What to look for in a business computer

Buying a computer can be a confusing experienceAs the full specification of a PC can run to two sides of A4 or more, it’s easy to be overwhelmed when you’re in the market for a new business computer. However, there are actually only a few items you really need to focus on

If you understand these key elements before you start comparing specific computers, you’ll be able to make a more informed buying decision.

Central processing unit

The central processing unit (CPU) is the powerful computer chip at the heart of your computer. 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 actually happen.

The speed of the CPU has a big affect on how fast your computer runs overall, and is measured in Gigahertz (GHz). In general, the higher the speed, the faster your computer will be.

Some computers come with ‘dual core’ or ‘quad core’ CPUs, which are effectively two or four CPUs in one. They give you extra performance if you’re trying to do several things at once with your computer.

Look for: at least 2.5GHz in a desktop computer, 2GHz in a laptop.

Random access memory

Random access memory (RAM) is space that your computer uses when you work on your files. For instance, when you open a document, it is copied from the hard drive into the RAM. Then when you click ‘save’, it goes from the RAM back to the hard drive.

RAM has a big impact on the performance of your computer, so get as much as you can afford.

There are different types of RAM. Buy a computer with ‘DDR3’ RAM if possible – it’s fastest, so you won’t be kept waiting while your computer accesses information.

Look for: at least 4GB in a desktop computer, 3GB in a laptop.

Hard drives

If RAM is your computer’s temporary memory, the hard drive is its permanent memory. It is 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.

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.

Look for: at least 500GB in a desktop or laptop computer.


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 17 inch screen with a desktop PC, and go bigger if you can. You’ll pay from £100 for a 21 inch screen.

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 at least 22 inches.

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, as long as your computer supports two monitors.

With laptop computers, the screen size goes a long way towards determining the overall size of the laptop, so your choice of screen size depends on how you plan to use your laptop. You can always connect it to a bigger monitor when you’re not out and about.

Look for: 21 inches for a desktop computer.

Read more about computer monitors >

Graphics adaptor

The graphics adaptor controls what is displayed on your computer monitor. Many computers come with an integrated graphics adaptor, which is fine in most cases.

However, if you plan to use your computer for graphic-intensive work like video editing, 3D modelling or playing games, pay extra for a dedicated graphics adaptor.

Look for: integrated graphics in a desktop or laptop computer.

Other computer considerations

There will be other areas to consider when choosing a business computer. Your company may have particular needs or need to run specific applications, so it’s important you create a set of IT requirements before you start shopping.

Business computers often come with bundled software – usually an operating system, often an office suite and some security software too. If you need new software, this can be a cost-effective way of getting it. But when comparing computers, check the true value of the software and disregard anything you don’t actually need.

Expect to pay from £350 for a reasonable business computer.

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