When it comes to purchasing a new computer, a desktop can be an excellent choice for those seeking a powerful and reliable computing experience.
Desktop computers offer more processing power, storage capacity, and customization options than laptops, making them an ideal choice for gamers, video editors, and other power users.
However, with so many options available on the market, it can be challenging to know where to begin. In this desktop buying guide, we will explore the key factors to consider when purchasing a desktop computer, including the processor, RAM, storage, graphics card, and monitor.
- Choose the most suitable type from the different varieties of desktop computers such as personal, professional, gaming, small form factor, high performance desktops and more.
- Choose the operating system that is best suited and most comfortable to you.
- Select the processor type of the desktop computer according to the level and type of work you wish to do.
- Choose all other components based on your tasks but make sure that these are supported by the CPU and the motherboard.
In This Article
Brief History of Personal Desktops
The first personal desktop, MITS Altair 8800, was invented in the early years of the 1970s, but it took about a decade after that for them to be widely used for home-usage. .
A reason behind it is that people didn’t know how to operate them initially, and they were also quite costly.
Computing was made possible in a small shell by the invention of the microprocessor and then microcomputers were formed that were much smaller than the mainframe computers that could take up a whole room.
These microcomputers are now what we use today, in the forms of desktops or laptops, even smartphones and other such devices that have a microprocessor.
Well, now computers are as omnipresent as the Almighty himself and you cannot deny their importance.
Many users select the components on their own to build a desktop themselves, while there is still a large population of those who buy pre-built ones.
But in the latter case, you have to be more careful as you won’t be exactly getting the specs you want.
So if you are someone looking to buy a desktop, then this is the right place to be.
What are the Main Types of Desktops?
Well, most of the desktops in the segregation look the same, but their difference is in the performance they offer.
We say most here because AIOs, as you will soon read about, are manufactured a bit differently.
You must decide what type of desktop you are interested in, and this will make deciding the other factors much easier.
- Personal Desktops
These are the ones that we have at home with the usual specs, up to i5 processors usually, that we use for mixed usage.
This includes media consumption, web browsing, document and media editing, reading, creating bills and budget, and so on.
Their specialty is that one of these computers is ideal for the use of several family members, at a very affordable price tag.
- Professional Desktop
These are the ones that the professionals of a particular field would like to use.
This doesn’t mean that they cannot do what the desktops at home can, but these are quite costly and suitable to a particular type of need and environment, for example, an office or the use of an editor.
They are long-lasting and reliable.
- Gaming Desktops
As you know, gaming is also a full-time profession today and hence the serious gamers need powerful computers that they can use for playing various games smoothly and at the intended frame rates, including streaming the gameplay online.
- High-Performance PCs
The PCs in this range include the ones used for machine learning,
AI development and complex graphics rendering that requires a specific set of parts that won’t be available in lower forms of desktops.
These are one of the most expensive desktops that you can find and have a high quality of components.
- Small Form Factor (SFF) Desktops
The CPU units in these computers are much smaller than the tower-based desktops, and hence they are very useful in places of commerce.
It is quite advantageous to be able to employ many computers in a single room, and each one of these can provide similar performance to that of any other basic desktop.
- Mini Computer
Mini Computers are yet smaller, as small as half the size of your shoebox and quite thin.
These too have all the utilities of any other desktop, including the connectivity and ports.
Some mini PCs even support multiple monitors and 4K.
- All in One Desktop
The AIOs are a bridge between desktops and laptops since they just like laptops do not need a separate CPU.
All the major components are stored in the display unit. While they are space-saving, they also reduce the stress of handling cables.
There are many options you will find, some expensive while some cheap, some with a simple display and some with a 4K panel and so on.
The types of computers stated above support the Windows OS, but not all can handle the Mac OS.
Thus, comes the iMacs which are also a kind of AIOs, but offer greater functionality at a much steeper price.
There are also PCs and laptops as well from the brand, so if you have the financial ease, they are very convenient devices.
