Desktop PC Buying Guide

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Desktop PC Buying Guide

Whether replacing an old model or buying one for the first time, choosing the right desktop PC can be a daunting task. By understanding the categories of desktops offered and the most important specifications of these computers, a buyer can select the one that's ideal for their needs.


Choosing a Tower or All-in-One Desktop PC

A tower PC is the traditional design. It has a rectangular computer that is separate from the monitor and keyboard. One benefit of owning a tower desktop is the ability to replace only the monitor or add a new tower to an existing monitor. Towers also offer ample space for additional RAM, drives, graphics cards and other upgrades. The tower itself will often be too bulky to fit on top of a desk, so you will need to keep it on the floor or a nearby shelf.

All-in-one desktop PCs fit on even the smallest desks. This is because the computer is built into the back of the monitor. Some all-in-one PCs are even designed with the option to be mounted on a wall. These computers also have fewer wires, come with video-conferencing cameras built in to the monitor and often have touchscreen capability. The downside is that these compact computers generally don't provide as much adaptability to add new components as towers do.


Desktop PC Specifications

All of the different numbers listed beside the name and picture of a computer can be confusing when viewed on sites like eBay. Sure, these numbers explain things such as RAM and processor speed, but how much RAM and what strength processor is sufficient? The determining factor for most PC specifications is how the owner of the machine will use their computer.

Budget Desktop PC

If the primary needs are word processing, using the Internet and storing pictures and music, a 500GB hard drive is plenty; and this will even allow room for a significant number of movies to be saved. 4GB of DDR3 RAM is sufficient for most tasks, but 8GB will add a bit of speed without costing much more. An AMD or Intel processor with at least 2.6GHz of power is suitable. Affordable desktop PCs with specs in this range are generally reasonably priced.

High Performance Desktop PC

More powerful computers are needed for some professional and entertainment uses, including video editing and gaming. For such purposes, a minimum of 1TB of hard drive memory and 16GB of RAM is advisable. The faster and more efficient DDR4 class of RAM is now available, but it is more expensive. Most hard drives have a speed of 7200rpm, but speeds of up to 10,000rpm can be found for those with the greatest performance needs. These high end desktops should have a 3.4GHz or better chip and include a separate graphics card with 2GB or more of memory.


Monitor Size and Resolution

Most desktop monitors are between 20 and 27 inches, though a few are smaller or larger than that. Monitors that measure 20-23 inches will have a quality picture with the common resolution of 1080p. 24-27 inch monitors are best for professional graphic design work and also for those who intend to use their PC in place of a television in their bedroom or office. Monitors in this larger range are best paired with higher resolutions such as 1440p.


Other Desktop PC Component Options to Consider

The way a computer accesses outside information has gotten increasingly complicated. Desktop PCs are made with a wide variety of component combinations to consider.

Optical Drives

Most desktops will include a DVD drive which also plays CDs. For high definition images and larger memory, a Blu-ray drive is needed. Drives that can read and write to CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs are also available. If the user prefers to watch Blu-rays on their TV or doesn't watch them at all, a less expensive DVD drive should suffice.

Connection Ports

The most common type of computer port is USB. This port can connect to flash drives, mouses, external hard drives, digital cameras and many other devices. A desktop PC should have at least six of these ports, and they should be USB 3.0 since they are more than ten times faster than their predecessor, the USB 2.0. Thunderbolt ports are even faster, but they also cost more than USBs.



Though mobile devices such as laptops, tablets, and smart phones fulfil some computing needs, many people still seek the power, monitor size, and other attributes that only desktop computers can provide.

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