Purchasing a central processing unit (CPU) for your new desktop PC can be a difficult choice for both the first-time buyer and veteran PC builder. It’s not hard to get confused when looking at products with seemingly ambiguous names such as i9-9900K and i7-7500U.
We have put together a simple jargon busting guide to choosing components for your pc, to help take the hard work out of your purchase and make your choice as pain free as possible.
By explaining the differences between key parts of your PC or workstations, we aim to educate and provide jargon busting for peace of mind.
When looking at central processing units, it is advised to take a note of the numbers at the end of the CPU’s name. By doing so, you can identify which Intel CPU family the hardware belongs to. For example, an Intel Core i9-9900K is a 9th generation CPU and a i7-7500U is a 7th generation. These tell you the power and age of each Intel CPU.
You will also notice when looking at central processing units, that each model number is preceded by an i3, i5, all the way up to i9. The higher the number that you get, the more powerful and advanced the processor. The lower the number in the CPU name, the less cores that the processor is going to have. Intel Core i3 desktop processors are the cheapest models, but only have four cores and don’t offer two prime technologies that are found in the higher-end CPUs. If you want everything from Hyper Threading to Turbo Boost, you are better off looking into purchasing a higher range CPU such as an i5 or i9.
The processor’s core is the part of the CPU that receives instructions and performs the intensive calculations needed for certain tasks. Processors can have anything from a single to multiple cores; processors with two cores are called dual-core processors’ and those that have four are called quad-cores. This continues upwards, all the way up to eight cores. The more cores your CPU has, the more instructions it can receive, making your PC faster.
If you’re buying a graphics card (GPU), it’s probably going to be from NVIDIA. These beasts have earned their place at the top of the market for their unprecedented power and value, but also their ever growing selection, such as Quadro cards for 2D/3D work, GTX cards for light gaming and RTX cards for more demanding graphics including ray tracing.
Consumer NVIDIA graphics cards are pushed out under the GeForce brand. GeForce GPUs are NVIDIAs most common graphics processors and are perfect for basic tasks. The higher range GPUs are GeForce graphics cards with letters following their name, such as the GeForce GTX 10 or RTX 20 Series family. These are high-grade components that are quintessential for gamers, providing uncompromising performance with unique capabilities.
The RTX 20 GPUs are the latest series from NVIDIA. The GeForce RTX 2080 is their flagship graphics card. Offering the most advanced performance boosted by its powerful ray tracing abilities that deliver a fresh and cinematic realism of lighting to your games; bringing the abilities of Hollywood’s CGI into your home.
If you’re a dedicated gamer, film lover, or media worker, then Nvidia GeForce GPUs is a must-have.
With over 45 years’ experience, AMD design the best graphics cards with flexible prices for casual and high-end intensive tasks. Their latest range of Radeon RX GPUs have been designed to cater to the growing graphical requirements of gaming and professional environments. Split into two primary categories - the RX Vega and RX 500 Series and are defined by their capabilities, power, and price points.
Under the same Radeon brand, AMD’s previous generation 300 Series GPU’s are split into the R7 and R9 range. AMD Radeon R7 cards are designed for online gaming and eSports performance, while the R9 range is customised for 4K graphics, superior performance, and Virtual Reality capabilities.
The RX 500 Series GPUs are AMD’s core gaming graphics cards, featuring a solid blend of updated gaming performance, higher clock speeds, and a revamped 2nd generation Polaris architecture. If you need a system upgrade, these are the GPUs for you. Enjoy an optimised gaming experience, smooth Virtual Reality capabilities, and the latest display technologies, all at a reasonable price.
Better yet, step into the world of extreme gaming with the new generation of Radeon RX Vega graphics cards. RX Vega is AMD’s high-end gaming GPU, with exhilarating gaming performance that transcends the graphical capacity of your system. Discover smooth gameplay, high resolutions, FreeSync technology, and an advanced, intelligent GPU architecture that delivers the latest games with maximum settings and peak framerates. Give your gameplay the quality boost that it needs with this revolutionary technology.
With their Zen architecture, AMD’s Ryzen CPUs surprised everyone with their innovative technology and massive performance increase from previous generation AMD central processing units. These chips are split across three families: Ryzen 7, Ryzen 5, and the Ryzen 3 lineup.
The Ryzen 7 processors are AMD’s high-end processors with 8 cores and 16 threads that will transform the power of your Gaming PC’s system.
The Ryzen 5 series are more affordable than AMD’s top-of-the-range CPUs. The majority of these variants have 6 cores and 12-thread processors that are capable of boosting to the same maximum speeds as Ryzen 7s.
