What to look for in a business computer

A row of laptops at a retail store

Buying a new business computer can be confusing, but beneath the specifications, there are only really a few essentials you need to understand. Here’s what to look for in a business computer

Spending a little time researching and comparing the specifications of different computer systems, will help you make an intelligent and informed decision that benefits business. You also need to think carefully about where, when and how you will use the computer. Your requirements will be very different if you are working remotely or on the road. Working in this way will mean a laptop or tablet device will be more suitable than a traditional desktop computer.

The central processing unit

The central processing unit (CPU) is a powerful computer chip at the heart of your computer or laptop. It performs the 'heavy lifting' – no matter whether you're browsing the internet or editing a document, it's the CPU that's making things happen.

The speed of the CPU strongly influences how fast your computer runs overall. Speed is measured in Gigahertz (GHz). In general, the higher the processor speed, the faster your computer will be. However, overall system speed is affected by several factors, including how much RAM you have and whether you use speedy storage solutions, such as an SSD hard disk.

Most modern computers come with multiple cores, squeezed together into a single chip, which work together to to perform multiple tasks at once. Entry level CPUs will have 'dual core' or 'quad core' CPUs, while six, eight, ten and in some cases many more cores can be utilised on high-end, high-performance computers. This delivers extra processing power which can be essential if you are running resource intensive computer packages, or need to run multiple programmes at the same time.

Look for: a business computer with a quad-core (or more) CPU with a minimum speed of at least 2.5GHz

Random access memory (RAM)

Random access memory (RAM) is a type of memory that your computer uses to store working data. RAM plays a crucial role in how your computer works, and the general rule of thumb is: the more RAM, the better.

For instance, when you open a document, it's copied from the hard drive into the RAM. Then when you click 'save', it goes from the RAM back to the hard drive.

The amount of RAM a computer has will have a big impact on its performance, so get as much as you can afford. While you can still upgrade and increase RAM on some computers, most laptops and almost all Macs are sealed, which makes it impossible to add more. Most modern phones, tablets and computers will have between 2GB and 32GB of RAM and adding more RAM won't improve the speed and performance of your device if you already have sufficient RAM for the tasks in hand. Other devices, such as Chromebooks, which rely on cloud-based apps do not need as much RAM, so 8GB is often more than sufficient.

There are different types of RAM. If you want the best performance, choose a computer with 'DDR4' or 'DDR5' RAM. These are the fastest types of RAM and will hopefully ensure your computer runs as quickly as possible.

Look for: a business computer with 16GB of RAM or a minimum of 8GB for a tablet

Hard drives

If RAM is your computer's temporary memory, its hard drive is its permanent memory.

It's used to store both software (like your computer's operating system and applications), plus your files (documents, images and anything else you've saved) – if you don't keep these on a central server or on a cloud storage service.

Hard drive size is measured in gigabytes (GB) or terabytes (TB). One TB is the same as 1,000GB and is enough room for a lot of stuff. You'll only need more if you work with or store large video files.

Many computers now use solid state drives (SSDs) instead of a hard drive. SSDs are faster and more reliable, because they have no moving parts.

If you have the choice, it's usually better to opt for a smaller SSD over a large HD. We always recommend backing up your files to the cloud, or a safe alternative (such as an external hard drive).

Look for: at least a 250GB hard drive in a desktop or laptop computer for business

Computer monitors

When it comes to computer monitors, size matters. Larger monitors force you to scroll less and are easier on your eyes. Don't consider anything below a 21-inch screen with a desktop PC, and go bigger if you can. The opposite is true if the majority of your work will done on the move. You will want a powerful, but portable laptop or tablet device with a screen that is big enough and bright enough to get the work done but not so big that it becomes a hindrance.

What you plan to use your computer for will play a big role in your choice of monitor. For example, if you're using it for graphic design or video editing, your monitor should be as large as possible.

Modern monitors are high-definition (HD), but higher quality monitors are available. You can find 4K, 5K and even 8K computer monitors. The higher the quality, the more expensive it will be so only invest in an ultra-high-definition monitor if it's entirely necessary. Monitors can be curved, touch screen, ultra wide and ome come with built-in speakers. The best monitor for you will be as much about personal taste as it is about the work being done.

You may also wish to consider dual monitors, where you use two monitors side-by-side. It's a good way of getting extra screen space, but before purchasing an additional screen, make sure your computer supports two monitors.

On a laptop computer, the screen size goes a long way towards determining the overall size of the laptop. If you want portability, choose a smaller screen. Alternatively, if the laptop is a desktop replacement, then opt for a larger screen. You can always connect your laptop to an external monitor if you need to.

Look for: a monitor at least 21 inches for a desktop computer and 13 inches for a laptop used for business

Other computer considerations

In addition to the core features, there are few other things to consider when buying a new business computer.

When buying new business computers, you get what you pay for so spend wisely. As well as the computer and monitor, consider the quality of the peripherals, including the keyboard and mouse.

If possible, involve staff in the process of purchasing new equipment. It's particularly important if your staff require adaptations.

An alternative arrangement involves allowing employees to choose their own equipment, or implement a 'BYOD' scheme that enables them to use personal devices at work.

What warranty will my new computer have?

Any new computer will be covered by a manufacturer's warranty. In most cases, this is for one year from the purchase date, but some manufacturers may offer longer warranties that can be attractive.

Does the size, shape and weight of the computer matter?

Always check the size and weight of any proposed business computer.

Will it fit on your company desks? If you're buying laptops, are they too big and heavy to be carried around?

If you're buying laptops, also consider the costs of a suitable bag for transport and storage.

How many computer ports and connections do I need?

There's an old saying in geek circles: your computer can never have too many ports.

Make sure your new business computer systems have enough physical ports to connect the accessories you need.

Every new computer should have both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless connectivity, but it's worth confirming.

How long will my laptop battery last?

A cheap laptop will come with a cheap battery. Manufacturer-quoted battery lifetimes can be hopelessly optimistic, so search online for user-reviews to see how your chosen device performs in the real-world.

Is software included with your new computer?

Business computers often come with bundled software – usually an operating system, often an office suite and some security software too.

The majority of business computers will run Windows. For optimal performance, we recommend the latest Windows 10 Pro. The world’s most used operating system has been improved to deliver both exceptional performance and stronger protection.

These added extras can be tempting, but be realistic about what software you will need and ignore anything you don't

What should I pay for a business computer?

Expect to pay around £400-£800 for a business computer and £500+ for a laptop. Prices for MACs are likely to be significantly higher. Check around for the best prices and always buy from a reputable dealer.

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