Understanding Laptop Components

The Quick Guide To Your Laptop: Understanding What’s Inside Your Laptop

We start with the question, “What even is RAM? And how much do I need?”

This is an understandably justifiable question when you are in search of a new laptop. All these numbers are thrown in your face. You have a vague idea that the larger the number, the better it is. But, how much is enough for what you do? And which ones are actually relevant to your needs?

This article is here for the average consumer* to guide you through your search for a new laptop.



[Unit measure: GHz] [Common brands: Intel, AMD]

The CPU (Central Processing Unit) interprets and executes most of the commands between the hardware and software of a computer. The fastest processor currently runs at 4.7GHz.

However, for the average customer, you don’t need any more than GHz.Yes,really. 1Hz translates to 1 instruction per second, whereas 1GHz becomes 1 billion instructions per second.

CPU also come in ‘cores’; The larger the speed, the better. However, having multiple cores running simultaneously is much better than 1 of the same total value (e.g two 2GHz cores combined are better than on 4GHz core). This is because the multiple cores are able to process more at the same time, even though they have a lower capacity.

Using Intel processor to illustrate, here is how the processors stack up:

  • 1 Core: Pentium, Celeron, Core
  • 2 Cores: Core 2 Duo, Core i3
  • 4 Cores: Core 2 Quad, Core i5, Core i7
  • 6 Cores: Core i7



RAM or Random Access Memory is the part of the “workspace” of the laptop.

It temporarily stores the files and programs you are currently using because going back and forth to the actual Hard Drive is a much slower process. If the computer was a desk, the Hard Drive would be the desk drawers, whereas the RAM would be the desktop workspace.

The average customer needs no more than 2 to 4 GB of RAM. This is currently the preinstalled standard for all laptops.


[Unit measure: GHz;] [Common brands: Intel, AMD]

The GPU determines the computer’s capacity to work with visual outputs. This is more relevant to desktop computers. As a general rule, unless you are handling 3D graphics or doing heavy video editing, this shouldn’t be considered in specs weigh-ins, all systems come with adequate ones.



The hard disk drive is the primary and largest storage of files and programs on a computer. In terms of size and performance, the performance of the system is unaffected by the size of the storage space up to 80% of the storage space size.

However, what matters more is the speed at which it processes information, the rotational velocity.

Rotational velocities (measured in revolutions per minute, rpm) in order to be faster, require bigger fans, considering the confines of a laptop, they matter less in laptops than in desktops where they can be expanded.

A Note on SSD: For portable devices, there is a growing trend in Solid State Drives/SSD, these are a replacement to the HDD. The main difference being that SSDs do not require a spinning disk. SSDs are quiet, faster and consume less power than HDDs. They do however cost much more than HDDs of the same capacity

The standard minimum capacity for Storage is 40GB. Most laptops come with 100 – 500GB, as for personal computers, this is adequate for the average individual. When it comes to shared household computers, perhaps consider a system with 1 to 2 TB of storage.


Other Considerations

This is written for what specifications to consider when buying a laptop. There are other hardware specifications, but these tend to be adequate from the industry standard. Laptop component such as Display Screen size and resolution; Optical Drive; Wireless Connectivity; and Motherboard.

Moreover, the only considerations to be made here are for optical drives if you would like a CD drive. However, these are becoming redundant with the years, computer programs, files and media files are transmitted more through the internet and USB flash disk drives than Compact Disk drives.

You might want to consider screen size, depending on how portable you want the laptop to be, as well as resolution, depending on how long you will be spending on the laptop each day. If you spend a lot of time, then you might want to shell out of a screen that supports high resolution viewing to make it easier on the eyes.

What’s becoming quite common when it comes to screen size however, is that more and more people are using secondary monitors when they use their laptop for a long time (i.e. watching a film/video by connecting it to the TV, or carrying out desk work by connecting it to a second larger monitor on the desktop).



The average customer: The average customer being one that mostly requires a computer for web browsing, emailing, word processing and spreadsheets, not requiring heavy video editing; 3D graphics productions; nor a competitive gamer.






Extra footnote

You cannot compare the values of different types of components. I.e. 1GB of RAM is not the same as 1GB of HDD



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