How Much Computer Do You Need? 2011

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Have you ever heard of Moore’s Law? It came from a paper written way back in 1965 by Gordon E. Moore, and noted that computers were more or less doubling in speed and halving in size every two years, give or take. Over the years since this original observation, Moore’s law has proven uncannily accurate in predicting the evolution and growth of computing technologies, holding true even to the present day.

While this used to be exciting, as computers first became small enough for home use and then gradually grew in power, the prospect of remaining up-to-date with the latest technology seems less and less necessary. Some folks reading this article are probably running ten-year-old computers, machines that should be on display in a museum by current standards, and yet some users are perfectly happy with such old technology. And why shouldn’t they be? If all you need to do with your computer is type documents, check your email, and buy stuff from OutletPC, a ten-year-old computer still provides everything you need.

So now, with 25-years of home computing history to consider, how can we determine exactly how much computer we actually need? Shoppers today will find price tags ranging from $200 to $2,000 with hundreds of variations and possibilities in between. For this article, I’m not going to delve into the specifics of each component, instead we’ll go through some of the more common uses people put to their computers and what you’ll want to look for feature-wise and price-wise, when looking for yours.

Check-Your-Emailers $200 – $400

This is typically the lowest-end of the computer spectrum, where all you really need is the internet, keyboard, and mouse. Machines from this category come dirt cheap and can be found almost anywhere. Good candidates for this category will be refurbished with Windows XP, new with Windows 7 or, if you’re the adventurous type, Linux. At least 2GB of RAM, a low-end dual core processor, (Pentium D, Athlon X2 or similar), and a small hard drive should be more than enough here.

Home-Videos, Social-Networking, Casual Gaming $400 – $600

Computer’s at this level need a bit more umph in the raw power department but remain moderately cheap since they lack expensive add-ons. Common tasks like building home videos or running app-heavy websites (like facebook or flash gaming) will require more memory and speed than lower-tier PC’s will be able to comfortably handle. At least 4GB of memory is a must, especially when running Windows 7, but you shouldn’t really need much more. High-end dual-core processors will work well for this level—Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Phenom II or Athlon II processors will all deliver adequate performance.

Graphic Design, DVD-Ripping, Most Gaming $600 – $900

These PC’s require moderate to high level components and will cost a bit more. Programs dealing with very large files such Photoshop, video-conversion tools, and large databases will see huge performance boosts on machines of this caliber. High-end dual or entry-level quad core processors such as Core 2 Quad, Core i5 or Phenom II CPUs will work well, especially when paired with 4GB RAM or more. Gamers who choose this tier can skimp a bit on the processor and spend a little more money on a 3D graphics card which is a necessity for the fast paced rendering required in games such as StarCraft II, Borderlands, or World of Warcraft.

Workstations, 3D Animation, Enthusiast Gaming $900+

The sky’s the limit with these machines! Computer’s falling under this category will be great at anything below this level, but will also excel at highly professional tasks. 3D video-effect programs and high-definition non-linear video editors, such as Adobe’s After-Effects and Premier or Sony Vegas all require as much RAM as you can give them. 8-12GB of memory is common here, though there are consumer-level motherboards available that can accept up to 32GB. Processors will have four or six cores, (eight-core processors are slated to hit the market in the later end of 2011) and can be very expensive. Gamers at this level aren’t as worried about playing the games as they are with maxing out the visual settings so dual-graphics cards are common.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of what to look for in a computer, it does give a fair representation of what different machines are good for and gives some indicators on how much computer you actually need. If you’d like to know more or you’ve got something to add, comment down below!

If your ready to pick up a new computer, take a look here to see OutletPC’s lineup of new and do-it-yourself computers. If you’re happy with your old PC but want to know how to make it run as fast as it used to, check out my article Why Your Computer Sucks!

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