Which OS is the Best for You?
Before talking about hardware, it is necessary to understand what sort of operating interface you need.
Most people are comfortable with a particular type of OS and hence shifting from one might feel troublesome.
But the modern operating systems are very user friendly, and thus it shouldn’t be a problem.
We won’t be talking about Linux or DOS here, because they have certain limitations.
The first and foremost is Windows because it is the cheapest and has the most number of users worldwide.
No matter what your profession may be, it can be used by all.
The Home version is for casual users and Pro version for those who need some more features like better security, connectivity, etc.
You might have been a Windows user for the last 10 years, but now you need something else that is better than it. In that case, you can shift to the Mac OS.
You might be wrong to think that only the devices from Apple can be used to run it since with some tweaks and fulfilling some system requirements, any other computer can also have Mac OS installed in it.
The advantage it provides over any other OS is the convenient interface and better security provisions, among many others.
And finally, there is the Google Chrome OS. While you can install it on any other Windows or Mac desktop, they are more popular on the laptops, which are now called Chromebooks.
This is a simplistic computing platform, but not without its flaws. If you are someone to do a lot of web browsing and using the applications online then go for it.
Other than that, it has very limited usefulness without an internet connection. Also, most games and editing software are not supported by it.
Factors to consider while buying a desktop
The basic matter to take care of is the processor. This little chip at the heart of your PC determines its capability, what it can do, and what it cannot, and something without which your desktop is no more a computer. Each processor has some limitations and your system has to work within it.
For more clarity, the main forms of processors and their practical utility has been mentioned below:
- For Casual or Base Level Work
This level of computing includes tasks like web browsing, watching movies, playing songs, and other simple things that one may do on your computer. While the Intel i3 is the most suitable, you may also consider the comparable Ryzen 3 series from AMD.
Even cheaper options would be Celeron, Pentium Gold processors but they are quite slow and even in the aforesaid tasks you will encounter lagging. Also, they are not suitable for long term usage in the given time where newer CPUs are being launched every year.
- For Mid-range Work
The processors here are the Intel i5 and Ryzen 5 processors that can handle some serious amount of workload.
This means they are capable of doing anything the lower tier CPUs can, along with more video editing, gaming, and virtualization capabilities.
They can be used to run a variety of other software as well.
- For Professional and High-range Work
The Intel i7 and i9 processors with 6 and 8 working cores (depends on which model you are buying) are way above.
Because of more cores, better clock speed, and overclocking abilities, they can do complex sorts of graphic rendering, ethical hacking, and intense gaming.
They are very powerful processors indeed and are thus preferred by professionals and are employed mostly in the workstations.
The AMD competition, Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 9 have equal and sometimes even greater power delivery, while also being cheaper.
Some latest iterations of the Ryzen 7 can compete with Intel i9, while the 12-cored Ryzen 9s are even better immediately because of the more number of cores and threads.
- Very High-end Work
The premium CPUs today, namely the AMD Threadripper and the Intel Xeon series of processors are the ultimatum when it comes to the most difficult forms of processing, be it graphics work or machine learning. They can perform far better than any other processor.
While the number of cores in both the processors ranges from 16-28 cores, the Threadrippers have more cache memory and slightly better CPU speed.
So you can gauge that even the largest upload or download on the servers, working with machine language, 4K editing, and other complex tasks on workstations can be handled by these easily. But they are very pricey and thus used by a limited few.
The next important matter in your PC is the RAM. The more of this memory you have, the better your PC will be able to perform under a given CPU.
But different CPUs have separate capacities of maximum RAM, so this has to be considered.
The modern PCs support dual or even quad-channel memory configuration, and you should always employ two RAM modules, like two of 8 GB ones, instead of a single 16 GB module.
- For Casual or Base Level Work
Simple computing can be comfortably done with 4 GB of RAM. But for better workload handling, you should try to have 2-4 GB more than that. 4 GB will suffice, but if you get a PC with 8 GB RAM at a lower price than usual, then choose that.
