By: Nikes Alviz
Have you ever experienced buying a computer and drawing a blank, when the salesman asked you, what computer specifications did you like? You had this big question mark in your mind of what he was talking about.
Was there an incident when you were trying to buy a certain software or game, and you were perplexed upon reading the label which said, “Minimum System Requirements”? You end up, therefore, buying nothing at all simply because you didn’t understand computer language.
If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, well you are in the right page. Keep reading, and this article will help enlighten and feed you healthy information, so that next time you are in the above situation, you will not feel inferior when it comes to tech talk in computers.
What is a computer system specification?
A computer system is a collection of devices each with their own functions, that works together as one in order to process information and display it on your monitor. It lets you do so many things like browse the internet, edit your worksheet, type a letter using a word processor, watch movies, play games, edit photos or videos, and even program a software to do a specific function. Each device contributes to the overall performance of a computer system.
A computer specification is a collection of information of all these important devices in a computer system. These are very useful because just by looking at these information, the user can roughly estimate a computer system’s performance. This is why software and games include in their label the “minimum system requirements” in order for the buyer or user to be able to estimate if his/her computer system can actually run the software or game and how efficiently will it run.
This is also important when you are trying to buy a new computer unit because these information will be your basis on what computer devices will you be giving priority in accordance to your desired main functionality of your computer system.
For example, if your computer is mainly for browsing and daily computing only, you may want to buy mid range processor, hard drive and medium amount of RAM.
But if your computer system will be mainly for gaming, you may want to invest on video cards, high RAM and fast processor. Therefore, proper basic knowledge on computer devices or specifications will greatly help any computer user especially those who are new in the field of computers.
Here are brief descriptions of each device usually included in computer system specifications:
- CPU – Central Processing Unit or simply processor.
This is the brain of a computer unit.
This is the device that process every bit of information you give the computer.
In a computer specification, it is usually written like this, “Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo, 2.8ghz”.
The first label is the model name or brand name of the processor.
The 2nd part is the important information you need. This number indicates a processor “clock speed”.
A clock speed is the frequency on how fast the processor executes commands or process information in a given time. Therefore, the higher the clock speed, the faster the processor, the better.
But also take note on the number of cores a processor have. Early processors only contain a single die or core in order to process data, but modern processors usually contain 2 or 4 dies or cores which simultaneously work together for a faster data processing.
Theoretically, the higher the core count, the better, but this is not usually applies for all. Some software or games only support 2 cores therefore a quad-core (4 cores) will not benefit on this.
But if you are into video and photo editing where there are a number of calculations needed at a single time, a quad-core processor will be faster than a dual core. Therefore, the benefit gained on multiple core processors largely depends on the software or game to be used.
2. RAM- Random Access Memory.
This is a memory module where bits of information to be processed are stored temporarily and randomly accessed by the processor for loading.
The main difference of a RAM from a memory card or hard drive or ROM (read-only memory) is that the information stored inside a RAM is deleted once the computer is turned off unlike other memory modules where data stored inside is retained even after turning off the computer.
Basically, the higher the capacity of the RAM (usually in MB (megabytes) or GB (Gigabytes)), the better and faster the computer responds to processes and user inputs. This is because the higher the memory capacity, the more information can be loaded in the memory at once therefore less time the processor seeks for these information and the faster it will execute a certain task.
A computer with at least 1gb of RAM for Windows Vista and Seven Operating system is usually sufficient for fast and efficient computing. But a RAM of 2gb or more is recommended for gaming and high priority software (video editing) purposes is recommended since these require a lot of tasks and instructions loaded at a single time.
3. Graphics Card/Video Card
This device processes all the information related to the graphics the computer will display. Without this, you will not see anything displayed on your monitor. There are 2 kinds of video processors, the onboard graphics accelerator and the “graphics card”.
The onboard graphics accelerator is kind of graphics processor which is already embedded on the motherboard. This usually provides medium resolution and mediocre 3D performance.
