Buying a Computer for Office Use: How to Choose a Good Office Computer or Laptop
This guide is intended for business customers interested in desktop computers or laptops for office use. Because these specifications are targeted towards office applications only, we do not recommend using this guide for computers that may be used by graphic designers, video editors, photographers, digital artists or gaming enthusiasts.
- Important Office Computer Components Explained
- Processor (CPU)
- Our Spec Recommendations
We are living in a time where more and more people are starting their own businesses, or working from home. Whether you’ve been a business owner for a while or are just getting started with a home office, one thing is for certain: you need a good computer for office use. Desktop computers and laptops for office use are different to those used for graphic design or other complex media creation. They are also different from computers used mostly for gaming. An office computer has a specific set of tasks it needs to perform well at, and knowing what to look for will help you get the best performance whilst not spending money on features you don’t need. In this article, we are going to discuss the requirements for a good office computer or laptop.
When in the market for an office computer, you might find yourself overwhelmed by options, unknown computer terminology and confusion. We will be clearing up the confusion by looking at the 3 critical components that make up a good office PC and explaining the different computer terms you need to understand when shopping for a new or used office PC. This guide is for those who will be buying a system that is already pre-built (assembled).
The basic parts that make up a complete office computer:
Computer Monitor. See our article on choosing a monitor for office use. When buying a laptop for office use, you will not need to purchase a monitor seperately. The monitor is how we view the graphics being put out by the computer.
Keyboard and mouse: These are input devices used to enter and manipulate data on the computer. Again, if you’re buying a laptop, you will not need to buy this separately. The laptop comes with a trackpad, which does the job of a mouse, but you might still want to buy a mouse separately for ease of use.
Computer: This is the focus of this article. This is the box that contains all the hardware needed for the computer to work, or the insides of the laptop. The bare minimum hardware needed for a computer to function are: CPU (central processing unit), RAM (random access memory), MOBO (Motherboard), HDD or SSD (Storage medium: This can be either a hard disk drive or a solid state drive), PSU (power supply unit), GPU (graphics processing unit).
With the advancements in computer technology over recent years, computers have gotten to a point where you can buy a fast and efficient office PC without breaking the bank. Most common everyday office tasks like email, word processing, spread sheet processing and web browsing does not put enormous strain on the computer and therefore you don’t have to fork out a ton of money to buy the most powerful system under the sun.
Everyone wants a fast computer, so let us look at the three main components that contribute to the speed of a computer.
The most important component that will have the biggest impact on the speed of your computer is the central processing unit. It is also called the processor, but is most commonly referred to as the CPU. The CPU is the brain of any computer. The faster it can calculate the data sent to it, the faster it can output that data and the faster you will get the result.
Here is a simple explanation of how the CPU works: Say you open a calculator on your PC and you tell it to work out the sum of 10 + 10. The CPU will then do that calculation and output the total of 20 on your display. The faster the CPU can do this calculation, the less you have to wait for the answer. Today, any computer can do a simple calculation like 10 + 10 in in instant, but when you start working with multiple programs at once that feed the computer a lot of data at a time, you will reap the benefits of a fast CPU.
The speed of a CPU is stated in terms of Hertz. Modern CPUs are at least 1000 megahertz or faster. This speed is commonly referred to as the clock speed of the CPU by manufacturers. 1000 megahertz is 1 gigahertz - or written more commonly as 1GHz for short.
CPUs will have two speeds, base and boost. Base is the speed all the cores will operate at. Boost is the speed that a single core will boost up to during certain workloads in most cases. (The boost function may vary depending on CPU model, brand and motherboard)
The CPU speed is not the only factor to consider when it comes to how fast a CPU is. The other factor to consider is the number of cores. Cores are called processing units. A CPU with four cores that is rated at 1GHz will have four cores or processing units that can each operate at 1GHz. Think of this as having four processors in one package. The more cores a CPU has, the better it can handle multi-tasking. If you work with multiple programs a time you will benefit from having a CPU that has at least 4 cores or more.
The second component that plays a big role in the speed of a computer is the storage device.A computer needs at least one storage device where the operating system and software are installed on and data is stored on.
