A Guide to Computers for Techies
Every computer has what is called a central processing unit, also known as a CPU. It’s considered the “brain” of your computer and affects your computer processor speed which is basically the computer’s ability to think and respond quickly and it is probably the most important element for success in any computer-based project.
In any career in tech, you will likely need to have multiple programs and windows up simultaneously at any given time, and you need them all to be responsive and efficient. But the more programs you have running on your computer, the harder it has to work.
The CPU’s processor cores and clock speeds affect the quantity and speed with which your computer can process information and though they are both very different, they are equally important in helping your computer function and work together towards the same goal of speed.
In order to effectively run multiple applications at the same time, your computer needs to have a sufficient number of processor core units. In today’s world of multitasking, this is certainly not a necessity unique to tech careers. However, the level of complexity of most programs used in tech careers and the need to usually have more than one running at a time, pretty much makes it imperative.
Clock speeds are measured in gigahertz (GHz).Your computer’s number of GHz affects how quickly your processor cores are able to work. The higher the number of GHz, the faster your computer can execute tasks. Have you ever waited in agony for that spinning rainbow pinwheel to decide your fate? Well, the more GHz you have, the less amount of time you have to wait.
If you have more processor cores, but a lower GHz, your computer is able to work with multiple applications, but maybe not very quickly. Whereas if you have a higher GHz, but fewer processor cores, your computer can work really quickly but with minimal applications at a time.
Basically, the more processor cores you have, the more applications your computer can sustain at once, and the higher clock speed you have, the faster you’ll be able to use them.
It really comes down to your own lifestyle. If you think you’ll use less applications at once but want it to work quickly, you can make do with less processor cores and a higher clock speed. If you know you need to have multiple applications running at the same time and working quickly at the same time, you will need to prioritize both processor cores AND clock speed.
Laptops vs. Desktops
Honestly, as someone who works remotely and on the go, this isn’t even a question for me (#TeamLaptop) but I want to include my findings on this for those of you exploring both options.
As a laptop lover, I sacrifice greater processing speed in order to have mobility. I need to be able to take my workspace with me whether it’s to the other side of the house or to another country. However, desktop computers are able to have many more processor cores and much higher clock speeds than laptops because of their beefed-up hardware and better cooling systems thanks to their stationary setup. Desktops are basically the equivalent of a steroid-pumped, bodybuilder working out in an air-conditioned gym. Which makes laptops the equivalent of a traveling yogi — and if they try to do the same heavy lifting as the bodybuilder, they’ll probably overheat and pass out.
Desktops are also more versatile in the sense that their CPU can be removed and upgraded whereas a laptop’s CPU is built into the motherboard so what you buy is all you get. Until recently, the majority of laptops max out at a quad-core processor however, developments in technology have enabled laptops to now have double the processing capabilities than they did just two years ago, allowing them to compete a little more with Desktops. They cost an arm and a leg, but if you want the mobility without sacrificing power, they’re well worth it.
So, in regards to speed and efficiency, the general consensus is that a quad-core processor is the bare minimum for what you should be using for a career in technology. However, If you want to be able to run multiple, complex, data-intensive applications (the umbrella definition for most editing and design applications) you need to consider a computer with 6 or more core processors. You’ll also want to look for a clock speed of around 2.0 GHz or higher.
There are also a lot of other variables you’ll want to consider like battery life, storage capacity, software compatibility, screen size and sound preferences, and even environmental impact — Pro tip: buying a refurbished computer from a credible source is basically the same as buying it new, except it is kinder to the environment (and to your bank account too).
At the end of the day, you know your computer usage and goals better than anyone else, but I hope this helped you figure out what you need for your future endeavors.
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Written by Akela Knott, Wahine Coder Intern