- For Mid-range Work
As we always say, if you want to game or edit then it would be better to have about 8-16 GB of RAM.
This is the best range, and a majority of the users should have their job done.
Also, there aren’t many games that require more than 16 GB memory, even at the highest settings.
The RAM capacity over 16 GB is quite costly, and the average buyer would not have the use of the extra memory.
- For High-range Work
The next segment is of RAMs up to 32 GB. You can be sure that a PC with 32 GB of RAM will have other equally strong components.
This much RAM is the most useful for workstations and other highly graphical intense jobs.
- Very High-end Work
If you still want more, then you need a 64 GB or more RAM powered PC.
Mind you that this lot of RAM is overkill, but your PC would never need a RAM upgrade after this and this is for sure.
When you use multiple processors or multiple GPUs, only then can you utilize all this memory.
But even more complex things like a simulation on AUTOCAD and running virtualization machinery require 64 GB at least, so make sure you know what your priorities are.
Integrated Graphics or a Discrete GPU?
The good thing with desktops is that generally, you get plenty of upgradability in the various aspects unless it is an SFF, AIO, or a mini PC.
So now, the strength of the graphics being decided by the GPU goes without saying that you should go for newer GPUs based on your requirements, and the integrated graphics is only good for basic computing.
Decide if you are willing to buy a PC with an integrated graphics arrangement or want to add one in the future. In the second case, check whether the PC has enough PCIe slots so that you can add another GPU in it.
- For Low-end Graphics Requirements
Suppose you want a GPU in your PC, but your uses are light. It has to be inexpensive but should be able to provide more power than the integrated graphics.
In such a condition, you may consider cheap ones from AMD like Radeon RX 570 and RX 580. Furthermore are the ones from NVIDIA like the GTX 1660 and 1650 super. These are the cheapest, and very good for entry-level usage.
- For Mid-range Graphics Requirements
For mid-range gamers and editors, there are GPUs with 6-8 GB of video memory like the NVIDIA GTX 1060, 1660 Ti, etc that have a brilliant performance at an affordable price.
These may not support 4K, but anything running on 1080p would be very comfortable. AMD alternatives are not that appealing in this segment, but you can check out the PCs with a Radeon RX 5500 video card.
- For High-end Graphics Requirements
The 4K, VR supporting GPUs currently are the GTX 1080, RTX 2060 super and 2070 super, 2080 super, etc from NVIDIA and the Ryzen 5500 XT, 5700 XT and more in this series from AMD that are top-of-the-line GPUs that you can have based on your budget.
And yes, here we also refer to 144p gaming. You can also add one of these, later on, so you don’t need to be very picky at first. Just start with a decent GPU, and make upgrades at your convenience.
We don’t know how much storage you need, but we can make estimates. But it is important to have both SSD and HDD storage in your system.
Why? Because while the SSD will give you smooth functioning, the HDD will take care of your storage needs at a much cheaper price.
The PC you buy may not have both, and if that happens, get one with an HDD and spare M.2 slots to add an SSD later on.
Also, consider having a backup drive. External would be preferred if you are working with sensitive data.
- For Average Users
A 240-512 GB SSD and 1 TB of hard drive storage should be enough if you are a simple user that wants to store a lot of movies, and light gaming.
- For Editors, Gamers, and Professionals
The people in this category should get at least 1 TB SSD drive and a 2 or 4 TB HDD in your new PC. You can also alter the margins and buy a 2 TB SSD instead if it suits you more.
- Full SSD PC
The main advantage of using an SSD is the fast storage, and if you can afford you may even use only a large SSD. There are various options like this available for you to buy.
No matter what sort of usage you may have, or whatever budget you have fixated upon, make sure your PC has all the necessary ports and enough provisions for the latest wireless and wired connectivity.
