Laptop & Computing Buying Guide

Laptop and Computing Buying Guide

Welcome to our computing guide, designed to help you with the features and technology you will need to look out for when buying one of our fantastic computing products. From processors to hard drives, laptops to E-readers, we have the right information to help you purchase everything you need in your computing world.

Just click onto one of the links below to find out more.


Laptop computers, also known as notebooks, are portable computers that you can take with you and use in different environments.

Laptops are faster and more powerful than tablets, have convenient full-size keyboards, are easy to connect to printers and cameras, and can glide between work and games in a flash.

You'll need a clear idea of what you want to do with it when shopping for a laptop. The good news is that all new laptops will be fine for checking email, surfing the Web wirelessly, working on office documents, and enjoying your photo and music collections.

Where things start to get trickier is if you're heavily into gaming, want to watch (or edit) HD video you will need a computer that has increased RAM and more processing power and maybe dedicated graphics, if you are storing lots of images and HD video look for laptops with bigger hard drives. (See below for Hard Drive explanation).

Tablets and E-readers


Computing no longer means booting up a desktop in the spare room, or working out how to run anti-virus software on your laptop. Today tablets let you swoop and glide through life, streaming music on the train, downloading HD films on the couch, or playing finger-friendly games while chatting with friends halfway around the world.

With 1000's of apps in the market, colourful displays with intuitive touchscreen, tablets are the new format PC. The keyboard's fine for occasional emails, Web searches and status updates, the screen is big enough to watch TV shows up close, and multi-tasking is getting faster all the time. If you are interested in editing videos, working on presentations or sending lots of email, a laptop or desktop would probably suit more, if you want a quick, intuitive experience at the tip of your fingers then tablets are for you.


With the ability to store 1000's of books on one device E-readers are the convenient way to upgrade your library.

Great for reading on the bus or train and fantastic for holidays E-readers are a revolution in reading. With 100's of free books online you can get your E-reader library up and running in the turn of a page. E-readers have different formats so look out for the ones that match your device.


Ultrabooks inspired by Intel™ are the latest edition to the laptop family. With Ultra responsive processing, stunning visuals and instant on capability all cased in a ultra sleek, stylish case, Ultrabooks are the thinnest, lightest laptops yet.

Powered by the latest Intel Core™ processors, Ultrabooks are the uncompromising, portable solution for high end users, and with extended battery life and Instant On capability, Ultrabooks will help you work and play for longer.

For more information and video content click here >


Desktop PC's

Desktop PC's are the traditional PC format, and most people will have owned one or used one at some point in their computing lives. The idea of the boring tower and clunky monitor has gone and desktops are now more compact, monitors sleeker and in the case of All in One Desktops built with design in mind.

As with laptops you'll need a clear idea of what you want to do with it when shopping. Desktops tend to come with better specs than laptops as they are in a central position and do not move around, in a trade for portability comes higher specifications. Whether you are looking to replace your base unit or looking for a full desktop upgrade we have options to suit all budgets and styles. If you are looking for a new sleek large screen monitor we have a wide range from budget 18in models up to 30in widescreen for all your digital needs.

All in One PC's

If fashion and design is your thing and you want to make a statement with your desktop, look at our range of stylish All in One Desktops that are the fashionable, space saving alternative to the traditional tower.

These desktops take pride of place in any living room and are built to be the family's entertainment hub.


In its simplest form, the processor (sometimes referred to as CPU) is the brain of a computer; it basically tells the computer what to do and when to do it. The processor will prioritise the work the computer needs to do and decides what is more important and what needs more processing power to complete.

There are a few things to look out for when comparing processors:

+ The speed, or clock rate measured in GHz (a measurement of the amount of work that can be processed per second), is a way of comparing the processing power.

+ The number of cores a processor has is a factor to consider. Advancements in CPU technology now mean systems typically come with Dual Core, Triple core or Quad Core processors (on one single chip) instead of the traditional one core per chip. This means the computer is better at multitasking and improves the speed and performance of the computer.

There are lots of different processors on the market at any one time, the most common in the market today being Intel and AMD:

Intel processors - for more information on Intel processors click here >

Intel Processors AMD Processors

Memory (RAM)

RAM or Random Access Memory is the temporary memory accessed by the computer, a bit like your short term memory. When people refer to a PC's memory they are talking about RAM, with this often mistaken with the storage or hard drive on a computer.

RAM, basically, is a temporary working space the computer uses to run programs and get work done, which gets emptied when the computer is turned off. Essentially, the more RAM you have the faster the programs on your PC will run and also you will be able to run more.

Hard Drive

The hard drive is the main place that your computer uses to store information. If the RAM is the short term memory of the PC then the hard drive is the long term memory to store photos, songs and videos.

There are 2 main types of hard drive, a hard disk drive and a solid state drive.

With a hard disk drive, it is the disk inside the drive which stores everything on your computer - every picture, every music file, every email, and every Word document. Not only that, but Windows or Mac OS, the operating system that makes the computer run is also stored on the drive.

