A newbies guide to choosing a desktop PC
Why buy a desktop PC?
More of us are using laptops and tablets. But, there are still plenty of good reasons why you should buy a new desktop PC.
After all, a PC can offer a much higher specification than a laptop. Arguable they also provide better value-for-money. Compare a desktop PC with a similar priced laptop computer and the difference in spec can be huge.
Apart from cost there are other compelling reasons why your next technology purchase should be a new desktop PC. Their superior computing power makes a PC the right choice. Especially if you are going to be using complex software like photo, video or music editing programmes. A PC is also customisable, easy to expand, and ideal for gaming.
A PC can also form the central hub of your home entertainment centre or media station. And, if you are running a business from home, a desktop PC is a must-have tool.
The biggest argument against buying a new desktop PC is the amount of space it needs. Apart from the case there is the keyboard and monitor to consider. But, it is usually the size of the case, or tower, which is the main concern.
However, worries about the size of the PC are largely in the past. Nowadays there are different form factors (sizes) available including small form factor, micro or mini towers, ultra-small form factors as well as the traditional full tower case.
Whichever form factor you choose you don’t have to compromise on performance. Even the smallest PC will accommodate high-specification components to make them ideal home and office computers.
The best desktop PC for you
When you are looking for a new PC the first thing you need to decide is which kind of computer you need. Let’s look at the different options:
Cheap desktop PCs
When it comes to finding the best value there are some excellent entry level PCs available on Ebuyer.com. If you simply want a PC for browsing the web, sending emails, and word processing than a basic desktop PC is a sensible option. It is also one which won’t break the bank. However, this kind of PC will not be able to handle more advanced tasks such as video editing and gaming.
Home or family PC
If you are looking for something more powerful just stretching your budget a little will enable you to find an excellent computer. A mid-range PC (in price) will be able to handle streaming media such as movies, complex applications and even some low-end games.
PC gaming is now more popular in the UK than console gaming. But, if you want to play the best games out there you need a PC with some serious power. Because of the resources needed to play games an ultra-fast processor and plenty of storage is required. As is the fastest possible graphics card.
Because of this requirement for ultra-fast performance a gaming PC is more expensive than other desktops but often has a much higher specification.
There are a couple of other options when it comes to buying a desktop PC – barebones and All-In-One machines. A barebones PC is basically a case with a few components and often has no operating system. This type of PC is aimed at those who wish to build their own computer.
An All-In-One PC on the other hand is, as the name suggests, a self-contained PC with all components housed inside the screen. A separate keyboard is used though some All-In-One computers also have touchscreen functionality.
Most PCs will run Windows but there some alternatives.
Most of us will use Windows on a daily basis both at home and at work. Buying a PC loaded with the latest version of Microsoft’s software makes perfect sense.
Apple’s desktop computer is the Mac Pro. The Mac Pro is beautifully designed and very powerful but is probably not an ideal choice for a novice. Apple computers of course run the OS X operating system. This is very different to Windows. But, users including designers and creative professionals tend to favour the Mac Pro over Windows PCs.
You may find some PCs with the Linux operating system installed. This is an ‘open-source’ or free operating system created by over a thousand different developers. Many people are huge fans of Linux but can take a lot of getting used too. Especially if you are used to Windows and use Microsoft programmes such as Word and Excel.
On Ebuyer.com you will a variety of PCs which don’t have any operating system pre-installed. There are a couple of advantages to buying a computer with no O/S. Firstly they tend to cost less than a comparable machine with a pre-installed O/S. Secondly it gives the user the opportunity to load their preferred operating system. Either from new or from an existing licenced copy.
The designs of desktop PCs have evolved considerably from the basic black box that for many years was the only option. Now, designers put plenty of thought into the appearance of the tower unit. You will find sleek coloured computer cases, have different shapes (and form factors has we have already discussed) and, particularly in gaming PCs, you will find cool lighting.
Your desktop PC specifications
When choosing your new desktop you should pay careful attention to the specification of the PC. When you look at the details of each computer on the Ebuyer site the spec will be laid out so that you can see exactly what you are getting.
Don’t worry if you’re not too sure what the different specs mean. We will explain everything you need to know below.
When looking at the spec of any desktop PC you will see a list of components:
The processor, or CPU (Central Processing Unit), is probably the most important component in the computer. It is the brains of the PC. The CPU receives instructions from applications and processes the data. It then outputs the results to output devices which execute its instructions.
The faster the processor the faster it can process the information it receives and despatches so the faster the computer will run. Complex software such as design programmes or high-end games require very fast processors. However, more basic tasks such as surfing the web or word processing only require low grade processors.
For top of the range performance look for a quad core i7 (or AMD Ryzen) though for entry-level PCs a twin core i3 will be all you need.
Within a computers spec the memory is listed as RAM (Random Access Memory). A lower-end desktop PC should always have at least 4gb of RAM. Higher specification machines can have 16gb or more but the memory can easily be expanded on a PC if the need arises.
Having sufficient memory is essential if you want to perform more than one task at a time. For example in a typical computing session you may be working on a word processing document whilst sending emails and surfing the internet for information. You may have multiple windows open on your web browser and may also be adding information into a spreadsheet.
When you perform each of those tasks the processor sends data to the memory. If you don’t have enough RAM the memory won’t be able to cope with the amount of data it is receiving. This will cause the PC to either slow down or even crash.
The hard drive is the storage area of the PC. This is where all your files, the operating system and software is kept. The more files you have and the more applications you use the bigger the hard drive needs to be. Most PCs come equipped with plenty of storage and you will typically see 500gb hard drives with 1 terabyte or more in the higher-end machines.
