Wednesday, July 26, 2017

What Specifications to Look for With Back to School Sales

With August just around the corner, back to school deals, including some of the best pricing on laptops, ultrabooks and desktop computers will soon be available. There are two specific times of year to get great deals on these types of electronics. They are during back to school sales and the period beginning after Thanksgiving and lasting until just after Christmas. 

Unfortunately, sometimes it can be hard to know if you truly are getting a great deal and special pricing can often be misleading. The items below explain what specifications you should be looking for when shopping back to school sales. Knowing what these designations mean will help you get the best deal for your needs.

What Specifications to Look for With Back to School Sales

Back to School sales typically begin in August as classes begin anywhere between the middle of August and sometime after the Labor Day Holiday. These sales aim to catch parents and students alike who are preparing for another year of education with the right tools in hand.

Here are some ways to be sure you are truly getting a great deal rather than getting last year's deal:

Processor Generation

Intel has been using the i3, i5 and i7 designation for processors for years. An i5 processor has greater specs than an i3 the same way an i7 is more robust than an i5. Better specs can include any combination of larger on-board memory cache (in MB or Megabytes), a faster communications bus (in GT/s or Gigatransfers per second), or a higher processor base frequency (in GHz or Gigahertz). NOTE: An i9 processor has been released but is not expected to ship until August so it is not likely to be seen in consumer products for back to school this year.

The way to determine the generation number is by the first number of the model of processor. This number is the first number listed after the processor type. For example:
  • i5-7440HQ = a 7th generation i5 processor
  • i7-6700K = a 6th generation i7 processor

Every year newer versions for each model are released. Versions are referred to as generations. The most current processor is a 7th generation. Versions older than the 6th generation mean that device may have been sitting around in inventory. This might make it a less desirable deal depending upon how you plan to use the device. This is not to say the processor is not good enough, but it is something to consider when buying. 

Processor Model
Using the Intel model again, processors with lower numbers are almost always the entry level processor for that model and generation unit. For example, an Intel i5-7200U would be a 7th generation i5, but the low 200 number denotes that this is a low end version of that model. In contrast, an i5-7400 has double the processor cores and double the on-board memory cache which may make the cost of this step up worth it.

To locate and compare the specifications of any Intel CPU, visit their processor products page.

RAM Type
Every new version of RAM supports faster communication speeds and often requires less voltage to run making it more energy efficient. DDR3 has been out for a decade and is still used in many devices. Currently, DDR4 is the latest iteration of RAM and its speeds begin where DDR3 tops out. Purchasing a device with DDR3 RAM is not necessarily bad, just be sure to check the speed associated with it. Since DDR3 tops out at 2133 MT/s, or Megatransfers per second, be sure any DDR3 RAM runs at a minimum speed of 1600 MT/s.

Getting a device with older RAM that runs at the same speed might be worth the savings to you and again is dependent upon how you plan to use it and the longevity you expect from the device. NOTE: DDR3 and DDR4 are not interchangeable within a device. They have notches in different locations which means a motherboard built for DDR3 RAM will not accept DDR4 RAM and vice versa.

Video Port Connectors
Video port connectors may or may not affect your decision-making but it is worth noting. If you ever plan to connect your laptop to an external monitor or TV, whether to work from, as a second display, or for a presentation, it is important that the connector type be common. There are 4 types of video connectors. In order of release from first to most recent:
  • VGA
  • DVI
  • HDMI
  • Display port
It is important to know that HDMI is the most common connector type and it is likely you will find a corresponding port on most new devices. Since display port is the newest version, cables are rarely found in stock and therefore usually need to be ordered. If a device with a display port connection is purchased and there is any chance it will be connected to an external device, order a cable as quickly as possible.

Another aspect to understand about these connector types is that VGA and DVI connections do not support audio. This means a separate audio cable must be connected between the computing device and the presentation device to provide sound. Both HDMI and display port cables provide audio and video within the same cable.

In summary, there are many aspects to consider when purchasing a new laptop, ultrabook or desktop computer. This post covers some of the specifications included in a device that are often unnoticed. From processor generations to models, RAM and video connections, there is much to consider before purchasing. This information is meant to assist you in understand what the language next to many computer parts means, and how that information can be used to effectively score the best back to school deals.

As always, there is a lot of information available to us. Knowing what information to look for and what it means makes all the difference!

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