Computer Hardware

Learning Intentions

  • Identify, describe and choose the most suitable type of computer for a task

  • Describe the different parts of a computer system


Success Criteria

  • I am able to identify different types of computers
  • I am able to describe key characteristics of a device as well as discuss why that computer is more appropriate than another

What is computer hardware?

  • Computer hardware is the physical computer system. It is what is called tangible.

  • We call the computer applications that run on hardware software.


Types of computer systems

  • There are several different types of computers. In this lesson we are going to look at:

  1. Desktop computers

  2. Laptops

  3. Tablets

  4. Smartphones

  5. Smartwatches

  6. Servers

  7. Mainframes

Types of computer systems

  • There are two classifications of computer system:

    1. General purpose computer system

    2. Embedded computer system

  • An embedded computer system is one which is built-in to another system (e.g. a washing machine) and serves only one purpose. For example to act as a timer or to control the temperature of the water

  • A general-purpose computer (like the ones in this room) is designed to be able to carry out a wide range of different tasks.


Processing power

  • Processing power is the term used to compare different computers. It measures performance of a computer system.

  • This is a way to compare which computers are better for certain tasks such as playing video games or running certain programs.

  • It is a general rule of thumb, the smaller the device or the lower the power consumption of the device, the lower the processing power.


Desktop computers

  • Desktop computers are large computers that are designed to remain in one location, for example at a desk.

  • A separate keyboard and mouse is attached to the computer.

Desktop computers

  • Desktop computers are often selected because they offer more processing power than other computers such as laptops or tablets.

  • Desktop computers consume quite a lot power but offer a good amount of processing power


Laptop computers

  • Laptop computers are often selected for their high processing power, battery life and low power consumption.

  • They work just like desktop computers internally, however, it is often difficult to fix a laptop if it ever breaks.


Laptop computers

  • Laptops use similar, scaled down components when compared to a desktop.

Tablet computers

  • Tablet computers are often chosen for their balance between processing power and battery life as well as portability

  • The most common tablet computer is the Apple iPad.


Tablet computers

  • Tablets often lack some of the things you’d expect on a desktop or a laptop such as ways to connect to printers.

  • Tablets are often limited in what they can do when it comes to things such as word processing tasks (writing letters, essays etc.)



  • Smartphones are one of the most portable computers available and have access to the Internet anywhere they can get a phone signal.

  • Smartphones are now so popular that around 2.7 billion people now own one.


  • The most popular smartphone by manufacturer on the market is Samsung.

  • Most smartphones run on either Android or iOS.


  • Smartwatches have taken off very quickly. Each year around 75 million smartwatches are sold.

  • Around 400 million have been sold since 2015 when they first appeared on the market.

  • Smartwatches combine portability with low performance. They only perform the most basic of computing tasks.



  • The most popular smartwatch is the Apple Watch accounting for 46% of the whole market.


  • Servers are computers that are designed for doing something on behalf of another computer.

  • One type of server is a webserver which is used to send a requested webpage to a computer system. 


  • Another type of server is a file server (like the one used in school) that allows users to save to it and access their files on any computer system that is connected to it. 


  • Mainframes are even larger than servers and are used to process large amounts of information.

  • These computers are often very large (sometimes taking up an entire room) and consume large amounts of electrical energy but are capable of processing trillions of instructions per second.


Go to Google Classroom, work through the tasks in the worksheet.

When you finish that you can start creating a slideshow or a poster for the classroom on the different types of computers listed below:

  1. Desktop
  2. Laptop
  3. Tablet
  4. Smartphone
  5. Smartwatch
  6. Server
  7. Mainframe


Computer Hardware : 1.1 An introduction to computer hardware
© J Balfour