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Features
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Insights & Definitions
Brand
Brand

Brands help you identify specific solutions that you will or will not consider. Brand is also a good indication of whether the product is focused on business users or consumers.

The number of solutions that a vendor has within a specific product category can indicate their commitment to, and corresponding success in, that market.

Another indication of vendor quality can be articles written and videos produced about specific products (use the "Articles & Videos" link on this page). Generally, such reviews are only provided for market leaders.

Price
Price
Quantity is the leading reason for vendors to discount their pricing. Quantity discounts are available to the pricing shown on the left. Enter the quantity you need here.

Price can be an indication of quality and value. Any vendor that charges more for a product than the marketplace is willing to pay will not remain in business, or at least in that market, for very long.

The price actually paid for a product is usually driven by available budget, but specific feature requirements can sometimes command a higher price.

Minimum Rating
Rating

Ratings have become very important in product and service evaluation. They can help you avoid a bad choice or they can eliminate any potential doubts you may have and help you with your selection.

Currently about 61% of prospective buyers check for ratings and read online reviews (use the "Articles & Videos" link on this page) before making a purchase decision.

Many products have no ratings. Products without ratings generally mean either the product is relatively new or has not gained much traction in the marketplace. Although, that should not necessarily disqualify a solution from consideration.

Operating System
Operating System

The Operating System (OS) is the software that manages the computer's hardware and software resources and provides common services for the applications you use. The user interface (the overall design of what you see on the screen, and the way that you interact with the computer) is also determined by the operating system.

Most of today's PCs run on one of four operating system platforms: Chrome OS, Linux, Mac OS X, or Windows. However, there are a few less widely-adopted operating systems (such as Chrome OS) availalble as well. Each of these operating systems has its own strengths and weaknesses, which should be taken into account when you are trying to decide which will best meet your needs.

Android was developed (and is still being updated and enhanced) by Google. Because Google released the Android source code under an open-source license, any tech-savvy company or individual can create a modified version of Android to meet their own need. This has lead to the widespread adoption of the Android OS by many vendors for use on a large number of devices. However, though you will have many more Android-based tablets to choose from than the other major platforms, this is not true for traditional PCs (which have very few devices running on Android).

Chrome OS is an operating system designed by Google (based on the Linux kernel) that uses the Google Chrome web browser as its primary user interface. Since Chrome OS was originally conceived as an operating system in which both applications and user data reside in the cloud, it primarily runs web applications. While the Chrome OS does have a media player and file manager, it provides little else in terms of integrated apps. Many observers have pointed out that it is not really an operating system in the true sense, since any web browser running on any operating system is functionally equivalent.

Linux was originally developed for personal computers based on the Intel x86 architecture under the model of free and open-source software development and distribution. It has since been ported to more platforms than any other operating system. Some advantages of Linux include: you don't have to ditch Windows or OS X because it easily supports dual-boot systems, it's very secure, and you're supporting open source and free software. On the other hand (although it is one of the most widely used operating systems world-wide), you will not find many laptops with it pre-installed out of the box.

Mac OS X is the current version of the Apple operating system for Mac computers (both desktop and laptop). As with everything from Apple, it is proprietary operating system designed specifically for Apple hardware, which means if you want MAC OS X you need to buy an Apple computer. Like all Apple operating systems, Mac OS X has an elegance to its look-and-feel that people tend to like. You will, however, pay a premium price for it. Apple computers, like all Apple products, fall in the upper range of the price spectrum. From a corporate security point of view, the Mac OS is known for being more secure than Microsoft Windows (although Apple computers are not as widely used in the business world as their Windows-based alternatives).

Windows was originally designed by Microsoft for use on desktop computers. While it is probably not as secure as Mac OS X or Linux, Microsoft has been providing business-targeted operating systems long enough to take security seriously. Like Apple with Mac OS X, Microsoft regularly pushes out updates and patches to all devices running the current version of Windows (as well as devices running Windows back to version Windows 7). Because it has long dominated the business market, almost all full-featured versions of common business software (such as the Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe Creative Suite, etc.) run natively on Windows-based PCs. Additionally, since Windows is not locked into a proprietary hardware manufacturer, you will find a larger selection of computers (from both a cost and a performance perspective) to choose from with Windows-based PCs than any of the other major operating systems.

Hard Drive Capacity
Hard Drive Capacity

Hard drive capacity refers to the amount of data you can store on a computer's hard disk. Typically your data includes the computer's operating system as well as the applications you install on your PC, your music and video files, documents, images, etc.

