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Christmas Computer! What Do I Need To Know?

Christmas is nearly upon us! Well, it is from the point of view of getting a new computer anyway.  So how do you go about getting a new computer? What questions do you need to ask? Follow this guide and in a few moments you will know the difference between a hard drive and a hard sell from your sales person. 

Here are a few things you need to know. 

  1. Who is the computer for? What will they be using it for?
  2. What are the specifications of the computer you want?
  3. What else do you need for your computer that you just bought?
  4. Should you get insurance?
  5. How much should I pay for the computer?

Who is the computer for? What will they be using it for?

Is the computer for yourself? Is it for a son or daughter? Is it a gift to a gamer – someone who plans on playing games with the computer all the time? What age are they? Will they ever be taking the computer from the table – do they need a laptop?

In my experience a new computer, be it a laptop or a desktop or a HP or an Apple Mac, is generally for the same few categories of people. Actually remember here as well that when I say “the computer” I mean a laptop or desktop and it can be an Apple or a HP or Dell or Lenovo or Asus etc. 

There are many different types of laptops but they all have the same basic parts. Look for the best specs you can afford.

Home User

This is a computer that usually sits in the kitchen or the sitting room. People like the computer here so that they can, rightfully, keep an eye on what the kids are doing on the internet. A laptop then will probably be taken by one of the kids into their bedroom and you will spend fun times looking here and there for it. Should you get a desktop computer? Think hard before getting a desktop computer as your home computer. Nothing beats surfing the internet on a cold winter’s night with a laptop on your knees as you sip a cup of tea by the fire. Specification wise, the computer does not need to be some kind of monster machine. I will cover the specs in a few moments down below.

The Work Computer

There will usually be 2 different kinds of situations. You are either self employed or you are working from home – typically nowadays because of COVID (as a side note check out this page on your rights when working from home). This computer needs to be fast. You will be spending 7, 8 or maybe 9 hours a day at this thing. Spend the money on it. If it is slow then every-single-thing-you-do-will-be-that-little-bit-slower! Multiply that by 8 hours of work! It is like if you have a van for work that is that little bit too small, can’t carry enough weight for all your tools, doesn’t have enough horsepower to take a full trailer up that hill. Get your machine correct the first time or you will be living with it for a few years and rue the day that you did not spend that little bit more. 

Student Computer

So someone is in college, going off to college or you are deciding to take a college course? This computer depends on the type of course you are doing. You do not need an amazing graphics card if you are studying English Literature. However if you are studying structural engineering and using AutoCad to render photo quality images with 3D Studio Max then yeah, you are going to need a high spec computer with a great graphics card in it. 

Gaming computer with bells and whistles but remember the basics – RAM, Processor, SSD

Gaming Computer

This is the most expensive computer on this list really. I say this as a gamer. A graphics card for a gaming computer can set you back around €500 – €700. Now with that said they come in all prices – see this MSI GeForce 3070 graphics cost just sky under €2000! If you are not sure about what I am saying here, this is JUST THE GRAPHICS CARD. Not the rest of the computer. You still need to purchase the rest of the computer around this!

What are the specifications of the computer you want?

Home UserWorkStudentGaming
HDD2 – 4TB
SDD512GB 512GB 512GB 500GB – 1TB
RAM8GB Min, 16GB Recommended8GB Min, 16GB Recommended8GB Min, 16GB Recommended16GB
CPUAMD Ryzen 5 3450 or Intel Core i510th GenAMD Ryzen 5 3450 or Intel Core i510th Gen AMD Ryzen 5 3450 or Intel Core i510th Gen Intel Core i7 11th Gen / AMD Ryzen R5 5400
GraphicRadeon Vega 8 w/ Ryzen 5 or Intel Onboard with Intel ProcessorRadeon Vega 8 w/ Ryzen 5 or Intel Onboard with Intel ProcessornVidia GeForce GTX 1650nVidia GeForce RTX 2080
Estimated Cost€600 – €1200€600+€600 – €1200€1500+
This figures are all estimates and are all minimum specs recommended. They will also change over time.

