Even though you know deep down that your current computer is on its last legs, it can be tough to accept that it’s time for a new model.

After all, you’ve come to grow fond of that strange whirring noise it makes all the time. And now you know exactly where to give it a tap whenever it runs slow or the sound suddenly cuts out, it’s almost as good as new.

computer features

At least, that’s what you’ve told yourself.

Let’s be honest, the real reason you’re still using your old laptop is that you can’t face the hassle of navigating the endless range of computer features available. Yes, it can be overwhelming when making these kinds of big buying decisions, and especially if you don’t know your RAM from your elbow. But you should embrace the opportunity to trade in your old (not so) trusty model for a new computer rather than fearing it!

Not sure what essential computer features you need? Keep reading to find out how to pick a computer that’s right for you.

1. Operating System

Once you’ve decided on whether you want a desktop or a laptop, it’s time to focus on what options you have in terms of brands and the operating systems they use. So, Windows, macOS, or Chrome OS? While all have their advantages and disadvantages, it’s likely that one has more of the key computer features you’re looking for than the others:

Windows

Windows is the most flexible operating system, running on more computer models than the other two options. Windows 10 is Microsoft’s latest version, providing several improvements on the operating system’s previous incarnations, including the digital assistant, Cortana.

If you’re a gamer, Windows 10 should be your preferred operating system. Most other users, from researchers and students to casual users, also find Windows to be the easiest and most adaptable platform. As such, unless you have a preference for macOS or Chrome OS, Windows should be your first choice.

macOS

All MacBooks and iMacs come with Apple’s latest desktop operating system, macOS Catalina. Catalina is similar to Windows 10 as far as functionality goes, although the interface is different and you have Siri to assist you rather than Cortana.

Most people who prefer macOS tend to be loyal fans of the Apple brand in general. If you’re one of them, you’ll appreciate being able to take calls or texts from your iPhone, use your Apple Watch to unlock your laptop, and perform Apple Pay transactions. But, if you’re interested in a laptop with a touchscreen function, macOS isn’t for you as there are no MacBooks with a touch screen.

Chrome OS

Found on Chromebooks and Chromebox desktops, Google’s operating system is secure and simple but more limited than macOS and Windows. The Chrome OS interface is similar to Windows’ but everything runs from the Chrome browser. This can mean that many web apps don’t work well offline. Although, newer models now run Android apps, making for a smoother user experience.

Despite these limitations, a Chromebook with Chrome OS is a good solid choice for casual users looking for a low-cost, lightweight laptop. Parents also appreciate that Chromebooks are difficult for kids to infect with malware and that they’re more functional than a tablet.

2. Display Size

Your needs and primary uses will determine the right monitor or laptop screen size for you. For example, if you want a lightweight laptop, a larger screen will make it less portable. But if you’re a gamer, anything less than a 15-inch laptop screen or a 25-inch desktop monitor won’t suffice.

Desktop monitor sizes range from 13 to a whopping 43 inches, although it’s unlikely even creative professionals would need a monitor measuring more than 30-35 inches. While the resolution and other factors play a role, you’ll often find that the larger the monitor size, the higher the cost. As such, your budget will probably dictate how big you can go.

As for laptops, screen sizes range from 11 inches to 18 inches. Most people find that a screen measuring 13 to 14 inches offers the best balance of usability and portability, and especially if you opt for a sleek, lightweight model weighing less than 4 lbs. Although, if you plan on using your laptop at a desk most of the time, an 18-inch screen could be ideal for gaming and working from home.

3. Picture Quality

For a larger screen to be worth the extra money, it’s important that the resolution is high enough to provide a sharp picture.

The lowest screen resolution available is 720p resolution (1280 x 720), also known as HD Ready or Standard HD. If you can afford it, we’d recommend at least 1080p resolution (1920 x 1080), also called Full HD. Higher-end monitors and laptops can have screens with 2560 x 1440 pixels (2K), 3840 x 2160 (4K), or even 7680 x 4320 (8K). These all give a super sharp picture but consume more power, meaning less battery life for laptops with these high-res screens.

Beyond screen resolution, picture quality also depends on color and brightness. For these key computer features, look for an sRGB color rating over 100% and more than 300 nits of brightness.

4. Processor

The CPU (central processing unit) is crucial to responsive performance, making it one of the most essential computer features to consider. And, while casual users won’t need the best processor going, opting for a decent processor can make for a much smoother experience.

The Intel Core i9 is the top CPU from Intel, with the fastest performance possible. At the moment, it’s only available on premium computers with a price to match. Unless you plan on running demanding programs and apps, Core i9 isn’t worth the extra cost.

Next up is Core i7. Look for computers with numbers ending in K or HQ rather than Y. HQ and K models have four cores, meaning better productivity and faster gaming than the slower, less powerful Y models. Also, if you have a peek here at the latest Lenovo laptops, you’ll see many of the descriptions refer to a 10th generation i7 processor. This is Intel’s 10th Generation Core Series, which offers better performance than Intel’s previous 9th Generation CPUs.

If you want a computer that combines good price and performance, an Intel Core i5 CPU is fine for most general users. Models ending in U are the most common, models featuring a Y in the name tend to be low-performing, and models with an HQ are good for gaming. There’s also the Intel Core i3 but we’d recommend stepping up to a Core i5 CPU if you can afford to.

5. RAM

RAM (random-access memory) is your computer’s working memory. A higher RAM allows your computer to handle more information at the same time without slowing down. This means that your computer’s performance won’t suffer if you have multiple browsers, apps, and tabs open at once.

These days 4GB is the most basic RAM but even casual users will find this slow-running. For the majority of people, 8GB of RAM is the sweet spot, although gamers and those planning to do photo and video editing will need at least 16 GB of RAM.

6. Battery Life

If you’re buying a desktop or a bulky gaming laptop for using at home by an outlet, battery life won’t be a concern. As for those of you wondering how to pick a computer that is easy to use on the go, look for at least seven or eight hours of battery life. But remember, manufacturer descriptions often give the maximum battery life, which will be less depending on factors such as screen brightness.

7. Storage Drive

While some desktops and laptops still rely on hard disk drives (HDDs), most newer computers feature solid-state drives (SSDs). SSDs are the better option as they’re more efficient, more durable, and faster than HDDs, with SSD laptops running at least three times faster than their HDD equivalents.

That said, computers with SSDs tend to be more expensive so if you’re going for an HDD, a desktop hard drive should have at least 1 TB of storage space while most laptops with an HDD have 500 GB.

 

 

8. Graphics Chip

Unless you want to know how to buy a computer for editing high-res videos, designing websites, or playing 3D games, an integrated graphics chip will be more enough. But, if you plan on doing any graphics-based tasks, you’ll need a dedicated graphics card from Nvidia or AMD.

Gamers in the market for a desktop should opt for a DirectX 11 card with at least 2 GB of memory, although a budget video card will suffice if you want better graphics but don’t plan on doing 3D tasks.

Your Comprehensive Guide to the Computer Features You Need

As this computer buying guide shows, the range of computer features you’ll need to consider can make choosing a new model a complicated process.

But, it’s also important to keep your budget in mind. After all, your budget determines what you can afford and what features you might have to go without. Or, you might find that stretching your budget to invest in a more expensive model is the best way to get all the essential computer features you want.

For more insights and guidance on everything from tech to fitness, be sure to check out our other blog posts!