Hard drive capacity is generally measured in gigabytes or terabytes (a terabyte is equal to 1024 gigabytes). When determing how much hard drive capacity you require, keep in mind the kinds of files you will be working with on your computer. Media files (such as music and video) generally take up much more disk space than your applications and document files. For example, a single video file (such as downloaded movie) can take four gigabytes of space or more.

Standard Memory
Standard Memory

Standard Memory is the amount of Random Access Memory (RAM) that ships with the computer. RAM is very fast memory that loses its information when the computer is shutdown or restarted. On a PC, RAM is used to hold the operating system and provide the memory area to run your application software (such as your web browser, word processor, music player, etc.).

Additional RAM on a PC allows you to run more applications simultaneously and can also improve performace. Todays PCs (whether designed for home, student, or business use) measure the amount of RAM in gigabytes (GBs).

Maximum Memory
Maximum Memory

Maximum memory supported is the total amount of Random Access Memory (RAM) a computer is able to use. RAM is used to hold the operating system and provide the memory area to run your applications software. Most laptops are going to have 4 to 8 GB of RAM in a standard configuation, which is sufficient for general use. However, for resource intensive tasks (such as applications/database development, video editing, graphics design, or computer gaming), additional memory can significantly improve performance.

The amount of memory a computer can support depends on the number of memory slots (how many memory chips the computer can accomodate), and the type of compatible memory chips. Maximum memory is a combination of the memory chip size (1 GB chip, 2 GB chip, 4 GB chip, etc.) times the number of available slots. Because most laptops are difficult (if not impossible, without voiding their warranty) to upgrade yourself, you typically need to have memory upgrades installed by the manufacturer before purchase or have the upgrade performed by a trained technician.

Memory Type
Memory Type

SDRAM (Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory) began to appear in systems in late 1996. Unlike previous technologies, SDRAM was designed to synchronize itself with the timing of the CPU. This enabled the memory controller to know the exact clock cycle when the requested data will be ready, meaning the CPU no longer had to wait between memory accesses. The next generation of SDRAM was DDR, which doubled the transfer rate without increasing the frequency of the clock.

DDR2 SDRAM was the second generation of SDRAM to use the Double Data Rate technology. The primary benefit of DDR2 was the ability to operate the external data bus twice as fast as the first generation of DDR SDRAM.

DDR3 SDRAM (Double Data Rate 3rd generation SDRAM) reduced power consumption by 40% compared to DDR2 modules, which allowed for lower operating currents and voltages. It also added two functions, ASR (Automatic Self-Refresh) and SRT (Self-Refresh Temperature), which allows the memory to control the refresh rate according to the temperature variation.

DDR3L SDRAM is simply DDR3 SDRAM that was designed to work at a lower voltage consumption. DDR3 only runs at an operating voltage of 1.5v, while DDR3L can operate at both 1.35v and 1.25v. Theoretically this also makes the memory faster because the transition from a zero to a one state requires less voltage shift (i.e., it takes less time to go from zero to 1.25v than it does to go from zero to 1.5v.

LPDDR3 (Low Power DDR3) is a mobile DDR SDRAM standard, designed for mobile computing devices such as smart phones, tablets, and 2-in-1 hybrids. LPDDR3 chip design shares little in common with standard DDR3 memory. In addition to their lower power consumtion, the chips are smaller and use less board space than their non-mobile equivalents.

DDR4 SDRAM (Double Data Rate 4th generation SDRAM) provided for still a lower operating voltage (1.2V) and higher transfer rate. The DDR4 standard allows for memory chips of up to 64 GB in capacity, compared to DDR3's maximum of 16 GB per chip. DDR4 also added some functions, such as DBI (Data Bus Inversion), CRC (Cyclic Redundancy Check) and CA parity which enhance DDR4 memory's signal integrity and improve the stability of data transmission.

DDR4L SDRAM (like DDR3L was to DDR3) is just a newer version of the DDR4 chip that has been designed to operating at a lower voltage (1.05v).

Processor Speed
Processor Speed

Speed of the processor can make a significant difference in the overall performance of a PC. However, faster processor speeds require more power. In mobile computers such as laptops, more power means either a shorter battery life or more weigh (in the form of additional battery capacity.)

It is important to understand how you plan to use the computer. Lower speed processors are sufficient for web browsing, email, and most apps. More speed is useful if video streaming is a priority. Higher speed processors are needed for many business applications, video editing, and gaming.

Number of Processor Cores
Number of Processor Cores

The central processing unit (CPU) in your computer is the chip that performs the actual computational work (i.e., running the programs). But one single-core CPU can only perform one task at a time, which is where multi-core CPUs come in.

