How to choose the right hardware for the job

So, you are in the market for a new desktop or laptop (lucky you!) but there are so many options to choose from and you've been hearing the same review of all the devices from all your local retailers: "This device will do exactly what you want; it is a solid all-rounder device."

And the next thing you know, you've been guided to a more expensive device than you anticipated, and you possibly end up paying much more for a device that is much more than you need.

While every one of us would love a fancy new laptop that is has the highest specs, most of us would have a far better experience with a laptop that suits our day-to-day needs. Spending within your needs also gives you the option to refresh your laptop sooner as newer models and technologies are released in the years to come.

Let me take you through some points to check when you head out for a new device.

1. Determine your requirements

Before you start browsing the net, start with taking a look at the performance requirements of your most commonly-used software applications.

For example: if you use Adobe Photoshop on a daily basis, go to Adobe's website or do a little googling to find out what they or other users recommend a good spec would be. Do the same with all the common applications you use, and keep this info handy.

2. Device use

Next, get a sense of the general spec (short for 'specification') your laptop would need to be. A spec is a list of information that describes the various criteria to look for when evaluating a device.

To make things easier, it helps to think about devices in 3 main groups:

  1. Basic: streaming, basic document editing and emails;

  2. Mid Spec: all the features of the Basic device; however is much faster and can handle larger documents or multiple large Excel docs; and

  3. Gaming: high power, built to play AAA game titles at max graphics.

Device 1: Basic

Spec: Intel core I3 / Ryzen 3 from AMD

4 Gigs of Ram

500 Gig standard Hard drive

Suitable usage: A device of this spec would work well for only for administrative work, homework assignments and research or even streaming.

Although this device does seem well specced, it will battle with running larger Excel docs or running multiple software applications or websites. With heavy usage, it will start battling and maxing out its performance, causing random freezes and, at times, the dreaded blue screen of death.

Cons: Mostly comes in a very dull and plasticky frame, the build quality might not be the best. The same would go for the performance, you will receive the basic 4 Gigs of RAM, a standard 500 Gig HDD that is much slower than the current standard of Solid State drives.

Device 2: Mid

Spec: Intel core I5 / Ryzen 5 from AMD

8 Gigs of Ram

500 Gig standard Hard drive or a 512 Gig SSD

Suitable usage: This device offers a lot more power than the basic model. Streaming and word processing will not slow this device down at all.

This device will also perform well when under load with multiple software packages running as well as run any complex Excel docs.

This device will also be able to give you some gaming performance depending on the graphics card built into the device.

This is the real all-rounder that will crunch though your work and give you some play time on it as well if you so choose.

Cons: Comes in at a much higher price tag than the Basic device. The price difference between the high-end and Mid spec devices are normally quite close to each other.

Device 3: Gaming

Spec: Intel core I7 or 9 / Ryzen 7 or 9 from AMD

8 Gigs of Ram

500 Gig standard Hard drive or a 512 Gig SSD

Suitable for: This device is the powerhouse. It is made to handle tasks such as high-resolution gaming and video editing, and will blast past any day-to-day office tasks you throw at it.

These premium devices are made either to look like a gaming beast with fins and RGB lights coming from every vent or a sleek well-designed sleeper that looks like a basic device but, when put to the test, it will leave any device in its dust.

Cons: In most cases with the Gaming range of devices, you lose one important thing: portability. These devices normally come with a large bulky power pack and are not great to lug around in your laptop bag to work and back.

To summarise: when you set out to buy a new device, don't always go according to the salesperson's recommendation.

You could either walk away paying for an underpowered device or end up taking a device that is much stronger then you need at a hefty price-point.

Begin with understanding your usage and performance needs. Keep the recommended performance requirements of your commonly-used software applications in mind, and let that be a clear guide on what kind of device will make you happy.