If the computer is for internet browsing and daily computing, the onboard graphics is sufficient enough to provide your graphical needs. A very example of this is the graphics accelerator of laptops.
The 2nd type of graphics accelerator is the “graphics card”. It is called as such since the whole graphics processor is in a separate card win which it is connected to a motherboard through a bus.
Old computers uses AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) bus slots which are already phased out of production. Modern computers uses PCIE (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) bus which is a lot faster than the traditional AGP to connect modern video cards to the motherboard.
The graphics card has a separate memory module in which it acts like a RAM but only loads graphic related data for processing. Although basically the higher the memory the better, this is not always the case.
Most users mistakenly think that this is the most important information a graphics card have. They think that the higher the memory, the faster the card process the graphics, and therefore the better the quality the graphics is rendered. This is wrong. The memory capacity of a graphics card is only important when determining the maximum resolution a graphic data will be displayed.
The higher the resolution, the higher the memory requirement. Therefore, a 512mb video card in 1280×1024 resolution is sufficient enough to provide the graphics needed. A 2gb video card in a 1920×1080 resolution is pretty much an overkill. What is important in determining the quality of the graphics rendered is the card’s ability to render the graphics and its Clock and Memory Speed.
The higher the Clock and Memory Speeds, the better the video card’s performance. So when choosing for a card for gaming, consider checking its clock and memory bus speeds and rendering capability rather than its onboard video memory.
4. Hard Drive – also known as Hard Disk Drive.
This is the device where all information for long term storage are saved. Basically, the higher the capacity of the hard drive the more data could be saved, the better. Most hard drives now have capacities of 160gb, 320gb, 500gb and even 1TB (terabytes or 1000 gb) of memory.
This choice is mostly dependent on user preference. A hard drive of 320gb is more than sufficient in daily computing.
This device reads all optical media you use for data storage which include CD and DVD. This is a Read Only Memory, therefore information stored in these media can only be “read” and cannot be altered.
This drive is useful because it is the primary drive used when software discs are to be installed or video files (DVD movies) are to be viewed.
6. Operating System (OS)
This is the software which controls everything the computer does. Without an operating system, the computer system is unusable. Basically, the better the operating system, the better performance your computer system will be.
Operating system is user dependent and preference but operating system recommended are Windows XP and Windows 7 which are very good, secured, and are stable.
Well basically, these are the most important information included in a computer specification but other information which is not usually included are also important and are usually ignored.
For additional information, these are the following:
- Power Supply Unit
It is also known as PSU. This device is where the whole computer unit gets its juice. Usually its unit is Watts, which is the amount of power it could provide at its maximum capacity. So the more computer parts installed in a computer system, the more power it needs to run.
Therefore the higher the wattage, the more parts you can install (e.g. 2 video cards simultaneously working, or 5 hard drives in one computer), the better. But beware, the higher the wattage, the higher it consumes electricity, therefore the higher the electric bill will cost.
This is where all the computer parts are interconnected and communicates with each other. Basically, the better the features of a motherboard (e.g. more memory slots, quality capacitors, heavy duty resistors, better cooling, etc) the better. This is where also the sound chip is installed in order to process sound in your computer.
These are only a few but some of the most important information in a computer system. These data termed as Computer Specifications will help the buyer or user determine the type of computer he wants and will fit his/her usage style. With some basic knowledge of these, you have the advantage in choosing your computer system with its best performance that will suit your computing needs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nikes Alviz is an allied health professional, who is knowledgeable in computers because of experience. I have been a witness to how he could “repair” a lap top or computer that other technicians were not able to restore. I can say then , that he’s a computer expert.
Starting this week, I’ll be featuring his weekly pointers, tips, information and articles about computers. And mind you Naruto is next on the list. lol.
Thanks Sir Nikes, for agreeing to be a weekly guest writer. Kudos to you!