A dual-core CPU has two central processing units on a single CPU chip, so it appears to the operating system as two CPUs. Similarly, a quad-core CPU has four central processing units, an 8-core CPU has eight central processing units, etc. Having more than a single-core CPU allows multiple programs to run at the same time while allowing your computer stay responsive even when you are multitasking.

Most personal computers these days have at least dual-core CPUs. However, if you plan on performing CPU-intensive tasks such as video encoding, you may want to consider purchasing a laptop with a minimum of a quad-core CPU. Generally speaking, the more cores the CPU has the more expensive the PC will be.

Processors Installed
Processors Installed

Processors installed refers to whether or not a PC is a multiprocessor system. Multiprocessor systems contain more than one CPU (typically referred to as a processor) and they work in parallel. This is called Symmetric Multiprocessing (SMP). Multiprocessor systems require a special type of motherboard which has several CPU sockets. This differs from multicore systems which contain more than one execution core on a single CPU (which is referred to as Chip-level Multiprocessing, or CMP).

Multicore systems are cheaper than multiprocessor systems because they do not require multiple CPU support. They are also faster when running a single program. However, multiprocessor systems (although they are more expensive) are faster when running multiple programs.

Processor Family
Processor Family

Processor Family refers to the both the manufacturer and model of a computer's processor chip. Processors within a given family generally have similar feature sets. Although some inexpensive PCs run on chips from smaller companies such as AMD or NVIDIA, the vast majority of today's PCs (including both Apple and Windows-based machines) run on Intel processors.

However, you should keep in mind that Intel produces a wide variety processors. As a result, there can be a noticeable difference in both cost and processing power from one Intel chip to another.

The most common reasons for selecting a specific processsor family are compatibility (particularly for business computers that may have to adhere to company provided specifications) or when performance is a major requirement of the PC being purchased (for example, an Intel Core i7 chip is a significantly more powerful processor than an Intel Core i3 chip).

Ethernet Technology
Ethernet Technology

Ethernet is a local area network (LAN) technology. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) created the standard which they call 802.3. An Ethernet LAN typically connects via special grades of copper wires.

Laptops usually have an Ethernet port or ports to connect them to the LAN. The speed of that connection is determined by the type of Ethernet connection used. Those types are:

Ethernet, also known as 10BASE-T, which provides transmission speeds up to 10 Mbps.

Fast Ethernet, or 100BASE-T, provides faster transmission speeds up to 100 megabits per second.

Gigabit Ethernet or 1000BASE-T provides an even faster transmission, at speeds up to 1000 megabits per second (1 gigabit or 1 billion bits per second).

10-Gigabit Ethernet is currently the fastest commercially available version which provides up to 10 billion bits per second.

Wireless Card
Dedicated Graphics Adapter Model
Dedicated Graphics Adapter Model

PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) used to be the most common expansion slot standard for use on PC motherboards. The purpose of an expansion slot is to provide a method for adding some sort of functionality to a computer that it did not have before (such as adding a sound or network card). PCI was the successor to the older ISA standard. The newer interface is the PCI-e (PCI Express) slot, which provides for higher bus speeds and other additional tweaks to enhance system performance. Most current PCs include both PCI Express and PCI expansion slots.

Wi-Fi Standard
Wi-Fi Standard

WiFi or Wireless LAN (WLAN) standards are compatibility standards developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). They are also referred to as 802.11 standards.

The current standards are:

802.11a

802.11a supports bandwidth up to 54 Mbps and signals in a regulated frequency spectrum around 5 GHz. Because there is less interference in the 5GHz spectrum, 802.11a is often used in "noisy" electrical environments, such as hospitals. This higher frequency compared to 802.11b shortens the range of 802.11a networks. The higher frequency also means 802.11a signals have more difficulty penetrating walls and other obstructions.

802.11a has a fast maximum speed and its regulated frequencies prevent signal interference from other devices. But 802.11a has a higher cost and a shorter range signal that is more easily obstructed

802.11b

802.11b supports bandwidth up to 11 Mbps, comparable to traditional Ethernet. 802.11b uses the unregulated radio signaling frequency (2.4 GHz) as vendors often prefer using this frequency to lower their production costs. Being unregulated, 802.11b gear can incur interference from microwave ovens, cordless phones, and other appliances using the same 2.4 GHz range. However, by installing 802.11b gear a reasonable distance from other appliances, interference can easily be avoided.

802.11b provides for the lowest cost, a good signal range, and it is not easily obstructed by walls, ceilings, etc. But it also has the slowest maximum speed of any of the 802.11 standards and home appliances may interfere with it.

