June 10, 2011, 7:26 PM — When you're considering a new desktop or laptop, it's easy to get distracted by speed bumps in processors and RAM. But as long as you're getting a modern processor, you'll likely find that the amount of RAM or storage space you opt for will have a bigger impact on your computing experience than minor differences in clock speed.
Laptops and Desktops: Specs That Don't Matter
Slight differences in CPU clock speeds: Yes, a 2.6GHz processor will be faster than a 1.2GHz processor, but you shouldn't pay more for small increases in clock speed. You won't notice the difference between a 2.3GHz Core i5 and a 2.5GHz Core i5, so don't pay $100 for the privilege of an unnoticeable uptick in processing speed. Related: Overclocking for Newbies
RAM speeds: Again, faster is faster, but the noticeable difference between 1066MHz and 1333MHz is practically none. Related: How to Overclock Your RAM
DVD/Blu-ray write speeds: Even if you are one of the handful of folks left tinkering with physical media, you'd be hard-pressed to find a drive that offered much of a leg up in burning speed. If you're going to burn a disc, you're going to be waiting a bit whether it's a 6X drive or a 10X drive. And they all play movies just fine. Related: Can't Get Blu-ray to Play? Try This!
Laptops and Desktops: Specs That Sometimes Matter
Graphics RAM: Looking to watch some high-def YouTube clips or enjoy the occasional Blu-ray video? Most people have no need to pay more to go from 1GB to 2GB of RAM on a midrange graphics card. The graphics board that ships with your PC will more than likely be enough--even the integrated graphics capabilities of AMD's Fusion chips and Intel's Sandy Bridge lineup will be more than a match for your media.
Gamers are the exception here, as a beefier card with 1GB of RAM will outpace a 256MB or 512MB counterpart. The 2GB realm is generally reserved for the $700-and-up, enthusiast-level cards--a different beast altogether.
Really high amounts of graphics RAM are useful primarily on very high-end graphics on very high-resolution screens. A faster graphics chip with less RAM will almost always produce better performance than a slower chip with more RAM. Related: How to Upgrade Your Graphics Card