Storage devices come in different capacities. this is the amount of DATA that can be stored on the device. This storage capacity amount is commonly referred to as Gigabytes and abbreviated as GB. Storage devices with a capacity of 1024GB or more will be indicated as having 1TB or more space. TB is short for Terabytes - 1TB = 1024GB. Due to the nature of this article we will not deal with storage devices in the TB range.
There are two common storage devices available today. One is called a Hard Disk Drive or HDD for short. The other is called a Solid-State Drive or SSD for short.
The Speed of a HDD or SSD is determined by how much data it can write or read per second. The more data per second it can read or write the faster it will be. Read and write speeds are what determines how fast a storage device is. The faster your storage device, the faster you can write data to it and read data from it.
Read speed: This indicates how much data can be read from the storage device in one second.
Write speed: This is how much data can be written to the storage device in one second. For the average user it is more important to have a fast read speed. This will cause files and software to open faster.
Hard Disk Drives are the cheaper but also slowest option. HDDs contain multiple spinning magnetic disks called platters. Data is written and read from these disks by a read/write head that moves on a mechanical arm. HDDs are not the fastest when it comes to reading and writing data, due to them having moving parts inside. The one benefit of a HDD is that you can get a lot of storage space without spending too much money compared to SSDs. The biggest drawback of a HDD is the slow read and write speeds.
Solid State Drive storage solutions are the latest in storage technology. Instead of using magnetic platters and moving parts as found in HDDs, it makes use of memory chips to store data. SSDs are much smaller in physical size than HDDs. SSDs contain memory chips where data is written to. There are no moving parts in an SSD, making it much faster than the fastest HDD on the market. One drawback of SSDs is that they are much more expensive than HDDs and you pay more per Gigabyte than you do with a HDD.
The most important benefit of an SSD is that they are extremely fast. There is no reason to opt for a slower HDD as your primary storage device where your operating system and software will be installed onto. It is possible to use a small SSD for the installation of your operating system and hardware, and then use a larger HDD at a cheaper cost to store your data. Be aware that many pre-built office computers will have a Hard Disk Drive instead of a Solid State Drive. For this reason I will recommend retailers like Wootware who will be able to either build you a PC from scratch, or be willing to swop out a HDD for a SSD.
The third component that plays an important role in how fast a computer is, is the Random Access Memory, usually just called RAM or memory.
RAM comes in the form of modules and you can install different amounts in a computer. RAM is high speed memory that the computer and the software on your computer uses to store and access temporary data. This allows for much faster access to data that is used regularly or data that is in constant use. The more RAM a computer has the more data can be stored in it for fast access.
Now the question is what CPU specs, what size SSD and how much RAM do I need for a good office computer?
To answer this question, I have given my recommendation of the three primary components that determines how fast and how smoothly an office computer or laptop will perform.
For a decent office PC you want minimum of 4 cores and a CPU speed (Clock Speed) not lower than 2.6GHz for the base clock (this number can be a bit lower but I would recommend staying in the 2.6GHz range.)
For storage you want a SSD in office computer that has a minimum capacity of 256GB (256 Gigabytes) in size. This is a good amount of space for office usage and you should not need more space if you mostly work with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Skype etc. This also includes email and browsing the web.
How much Memory? I recommend an absolute minimum of 8GB (8 Gigabytes) of Memory/RAM. Web browsers such as Google Chrome can consume quite a bit of memory, especially if you have multiple tabs open. 8GB seems to be the sweet spot between price and performance on an office computer. Anything less, and you will start experiencing issues with running out of RAM. This will cause your computer to behave sluggishly.
To sum this all up:
For your office PC you don’t want anything lower spec than the following:
- CPU: Quadcore (4 Cores) 2.6GHZ clock speed.
- Storage device: SSD (Solid State Drive) with a capacity of 250GB – 256GB or more.
- Memory: RAM – 8GB or more. 8GB should be enough for most office PCs.
If you have any questions or need help with the purchase of a PC feel free to contact us and we will assist as best we can. Was this article helpful? Let us know by upvoting, or leaving a comment below.comments powered by Disqus
Recent PostsHow to Avoid Malware, Phishing and Email Scams Build Guide: Build Your Own Office Computer Social Media for Small Business: An Introduction