To know the computer, you need to be the computer; or at least know the jargon of the computer. If you’ve ever been looking for a computer or computer parts such as monitors or speakers, then it is certain that you've run across certain terms that can be collectively referred to as “computer jargon.” Many often wonder if some of these terms and phrases are meant to confuse rather than clarify your buying decision. We here at Tech Tips can assure that this is precisely the case; but knowing that an informed buyer is an empowered buyer we’ll endeavor to try to clear up some of the mystery of computer jargon.
In this Tech Tip, we’ll be specifically looking briefly at some of the jargon placed directly on a computer, computer monitor and computer speaker sets.
A Plethora of Stickers
One thing that you may notice is that there seems to be no end to the stickers affixed to a computer. Whether it is a run down of features that you’ll use, or simply a statement that a computer has “Intel inside”, there seems to be a sticker for everything. Well, one sticker may inform you that the computer contains a “Radeon HD” or “ATi” while another touts “nVidia PureVideo HD”. These pretty little stickers are simply trying to inform you that the computer (more than likely) has a discreet graphics chip rather than “integrated graphics” one built into the general chipset.
Another thing a laptop computer sticker will proudly proclaim is the processor contained within the computer. It may say “Intel Core 2 Duo inside ” or “AMD Turion X2 Ultra 64 ” or something similar. While it may look nice, really you need to get past this generality to dig into the specs to see precisely what processor the computer has in it (in a previous Tech Tip we covered some specific things to look for when choosing a processor). Some Intel based computers may also have a Centrino sticker of some sort, but the Centrino is not a processor, it is a marketing gimmick that Intel came up with to sell more parts. Centrino simply means that the computer has the parts needed to get the sticker (usually a type of Intel processor, an Intel motherboard chipset and an Intel wireless chipset – different versions of the Centrino have different requirements that they need to meet to get the Centrino sticker).
You may also see a sticker listing the type of operating system the computer was “designed for” such as “Windows Vista” or “Windows XP”. Note that some systems that have been downgraded from Windows Vista to Windows XP at the factory may still have a Windows Vista sticker on it. Another sticker you can run across is on touting “lightScribe” which is simply letting you know that the computers optical drive can write a disc label directly to a lightscribe compatible disc. Others may state that the computer is “Energy Star” compliant and maybe even an ergonomic warning about using the keyboard and mouse. Sometimes manufacturers get carried away with these stickers but not to fret – they are easily removed.
When a "Watts" not a Watt
Some other phrases you may run across are ones such as “High Def” and “Full HD.” You may be familiar with what they kind of mean when speaking flat panel televisions, but what about computers? High Def usually means that a screen can meet a minimum resolution of “1280 x 720” (many computer screens will exceed this) and Full HD means that it exceeds the 1080p specs (1920 x 1080). While many computers screen will exceed the 720p spec and be called “Hi Def”, not too many will meet or exceed the 1080p spec. If the screen is 1080p compatible, you may hear that (if it has a DVI or HDMI input) it is HDCP compliant. If it does, it means that the screen can play protected content (think Blu-Ray discs) at their full resolution. Also when a monitor that touts it is “widescreen” is simply stating that it can display a picture in a widescreen format ratio (the most popular on computers being a 16:9 or a 16:10 ratio).
Also bantered around are some fantastic claims about the amount of power put out by a set of speakers. You may see a tiny set of speakers boasting that it has “1000 watts (PMPO) of Power!” That PMPO moniker means that this is a “peak music power output” wattage rating. Really though, this type of rating always has to be taking with a grain of salt; a truer measure of the power output of a speaker set is the RMS wattage rating. You also may see “2.0”, “2.1” “4.1” etc on a speaker box as well. This is simply telling you how many speakers that the set has (for example, a 2.1 speaker set has two satellite speakers and one sub-woofer).
Be Aware and Informed
It is our hope that this Tech Tip helped to clean up some of the marketing hype and confusion surrounding the various computer jargon tossed around that you may encounter when looking for a computer or computer component. By being “aware and informed” of the jargon used you can make a better, and more informed buying decision.