The mainstream variants are AMD’s Ryzen 3s lineup. Ryzen 3s don’t offer hyperthreading but are true quad-core 65W chips.
One of the most important components for your pc is Random Access Memory. Without a decent and specific amount, your PC is limited by its full capabilities.
Here is a quick overview of how much memory you will need for specific computing tasks:
4GB: Enough for basic Windows and Google Chrome usage, 4GB is for entry-level systems. However, it will struggle with advanced applications and tasks.
8GB: This is the recommended memory for gaming and modest applications with the majority of PCs.
16GB: The perfect match for professionals and gamers that want to play more demanding games.
32GB and above: The high-end power for PC enthusiasts and custom PCs.
Motherboards are an undervalued component of every PC. Whilst a graphics card has more conventional gaming uses, and RGB lighting brings a pleasing aesthetic. A motherboard defines the internal build of your PC. Forget aesthetics and start thinking functionality. A PC’s motherboard is the beating heart of your PC that every component connects into, and it’s form factor decides the very size of the computer and its chipset.
The range of choices may seem perplexing but don’t be disheartened. Allow us to clear up the tiny details of your motherboard that will make a huge difference to your PC!
The most important consideration when buying a motherboard is its chipset. A chipset defines the very limits of your connections between the CPU and peripherals and is essential because all of the various essential components of a computer communicate with your CPU through its chipset. Manufacturers develop them to be optimised with specific CPUs and are integrated deeply into the motherboard, so an upgrade is usually out of the question. Remember this when purchasing a motherboard because not only must a motherboard’s socket fit with your CPU, the motherboard’s chipset must also be a perfect match for the central processing unit.
The trick to a motherboard is to figure out which size you desire. Think about how small or large you want your computer to be and decide where you wish for it to fit inside your PC case. In this instance, bigger is better. Smaller boards mean fewer slots and features for your PC. Go with the biggest motherboard that you can fit to make sure that your board has the right slots for anything from a serious graphics card with extra RAM capacity.
Motherboard sizes come in three primary options. From largest to smallest, these are: ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX.
ATX motherboards: The most common sized motherboard to fit most PC cases is an ATX. Fitting inside the majority of full or mid-tower cases, an ATX is boosted by several impressive features, including M.2 slots for SSDs, multiple PCIe slots, and lots of SATA connectors.
Micro-ATX motherboards: For smaller cases, a Micro-ATX is smaller than your standard ATX motherboard but still features better features and expansion options than a smaller motherboard.
Micro-ITX: Designed for the more close-packed PC builds and cases, a mini-ITX conventionally only has a single PCIe slot that confines it to allowing only a single graphics card.
You may also come across E-ATXs during your search for a motherboard. These are extended motherboards that are larger and more expensive than ATXs and are often reserved for those using high-end CPUs. Consider E-ATXs if you have a large enough PC case to fit one and are allured by the array of high-end features that they pack.
Determining the size of your motherboard is the easy part, finding CPU sockets that align with your motherboard is where it gets technical. A processor socket is the connector of your motherboard that holds the CPU and forms an electrical communication between the components, clipping onto the motherboard using a pin grid array.
Different manufacturers use different variations of sockets on their CPUs, so buy a motherboard that will comfortably fit onto your CPU. Please note: AMD sockets have holes in them that fit the pins on the CPU, and Intel have LGA (Land Grid Array) sockets that have their pins on the inside of the socket. Small details like this will make a world of difference further down the road!
PC cases come in a variety of sizes as the chassis for your computer and all its expensive components. If you’re in search of a new PC case, you’ll find that they are available in two major form factors; tower and desktop.
Desktop PCs are designed to be compact enough for limited workspace and can be placed comfortably horizontal beneath a monitor or desk. However, some may find the expandability options that a desktop PC allows to be restricting and will choose a Tower PC case.
A tower chassis is much larger than its predecessor, ideal for containing a multitude of hardware, and available in three core sizes; mini-tower, mid-tower and full-tower cases. As its name implies, a mini-tower is the smallest of the three, perfect for crowded work spaces and housing smaller motherboards such as a mini-ITX or micro-ATX motherboard.
If you need a larger selection of expansion options, look no further than a much larger full-tower chassis. With the options to house components as large as an extended-ATX motherboard or multiple graphics cards, a full-tower PC case is the premium option for high-end PCs.
Even if you’re new to computers, there’s a big chance that you’ve already heard of RGB (red, green, blue) – the customisable LED lighting that turns your PC into a glimmering rave ornament. Prepare to experience a kaleidoscope of colour!
