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What is the best computer for you?

Posted on: Oct, 28th 2012
what is the best computer for you
At the time of buy a PC the first that you have to ask yourself is, what use I'm going to give to it? Depending if you want it for play, do graphic design, edit video, programming or simply surfing internet or write documents, the characteristics of the computer that more suits your needs will be very different.

The following guide to choose a computer, doesn't make reference to brands or specific components. Will must be the reader the one that must apply the acquired knowledge in this article to choose the best components available in the market at the time of buy, adjusted to a budget and having clear for what I will use it. Said this, click in one of the following links depending in the use that you are going to do of your computer:

What is the best computer for play videogames?

What is the best computer for professionals of 3D, graphic design and the photography?

What is the best computer for professional video editing?

What is the best computer for office software?

What is the best computer for program?

What is the best computer for play videogames?

This sector of the market is the one that more moves the technological advance of the PC, because its users spend a lot of in having the latest with the best features and performance. In fact, the majority of the components that you can find in the stores are principally oriented to this sector, doing very difficult find stores that give components oriented to other users needs.

The computer games are complex applications that require the use of all the available resources. So in the first place we must buy a computer with the best motherboard and the best processor that we can buy.

For the motherboard we must look up the fastest chipset. This is the input and output controller, which takes the function of carry the data between the distinct parts of the computer, so when more modern it be, more fast will be the communication speed of the buses (the communication lines between the distinct parts). The chipset and the ports that have the motherboard will determine the possibilities at the time of put several graphic cards working in parallel. At the present the two big manufacturers of graphic cards (NVIDIA and ATI), use distinct technologies to connect several cards in parallel, called SLI and CrossFire, respectively, so the chipset could support only one of this technologies, the two or none.

A lot of motherboards, add functionalities to do overclocking the processor (up the speed of this beyond the limits that recommend the manufacturer despite of the risk to overheat it). With this, the hardcore gamers can get some frames per second more, which can give them the advantage needed to win the others.

The motherboard also will determine the architecture of the processor that we can buy, for this, we must choose first the newest architecture and after we must view the speed of it, is that to say, will be better a processor Core i7 at 2 GHz than a Core i5 at 3 GHz. Here I have to remark that some processors begin to have part or the totality of the input output controller, which I have spoken before, integrated inside of the processor itself.

About the memory, we must choose the fastest and the bigger quantity possible. To do a good choose we must take into account the maximum memory recommendations of the games of the moment and the number of modules of memory with that the motherboard can work in parallel. The logical order to choose the memory would be: capacity, technology (DDR2, DDR3, ...), number of modules and speed. Is that to say, the most important is that we have sufficient quantity of memory, because otherwise the computer will begin to use the hard disk and the games will run so slowly. At the same time, but less important, is to choose the last kind of memory and the adequate number of modules to take advantage of the motherboard to work with them in parallel, the last, must be always the speed reachable by the modules (that will be limited by the hardware of the motherboard and the processor).

The games normally are composed, between other things, of 3D graphic engine, a physics engine and an artificial intelligence engine. Each one of this parts can have help of additional hardware, which normally is in the graphic card and is one of the parts more important of a computer to play games.

The graphic card is like a computer apart, so we will have to look features like: the quantity of memory (looking at the requirements of the games), the speed of it, the quantity of processors, the speed of them, if it have a physics engine, if it has parallel processing units to help other task (ex. technology CUDA), etc. And overall, if it supports the last versions of DirectX and OpenGL because this will assure us that will can use it with the last games of the market. By other side, if we are interested in play only to some concrete games, we must search the technologies that use them, because will not serve of nothing have a physic engine in the graphic card if the games don't use it. Now, the range of graphic cards to play of NVIDIA is called GeForce and the ATI, is called Radeon.

Also, as I have commented already, we have the option of connect several graphic cards in parallel to achieve a better performance.

