WHETHER you are
looking to buy your First computer or upgrade to a newer one, have a
good think about what you want to do with it.
This is going to
determine the features you look for in a machine and the amount you'll
need to spend.
Compared to a year
ago, there are some very powerful computers around. For home users,
there are many mid-priced machines which are full of features that
will keep the whole family happy.
And many of the
features that you once had to pay extra for now come as standard, so
you don't have to get a computer especially aimed at film buffs to get
a DVD-drive, home video-editing software and plenty of power.
manufacturers are stuffing their machines with extra add-ons in an
effort to attract buyers and if you know what you're looking for, you
can make the most of the offers.
With a reasonable
price, you can expect to get a powerful all-round computer which can
handle word processing, graphics, Internet and e-mail. school projects
and homework, games, a spot of home-movie making and organizing and
editing digital photographs.
You'll also get a
DVD-drive and a re-writable CD-ROM for recording your own music CDs or
saving photographs on to disk.
If you're just
after a machine which will allow you to do some word processing and
surf the Internet, you needn't spend as much. There are plenty of
models which leave out the multimedia bells and whistles and reflect
this in their lower prices, Virtually any new computer - certainly any
mentioned here - will come with all you need to get connected to the
Internet and send e-mail straight away.
Follow our guide to
the features you need to understand before you buy.
This is the brain
of your computer and determines the speed at which it will work.
Processor speeds are measured in Mhz (Megahertz) and Ghz (Gigahertz),
and I,000Mhz is equal to I Ghz.
Two of the biggest
processor manufacturers are Intel and AMD. Intel makes the well known
Pentium processors - the most recently launched being the Pentium 4.
Intel also makes the Celeron processor which is a cut-down version.
AMD makes the
Athlon processor, the fastest of which is the Athlon XP. It also makes
a cut-down version, the Duron. It was once the case that a Pentium
processor was really the only type worth having, but recently AMD's
Athlon has been delivering very high speeds.
"The Athlon XP
machines are the fastest we've ever seen," says Ursula Tolaini,
reviews editor of PC Advisor. She recommends the Athlon processor
Generally, for home
use , a processor speed between 800 Mhz and 1.4 Ghz is plenty.
- Random Access Memory.
This is your computer's temporary memory. The more RAM You have,
the faster your computer will be, and the more applications you will
be able to use at the same time.
RAM is measured in
Mb (Megabytes). Don't go for less than 128 Mb RAM.
This is your
computer's permanent memory, where all your personal documents,
photographs or music files are stored alongside program files which
are needed to operate the computer.
Hard disk space is
measured in Gb (Gigabytes). Since the interest in digital photography
and digital music has grown, there's been a greater demand on hard
disk space, as it is these sorts of multimedia files which take up a
lot of space.
In comparison, word
processing documents take up a fraction of the space.
20Gb of hard disk
space is certainly more than enough for everyday use. But if you plan
to do a lot of work with pictures, music or video, it's worth going
for as much memory as you can about 40Mb should be enough to start