With RGB, you can customise your PC to be as original and dazzling as you want, turning your PC into the centre-piece of any room. With most major PC manufactures offering preinstalled RGB on most of their components, you can now purchase integrated LED lighting on anything from a GPU to a heatsink. Simply install the kit, download the relevant drivers, and brighten up your PC with rainbow lighting.
Heat puts a massive strain on your constantly running components, particularly the GPU and CPU, leading to your PC’s performance slowing, unexpected crashes, and even eventual damage to the interior of the PC itself - significantly shortening its lifespan.
Luckily, cooling systems have come a long way to keep your PC safe during arduous tasks. You’ll find air cooling, made up of fans, is the most common form of keeping your internal electronic components healthy. Fans pull the heat away from your components and push it out of your PC through an exhaust. Utilising heatsinks – large plates of conductive metal that are strategically designed around your PC to absorb heat – the fans efficiently circulate hot air away from the major components and effectively expel any damaging heat.
If you’re lucky enough to have a high-end PC or if you want your current computer to run faster, then liquid cooling may be a better choice for your PC. Available as two options - an Open Loop and Closed Loop system - both systems operate using a network of tubes that root through your PC and circulate distilled water to cool the internals of the computer through the principles of thermodynamics. Not only are these systems practical, they also add a stylistic aesthetic to your PC!
Discover full customisation with an Open Loop cooling system, designed to make your computer more aesthetically pleasing. You can tailor the cooling system to fit any design that you wish, with some fantastic and impressive results being created from PC builders. Prepare to be impressed!
Closed loop liquid cooling systems are cheaper and easier to install than their open counterparts and offer a much easier maintenance for long-term use. For the less experienced PC builder, a Closed Loop liquid system comes ready-to-use out of the box and can be easily combined with your PC’s current fan cooling system.
A Hard Disk Drive (HDD) is the versatile device that electronically stores important data and is conventionally the main storage hardware for your computer. A hard drive can come in a variety of options, such as a traditional HDD, SSD, mSATA, or as a SATA hard drive.
The basic form of storage on a computer is a traditional spinning hard drive. Unlike data stored on a computer’s RAM, a traditional HDD saves information to your computer that doesn’t erase when the system shuts down. Depending on the size of the HDD, this means that you can save anything from your latest report to a vast collection of films or media.
Hard Disk Drives are produced and sold in standardised sizes called form factors. Form factors measure the disks, external dimensions for fitting inside your PC, with the two most commonly available today for Hard Disk Drives being 3.5-inches and 2.5 inches.
SATA Drives (Serial ATA) describe the type of interface being used for the Hard Drive. SATA Drives have the same form factor as a standard hard drive and are perfect for the undemanding home users or for those that need a backup data source. Their low cost and high capacity storage makes them the ideal storage option for home users. For any higher intensive tasks, they are better suited to a larger hard drive option such as an SSD.
A familiar term that you will find is Non-Volatile Memory (Express), also known as NVMe. NVMe is a host controller interface and storage protocol created by manufacturers, especially for SSDs to deliver better performance and be highly compatible as a universal software interface. NVMe was designed to be utilised for faster media and provides a swift alternative to other standardised interfaces such as Advanced Technology Attachments (ATA).
Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) is a type of connection found in the internal devices of a computer. PCIe enables superior interface speeds versus today’s SATA technology, serially connecting its data transmission lanes and boosted by up to sixteen possible lanes, designated as x1, x4, x8, or x16.
A Solid State Drive (SDD) has the exact same functionality as a traditional hard drive, but retains the data on intelligent flash memory chips that can store data even when a system has no power. With no moving parts, SSDs are conventionally smaller and faster than traditional HDDs and are accordingly more expensive. An SSD can be flexibly mounted in traditional hard drive bays, installed in a PCIe expansion slot, or even fitted directly onto a motherboard. The choice is completely yours with this versatile hard drive option. For those looking for a cheap SSD option, look no further than the Corsair 60GB portable SSD card, ideal for a large range of tasks.
An SSDs standard form factor is 2.5 inches, fitting comfortably inside a computer’s hard drive bay. Smaller SSD form factors are called M.2s, developed to provide support for SATA and M.2 interfaces. An even smaller SSD form factors is mSATAs. A mSATA SSD is miniscule compared to a 2.5-inch drive, designed to easily plug into a mSATA socket on a computer’s motherboard.
Your Hard Drive will define the power of your computer’s role and should be considered thoroughly. A decision not to be taken lightly! With this new insight, have a browse of Novatech’s vast selection of Hard Drives and find the best selection for you.
17 Feb 2021
As a newbie to the world of custom-building, things can be a tad overwhelming at first. If this happens to be you, then fear not, as today we're starting a short series covering the basics of custom-building, discussing all you need to know when it comes to components, specs and all the relevant jargon...