However, in some cheap desktop PCs you may find a smaller hard drive. This can be easily expanded when required by installing an additional internal drive. You could also use a plug and play external hard drive which connects to the PC via a USB connection.
HDD or SSD?
There are two types of storage drive; HDD (Hard Disk Drive) and SSD (Solid-State Drive). HDDs are the traditional drive still found in most PCs. It uses moving parts to record data. An SSD on the other hand has no moving parts and stores information on flash memory – which is how a USB stick works. An SSD is faster but HDD are cheaper and are still used in the majority of desktop PCs.
Finally, you may see the hard drive in the spec labelled as SATA. This is simply the interface which connects the drive to the PC.
The vast majority of PCs will have an integral optical drive. This will usually be a DVD though you may also find Blu-Ray drives in some PCs. The DVD drives in most computers will be more than good enough to play movies, music CDs, reading software discs and for transferring and saving data.
Some budget PCs cut costs to the bone by omitting an optical drive altogether. But, a DVD drive can be cheaply and easily added at a later date.
Software / Operating System
The operating system is a software programme which manages the computers resources. Without it a PC cannot function. Or at least not to its full potential.
As we have already discussed the most common operating system found in desktop computers is Windows 10. This is the best choice for most of us.
Keyboard and mouse
Most new PCs will not include any input devices. However, some do so carefully check the spec.
Most users will replace the bundled keyboard and mouse with higher-specification versions.
The display is the monitor. Please be aware most desktop PCs do not include a monitor. This is usually purchased separately.
A top-class graphics card can make a huge difference to the performance of your desktop PC. The graphics card controls the output you see on the monitor and the better cards can handle multiple monitors.
The quickest cards deliver fast smoothly scrolling graphics. If you are a gamer an ultra-fast graphics card capable of handling 3D imagery is a necessity.
In many desktop PCs you will find either an AMD Radeon or an NVIDIA graphics card. But, some processors have integrated graphics so the PC will not need a separate graphics card. Though a higher-specification one can be added if required.
These are the ports which connect external devices to the PC. A typical PC will have a whole host of interfaces including HDMI, USB, VGA and DisplayPort.
With these interfaces you connect peripherals such as printers, cameras and tablet PCs to your computer.
These are empty slots that can later be used to expand the capabilities of the PC. Typically these expansion slots will include PCI which are able to accept network, sound and video cards.
Reliable and affordable Acer desktop PCs deliver a great performance. Their ‘Aspire’ series of encompass the full spectrum from entry level computers to top of their class mid-range PCs.
The Apple Mac Pro delivers an outstanding performance. Ideal for professionals or home users who want to move away from Windows.
A high-profile brand Dell specialise in business PCs. But, they also produce a great range of everyday computers.
With their futuristic designs and compact form factors Fujitsu desktop PCs look great. But, they match their design with an awesome performance. With a high-end specification, Fujitsu PCs are ideal for the busy home user and business person alike.
An instantly recognisable name HP have justifiably developed a reputation for producing high-quality and reliable PCs. The EliteDesk series of desktops is aimed squarely at power users whereas the ProDesk series is ideal for home and small business users.
With top performance and innovative designs Lenovo PCs are suitable for both workplace and home. They produce a range of desktop PCs which deliver outstanding performance.
Increase your productivity with a dependable Zoostorm desktop PC. This UK company produces a huge range of value for money computers suitable for both business and home users.
We often receive questions regarding desktop PCs. We’ve listed the most common queries we receive below along with brief answers to point you in the right direction.
How big is a desktop PC?
It varies. The most popular form factors, largest first, are:
- Tower (full size)
- Small Form Factor
- Micro / Mini tower
- Ultra Small Form Factor
Does a desktop PC come with a monitor?
No. Although we do special bundles at different times the vast majority of desktop PCs do not come supplied with a monitor, mouse or keyboard. When a keyboard and mouse is included it will be made clear in the product description.
Which is the best desktop PC?
Not a question we can answer unfortunately. The best PC for you depends very much on what you need it for. And how much you want to spend.
Will my new desktop PC have Windows pre-installed?
Most PCs have a version of Windows installed but this does vary.
Some computers will not have any operating system whilst Apple computers use OS X instead of Windows. This information will be clearly indicated within the product description.
What does SFF mean?
SFF stands for Small Form Factor and refers to the size of the computer case.
What is a tower PC?
Tower simply refers to the computer case
I don’t have enough room for a PC. What do you suggest?
The days of massive computers are long gone. If you need or prefer a small desktop PC there are many small form factor PCs to choose from.
Can I build my own desktop PC?
Yes. More of us are going down the DIY route and it is easier to do now than ever before. At Ebuyer you can buy the computer case and all the components you need to build your own PC. Or we can build it for you. Visit our PC builder to design your new computer.
How big a hard drive should a PC have?
Again the answer here depends on what you will use your computer for. But, as a minimum you should look for 500gb.
However, the size of the hard drive can be easily increased at a later date if required.
How much memory does a computer need?
The more you will ask your computer to do the more memory it will need. For everyday computing 4gb should be enough. Again, the memory can easily be expanded if the need arises with most PCs supporting up to 32gb.
What processor do I need for my desktop PC?
If you want to play games or use complex applications a fast processor is essential. An Intel i7 would be appropriate. But, for mid-range and entry level computers, a lower specification, and cheaper, processor will be sufficient.