802.11g

802.11g supports bandwidth up to 54 Mbps and it uses the 2.4 GHz frequency for greater range. 802.11g is also backwards compatible with 802.11b, meaning that 802.11g access points will work with 802.11b wireless network adapters and vice versa.

802.11g has a fast maximum speed with good signal range that is not easily obstructed.
But 802.11g costs more than 802.11b and appliances may interfere with it.

802.11n

802.11n, also called "Wireless N", supports up to 300 Mbps of network bandwidth. 802.11n also offers somewhat better range over earlier WiFi standards due to its increased signal intensity, and it is backward-compatible with 802.11b/g gear. It increases the amount of bandwidth supported by utilizing multiple wireless signals and antennas (called MIMO technology) instead of one.

802.11n has a faster maximum speed and best signal range. It is also more resistant to signal interference from outside sources. But it costs more than 802.11g and its use of multiple signals may interfere with nearby 802.11b/g based networks.

802.11ac

802.11ac is the newest generation of WiFi signaling in popular use. Its network bandwidth is rated up to 1300 Mbps on the 5 GHz band plus up to 450 Mbps on 2.4 GHz. 802.11ac utilizes dual band wireless technology, supporting simultaneous connections on both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz WiFi bands. 802.11ac offers backward compatibility to 802.11b/g/n.

802.11ac has a fastest maximum speed and best signal range. It costs more than 802.11n and its use of multiple signals and dual frequencies may interfere with nearby 802.11a/b/g/n based networks.

Number of HDMI Ports
Number of HDMI Ports

HDMI (which stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface) is an audio/video interface standard. HDMI is used to transfer uncompressed digital video data and compressed/uncompressed digital audio data from one HDMI-compliant device to another. The HDMI port on a laptop is typically used to connect the laptop to a computer monitor, television, or digital audio device.

Number of DisplayPorts
Number of DisplayPorts

DisplayPort is a digital display interface that was developed by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) to replace the much older VGA and DVI standards. The interface is primarily used to connect video sources to display devices such as computer monitors, although it can also be used to carry audio, USB, and other forms of data. Typically you'll find it (often along with an HDMI interface) in many late-model, add-in video cards as well as some high-end laptops.

Although most laptops aimed at consumers will generally only provide the more widely-used HDMI interface, higher-end laptops marketed to business users (and heavy-duty gamers) often have a DisplayPort interface as well. This is because an HDMI interface can only handle a single video stream and a single audio stream, which means it can drive only one display at a time. On the other hand, a single DisplayPort interface can support up to four monitors at a 1920x1200-pixel resolution each (or two monitors at a 2560x1600-pixel resolution), with each display able to receive an independent audio and video stream.

DVI Port
DVI Port

DVI is one of the most common digital video connections on today's desktops and LCD monitors. It's similar to the older VGA interface in that it's a 24 pin connection and it supports both analog and digital video. DVI can stream up to 1920×1200 HD video, or with dual-link DVI connectors it can also support up to 2560×1600 pixels.

The biggest drawback with DVI is that it does not support HDCP encryption by default, so if your PC only includes DVI ports you may not be able to playback full HD Blu-rays and other HD content like you can using an HDMI connection. Also, DVI doesn't support audio. So you'll need to use a separate cable for audio when using a DVI port to play video content that includes sound.

One advantage of DVI over the newer HDMI interface is that you can connect an older monitor that only includes a VGA port to a DVI port by simply attaching a DVI to VGA converter to your monitors cable.

RAID Support
Number of PCI Expansion Slots
Number of PCI Expansion Slots

PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) used to be the most common expansion slot standard for use on PC motherboards. The purpose of an expansion slot is to provide a method for adding some sort of functionality to a computer that it did not have before (such as adding a sound or network card). PCI was the successor to the older ISA standard. The newer interface is the PCI-e (PCI Express) slot, which provides for higher bus speeds and other additional tweaks to enhance system performance. Most current PCs include both PCI Express and PCI expansion slots.

Number of Hard Drives Installed
Number of Hard Drives Installed

Form Factor
Form Factor

Optical Drive Type
Optical Drive Type

Energy Star Certified
Energy Star Certified

Energy Star is a voluntary standard for energy efficient consumer products that originated in the United States in 1992. Since then, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan, and the European Union have adopted the program.

It was created to help businesses and individuals save money and protect our climate through superior energy efficiency. Although it began as a way to cut down on the energy drain from computers, it now covers more than 50 product categories. Devices that carry the Energy Star service mark generally use 20–30% less energy than required by U.S. federal standards.

For more information on the Green movement, be sure to visit our Go Green guide here.

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