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Personal Purchase Recommendation Glossary

Breaking Down Processor Descriptions

Processor descriptions can be involved and confusing. Dell offers an explanation of the specifications the consumers may encounter; we paraphrase their explanation below:

        A              B            C                   D                         E

 Core 2 Duo E6600 (2.4GHz, 4MB L2 Cache, 1066MHz FSB)

A: The type of processor

The processor number; refers to the following attributes: GHz, L2 Cache, and Front-Side Bus Speed.

The clock speed; refers to the speed at which the CPU processes information.

The amount of L2 Cache (see "L2 Cache" under Processors below) available to the processor.

The clock speed for the Front Side Bus; refers to the speed that the processor communicates with memory and the graphics processor. By using memory that operates at the same clock speed as the front side bus can improve the overall performance of your computer.

Component Definitions

The processor (CPU or microprocessor) is the best (if imperfect) way to measure of how much work a computer can do and how quickly it can perform its tasks. Due to the different processor manufacturers, it is difficult to simply rank processors. It is best if you understand what the processor specs measure.

In our desktop recommendation, "2.4GHz" refers to the clock speed, or potentially how quickly the processor can process data. The higher the number, the faster the processor is capable of processing data. In this case, the processor could potentially process data internally 2.4 billion times a second.

L2 Cache (pronounced cash) is a block of memory inside the processor which stores frequently used data, allowing the processor to retrieve that data faster.

FSB, or Front Side Bus, factors into how quickly a processor can transfer data between itself and other components such as the memory or the hard drive. 1066Mhz FSB indicates that a processor can transfer data at 1,066,000,000 times a second.

Memory (RAM): RAM (Random Access Memory) is where the computer stores data needed for running programs. SDRAM (Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory) is a type of memory that runs quicker than most by synchronizing itself with the processor's bus speed (see above).

Hard Drive: This is the computer's main storage device, where programs and files are kept. In the case of the desktop recommendation, the 250GB refers to the storage capacity.

The hard drive contains platters - disk-like elements - and an actuator which moves across the platter retrieving or recording information on the platters. The platters rotate at speeds of 5400 RPM or more. For desktop computers, we are recommending platters that rotate at 7200 RPM.

Optical Drive: The "optical" here refers to lasers which can read and, in this case, write data on optical disks such as CDs and DVDs. The number before the "X" refers to the how many times faster than the first DVD drive the drive in question is. Thus, the drive recommended for both the desktop and notebook recommendations is 8 times faster than the first DVD drive.

The "+/-" indicates that the drive can use both standards of DVD media: DVD+RW and DVD-RW (both of which can store 4.7GB of data). The "RW" indicates that the media is rewritable, or can be recorded to and erased multiple times.

Ports: Device ports are the physical interface between a computer and peripheral devices or other computers.

USB (Universal Serial Bus) can transfer data to and from a wide range of peripherals, including mouse devices, keyboards, scanners, printers and digital cameras.

FireWire (or IEEE 1394) allows faster transfer than USB, as it was developed for devices using larger amounts of data, including digital camcorders, DVD players and digital audio equipment.

Displays: A computer display, or monitor, is the visual component of a computer. WSXGA+ (Wide Super eXtended Graphics Array) is a display of 1680 x 1050 pixels - a "wide screen" ratio.


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