We’ve all been there. Struggling to connect to our server, everything looking pixelated, or just plain outdated. With technology developing and changing so quickly if you fall behind on the whats-what of computer specs, it can be difficult and overwhelming to purchase a new piece of tech.
There are articles and articles out there on what is best as far as computers go for every need – but with numbers changing so fast, it’s not as simple as recommending this OS or that amount of RAM anymore. So I have done my best to make a simple flowchart for those of you, who like me, might be a little intimidated by trying to buy a new computer.
First, let’s talk about these terms before jumping in.
Pretty straightforward, storage is simply how much room you have to store your stuff. Be that pictures of your cat, important work documents, or space for video games – storage is important. With computers commonly bought off the shelf coming standard with at least a terabyte of storage, you should have plenty for whatever your goal is as the end user. With photography and video editing being the exception, the casual user and the gamer should be good to go with anything reasonably found on the shelf. In the case of our editor friends – external hard drives and cloud storage as options are both plentiful and affordable.
High-Quality Graphics Card
Ah, the ever-changing target of what is the “best” GPU. Quite frankly, it will generally be whatever is the latest release from AMD or Nvidia – with AMD being the ‘workhorse’ budget options and Nvidia being the ‘spare no expense’ tier. Either is absolutely acceptable for your needs – and I have personally found great satisfaction getting great bang for my buck with AMD. Your GPU will be your biggest “power hog” – so when using a strong card, make sure your power supply can handle the load of it plus all your USB powered peripherals at top-notch efficiency.
You ultimately have two choices for your hard drive selection: SSD vs HDD. SSD will ultimately be much faster – but more expensive. As expected, HDD’s are slower but cheaper. Many experienced computer builders and modders will often buy an SSD for quick boots and add an HDD for games. For fastest load times with a larger budget – a large SSD will be the ultimate choice.
The general assumption is “add more go fasta” – but anything over 16GB is generally overkill. At this point in the market 8GB to 16GB is pretty standard and will do you just fine – 32 is above and beyond and would be an added value for those interested in streaming/twitch or video editing. Check your selected motherboard specifications and put in the highest DDR number it can handle.
All the places stuff plugs in. If you want to use multiple monitors, make sure the graphics card has enough (and the proper type) of ports to support the number of displays you would like to use. On a laptop – if you are interested in hooking it up to an external display, make sure it has the appropriate ports. For aesthetic items like lighted keyboards, headphones, speakers, etcetera – make sure your power supply can handle it. Consider upgrading your power supply if you will be using a lot of additional peripherals.
CPUs have been a bit stagnant the last few years, but AMD’s Ryzen is shaking things up as a real competitor to Intel’s i7 line. There are a lot of options right now that are completely viable, so find one that goes in your motherboard and fits your budget. Faster is always better, of course, but high-end enthusiast chips that cost thousands are only marginally better than a more normal, budget-friendly chip.
Things will always change as technology advances – which is why I stayed away from recommending specific products in favor of a simple “if this is your goal, these are the things you need to focus on” format. Below, I’ve linked some options for both pre-assembled ‘box’ computers and resources for parting out your project if you choose to build or upgrade yourself.
PC Part Picker: Building your own PC and need ideas on where to get started? Explore build guides, which cover systems for all use-cases and budgets, or create your own and share it with our community.
NewEgg: If you want to build or upgrade yourself and direct buy without a build guide, NewEgg is THE site for direct purchase computer parts.
Have you bought a PC? Do you prefer to build? Have questions or recommendations? Sound off in the comments!