Computer Buying Advice

Desktop PC Buying Guide

 

Introduction to buying a new computer

Whilst laptops have almost caught up with large desktop PCs in terms of performance they still have a few drawbacks.

Most important of those is that cramming all that technology in such a confined space produces a lot of heat which is not good for any PC component and does reduce its life span.

So if you need a computer to run all day every day, or want more piece of mind that your equipment will last longer a Desktop PC is still the best choice.

Most important of all though is if you do want the top performance at good value a Desktop PC is still far ahead.

In this page we are just going to list recommended minimum specifications that suit your requirements. For specifics on what each hardware component does please visit the Bits & PCs Computer Hardware Guide page.

 

PC for Home & Students

Used for internet browsing; facebook; youtube; twitter; listening to music; watching videos; word processing and other home office applications.


CPU/

Processor

Nearly all CPUs (Central Processing Unit) can handle simple home and office tasks listed above, so if you really want to save money just get the cheapest you can find.

However a dual core processor such as the Intel Pentium Dual Core or AMD Athlon II X2 series is still highly recommended for a smooth experience. For a bit more processing power AMD Athlon II X4 gives good processing power at low prices as does the Intel i3.

Intel i5, i7 and AMD Phenom series of chips may be a bit unnecessary and you may rarely use their speed if you’re sticking the applications above.

Memory

2GB is absolute minimum for Windows 7.

3GB is a good amount

4GB is recommended.

6GB and more probably unnecessary.

Hard Disk

500GB Sata II is a good amount of storage,

1TB recommended if you plan on having a lot of videos on your PC

 

Solid State Disks (SSD) will make the use of windows and its applications very pleasant and fast, but it comes at a premium, and with limited storage. Can be combined with a large secondary storage hard disk which is the ideal situation.


Graphics Card


On board graphics should suffice.
All new PCs have on board graphics capable of HD video playback and playing online games and some of the older games at low setting


Monitor/

Screen


This is purely up to what you want. A budget screen would pretty much cover all your needs as even the basic models look sharp and clear. However the more you spend, the better the colours, the viewing angles, and number/type of connections.

If you buy a computer with DVI or HDMI connection, match it with a screen that has DVI or HDMI input for a sharper image.

Software

 

Operating System – Windows 7 Home Premium. Windows Professional and above are for businesses where the PC is connected to a domain so probably unnecessary.

Open Office/Libre Office – Free alternatives to MS Office and have majority of the same features.

Google Documents – Free online word processor that saves documents online

Microsoft Office Home & Student – Best value package. Provides word excel and PowerPoint.

Dropbox- Backup solution that backs up your files online securely.

Office

Used for internet browsing; email; network file sharing; email exchange, word processing and home office applications.



CPU


Minimum of an Intel i3 or AMD Athlon II X4.

Intel i5, i7 and AMD Phenom series of chips may be a bit unnecessary and you may rarely use their speed but can be useful to have


Memory


4GB is recommended.

6GB and more probably unnecessary.


Hard Disk


500GB Sata II is enough. Most office files do not use up a lot of data.

Solid State Disks (SSD) will speed things up significantly but it does come at a premium. But we would recommend it.



Graphics Card




On board graphics should suffice, however would recommend one with either a DVI or HDMI connection for extra video clarity

 

For dual display purposes to work on two screens a basic minimum specification graphics card with Dual DVI outputs is recommended.

For multi display (3 or more) uses a more advanced specialist graphics card would be required.

Screen

Any screen size that suits your needs should be adequate but a DVI connection matched with the computers DVI connection provides a sharper a far sharper image

 

Software

Operating System – Windows 7 Home Professional.

Open Office/Libre Office – Free alternatives to MS Office.

Google Documents – Free online word processor that saves documents online

Microsoft Office Home & Business – Office Suite. Includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Onenote, Outlook.

Microsoft Office Professional Plus – Includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Onenote, Outlook BCM, Access, Communicator, Publisher, InfoPath.

Dropbox- Backup solution that backs up your files online securely.

 

Music, Photo & Video Editing

These applications are far more intensive on the system than generic office work. Music and photos can push the processor and really use up systems memory once larger files are being used. Whilst the video editing pushed evem more and makes use of graphics card hardware to further speed up the editing work.


CPU

Intel i5 Sandy Bridge being the minimum processor to look for.

Intel i7 would be highly recommended,

Memory

4GB is minimum

8GB is enough for music and photo editing and a good amount for Video Editing

16GB would make video editing a smoother process if combined with a fast processor.

Hard Disk

2TB minimum

Dual 256GB SSD drives combined with 2TB Sata drive is recommended.

Graphics Card

On board is fine for music and photo editing

For Video editing a graphics card with 512MB of Video Memory is minimum.

An Nvidia GTX 470/570 or Quadro 2000+ is highly recommended if matched with the right software.

Screen

Any screen size that suits your needs should be adequate for music editing.

For picture and video editing an IPS screen provides better colour matching than a basic cheap TN panel screen so would be highly recommended.

Software

Operating System – Windows 7 Home premium for home editing, or Professional if work is in an office.


Gaming

Gaming really pushes the computational power of a PC as it renders high resolution pictures on to your screen at 60 frames per second. Plus the variety available to customiose a gaming system is endless.

CPU

Minimum- Intel Core i3-2100 3.10GHz

Recommended – Intel i5 2500k 3.30GHz (Sandybridge)

High – Intel i7 2600K 3.40GHz (Sandybridge)

Memory

Recommended – 4GB DDR3

High – 8GB DDR3

 

Hard Disk

1TB 7200RPM Hard disk recommended.

Graphics Card

Minimum- Nvidia GTX 460 1GB

Recommended – AMD HD6950 2GB

High – Nvidia GTX680

Screen

TN panels provide faster response and less shadowing, whilst IPS screens provide better picture quality.

New generation IP Screens have reduced the response times so are very good but come at a big price premium.

3D gaming screens are also available at not too high a premium.

Or ideally just plug the PC into your HDTV for big screen gaming.

For full HD multi screen gaming, 2 fast graphics cards are recommended.

Software

Operating System – Windows 7 Home premium

 

 

Apple iMac Buying Guide

The minimum specification of the iMacs is quite high so easily cover Office and Home use. You can choose between 21.5″ and 27″ screen sizes.
For music, photo and video editing the base model is quite capable but for better performance 8GB to 16GB of memory and an Intel i7 processor would be recommended.

 

As for gaming, the iMac’s use laptop based graphics cards, which although quick can’t much the top full size graphics cards. So it would be a compromise in terms of gaming performance but majority of games would be payable even on the base model iMac which has the AMD 6750M graphics card.