Desktop Buying Guide

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Desktop computers have evolved considerably over the past few years, and with new features and designs being released, they are becoming popular options. Our desktop buying guide is for people who need power more than portability, or are on a tight budget and still need a competent workhorse.

In this desktop computer buying guide, we'll help you navigate the large selection of desktops ranging from traditional tower systems to the setups with all the computer parts built into a larger video screen, called all-in-ones. The best choice for you depends on your budget, what you need a computer for, and whether you plan to get into the computer's guts--among other important factors. The first step in our desktop PC buying guide is to identify the two main types of desktop computers.

Know the Desktop Types

Tower desktops are the classic style of computer with components (hard drives, processor (CPU), graphics card, and so on) that are separate from the monitor. The bigger the tower, the more room there is for extra components and add-ons. Towers are often sold separately from monitors, keyboards, and mice.

All-in-one desktops come with almost everything--monitor, drives, CPU, webcam, and so forth--in one unit within the monitor. Screen sizes are often big, starting at 23 inches and going up, but all-in-ones are designed to take up less space overall compared to towers and their separate monitors.

Choosing Between an All-In-One and a Tower System

The next step in our desktop buying guide is to determine which of these two main types of desktop systems is best for you. This depends on your needs and how you'll use the system. Consider the following factors:

Ease of configuration and upgrades - Tower desktops are much easier to upgrade than all-in-ones because you can usually access and upgrade every component. As new technologies come along, it's easier to integrate them into a tower without having to buy a whole new machine--this is particularly important to gamers. All-in-one computers do offer some access to components, but many models won't let you upgrade more than the RAM or hard drive.

Space - All-in-ones take up less space, so you won't need extra room on or under your desk to store a tower. A few models even mount on the wall.

Touchscreen technology - Many of the newer all-in-ones have touchscreens and are designed to be used with a finger as easily as with a mouse and keyboard.

Cost - In general, towers are less expensive in part because the cost of the monitor is not included. This isn't a hard-and-fast rule; some towers (usually gaming systems) run thousands of dollars, and some all-in-ones start at under $800. However, if you're looking for a computer that costs less than $500, towers are the place to start.

Once you've determined the best type of computer with our desktop buying guide, be sure to consider your budget. Buy the best desktop that you can afford, but don't mistake a more expensive system for a better system.
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