Comparing PC specifications for average family use

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

A couple of weeks ago, my parents-in-law were unlucky enough to be burgled. Thankfully they were not at home at the time and the thieves didn’t manage to take too much.  One thing they did take though, was their laptop computer.

The insurance company made an offer for a comparable PC to replace the stolen one (new for old) but, as four years is a long time in computing, I wanted to be sure that they really were getting a similar specification in 2012 terms. I’d been careful when I bought the original for them to get something that was OK for standard web surfing, email, etc. but not too expensive. Similarly I didn’t want anything bargain basement as it would only cause me “family IT support issues” later.

My normal answer, when asked for advice on buying new PCs, etc. is to look at the PC Pro A List to see what’s currently rated. Unfortunately that doesn’t help so much when taking a bottom-up view (i.e. starting out with a proposed model and seeing if it offers everything you need, rather than a top-down approach with a purpose in mind and choosing the model to match).

So I turned to the ‘net for advice. As helpful as my Twitter followers were, “what is a decent PC spec for the average home user?” is a pretty subjective question and the answers ranged from “I love my Core i7-powered beast” to “Core i3 should be fine”, with some suggesting that i3 might not have enough grunt and I should get an i5 instead. As it happened, there was a similar Core i5 model at the same price as the i3, but with 4GB RAM instead of 6GB, so I got the insurance company to plump for the faster processor (I can add RAM later).

Wikipedia was also useful, for reading up on graphics chipsets (to work out why the Intel HD Graphics 3000 chipset was an improvement on the Intel GMA X3100 in the old PC – don’t be fooled by the smaller number, it seems), and to confirm that I wasn’t getting a modern version of a budget Celeron processor.

One website really stood out though with great advice on the various processors and how they compared to each other. That site was (I was looking at the Intel Core i3-2350M and Core i5-2450M) and I’m pretty sure I’ll be revisiting when I need to compare specs again in future…

2 thoughts on “Comparing PC specifications for average family use

  1. Sorry to hear that Mark, there is some scum on this ball of earth.

    What did they do about data loss on the old machine, had you any cloud backups setup on there ? Carbonite ? Dropbox. Whole drive encryption – truecrypt etc ?

    What’s your philosophy about such setups for family ?



  2. Hi Scott,
    I did set them up with a backup USB drive, but it seems they weren’t using it. Luckily email was with the ISP and some other data was in the cloud. Unfortunately they lost several years’ worth of digital photos. Drive wasn’t encrypted but chances are they just wiped the hard disk and sold it on…

    It has made me think more about my own family’s setup. Sorting out some cloud backups has been on my todo list for a while but has moved up the priority stack. Expect to see some blog posts soon.


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