The specification of your desktop PC will determine exactly what you will pay for it and it’s important you know what to look for – and why – so you can optimise your spend for what you need, and eradicate the costs that you don’t. Here’s a brief run-down of the main specs you will come across when buying a desktop PC…
The processor lies at the heart of your desktop PC and is the most important component. The faster your processor is, the better your PC will perform – and the more expensive it is likely to be. There are a huge amount of processors available on the market and most desktop PCs will come with at least a dual-core chip, with the latest, most powerful – and most expensive – processors coming as quad-core and even six-core. As a rule, dual-core PCs are much cheaper and will be fine for the vast majority of people who will use their computers for web browsing, very basic gaming and playing various forms of digital media. Quad-core and six-core processors will be required to play the latest games, or use intensive software.
Memory – or RAM – is required by your desktop PC to communicate with the processor and is vital to performance. You won’t find many desktop PCs with a memory of 1GB of RAM or less – you would be better off buying a netbook if this is all you require. A memory of 2GB is probably the most common – and cheapest – RAM you will find on a desktop, but look to go higher if you want your PC to do anything other than the traditional, basic tasks. The main terms to look out for are: DDR2 SDRAM, which has been the standard type of memory for a long time and will be present on older desktop PCS; and DDR3 SDRAM, which is the new kid on the block and offers more speed and efficiency, although is more expensive.
There are two types of graphics cards that you can have installed on your desktop PC. The first is integrated graphics card, which shares the memory (RAM) that the rest of your PC will use, and the second is a dedicated graphics card, which has its own memory and provides a more robust graphics presence. In general, if you are into 3D gaming, multimedia design or other graphics-intensive tasks, you will need a dedicated graphics processor, as integrated graphics will only provide enough juice for basic tasks such as web browsing or watching videos. As a rough guide, a graphics card with a dedicated memory of 128MB or more will be fine for normal, everyday tasks and graphics processors with a dedicated memory of 256MB to 1GB of memory should be your choice if you are into playing the latest games – or you could even use multiple graphics cards.
Storage denotes the amount of information your desktop PC can keep, so if you have a huge video collection, you’ll need as much as you possibly can. A 500GB hard drive should be enough for most people but if you are storing huge amounts of data or working with large video files for your job, then you should think about a 1 terabyte (TB) or even 2TB storage. You may also need to access your data very quickly, in which case check for how fast a particular drive spins. There are currently hard drives that spin at 15,000 rpm, but a speed of 7,200 rpm should suit most needs.
If you intend to set up your computer in a network with other computers/devices, or even just access the Internet, then there are a few things to consider. For connecting to the Internet, you will need your desktop to include a modem port for dial-up, or an Ethernet port for broadband, as well as integrated Wi-Fi if you want to go wireless. You may want to set up a network connection for other devices, such as a printer, so ensure you have the correct two-way connection and have downloaded the latest software updates.