In regard to the peripherals, the monitor is the most important. There are monitors that offer refresh rates higher than the conventional monitors. The refresh rate is the number of times in that the screen is repainted in a second and in this monitors usually is of 120Hz (120 times by second), giving better fluidity of movement and avoiding stelas. Some of these monitors can achieve better immersion in the game including the 3D technology of NVIDIA (3D Vision) that must be supported also by the graphic card. However, ATI don't have its own 3D technology so his users only can use software solutions that are slower to see games in 3D (IZ3D and DDD).graphic-cards-in-parallel

sound cardIf we want a experience of sound the more realistic as possible, will be important acquire an independent sound card, because the sound cards that are usually incorporated in the motherboards aren't very good. This must have digital audio output to connect it to a good speaker system 5.1 as minimum, to hear in the game from where are being attacked.

In reference to the keyboard, there are some specifically designed to players that allow configure the functions of the keys and have the keys W and S, one up of the other, although this is not essential to play.

Depending of the kind of game can be interesting acquire other peripherals as for instance a pad.

Finally, we must choose a laser mouse, because they have better precision than the led mouses and in some of them even can be regulated the weight, to adapt it to the user.

What is the best computer for 3D, graphic design and the photography?

graphic cardsIf you use intensively 3D CAD (Computer Aided Design) tools or DDC (Digital Content Creation), you must choose one of the graphic cards focused on this kind of software. I'm talking about to the range of cards Quadro of NVIDIA and FirePro of ATI. Some of these cards even allow hardware acceleration for programs outside of the 3D field as the Adobe Photoshop and, as I said in another post, any algorithm in hardware is faster than in software. These kind of graphic cards is difficult to find them in the stores, because there are more demand of hardware focused to the people that want the computer to play games. Probably they will try to sell you a graphic card for game players (NVIDIA Geforce or ATI Radeon), when really the most oldest and cheapest card for professionals (NVIDIA Quadro or ATI FirePro) will be faster for the use, for instance, AutoCAD or 3D Studio Max, than a good graphic card for videogame players. The reason is that each gamut is focused in accelerate different types of software. The games have to move a lot of textures and a few polygons, while in the professional applications is the opposite, they have to move a few textures, a lot of polygons and don't need to have implemented a lot of graphics effects that have to be executed in real time.

The 3D graphics require an intensive use of the processor, we must search the one that better performance give us inside our budget, choosing in first place the most modern architecture, in second place, the maximum number of cores and, at last, the speed of this. These recommendations are made taking into account that the 3D design tools, represent practically the unique kind of software that is optimized to exploit the parallelization capacities of the multicore processors, allowing renderice faster.processors

In regard to the RAM memory we must to be generous in the quantity, more is better. If we can take advantage of the possibilities of parallelization of the motherboard, buying several modules, will be better. Also we have to take into account that is preferable have a lot of slow memory than few fast. The reason is that this kind of applications consumes big quantities of RAM and when we have more, less will have to access the operating system to the hard disk to supply the lack of RAM.

The monitor will must have IPS technology. These allow that the colour doesn't vary with the vision angle. This kind of monitors also comes with other characteristics important for the users of photography, as:

  • A pixel size smaller than the regular, to give more definition.
  • The capacity of show more colors.
  • DVI or DisplayPort digital connectors, to carry the signal from the computer to the monitor without errors.

Although these monitors have a great image quality, suffer of a poor refresh rate that produces stele effects or ghost images when there are something in movement. In consequence it's not the kind of monitor suitable for videogame players or to see films, making them, as the graphic cards for professionals, these monitors are difficult to find. The easy way to get a monitor of this characteristics is to buy a Mac, because all their monitors use the IPS technology, due to that Apple always have been focused to the design professionals. However, the unique graphic cards that we can find in these computers are the gamut made for videogame players, this is causing that a lot of designers discard the Mac computers in favour of PCs, where the hardware is cheaper.

Another recommendation, which from my point of view seems important, is have a second monitor, because it allows work in a way more efficient and comfortable. For instance, leaving in a monitor the toolbars and in the other the work space for the graphic design program. This second monitor could have less quality for save money and have an idea of how will see the majority of the people in his monitor the work performed.

In regard to the mouse, like in the recommendations for game players, this it would be laser and not led, to have more precision in the movements.

What is the best computer for professional video editing?

Now, we have all the videos in digital format and a lot of times in high definition. Abound everywhere: in the Blu-Rays, in the television and the camcorders. Edit a video in HD have a high computational cost, due to the big quantity of information that requires to process, so even having the computer more powerful of the market, will can't edit video fluently and see the results in real time. When the video is edited, arrives the moment to do the recompression of the file to get the video ready for its diffusion, but the computer will spend several hours in do this task. So, for professional video editing, will need to recourse to specific hardware for this task, like the television studios do, is that to say, buy hardware a lot of more expensive.

