Hello, and welcome back to part 4 of my thoughts on computer shopping for the non-tech savvy.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

This part took longer than I originally expected.  So, let's get into it.


Processors are the brains of the computer, taking information from all the other parts and figuring out what to do with it.  I wish I could explain things a bit deeper, but I don't want to go that far into the weeds at this time.

Processors are one of the biggest sources of heat in a computer.  If you'll recall from one of the earlier articles in this series, prolonged, excessive heat is bad for computer components, so the processor always has some form of heatsink attached to it.  In a desktop, you would also see fans that would pull cooler air in from outside the case and push heated air out of the case, further cooling everything off.

You may have seen or heard a computer advertised as having a dual-, quad-, or even octo-core processor, and brushed that off as meaningless jargon.  Here's what it really means.  Simply put, advances in technology have made it possible to fit multiple full-fledged processors into a computer without requiring extra space or cooling.  As you can probably guess, more cores means more powerful.  By having multiple processors in one computer, the workload is split up among them, making the computer more efficient and powerful.

Graphics Cards

This one is pretty self-explanatory.  The graphics card takes information and converts it to a visible form, i.e, showing it on a monitor.  A desktop or laptop will come with some form of this built in, and for most people, will work just fine.  However, there are reasons to purchase a separate graphics card.

The first reason is to be able to have multiple monitors, or to connect to a device that the built-in graphics card doesn't offer.  So if you want to use a TV as a monitor, but your desktop or laptop doesn't come with an HDMI port, here's how you accomplish it.

The second is if the user will be doing something visually intensive, like playing video games that are super detailed or video editing.  The separate graphics cards come with their own dedicated processor and memory, so they can do their job without taking up resources needed by the rest of the computer.

Depending on how powerful a graphics card we're talking about, they can get very expensive and hard to find, especially as they can be used for cryptocurrency mining.


Windows vs. Mac, Android vs. IOS

I know this is a big issue for some people, but I don't really have a preference.  I have used all four, and they all have their pros and cons.

Microsoft Windows has a reputation, good and bad.  It's the dominant operating system, or OS, for computers in the world.

macOS is Apple's answer to Windows.  I like it just fine, but my biggest issue with any Apple product is the price tag.  It always feels like you're paying a premium for the Apple brand name.

Google's Android OS is a widely-used OS for cellphone and tablets.  It's open-source, which means it can be freely modified from the original version.

That is a good thing and a bad thing.  Good because it can be modified to work on a wide range of devices, which is why so many things seem to use it.  Bad because that means there are a lot of different versions.  Think about it.  Google uses the unmodified version for their devices, Samsung can and will tweak it so it looks and works the way they want it to on their devices, LG goes a third way for their devices, and so on.

IOS is Apple's OS for cellphones and tablets.  Since the only devices that use IOS are those made by Apple, you've got consistency instead of variety.  If your iPhone-whatever stops working, you can buy a new iPhone-whatever and it will work identically to the old one.  That exclusivity also means that just like macOS, you're paying a premium for the Apple brand name.

There you have it.  Best of luck to you in your shopping!