Getting a Laptop? These Specifications Also Determine the Cost and Quality

Have you ever seen two PCs of the same basic specification and capacity but with different performance capabilities? Have you ever wondered why this is the case?

Over and over again, I have heard people, friends and colleagues, contact me on the choice of personal computer (PC) when shopping. They have always wondered why there could be 3 or 4 PCs with same specification and size all having different prices and sometimes, the difference in price so large that one begins to wonder if it is just brand or what else it could be.

It is important for us to know that there are some features and specifications that come with our computer systems that, unknown to us, affect the cost and performance of these devices. But unfortunately, we do not get to see them on the list of specifications that are listed about that system on the shelves or online pages. That does not mean that the regular specification info we see (RAM size, Processor Speed, Hard Disk Drive capacity, Operating System, Quality of Webcam, etc) do not matter or are not important; they matter, a lot. But, we have some other specifications that matter also that are not usually considered and that is what we want to talk about.

The variables we would see below are some features/specifications that can affect the lifespan, performance and all-round functionality of a computer system but are barely know to the average PC user;

1. Build Quality: Just like mobile phones, PCs are built with materials of different quality and to meet different standards. For example, I have had a laptop for the past 7 years that still functions with optimal performance, despite having suffered multiple falls and having some noticeable cracks and injuries. The only secret to this laptop is the build quality; 75% of the outer part of the PC is covered with metal skin and every part of the body is sturdy and very comfortable to use. But that does not mean metal skin PCs are the only ones with a high build quality. I also know and have used some plastic skin laptops that are built to last (I am currently using one at the moment for over 4 years and counting). For every manufacturer brand of PCs, there are always 2 – 4 family/series of PCs that have a high build quality and sometimes a few PCs outside the known series could be made with build quality in mind. So build quality is not specific to any manufacturer, therefore, I would not be brand specific. No matter the brand of PC you choose for yourself, you can find a family of PCs that are made to be tough. Needless to say, build quality affects the price and lifespan of a PC both in the hands of a careful and a careless user.

You can liken a PC memory with storage capacity and low speed to a large hall with very small exit

2. RAM (Random Access Memory) Speed: I bet you didn’t see this coming. RAM speed? Yes, RAM speed. We seem to be conversant with RAM size but most of us do not know that RAM is also limited by its speed. The RAM speed determines the maximum speed at which data can be written into and copied out of the RAM. RAM is available at different capacities (2GB, 4GB, 8GB, etc) and different speeds (1333 Mhz, 1600 Mhz, etc). You can liken a PC memory with storage capacity and low speed to a large hall with very small exit. When the hall is in use there would most likely be a queue of people moving in and out of the hall.

The CPU accesses the Cache faster than it can access the memory (RAM), but it accesses the memory (RAM) faster than it can access the Storage (Hard Drive).

3. Processor (CPU) Cache Size: The CPU is equipped with a small internal memory known as Cache. The cache is the memory that is closest to the processor and holds the data that is being processed by the CPU. The CPU does not work directly with the data in the RAM, it instead pushes data from the RAM to its cache to work on it and vice versa.

The CPU accesses the Cache faster than it can access the memory (RAM), but it accesses the memory (RAM) faster than it can access the Storage (Hard Drive). So the bigger the cache memory, the larger the chop board on which the processor can copy and process data. Typical cache sizes are available at 1MB, 2MB, 3MB etc and not upgradable.

4. BUS Speed: The Bus is the circuit that connects one part of the motherboard to another. The bus speed might just be the most important system specification after the processor speed. Remember those circuit lines you see on the motherboard? That is the Bus. No matter how fast the RAM can be accessed or how fast your Blu-ray disc can be read, the data can only get to the processor as fast as the Bus can transfer it. Same goes to the other Input/Output devices.

The Bus is like a highway interconnecting various big cities; the wider the carriageways on the Highway, the more the number of vehicles that can travel that highway and get to the destination cities at any instant. The Bus speed has a very big effect on the performance of a PC and this specification is not upgradable.

These features/specifications are just a few of other variables that could greatly enhance or limit the performance of your PC. Unfortunately, you might not be able to find out about all of them before making a choice on what PC to purchase next time you go out shopping but I believe you understand how important they could be for some applications.

The Bus is like a highway interconnecting various big cities; the wider the carriageways on the Highway, the more the number of vehicles that can travel that highway and get to the destination cities at any instant.

An easy guess on how you could get a PC with high-end specifications is to go for those series that are usually built for high performance in any brand of your choice. Though, it is not all brands that offer everything that you may want.

If you are curious to know about these specifications for your own PC, you could read online reviews of your PC or try some simple applications that can list out the specifications of your computer system for your perusal.

Chukwudalu writes from Lagos

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