When the profesionals talk about digital video editing, usually they talk about "Non-Linear Editing", which is referred to the fact that it is not necessary edit the video sequentially, like with the old tapes. The computers dedicated to non-linear editing of Avid (enterprise leader in the sector), have a lot of inputs and outputs of audio and video, and specific hardware needed to accelerate the software used by that enterprise, called Avid Media Composer. This combination of hardware and software allows edit and compress video in real time using even mixers. Is not needed to say that being hardware for professional the prices of these computers aren't thought for all the consumers.

If we are going to do homemade projects that are not going to give us money, isn't viable buy a computer as the one that I describe in previous paragraph, so that for this cases I recommend buy a computer with a processor that have the last architecture and bigger possible number of cores, the most modern motherboard, the widest possible quantity of memory, a professional graphic card NVIDIA Quadro or ATI FirePro (if it is inside our possibilities), because some of these have hardware acceleration for editing and compressing video of some programs like the Adobe Premier and, if we want record from the television, a video capture card, which some times also can have hardware for the video compression in determinate formats.

In regard to the hard disk, I will recommend that be the faster possible, a SSD disk, because of it is going to depend largely if we will can do the edition in real time. Also is advisable have other disk SSD to store the video compressed. At last will need a magnetic hard disk with bigger capacity than the SSD to store the ended projects or pending to pass to production.

What is the best computer for office programs?

To browse internet, see e-mails, use word processors, spreadsheets or database programs, will not need spend a lot of money in a computer. Will be suffice with any computer that covers the recommemded requisites by the operating system and the programs that we are going to use. This sector of the market is dominated by AMD, which offers processors and motherboards cheaper than Intel and with an acceptable relation performance/price.

RAM memory If we are going to use applications that manage the accounts of an enterprise, then the RAM memory must have ECC (Error-Correcting Code). The ECC is additional hardware in the memory that do tasks of detection and correction of errors ensuring that the data that is write in the memory is the same that are going to be read after. This kind of memory usually is a little more slow, but give us better reliability in the results that we get with the computer. The bad, is that, like with a lot of other components, are difficult to find due to that the market is saturated of memories faster and less reliable, because they are focused to the videogame users.

To improve the productivity is advisable have several monitors, minimum two and for that, the graphic card must give the option to connect several monitors. In this case, is not necessary that the card have a great performance in 3D acceleration, so that the cheaper card that have two outputs and give the necessary resolution for the monitors that we have, will be sufficient. The NVIDIA brand has a gamut of card oriented to this sector called NVS, which don't have or have a poor 3D hardware acceleration and some of them offers the possibility of connect up to four monitors, although are difficult to find. For have more outputs, other option is connect several graphic cards for games in parallel with the technologies Sli or CrossFire.

Finally, you will must acquire a mechanic keyboard. Nearly all the keyboards at the present are of membrane. This technology makes that practically you don't hear anything when you push a key while with the mechanics we will hear a click. In this way will know that we have pushed the key correctly and we will can write faster. There are only one brand that now makes this kind of keyboards called Cherry. The unique inconvenient is that are more expensive.

What is the best computer for programming?

Obviously to develop will need hardware consistent with the kind of computer that we expect that have the users that will use our application. For instance, if we develop a 3D game, we will have as minimum 3D hardware acceleration. Although when we have arrived to the test phase, always is convenient to test the application with different computers and configurations.

For programm I consider basic have several monitors. In my case I use one for debug and other to see the results. So that we will need a graphic card that have as minimum two outputs and monitors that have as more resolution better, because we will have more work space for our development environment.

Without taking care the kind of applications that we will develop, we have to be sure that the hardware that we have works correctly, for that the RAM memory must have ECC, because an error in the memory can make us think that the application have strange behaviours, when really the guilty is the computer and is not the code.

In regard to the keyboard, like I have recommended for the computers oriented to the office, this will must be a Cherry mechanical keyboard, that as I have commented already, allows write faster due to the noise that make the keys when you push them.

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