Thus, look out for USB ports, Thunderbolt ports, video ports, etc along with the latest versions of Bluetooth (v5.0) and dual-band WIFI.
Now there is also another thing to check, that your PC has enough vacant bays for expansion later.
Thus, the free RAM slots, storage bays, M.2 slots, and such are also equally important.
The PCIe slots are necessary for adding a graphics card, WIFI cards, and even SSD drives, so make sure you have those too.
Notwithstanding the underlying components, every PC must have a decent cooling system so that it can function for long hours, and doesn’t need to take a break before the user himself/herself wants to.
Generally, you will find an air cooler fitted in the cabinet while the more high-end GPUs and processors require liquid cooling. So the intensity of cooling depends on the other specs you have.
Until this, you have seen all the factors that are essential for the proper functioning of a PC. But, what about the peripheral components?
Worry not, we have something regarding this as well for you. The ones mentioned below are the general components that everyone requires, but if you need some other component specifically, you are out of luck here.
The monitor you choose plays the most important role in visual satisfaction and the quality of the finished products if you are a creator.
Therefore, it is necessary to choose one of the proper screen size and quality so that it suits your PC.
Now some PCs come with a monitor alongside the rig, but for those that don’t, you need to make a choice yourself. A piece of basic advice, go for LED monitors with an IPS display.
- Screen Size: While buying a monitor you might get to choose the monitor size, and you should always go for 23-28” monitors if you need a decent screen size, but not too large. Ultra-wide or other large screen monitors are more costly, while these are affordable for most.
- Screen Quality: For 1080p viewing, the monitor wouldn’t have to be extraordinary. But if you are buying a powerful PC to run 4K content, the case is entirely different. Gaming, for example, requires lower latency and higher refresh rates, while video editing needs better HDR support. Choose the features based on what your profession is.
Keyboard and Mouse
You might not be satisfied with the generic mouse and keyboard that came with the PC, or your old ones are well, “old”.
So, if you need more productivity go for a mechanical keyboard.
The mouse selection depends upon your palm-size, and look for extra buttons since they are always useful.
Speaker and Webcam
Most PCs come with speakers onboard, and unless you are a movie fanatic or need better audio output you shouldn’t have to buy external speakers.
But the users prefer to buy an audio system separately since the native speaker’s performance is not very welcoming.
The webcam, in most PCs, is of 720p resolution and hidden so that you don’t need to worry about privacy. But if you are going to stream or doing a lot of video conferencing, it would be better to buy one separately.
Are AIOs Worth It?
An AIO is usually a bit more pricey than a usual tower-based desktop with a similar set of underlying specifications.
If you are comfortable with spending and need space-saving features along with a decent screen quality, then you can surely choose an AIO.
Major companies like HP, Dell, and Acer make such computers, so finding one at your local shop or some e-commerce website wouldn’t be difficult.
On the other hand, if you frequently upgrade your system or need a high-performance PC at a budget then an AIO is not the best choice.
iMacs, being AIOs are high-performance PCs, but they are not for everyone.
Therefore, evaluate your needs and only then go for an AIO.
Buying a desktop computer can be a significant investment, and it’s essential to consider several factors to make an informed decision that meets your needs and budget.
In this desktop buying guide, we have explored some of the critical components to consider when purchasing a desktop, including the processor, RAM, storage, graphics card, and monitor.
We have also discussed the different types of desktops, such as traditional towers, all-in-one models, and compact models.
When purchasing a desktop, it’s important to prioritize your needs and consider how you will use the computer.
For example, a gamer or video editor may require a high-end graphics card and fast processing power, while a professional may prioritize a large screen and ample storage space.
By carefully considering these factors and researching different models, you can find a desktop computer that meets your needs, budget, and preferences.
Overall, investing in a high-quality desktop computer can provide you with the power, performance, and reliability you need to work, play, and create with confidence.
But are you still confused about whether you need a desktop or a laptop would be better for you? Then take a look at some of the related articles on our page.