Desktop Computer Buying Guide

Despite the rise in popularity of laptops, notebooks and smartphones, desktop PCs remain an important part of most people's home and office computing set-up. Many modern desktop PCs are a lot more compact than traditional tower-style models, but what should you consider when deciding how to choose a desktop?

1. Tower vs All in one

Nowadays, desktops come in various sizes and even different forms. The 2 shapes you can chose from are Towers and 'All-In-Ones'.

Both have their advantages: The tower PC is the classic form that desktops take and one of the most important things to remember is that they do not come with a monitor.

You should factor in the price of a monitor with a tower desktop purchase and also question whether the other peripherals are included such as mouse, keyboard and speakers.

You may also need a webcam if you plan on contacting family and friends for a video chat.

2. CPU/Processor

The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is often referred to as the 'processor', which is a chip inside the laptop that drives all of its functions and programs.

Investing in a high-end processor will mean your device runs more smoothly and efficiently, although also consider that you may not need all that power and should opt for a cheaper lower power processor.

Typically, only video/graphics editors and gamers require the most powerful processors, while everyday users will find cost-friendly options are more than enough.

AMD and Intel are the main processor manufacturers, with Intel considered the market leader. You will find more Intel than AMD processors available in a greater variety of machines.

Despite this, AMD chips are cheaper – so if you are on a tight budget you may decide this is the right option for you.
Intel processors include:

Celeron – This is a basic processor- it is cheap and will suit users who just want to browse the web or send emails.

Core i3 – This dual-core CPU is fine for casual use and is often in mid-range and budget laptops.

Core i5 – This is Intel's mainstream chip, which is found in most mid-range and some high-end laptops. It is great for business and student users who may want to run multiple programs.

Core i7 – Available in quad-core, these are only seen in the more expensive performance machines - great for gamers and users who need high speed processing power.

3. Connectivity

Whichever desktop you are considering, you will need ample storage capacity for managing applications, documents, music, video and more.

Hard Drive / Storage:

Your new desktop can either have a traditional hard drive (HDD) or a solid-state drive (SSD), and your budget restrictions are likely to have a big impact on your choice.

HDD: Found in the majority of desktops, these are cheaper and have more capacity than SSD devices.

SSD: SSDs produce less heat and are faster than their HDD counterparts, but they will boost the price of your desktop significantly. Their reduced storage capacity also means you will struggle to store lots of music or videos on your computer.

All of our desktops come in various sizes of storage so the amount you will need will depend on what you need to store on your machine. The sizes are measured as follows:

1TB = 1000 GB
1GB = 1000 MB

If you have a huge music and film/TV library you want to store on your desktop, then opt for between 700GB and 1TB+ of storage.
If you have some music and photos but don't download movies or TV episodes, then between 250GB and 700GB should be plenty of storage.

If you do not store music and only have a few photos or store your files elsewhere (like a portable hard drive) then a hard drive of around 120GB - 250GB is more than sufficient.

4. Memory

Memory is measured in RAM (Random Access Memory). The RAM amount will vary by desktop, the more RAM the more expensive the computer will be. RAM is the memory that programs use to run.

The higher the RAM, the more programs you can run simultaneously and the quicker they will work. As a basic guide, use the below:

4GB – Great for general users who do will perform basic functions such as web browsing, emailing and playing music files.

8GB – Enough for moderate users who will be running various programs such as Office, Media players, etc.

16GB – Needed for gamers and other image and video editing software as these programs need a large amount of memory to perform at the ideal speed.

5. Screen Size

LCD displays have opened up a new world of screen sizes for desktop computers, making monitors measuring below 23 inches an increasing rarity.

Unless you're struggling for space, a monitor of 27 inches is big enough to offer crisp picture quality without being so big that the resolution becomes grainy.

Speaking of resolution, you'll likely want to invest in a 1920 x 1080 model to enjoy full high-definition content.

There are lower resolutions, but it's worth spending the extra money even if you have to downgrade on size.

6. Bundled Software

What software should you purchase when deciding how to choose a desktop?

Unless you have sophisticated needs, chances are you'll only require the basics, such as security and office software that provides word processing and spread sheet features, among others.

Software can be added or removed as necessary, so you can always buy it at a later date after the initial desktop purchase.

The Good Guys also offers installation packages in most of our stores, so if you are unsure about what you may need, ask one of our sales staff in store and they will recommend the best option for you.

If you intend to use your computer for internet use then you should definitely think about purchasing a security package. Typically, these come with one year's subscription and then you can just pay online to renew each year, with all your security updates included in your package.

7. Graphics Card

A good graphics card is likely to be on top of your wishlist if you happen to be an avid gamer.

If you don't play video games or edit graphics and videos regularly, the card that comes with your standard purchase should be fine.

However, to fully enjoy what gaming has to offer, you'll need to be willing to pay for the best graphics card processor you can afford.

You should research online the card that is included in your desktop or ask one of our staff in store what would best suit your needs.

8. Additional features to consider

Here is a list of other features and accessories that can be purchased separately. You may want to ask about these or consider each item when buying a desktop PC:

  • Speakers for playing music and sound
  • Web cam for video calling family and friends
  • Optical drive for playing DVDs and games
  • Ethernet port
  • HDMI out port
  • USB slots – how many
  • Card Reader slot
  • VGA port
  • Firewire/IEEE 1394

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