Desktop PC buying guide

 

When it comes to buying a desktop PC it's important that you're armed with all the right information before making that all important decision.

Whether you want to use your PC for web browsing, office applications or something more intense - like gaming or video editing it's vital that the computer meets your requirements.

 

Processor (CPU)

A processor - also known as a central processing unit (CPU) determines the processing speed of your desktop PC. It essentially determines the PC's ability to run software applications and games.
There are a number of different types of processors - detailed below:

 

Intel Processors

 

For every day PC use generally Celerons, Pentium and Core i3 CPUs tend to be perfectly fine, how- ever, if you want a computer that offers better ability to multi-task, quick video streaming or gaming then the Core i5 or Core i7 are strongly recommended.

AMD Processors

 

For every day PC use AMD CPUs such as the A4 and A6 are generally pretty good, however, for better performance for multimedia applications, gaming and streaming video the A8 and A10 are strongly recommended.

 

Storage

There are two types of storage devices that can be used for file and application storage for the PC – Hard Disk Drives (HDD) and Solid State Drives (SSD) - see below for more information:

Hard Disk Drive (HDD)

 
  • A hard disk drive is used to store the operating system (usually Windows), programs, games, music, video, photographs and other files.
  • Storage capacity for a hard drive tends to be very large (usually 1TB to as much as 10TB).
  • Tends to be cheaper than SSDs.

Solid State Drive (SSD)

 
  • Uses flash memory so tends to be quicker
  • It tends to be a lot quieter than a HDD
  • Using an SSD drive to store the operating system means that the PC boots up quicker
  • Usually more expensive than a HDD
  • Storage space is more limited (e.g. 500GB)
 

Random Access Memory (RAM)

 

Random access memory (RAM) allows the desktop PC to access applications and games quickly - depending on how much you have installed. Generally PCs should come with a minimum of 4GB, however, depending on what you need the machine for you may require more.

For general computing purposes - anything between 4GB and 8GB is generally fine, however, for resource demanding gaming a minimum of 8GB RAM is recommended - but this can go up as high as 32GB to allow for lightning fast gaming.

Graphics Card (GPU)

 

There are two types of graphics card:

Integrated Graphics

The graphics card (GPU) runs all of the graphical elements displayed on the PC's computer screen. Generally an integrated graphics cards - such as the Intel HD card will run most day-to-day applications such as web browsers, office applications and general computing.

Integrated graphics tends to be cheaper, fine for everyday usage and will use less power, however, for the more demanding user a dedicated card may be better.

Dedicated Graphics

For applications and games that are more resource demanding a dedicated graphics card such as NVIDIA's GeForce or AMD's Radeon cards are recommended. If you're looking to play the latest PC games, video editing software or other demanding software then a dedicated GPU is a must.

The other notable benefit of a dedicated graphics card is that it can free up other system resources - such as the CPU for other computing tasks.

 

Operating System (OS)

 

There are several types of operating systems (OS) available for PCs - including Microsoft Windows and several variations of Linux, however, since Windows is the most commonly used one we will focus on this for the purposes of this article.

In the most basic sense the OS controls the hardware on your device - allowing the user to interact with it with ease. This makes the OS the most important piece of software on the PC. It recognises input from the keyboard, mouse or touchscreen (if available) and sends the output to the computer's monitor.

It is also essential for keeping track of applications, games, files and controls peripherals such as scanners, printers, tablets, smartphones and external drives.

There are several variations of Microsoft Windows available, however, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 are the most recent versions.

Types Of PC

There are several types of PCs available in the UK market - including:

Tower PC

Tower PCs tend to be far easier to upgrade than a mini or all-in-one PC. This can save a lot of money in the long-run as parts can be replaced as and when you need to - rather than buying a new PC every few years.

Other than the price of upgrading a tower PC there are other obvious benefits - including:

  • More space inside the unit to install additional hardware - including dedicated graphics, cards, expanding memory, fitting fans, etc.

  • It is easier to diagnose and fix a PC at home (as long as you have the know-how)
 

Mini PC

Generally mini PCs are useful if you're looking for a discrete device that are more practical - especially if you simply don't have the room for a full-scale desktop PC.

Whilst mini PCs are great for general web browsing, sending emails, etc, there are limitations to these devices.

Generally a mini PC will have an underpowered processor - such as an Intel Atom, Celeron or Pentium CPU and has less capacity for upgrading

 

All In One PCs

The main benefit of an all-in-one desktop PC is the cost saving. An all-in-one comes with a monitor, keyboard and mouse – the monitor and PC are all part of the same unit.

Whilst the initial outlay of the all-in-one PC may appear expensive the fact that you don't need to go out and buy a monitor that you could shell-out quite a lot of money for is a saving in itself.

The other obvious benefit is that the all-in-one PC can save space - since the monitor and PC are built in one unit.

Whilst the all-in-one PCs have some clear benefits it's also worth considering that, like the mini PC, their main downfall is the fact that they are harder to upgrade - it's far harder to expand the memory, upgrade the internal hard disk drive or upgrade the CPU due to the restrictions on space in the unit.

 

To summarise

 

All types of PCs come with obvious benefits but it really comes down to personal choice – what are you looking for?

  • A PC that will last you years - easy to upgrade and cheap to maintain.
  • A PC that is discrete and practical but is not ideal for resource intensive applications.
  • A PC that looks nice but harder to upgrade.

To find out more we recommend that you look at Medion's great range of desktop PCs.

 

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