A solid state drive (SSD) is a format that uses flash memory to store data on your computer. Whereas in a Hard Disk Drive the disks move or spin the solid state drives have no moving parts. The advantages to a SSD are speed of information or data transfer is increased, the overall boot time of a PC is quicker with an SSD and SSD's are more durable and quieter when in use.

Hard drives are measured in Gigabytes (Gb) and Terabytes (Tb) and below is a guide to what to expect to store with different capacities*:

Hard Drive

* All figures are dependent on PC configuration and file size

* 1 TB = 1000GB

Optical Drive

A computers optical drive is also known as CD / DVD drive or burner. This allows you to read a CD, DVD or BluRay and depending on the type of drive write on to the disc also.

Common terms used within optical drives are:

+ Super Multi - which can read and write all media types

+ Dual Layer - provides two layers of space to record on a single CD or DVD

+ Slot loading drive - An optical drive that grabs the disc after it is partially inserted in the slot and pulls it onto the drive spindle.

Also, for high definition performance, look out for computers that have a BluRay drive.


Once you have your computer set up you need to consider how you will interact with other devices e.g. printers, tablets, smartphones. There are a numbers of ways your computer connects to the rest of the digital world, here are the main technologies explained:



WiFi is a technology that allows devices to connect with each other wirelessly. WiFi allows you to move your computer quickly and easily around your home without having to worry about where the closest phone socket is kept. It also allows you to connect multiple computers to the one internet connection, quickly and easily. The latest WiFi standard is Wireless N, look out for 802.11 b/g/n in the copy to get the most up to date wireless on the market.



Bluetooth wireless technology is built into a wide range of products, from cars and mobile phones to medical devices and computers. Bluetooth technology lets you share voice, music, photos, videos, and other information wirelessly between two "paired" devices. When a product has Bluetooth, that means it has a piece of "hardware", or a small computer chip that contains the Bluetooth radio, and some software that lets you, the user, connect that product to other products wirelessly using Bluetooth technology.



HDMI can deliver uncompressed video and audio from both Consumer Electronics (CE) equipment and PC equipment, allowing consumers to interconnect them. It supports all current video format standards in resolutions ranging from 480p to 1080p and beyond. HDMI allows you to connect your computer to newer TVs (TVs with a HDMI socket), allowing you to display photos and video on your TV.



USB (Universal Side Bus) is a standard connection for PC's and other devices connect and share data. USB 3.0 is the third revision of the USB standard for PC connectivity and brings higher data transfer speeds and more bandwidth (data transfer rate) than before.


The Operating System (OS) is a special computer program that is essential to the efficient running and organization of all the other programs within the computer.

The operating system (OS) carries out tasks, instructions and controls which operations within the computer are carried out and in which order. OS have direct control and access to your computer hardware and memory locations.

The most common OS in current PC's is Windows 7 with an updated Windows 8 due on the market at the end of 2012.

When you purchase a PC, if you want to run office software to write letters and create spreadsheets etc you will need to purchase additional Microsoft Office software as this will not be included. You will receive a trial version for 30 days after which you will need to buy key code (Microsoft Office 2010) to unlock the software, alternatively you can purchase a multi-user disc version (Microsoft Office) which can be used on 3 pc's.

Another consideration when purchasing a PC is what Antivirus or Internet Security to buy to protect your PC. Whether you are connected to the Internet or not, it is safest to have an antivirus program installed on your computer. If you are connected to the Internet, it is basically a must. Antivirus software is designed to prevent, detect and remove harmful viruses form attacking your PC.


To get the best visually out of your PC you need to consider what graphics are loaded. The graphics processing unit is responsible for everything you see visually, from playing games to watching videos.

If you mostly use your PC for surfing the web, social media and basic computing then all you need is a PC with Integrated graphics. These graphics help keep the cost of the system down and are capable of running simple games and flash video.

If your needs are greater and you want to run high definition content or high end games then a PC with dedicated graphics is the way to go. These cards are installed on a separate part of the PC motherboard and deliver more power than the integrated type, and also have dedicated memory built in rather than using the overall PC memory in the way integrated graphics do. This delivers a far faster, more powerful visual experience when using your PC.

Service Guarantee

If it can't be fixed we'll replace it fast!

If the thought of expensive repairs brings you out in a cold sweat, our Service Guarantee may be the answer! We can repair or replace your computer quickly and easily... plus you can spread the cost of protection with your Very Account.

+ If your purchase breaks down and can't be fixed, it'll be replaced.

+ Simple claims service and no callout fee.

+ Protection available for up to 5 years.with renewal available for appliances up to 8 years old.

Click here to tell me more about Service Guarantee >

Terms & Conditions apply. Service Guarantee does not include some situations, for example: accidental damage, and wilful act or neglect. It is not an insurance product. Service Guarantee starts after the expiry date of the manufacturers guarantee period.

Service Guarantee is offered by Shop Direct Home Shopping Limited. Provided by The Warranty Group Services (Isle of Man) Limited, St George's Court, Upper Church Street, Douglas, Isle of Man, IM1 1EE.