8 things to consider before buying a desktop computer

Desktop computers can offer superior performance and peripheral support than many laptops, but they vary widely in size, price, and processing power. We all use desktop computers every day to get work done, so we've created this guide to share everything you need to consider when choosing the best desktop computer for your needs.

A desktop computer is a computer designed to be fixed in one place. Desktop computers typically require an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

Before purchasing a new desktop computer, it is necessary to understand how factors such as CPU and RAM affect system performance.

When buying a desktop computer, pay attention to the following points:

  • needs and budget
  • processor
  • memory
  • harddisk
  • Optical drive
  • graphics card
  • port
  • monitor
  • AI

Your specific use case determines the ideal computer specifications. For example, the speed your PC needs depends on what you plan to use it for. A fast processor, enough RAM, and a powerful graphics card are some of the must-haves for a gaming PC. If you plan to use your computer to browse the web and perform simple productivity tasks like word processing, then a lower-budget desktop will suffice.

price range What you can expect
Under $200 Ability to surf the internet, check email, video chat, stream video, and that’s about it.
$250-$1,000 Perfect for surfing the web, running productivity software, and playing simple games.
$1,000-$2,000 Powerful enough to support video editing software, live streaming, and most business software.
$2,000+ Can run graphics-intensive games and data processing programs that require a lot of resources.

While there are many different desktop processors, or CPUs, most come from just two manufacturers: AMD and Intel. Intel processors generally provide better performance but are more expensive than AMD processors. However, the main difference between processors is the number of cores they offer and their relative speeds.

Most manufacturers offer a performance rating system for their desktop computers, but it's not always easy to compare across brands. Your best bet is to look for computers in your price range and then research processors to make sure they're powerful enough for your needs.

Memory (RAM) plays an important role in the speed and performance of your PC. The higher the RAM, the better the performance. Experts recommend at least 8 GB of RAM, but 16 GB provides better performance. For gaming and other powerful computing purposes, the minimum capacity you should consider is 16 GB.

Although DDR3 and DDR4 memory have been the standard for desktop computers for years, DDR5 has now become the first choice. When purchasing memory, try to buy as few DIMMs as possible to facilitate future memory upgrades.

Dual in-line memory modules contain one or more RAM chips on a small circuit board with pins connecting them to the motherboard.

While some desktop computers still rely on hard drives, most newer PCs are equipped with solid-state drives to store and cache data. SSDs are more popular because they are faster, more efficient, and more durable than HDDs.

There are two main factors to consider when purchasing a hard drive: size and speed. A modern desktop hard drive should have at least 1TB of storage space. Most traditional HDDs run at 7200 RPM, but some green or variable speed drives consume less energy (SSDs don't need to consider RPM numbers because there are no moving parts). Most motherboards now support RAID to allow multiple hard drives to be installed on the computer.

RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Drives or Disks . RAID solutions create more storage space at a lower cost.

Some desktops still come with DVD burners, but most desktops (especially small PCs) are eliminating optical drives. Your desktop needs a Blu-ray drive to watch new HD movies. If the computer you want doesn't have an optical drive, buy an external CD, DVD, and Blu-ray player.

If you don't play PC games with 3D graphics, you don't have to worry about a dedicated graphics card. Gamers should consider a DirectX 12 card with at least 8 GB of onboard memory. If you're interested in accelerating non-3D tasks, choose a budget graphics card. Factors to consider include performance, the amount of memory on the card, the output connectors, and supported Direct X versions.

Check the number and types of external ports available on your computer for future peripheral devices. A variety of high-speed peripheral connectors are now available. It's best to buy a computer with at least six USB ports, but if your dream computer doesn't have enough ports, you can also use a USB hub. Other higher-speed connectors include eSATA and Thunderbolt, which are particularly useful for external storage. Many desktops also come with SD card readers.

While there are all-in-one PCs with built-in displays, you still need to consider the quality of the screen. Most monitors today are based on LCD technology, with the only significant differences between them being size and cost. If you plan to use your desktop for graphics work, some other factors, such as color accuracy, may be critical. 24-inch LCDs are the most common because they are affordable and support full 1080p HD video. Prices for larger screens like 27-inch LCDs and 4K monitors are also falling.

Increasingly, computers of all types include some version of artificial intelligence. Whether we're talking about a virtual assistant or a fully integrated large-scale language model, your new desktop computer will have such capabilities.

The new hardware running Windows will come with Copilot+, an artificial intelligence suite that replaces the virtual assistant Cortana. Copilot+ includes features such as live subtitles for videos and Recall, an option that allows you to quickly return to previous tasks.

Microsoft debuted Copilot+ aimed at laptops, including its own and those from manufacturers such as Asus, Dell, HP and Samsung, but you may also see it in desktop models.

Apple announced its own artificial intelligence system, Apple Intelligence, at WWDC 2024. The platform brings ChatGPT functionality to the existing assistant Siri. It will appear on all Apple products, including Macs. The company claims that while Apple Intelligence captures your activity and processes it on the device to optimize tasks, it does not collect or store it to further train models. If you value privacy, this may be a better option for you.

No matter what option you choose, you can expect to see some kind of artificial intelligence in your desktop computer. Microsoft, Apple, and even Samsung have all pushed this technology and integrated it into their own and other companies' products, so if you're concerned, be sure to check out the following:

  • Can you opt in or out? Apple says you have to actively turn on Apple Intelligence to use it, and Microsoft has made the Recall feature optional in Copilot+ computers. If you're not interested in artificial intelligence at all, don't buy a computer that doesn't let you turn it off.
  • Does it store your data? ChatGPT and other chatbots learn from interactions with users, which means you should never entrust them with sensitive information. Apple says all your data will remain on your device. Microsoft stores the data (encrypted) to help applications work together, but also says it will not use the data to train LL.M.

If you want a home computer that your whole family can use, then buying a desktop computer is a good idea. Desktops are more versatile than laptops because they have more ports for different types of monitors, keyboards, and other accessories. If you are a graphic designer or visual artist, you will need a desktop with one or more large monitors.

When it comes to gaming, desktop computers are more powerful than most laptops and even dedicated video game consoles. If you like VR games or online games with 3D graphics, you will need a desktop and a comfortable gaming chair.

After you connect all peripherals and start your computer for the first time, take steps to protect your computer from external attacks before connecting to the Internet. Connect your desktop directly to your modem for a more reliable signal. If your desktop comes with a warranty, you may need to register it.

Although you may be tempted to buy the cheapest desktop computer you can find, it's better to spend your money on a device that's a little more powerful than you need rather than a device that's a little less powerful than what you need. Keep in mind that you'll also have to buy a lot of accessories, unless you own an all-in-one desktop or have existing hardware that will work with your new computer.

  • If you're buying a computer for school, keep an eye out for back-to-school sales in the fall. Otherwise, Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday are your best bets.

  • The best mini computers include the Razer Tomahawk, Acer Chromebox CXI3, ZOTAC ZBOX Edge MI352, MSI MEG Trident X, HP ProDesk 400 G5, and Apple Mac Mini. If you want to build your own kit, consider the Intel NUC 9 Extreme NUC9i9QNX or the Raspberry Pi 400.

  • It depends on what you want, but top PC brands include Dell, Asus, HP, and Acer.