So long ago I bought myself a 5th Generation Honda Civic. Alloy wheels, tinted rear windows, 1.3 SOHC engine. You get the idea, I loved that car. But then the 6th generation came out and I was like… not as nice looking. But the 5th Gen that I had was an improvement over the 4th Gen. As the 6th Gen Civic was in some respects to my 5th Gen. So where am I going here? This can help explain the processor industry a lot. 

The Processor is the engine of your computer. On laptops and desktops there are 2 main processor manufacturers that people talk about a lot. Intel and AMD. Now, in the same way that Ford motor company has a Ford Focus, Ford Mondeo and Ford Mustang and Nissan have the Juke, Micra, Leaf and Quasqui so to do Processor manufacturers have different processor models. So Intel has the Intel Celeron, the Intel Core i3, Intel Core i5 and Intel Core i7 and AMD has the AMD Athlon, AMD Ryzen 3, AMD Ryzen 5, AMD Ryzen 7. So if you go into a store and look for a computer and it has an Intel Core i3 in it, well now you know what model it is.

Intel Vs AMD have been battling as long as desktop computers have existed.

Now, in the same way that my Honda Civic was a 5th Generation Honda Civic because Honda kept making improvements on the model, so too did Intel and AMD make improvements on their chips. Intel measures the generation of its chips very simply with a number 7th Gen, or 9th Gen. The latest generation Intel processor at time of writing is the 12th Generation. AMD Ryzen measures their generations a little differently. AMD Ryzen latest generation is the 5950. So this is the 5th generation chip. We know this because of the first number on the type of chip that is it. It is a 5950. It is a 5000 series basically. A 5th generation. Don’t make the mistake of looking at the Intel Core i5 9th Generation and thinking that it is better than the AMD Ryzen 5000 series because one is 9th Gen and the other is 5th Gen. The Ryzen chips are newer than the Intel Core series of i3, i5, i7 and both companies simply measure their chip generations differently. There is so much more to say on this. Rest assured that if you go into a store and look for a good processor you now have a general idea of what you are looking for. Intel – 10th or 11th generation. AMD Ryzen 5400 series or higher. Note that with the Ryzen chips in a very simple way – the higher the number the better. A Ryzen 5 5600 is better than a Ryzen 5 5400.

Now, for all of the rest of the bits and pieces on a computer we definitely do not need to go into such detail. The general rule of thumb is that if a computer comes with a good processor, the rest of the computer follows through with good enough hardware too. The other things that are relevant to us are Storage (the Hard Disk Drive – HDD and Solid State Drive – SSD) and the memory (Random Access Memory – RAM). While you cannot have too much storage or memory you definitely can have too little. SSD storage is a much faster type of storage than a HDD and therefore is a little bit more expensive but the storage on your computer should always be an SSD today. A minimum would be a 512GB SSD. With regard to RAM there are different technologies involved that you really do not need to know about unless you are particularly into your tech. However there is one thing to note, a type of RAM is built on a technology called DDR SDRAM. For short DDR. Look for a computer with DDR4. There is a DDR5 out too but that might be too expensive right now unless it is a business or gaming computer. With RAM by the way there is a serious question – how much RAM do you need in your computer. Realistically I would say that you are looking for a computer with 16GB of RAM. 8GB of RAM should be seen as the absolute minimum. If you buy a laptop or a computer today and it only has 4GB of RAM in it the odds are that this computer will give you issues in the future – and by future I mean in a few months. Simply avoid a computer that has 4GB RAM.  

There are many types of graphics card – a graphics card makes the image on your screen. How detailed the image is depends on the quality of the card.

Graphics cards are a big decision. This is one of the places where you have to really think about whom the computer is for. For gaming a good graphics card is essential. Not necessarily the latest graphics card mind you – there have been amazing graphics cards coming out every year for the last 20 years. So you do not need the latest graphics card, you simply need to know what your computer is going to be used for. The problem here is that there are so many graphics cards out there that it is a whole thing just to figure out which is for you. Graphics cards are a funny business. I have a computer in my house that was released in the first quarter of 2017 so it is, hmm… 3 or 4 years old? The graphics card that is in my machine is still better than a lot of the graphics cards that are still coming out today. Again, there are different spec levels on graphics cards. My graphics card was literally one of the best when I got it back then and it has withstood the test of time. With that said there is technology in newer graphics cards that enables Ray Tracing in games. Graphics cards that can ray trace in real time (while the game is running) can be really expensive. If you are a gamer nowaday however, it is almost a given that your card will have this ability and the hefty extra euros on top of the price of a similar computer without ray tracing.  

