The Biggest Mistakes People Make When Choosing PC Hardware

It’s not the 90s anymore. The selection of computer hardware today is certainly overwhelming. While observing the manner in which people select hardware, I’ve noticed some common mistakes people make when choosing whether to buy one part or the other. Today, we’re going to talk particularly about the mistakes people make when choosing PC hardware.

1. The “CPU & MHz/GHz” Debacle

pc hardware: intel core

The biggest mistakes people make when selecting a CPU is to base one’s decision entirely on how many MHz/GHz it’s packing. Some are more savvy and also look at the number of cores instead. But why is the Intel Pentium 965 cheaper than an Intel Core i3-2130, if both have 4 cores and relatively the same clock rate?

The answer is: They don’t operate under the same technology. The Core i3 uses different technologies that make each tick on the clock count more. So, despite the fact that the Pentium has a higher clock speed (3.73), the Core i3 can do more with each of its 3.4 billion cycles per second. Also, the Core i3 has a GPU, meaning that it can process graphics out of the box. You won’t need a graphics card with the Core i3. The graphics aren’t the best, but they’re there just in case your dedicated graphics card fails.

Another thing to consider is the size of its transistors. The Intel Core i3 CPU has a 32-nanometer Nehalem-based transistor architecture. The Pentium has the old 65-nm Penryn architecture. Why is this important? Think of the electric bill. The more distance electricity has to travel, the more power you need to get signals to travel from point A to point B. The Core i3 can pack more punch in a smaller amount of space and still consume less power.

2. Picking RAM Based On Quantity and Size

pc hardware: RAM

Most people pick RAM based on how many they’re going to get and how big the RAM size is, but forget to factor in how fast it is. A 4GB RAM running at 1333 MHz is obviously slower than one that is running at 1600 MHz. The RAM today is very cheap. There’s no excuse for not spending the extra $20 for a faster card. Don’t make that mistake.

3. Picking A Graphics Card Based On VRAM Quantity And GPU Power

pc hardware: nvidia-gtx680

If the amount of video RAM and GPU power on a graphics card was all that mattered, then you could just spend $30 on a GeForce GTS 210 and be done with it. Judging from the various prices and countless model, things are apparently not that simple. A graphics card is like another PC entirely. It has its own RAM clock, its own GPU clock, and a number of other specifications you need to have a look at. When buying a new graphics card, consider also what kind of bandwidth it’s packing. This will determine how much data it can send to your computer over the course of a second. Since this is such a complex subject, read reviews that compare the card you’re considering with another. Hardware Canucks provides excellent reviews and comparisons.

4. Picking A Hard Drive Based On Size

It is a fact that the hard drive is the slowest part of the computer. The hard drive drags everything else down with it while everyone else’s waiting for it to access something. That’s the problem with mechanical hard drives. Solid state drives (SSDs) fly in comparison, but they have problems of their own. The biggest mistake people make when choosing a hard drive is to pick out the biggest (storage size) one and walk home with it. This is utterly preposterous!

Every hard drive (not SSD) comes with a pre-defined spinning speed. The slower the spinning speed, the longer it will take for the data to be retrieved. A hard drive that spins at 7200 or 11000 RPM is almost guaranteed to work faster than one that spins at 5400 RPM. Check also the seek time in milliseconds and compare it to other drives. You’re not done shopping until you’ve chosen the fastest hard drive out there. Remember, you can get a bigger and faster drive at the same time, there is no need to compromise one for the other.

5. “Wattage Isn’t Important, Amps Are.” Are you sure?

pc hardware: psu

Many “experts” will tell you that amps are more important in a power supply in this day and age. These people aren’t completely wrong, but they don’t seem to acknowledge that most new power supplies contain a significant amount of amperage on the 12V rail where computers draw their most power. This means that you don’t really need to worry about how many amps are on your power supply. Usually, the amperage is much, much higher than what you actually need. In the case of a power supply, you don’t really need to be selective, unless you are a building a graphics-centric terminal. Most high-end graphics cards will require a power supply with minimum of 450W to function at its optimum.

6. Picking A Monitor Because It’s “Big”

Many people get a monitor because it is big. The fact is, you shouldn’t judge a monitor solely on its size. Perhaps the light from the button will annoy you. The menus could be more difficult to access. The monitor could include some fancy sensors you don’t want. The images look kind of dull despite increasing brightness and contrast. There could be any number of problems with the monitor, and if you are going to stare at it for hours, make sure you get one that you are comfortable with.

The trick is, never shop online for a monitor, unless the specific model is the one you are looking for. Get off the chair and go to a PC hardware store. You won’t regret trying out what they have.

Anything Else?

If you need hardware advice or would like to add to this article, leave a comment below!

Miguel Leiva-Gomez
Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.

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