerful the better, make sure it can handle digital TV signals and some come with freeview built in.
Gaming: Your choice, not needed but as it is a powerhouse machine no reason why you shouldn't have one.

Operating system, XP, Vista, Windows 7 and 8, Linux (various flavours) Everyone will probably have experience with XP, some with Vista, and pretty much all new machines have windows 8 now. I would personally avoid Vista if at all possible because it only works well when paired with a decent powerful machine. I haven't had any experience of Windows 8 but apparently it will work much better than vista but not as good as 7.
Linux is a completely different kettle of fish, while it has made huge leaps in terms of user friendliness a higher than usual technical knowledge is definitely needed to do anything more than basic operation.
32bit vs 64bit, while this will make little difference to you the user I would personally recommend going for 64bit whenever possible, you can still use 32 bit programs with 64 bit operating systems but the reverse is not true at all. 32 bit operating systems cannot use 64bit software at all.

I hope this will give you an idea of what you are looking for when buying as I know from personal experience pc salesmen will try and baffle you with technical twaddle then sell you something way too overpowered for your needs that you will never fully utilise.
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Last edited by TechSupport on Tue Feb 12, 2013 6:46 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Thought this might be useful ? pc knowledge    Tue Feb 12, 2013 6:36 pm

TechSupport wrote:

I hope this will give you an idea of what you are looking for when buying as I know from personal experience pc salesmen will try and baffle you with technical twaddle then sell you something way too overpowered for your needs that you will never fully utilise.

One very important aspect that you have not mentioned is graphics memory. Particularly when buying a laptop graphics memory is often quoted as shared with system memory hence graphics intensive programs can virtually grind a system to a halt. This can happen even on basic games or any kind of video editing software. Many laptops look good in specification but in reality they are being cleverly misrepresented and you won't discover it until you have got the machine home. If you intend on playing games that are any more complicated than solitaire or doing any form of video editing it is essential that the graphics memory is independent from the system memory.

I have been using Windows 8 on a laptop for several months and in its standard form and without a touch screen it is pants. However, you can get free add on shell applications that make it far more suitable for use with a mouse and keyboard.
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PostSubject: Re: Thought this might be useful ? pc knowledge    Tue Feb 12, 2013 6:44 pm

Quote :
Graphics Card, this produces the visuals you see on your screen, they come in 2 flavours, on-board, where the graphics chip is part of the motherboard and separate video cards, these slot into a specialist slot on the motherboard, are easily upgraded and tend to be more powerful than on-board graphics. (note: most on board graphics can be upgraded with a separate card as there is usually a slot on the motherboard for this.)

Basic machine: On board graphics will be fine
Media Centre: A high end on-board, with 3d capability will be ok, but you may find a separate card will be better.
Gaming Machine: A high end separate card with lots of on-board memory, basically you want the best you can afford, with the new extreme high end cards retailing in excess of £600 your budget is your limit here.

Very good points you have raised but I did mention Graphics as you can see just not specifically for laptops Shake

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PostSubject: Re: Thought this might be useful ? pc knowledge    Tue Feb 12, 2013 6:56 pm

It's an extremely common issue with laptops but cheaper desk tops also suffer from shared graphics memory and are often misrepresented in the same way. Its usually more common on PC's that have on board graphics cards. However, as you say, with a desktop there is normally the ability to disable the on board graphics and add a better quality separate graphics card, something that is impossible on most laptops (although some of the up market laptops can be upgraded). On better quality laptops it is often possible to increase the video memory by adding a larger memory card.

Separate graphics cards often have as many as three different types of connection, VGA, DVi & HDMI. VGA is by far the lowest quality and is an analogue signal. DVi & HDMI are both digital. HDMI is now becoming very commonplace primarily due to its compatibility with the majority of TV sets. VGA outputs on laptops are becoming rare and in the main are being substituted with HDMI sockets. When choosing a graphics card you need to ensure that it has connections to support your monitor.
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PostSubject: Re: Thought this might be useful ? pc knowledge    Tue Feb 12, 2013 7:00 pm

Father Tiresias wrote:
It's an extremely common issue with laptops but cheaper desk tops also suffer from shared graphics memory and are often misrepresented in the same way. Its usually more common on PC's that have on board graphics cards. However, as you say, with a desktop there is normally the ability to disable the on board graphics and add a better quality separate graphics card, something that is impossible on most laptops (although some of the up market laptops can be upgraded). On better quality laptops it is often possible to increase the video memory by adding a larger memory card.

Separate graphics cards often have as many as three different types of connection, VGA, DVi & HDMI. VGA is by far the lowest quality and is an analogue signal. DVi & HDMI are both digital. HDMI is now becoming very commonplace primarily due to its compatibility with the majority of TV sets. VGA outputs on laptops are becoming rare and in the main are being substituted with HDMI sockets. When choosing a graphics card you need to ensure that it has connections to support your monitor.


Absolutely correct always check that whatever you buy is going to do what you want it to do with incurring more cost. Bow

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PostSubject: Re: Thought this might be useful ? pc knowledge    Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:12 pm

I stick with towers, as opposed to lappys
towers have a lot more heat dissipation (size)
and last a lot longer, down side is they tend to take up a corner of the room scratch Smile
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