What else do you need for your computer that you just bought?

Microsoft Office vs Google Drive. Both Microsoft Office and Google Drive provide you with a range of products. In all honesty, both are brilliant. If you have either you can change the world with the productivity that you have. Difference is that you have to pay for Microsoft Office. Is it worth it? 

Microsoft OfficeGoogle Drive
OneDriveGoogle Drive
This table shows the equivalent programs for Office and Drive

I use the antivirus that comes with Windows, it is called Microsoft Defender. Microsoft’s antivirus solution was quite terrible a few years ago. However, with Windows 10 they have improved the product immensely. I have never had any issues with it. I download all kind of files, nothing happens. Now if you walk into a Celtics pub waving a Ranger flag you’re going to get… feedback lets say. If you traverse certain parts of the internet and download any file willy nilly your computer is going to be at a higher chance of getting a virus. You have to use your gut – if a website looks dodgy do not download anything from it. Leave the site. 

Net Nanny programs and conversations about online safety help keep your child safe online.

Net Nannies are another personal choice. One of the biggest in this space is Net Nanny: Parental Control Software & Website Blocker | Net Nanny. They monitor screen time. The parent or guardian can see what the monitored person is doing online. It definitely gives an element of safety. I think it is great as well for parents or guardians to educate their kids. You cannot monitor kids all the time on the internet. Honest and frank discussions with the kids might be better than letting Net Nanny do the monitoring for you. Of course, some level of monitoring and screen time would be recommended for young children. Too much screen time has been suggested as a source of negative mental health for kids or teens.

Should you get insurance?

If you do purchase a machine in a store or over the phone from some sales agent, they are almost definitely going to ask you if you want insurance. Do you get insurance? Yes? No? Are you a better safe than sorry type of person? I know I bought an Apple iPad Pro and I got insurance on it. But I would not get insurance on a laptop. I simply believe that I could fix anything on a laptop. However, it is really costly to fix an iPad Pro. So yeah, I have peace of mind with my iPad and with my laptop that I did not get insurance on. All I can say for sure is that you will probably be sprung with the question when you are paying the laptop or phone or whatever. You will probably be tired, your guard is down and you might say yeah okay throw on the insurance. But do not do this. Plan ahead. If you are going to go out into town looking for a laptop, if you are going into Currys or Harvey Norman, look up the policy beforehand online. Look up the terms and conditions. Have questions. Ask your questions. If you are ordering a computer online or even on the phone, it is easier to hand up or tell the person to just wait and that you will get back to them. 

How much should I pay for the computer?

Shopping around can save some money. Don’t rush buy if you can but if you see a good bargin do not procrastinate.

If you head into a store or look to shop online at certain times of the year you will see some laptops for as low as €250 – €400. Realistically, the odds are that a computer at this price is almost a false economy. There is a home laptop listed on for example that costs €399. So a Dell right! Dell has a great reputation however this €399 Dell has just a Pentium processor, with 4GB dell. Don’t buy it! If you are in Harvey Norman or Currys or some other high street store or on some website look out for this price of computer. Why is it this price? On the Dell website again a Dell is €829. That is a home laptop too by the way however this laptop has 8GB RAM, a 10th Generation Intel Core i5 processor with a nVidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card in it. That is why this second computer costs €430 extra. If you have read down to here these specs might all make a lot more sense to you! Nice job! 


My grandmother used to say “Buy something once and buy it right!” This very much applies to computers, phones, printers etc nowadays. It has never been truer. But do not over stretch your budget. A computer or phone is just a tool. For kids it might just be a toy. For the rest of us it is a tool, think about it that way. Get the right tool for the job.

You will migh many questions to do with what computer to buy, what are different parts that people talk about like SSD or Graphics Card. I will be covering all of these question in time on this blog. I have already covered “What is RAM?”. If you have any question feel free to call me on 0872716947 or email me at

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Donal O Domhnaill

Web Developer | Tech Tutor

Enjoy deep dive blogs and quickie news as I share my experience and opinion with you.

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