Desktop PCs are a popular choice thanks to their affordability, performance and power, but there is a huge range to choose from that suit different requirements. This buying guide is designed to simplify your decision with hints and tips on finding the ideal desktop for you.
When buying a PC to suit your lifestyle, the following features and functions are most important to consider.
- Processor speed
- Random access memory (RAM)
- Hard disk drive (HDD) capacity
- Optical disc drive
- Optional accessories
- Match your lifestyle
Desktops come in two main designs: All-in-one and Tower. The design distinction between both types provide specific features that are suitable for different needs.
- All-in-one – Come as a ready to go package of touch screen monitor with built-in PC components that create an ideal, space saving work station.
- Tower – Allows versatility in connecting numerous devices and upgrades that make your desktop specific to your needs, whether for professional use, entertainment, or PC gaming.
The primary hardware that drives a computer is the central processing unit (CPU). Most desktop computers feature two or four core processing units that have the ability to multi-task numerous software applications at any one time.
- Most desktop CPUs range between 1.9 to 3.9 GHz processing power, and the higher the GHz speed the faster the processing ability
- High speed processors provide the necessary power for sophisticated professional and gaming software
- Low speed CPUs are sufficient for operating systems like Windows 8.1 and most standard software, such as Microsoft Office
Random access memory (RAM)
Random access memory contributes to the speed at which software programs and applications may run, due to how much of the software’s crucial operating functions the RAM can be hold at any one time. While the CPU speed determines how quickly an application is loaded, from hard disk drive into RAM, the size of the RAM contributes to software speed.
Data storage capacity
Hard drives (HDD) and solid state drives (SSD) are the primary unit for installing software and storing files such as movies, music, pictures on desktop computers. Current data storage from desktops range from 500GB to 3TB capacities.
- Entry-level desktops feature at least a 500GB data capacity
- External hard drives and portable drives can also be attached to increase storage
Differences between HDD and SSD
Generally, SSD run in silent, have lower latency, are quicker to access data, and more resistant to physical shock. HDD typically have larger storage capacity.
The size of your monitor, and how many, will depend on your intended use for the computer.
- Desktop PC monitors range between 19.5 – 34 inch screens
- Most tasks usually require only one monitor, but you may want to consider an additional monitor if you intend to use multiple software simultaneously
- Standard monitors are 16:9 ratio, but ultra wide 21:9 monitors are also available for a more immersive viewing experience
- Ultra HD monitors with 4 x Full HD resolution are also available
Optical disc drive
Desktops usually include an optical drive such as DVD or Blu-ray reader and burner as a standard component.
- Necessary to install store-purchased software on disc format
- Create your own DVDs or store files on Blu-ray discs with multi-format optical drive that both reads and writes on to discs
- Ideal for long-term storage, Blu-ray discs can store up to an impressive 50GB of data
- External USB powered optical drives are available if you decide to purchase a desktop without such a drive
- Desktop computers offer flexible connectivity options such as wireless networking, and USB connection to compatible devices, such as external drives, speakers, mouse, and more.
- Wireless desktops can connect to a wireless network router and other devices in your network without need for cables
- Multiple USB ports allow the option to connect or charge external devices
- Keyboard and mouse – Although desktops come with a keyboard and mouse, you can easily enhance your experience with optional designs such as ergonomic, wireless and gaming features that offer increased control.
- Mouse mats – Make the most of your mouse with mats that improve both speed and precision of laser sensors.
- Webcam – Allows face-to-face video conferencing on applications such as Skype, with family, friends, or business colleagues. Most webcams include a microphone but differ in terms picture resolution.
- PC speakers – Come in a range of solutions from basic to complete home theatre systems that create an immersive gaming computer or movie experience.
- Headphones – Another audio option for desktops is headphones with microphones, which are ideal for phone conversations over the internet, or reduce noise in the home by restricting sound to the user only.
- Printer – Come in two main types: inkjet and laserjet. Inkjet is ideal for photographic printing, but general slightly slower overall. Laserjet is ideal for fast, quality printing of text documents.
- Multi-functional printers – Include printer and scanner technology that provides printing, scanning, copier and fax functionality in a single flexible unit.
- Scanner – Most printers include scanner in the all-in-one design. But stand alone scanners are available if you require a more versatile set up in your office.
- Gaming accessories – If you are looking to build the complete gaming PC, there are numerous gaming accessories to enhance your game play and experience.
Match your lifestyle
An everyday computer sufficient for tasks of the whole family:
- Intel Celeron, Pentium and Core i3, or AMD A4 and A6
- 4GB RAM
- 500GB to 1TB (1000GB) HDD
- DVD burner
- 20 inch screen
- Intel onboard graphics
- Windows 8.1
Professional or home theatre
Professionals or home theatre buffs looking for a desktop computer with more grunt should look for a PC within the following range:
- Intel Core i5 or AMD A8 Vision processors, 2.6 – 3.4 GHz processor
- 8GB RAM
- 1TB HDD
- 1GB graphics card
- LG UltraWide 29″ – 34″ or Samsung Ultra HD 28″
- Blu-ray, HD DVD or combo optical drive
- HDMI port for connection between desktop and compatible HDTV
- ATI or Nvidia graphics card, TV tuner card, sound card and Media management software
All the requirements of a gamers can be satisfied with dedicated gaming desktops featuring a powerful processor plus sufficient memory, storage space and graphics cards:
- Intel Core i7 or AMD A10 Vision, 3.9 GHz quad-core Processor
- 8GB – 16GB RAM
- Dual memory: SSD for quick performance and HDD for storage
- 2GB – 4GB graphics card
- Blu-ray ROM/DVD burner combo
- 27 inch+ screen
- Sound cards and gaming computer keyboard and mouse
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