Computer Hardware Options - CPU
and System RAM
The CPU (Central Processing Unit) or processor is the heart of the
computer. There are many different types of CPU's and with different
types of speeds. The CPU in a large part, determines how fast the computer
will be and what capabilities your machine will have.
Older computers might still have 486 CPU's but all new computer have
an Intel Pentium, Intel Celeron or AMD Athlon chip. These CPU's come
in different types and speeds. You have a choice of Intel Pentium III,
Pentium 4 or Celeron CPUs, and AMD Athlon XP, and Athlon CPUs.
CPU speeds in new computers can vary from 1.6 GHz to 3.2 GHz.
What does this all mean and what is right for you?
You should compare this with buying a car. If you do not need the speed,
why would you buy a Porsche? And if you can do with a Ford why buy a
Rolls Royce? The most expensive CPU's are the Intel Pentium 4 and Athlon
XP processors. The greater the megahertz (speed), the more expensive
For just normal use (writing letters, playing basic games, desktop
publishing) a 1.8 GHz CPU is very fast. But if you can afford the money,
you might be better off buying something a little faster, so that future
software that needs more brain power can still run on your computer.
Faster CPUs also improve Internet speed and game playing.
We recommend that you buy a Celeron, Pentium 4, or Athlon XP based computer
in the 1.8 GHz - 2.8 GHz range.
If you intend to use only the basics of the computer, like typing letters,
going on the Internet and doing some basic desktop publishing, new desktop
computers can be purchased as low as $450. New laptop computers can
be purchased for as little as $750.
Recommended CPU: Intel Celeron based desktop computers for the
more cost conscious, Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon XP for the power user.
Current new desktop systems are no slower than 1.8 GHz.
For more in depth information on selecting a CPU, please see our article
For current prices of computer systems, see our Sunday Shopping Watch
feature found every Sunday in our Daily
Computer News. Also see our Best
Selling Computers page for information on which computers are the
Buying system memory (RAM) for the computer is important for the overall
performance of the computer. Programs are loaded from the hard disk
and stored into the computer's memory upon usage. Whenever a program
is stopped, the program is stored from memory back to the hard disk
Not enough system memory will result in a state called swapping. This
means that the hard disk will be used as additional memory, but since
a hard disk uses mechanical parts, the overall performance of the computer
It is also important to have memory that has the same speed as the
rest of your components (like CPU). Memory comes in many different forms;
EDO, SDRAM, DDR, and Rambus DRAM. Your computer will only be able to
use one of these types of memory. Memory comes in different speeds,
the faster the memory, the higher the price.
More memory makes your computer faster too. To go from 128 MB to 256
MB will cost you about $30 and will increase the performance of your
Recommended Memory. 128 MB - 512 MB for all new computers. Memory
is relatively cheap right now, so there is no reason not to have the
added speed and convenience of 256 MB or more of system RAM.
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