It can be difficult getting to grips with tech jargon, and we know that product descriptions and specifications can contain complicated terms which can leave you feeling more confused. So, we’ve found and broken down the most commonly used terms for computing to help you out!
If you’re still not sure which type of computer is right for you, please see our guide on choosing the correct type.
What is an operating system?
Every computer has an operating system or OS. It performs all basic tasks, determines how the system looks and the type of software you can use. There are three main operating systems, Windows, OS X and Chrome.
Windows is the most common operating system and it is compatible with a huge range of software. The system itself is fairly easy to use and all of your files are easily accessible. While it is great for editing photos or videos, it is often criticised for it’s weak security and susceptibility to virus’ so you may need to invest in a good Antivirus software.
OS X is Apple’s exclusive system found in their range of Mac products. Some find it difficult when they first move to OS X from Windows but, generally, once you get a Mac you never go back. They have a brilliant design with a stylish desktop and easy-to-use software. They are also excellent for editing software such as Photoshop which is really optimised for this operating system. If you have other Apple products, you can work seamlessly between your devices, sharing files and apps easily. There is a lot of popular software that isn’t compatible with OS X but they tend to offer their own alternative which many people prefer anyway.
Chrome OS is the operating system (designed by google) which is found in Chromebooks. Using Google Chrome as the main interface and Google Play to download apps, it is a web-focussed operating system. The main benefit of this OS is that it’s main aim is to give you easy, fast access to the internet and the Cloud so it is brilliant if you do a lot of web-based computing.
What is a processor?
A processor, also known as a CPU or central processing unit, is essentially the brains of the computer. Many computers will have a dual core or even quad core processor which means it will be more efficient at multitasking. You will be able to move between different tabs and applications quickly and have more running at the same time without slowing down the system. If you plan on using more complicated software such as photo editing, you should opt for a quad-core processor.
Processors have different speeds, measured in megahertz and gigahertz, and a faster speed correlates to a faster, smoother machine. Some have Turbo Boost or Turbo Core technology where the processors work to the speed required for a task. This prevents the device from overusing power or giving out excess heat when it isn’t necessary.
Types of processor
There are two main types of processors found in computers – Intel and AMD.
Intel processors tend to be more powerful than the comparative AMD option and the Intel Core i7 processor is particularly good. They have internal Hyper-Threading technology which enables them to manage more ‘threads’ so they can run more complicated programmes. AMD processors are often referred to as APU – accelerated processing units. They actually combine a processor and graphics card so you will have brilliant images without having a separate graphics card.
What is a GPU?
A graphics card or GPU is a graphics processing unit which processes images in a computer. It takes some of the work away from the CPU to make sure it is working as efficiently as possible. There are two types of GPU – shared and dedicated. A shared graphics card also uses some of the system’s short term memory (RAM) to display images so it is fine for general browsing or basic tasks. A dedicated card leaves the RAM free so you can run applications easier and quicker, this option is best for people who use their computer for gaming or more complicated programs.
What is a memory cache?
Think of a memory cache as the waiting room for tasks before they are dealt with by the processor. A computer with a bigger memory cache will enable the processor to deal with particularly difficult tasks quicker. This is something to look for if you plan on using demanding software such as Photoshop where a memory cache of over 4 MB would be ideal.
What is RAM?
Random-access memory or RAM is the short-term memory space in your computer. It is not, therefore, where your files are saved but rather the space needed for your device to work on the job it is currently doing. If you are looking for a powerful computer, capable of running complicated software, the RAM is very important. It will take the pressure off the processor so it can work on more things at once. For regular computer use, 4 GB should be sufficient but for more demanding software like photo editing, 16 GB is recommendable.
There are four main types of storage, HDD – hard disk drive, SSD – solid-state drive, SSHD – solid-state hybrid drive and eMMC – embedded multi-media card.
HDD's (hard disk drives) are the most common types of storage found in desktop computers. Their size ranges from 500 gigabytes to 3 terabytes.
SSD's (solid-state drives) have a smaller capacity than hard disk drives but can work considerably faster. They can be used alongside a HDD in a desktop computer and are most beneficial if you are using demanding software or plan on doing a lot of gaming.
SSHD's (solid-state hybrid drives) are a combination of the HDD and SSD with good capacity and performance.
eMMC's (embedded multi-media cards) are mainly found in tablets and Chromebooks. They work in a similar way to memory sticks and don’t offer the same capacity or performance that other storage types do.
What is the screen resolution?
The screen resolution refers to the image quality. Some computers offer Full HD with clear images and sharp details – brilliant for photo editing or gaming. Taking it one step further, 4K screen have four times the number of pixels of HD screens so the images are four times sharper, although these are more expensive and need a powerful processor to function.
What does HDMI mean?
HDMI stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface. It is a port which will enable you to connect your computer to a TV so you can share images, videos and audio.