What Is a Multimedia Computer?

Alex Newth

A multimedia computer is a computer that has the basic functions of a standard computer but also has hardware and features that optimize it for displaying and editing multimedia sources. These computers typically have hard drives and random access memory (RAM) with larger memory stores and come pre-installed with programs that let users work with multimedia files. To help display files, a multimedia computer will likely have surround-sound capabilities and extra peripherals for media hardware. The screen sizes also are generally larger than regular computers, because this makes watching movies more enjoyable.

A dual core CPU mounted to a motherboard.
A dual core CPU mounted to a motherboard.

To make a multimedia computer that is optimized for multimedia files, certain pieces of hardware should be stronger than in a regular computer. Hard drives need to be able to hold more memory, because movies take up a lot of hard drive space, and the RAM should be stronger to help work on files. The central processing unit (CPU) should be at least 3 gigahertz (GHz) to ease both editing and displaying files. Video cards also should have more memory to boost the quality of movie files.

A multimedia computer typically has a lot of hard drive space.
A multimedia computer typically has a lot of hard drive space.

Generally, when someone buys a multimedia computer, he or she does not want just to display multimedia files; editing also tends to be in the plans. While there are many powerful editing programs on the market, multimedia computers will usually come with pre-installed solutions. This allows the user to perform edits without having to spend extra money on similar programs. These programs allow users to add colors and effects to images, composite audio and video files, and change other aspects of the files.

Just like home multimedia centers that come with surround sound, a multimedia computer will come with peripherals that enable users to hook up surround-sound systems. External memory devices also are commonly used with these computers to help users store more multimedia files. Keyboards will come with buttons for playing, rewinding, fast-forwarding and stopping movies or songs, and the computer will usually have a wireless remote with the same buttons.

Business and home computers tend to have smaller screens than multimedia computers, which use larger screens to help in the multimedia editing process and to make watching movies more enjoyable. Multimedia computers are popular, so man regular computers come with several multimedia features. A true multimedia computer will be entirely optimized for multimedia experiences, whereas regular computers with multimedia features are only partially optimized.

Multimedia computers have additional hardware that make them better at handling media files than standard machines.
Multimedia computers have additional hardware that make them better at handling media files than standard machines.

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Discussion Comments


@Logicfest -- I don't think a multimedia computer is about the same thing as a gaming computer. Also, they don't have to be terribly expensive.

Most modern computers can run HD video because the graphics cards (even if we are talking about onboard graphics) can generally handle HD video. Sound cards can typically handle great, CD quality sound, too. In fact, all you might need to turn your computer in to a multimedia machine is a VGA or HDMI cable and/or audio cable to hook the computer up to your television set and surround sound system.

As for hard drive space, external ones are pretty cheap these days...


@Markerrag -- I'm not sure if a gaming computer will cost much more than a so-called multimedia computer because both systems are set up for essentially the same thing. Heck, they might even be synonymous in a lot of ways.

Still, the price of either one is going to be quite a bit more than your typical computer simply because of the need for a stout CPU, a great graphics card and a big old hard drive.


One of the best multimedia systems you can get is a gaming desktop or laptop. Those tend to have zippy processors, stout graphics cards, hard drive room to spare and work great for just about any multimedia application you can throw at them.

A drawback might be price, however, as top notch hardware isn't cheap.

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