It is undeniable that the standard tower PC still rules the computing world. Ranging from small budget system to high-performance towers that double as workstations and gaming rigs, each user has the choice and flexibility of their own computer build. Even budget desktop PC can provide a lot of good features and decent performance in most types of use. The biggest drawback however, is the flexibility and upgradability of these towers. Replacing small components like changing the old hard drive for the new one, or upgrading the RAM, can make a huge difference in the computer’s performance and extend its life for months.
Factors and Computer Components to Consider
Aside from choosing the type of computer build, there are more specific things you need to know about buying a desktop PC; components and specs. AMD and Intel are the two biggest names in computer industry. Here’s an overview of these two processor brands and where you can find them.
The Acer Aspire AXC-603-UR12 for example, is a great choice for people on a tight budget (Amazon price is at $258). The rig is equipped with decent components, enough to provide good performance for basic and simple computing tasks such as streaming media, web browsing, typing and various productivity applications such as Word and Excel. It is very compact, but still has enough room for some internal upgrades. It comes with a Pentium J2900 quad core processor that gives it a decent level of performance but it is held back by the 4GB of memory and 500GB hard drive, making it well-equipped.
AMD which stands for Advanced Micro Devices, is an American multinational semiconductor company based from Sunnyvale, California, United States. It develops computer processors and different related technologies for both business and consumer markets. The company is the predecessor of the popular GPU maker known as the ATI.
AMD just recently launched their second generation A-series accelerated processing units, which is previously known as Trinity. Rather than using the word CPU, AMD uses APU, which stands for Accelerated Processing Unit, to describe their processors, which means combination of CPU and discreet-level GPU.
AMD tend to provide slower performance than its rival Intel CPU, at the same price range, but a little better performance in 3D gaming. However, you should know that there are only fewer desktops available in the market that comes with AMD processors than the Intel.
AMD also has the E-series chips, which are affordable and low-end alternatives.
Intel Corporation is also an American multinational corporation based in Santa Clara, California. Based on revenue, this brand one of the world’s biggest and highest valued maker of semiconductor chip. Most desktop PCs use this brand, and if you’re looking for a new computer set, chances are, it uses Intel processor.
The newest line of Intel products uses the same name as its previous two generations, making it a bit confusing for consumers. In 2012 however, Intel introduced new chips with Ivy Bridge code names (the previous generation of chips uses Sandy Bridge). This year, the Ivy Bridge, or better known as 3rd Generation CPUs, are very easy to find, as they use the number ‘3’ as the beginning of their part number (Intel i7-3770 CPU for example). In 2011, Intel had the previous version named Intel Core i7-2770.
Core i3: This generation is found in most budget desktop computers. It’s a dual-core CPU works well in everyday computing.
Core i5: This has been Intel’s mainstream quad-core processor, which is found in most desktop computers around $600 to $1000 price range, and even in more expensive builds, even all-in-one computers with larger screen
Core i7: This
is Intel’s flagship processor, which we normally find in more expensive setups.
It’s a very powerful processor, and if you’re not into hardcore gaming or
serious video editing, then this processor can be overkill for general computer
Pentium and Celeron: These are Intel’s older and lower-end chips. For some reasons, they are still making these products. Stay away from these processors though, Core i3 is miles and miles away better than these two older versions.
Storage and Hard Drive
Your new computer will have either the traditional hard drive (HDD) or a solid-state hard drive (SSD). The latter is a flash memory, which is similar to an SD card or iPhone. There are also some hybrids, small SD cards (20GB or 32GB) paired with bigger HDD. This component helps the system boot faster and opens apps faster. However, it stores the heavy videos and music files on the standard hard drive.
HDD: This affordable type is found in most desktop computers. If you’re choosing for an HDD, make sure you get at least the 500GB hard drive, they are very affordable these days.
Most drives work at 7,200rpm (revolutions per minute), while some run slower, at 5,400rpm. There’s not much of a difference though, unless when you transfer larger files, rendering a video file, or loading games.
SSD: This is the newer and faster storage hardware for PCs, way faster than the traditional mechanical predecessor. However, they can be expensive and with smaller storage capacity. You can find them as optional features in higher-end customization.
Help & Support
Buying a new desktop computer is a big financial commitment, so you want the best support you can have for this purchase. Many trusted brands offer good warranty, and this should give you a good hint how the brand stands by to its product. Look for brands that offer at least 3 years warranty. Also, make sure to check for their online help and support system. Read reviews and know more on how they help their consumers fix problems with their PCs.
Q. Do I need a graphics card?
A. Unless you’re a serious gamer looking for a computer that can support hardcore gaming and big titles, such as Battlefield 3, Skyrim, etc., the built-in graphics card that comes with your computer can be good enough for most types of office and work use. The present version of Intel is called the HD 4000, though not really designed for serious gamers, this version can support most types of games and older games set at “low” performance and resolution settings.
EVGA GeForce GTX 760 is a high-end and powerful graphics card dedicated for gamers. It provides fast, smooth and quiet gaming. It’s also equipped with the award-winning ACX Cooling system, with a 40% increase in heatsink volume, the EVGA ACX is more efficient at dissipating heat, allowing for 15% lower GPU temperatures. This makes the fans 20% more efficient and require less power.
Q. Do I need an optical drive?
A. A few years ago, having an optical drive in the CPU is a must. It allows users to install software, games and watch movies in their desktop PC. Today on the other hand, optical drives are almost obsolete for desktop computers, as most applications these days are available for download, which gets rid of the need for optical drives. Should you with to play CDs and DVDs, there are external USB-powered DVD drives, and they are generally very affordable (around $40 for the cheapest).
Q. What ports do I need?
A. You should at least have two (2) USB ports. Many newer models of desktop PCs offers USB 3.0 ports, which are way faster than its older brother USB 2.0, however, it only works with compatible USB 3.0 devices, like external hard drives.
HDMI input will let you connect your external video component to your computer, such as game console or cable box, for an all-in-one use. This can easily help you turn your computer to a true home media hub, a convenient and space-saving option; very helpful in bedrooms, dens and home offices.
Q. What ports can I skip?
A. High-speed data connections like DisplayPort for video and Thunderbolt, are great extras for convenience. However, these ports only work if you have the compatible hardware.
Bluetooth adds great convenience for transferring data from one device to another, while WiFi allows mobile devices to easily access the internet. However, given the fact that your desktop will stay in one place, and you get your internet through Ethernet port, you don’t really need these two.
Q. Why should I not get a laptop or tablet instead?
A. If all you do with your desktop PC is watch movies and videos online, check you Facebook, browse through 9gag or vines pages, or play Candy Crush, then a tablet makes a lot of sense. If you travel a lot and work a lot in your computer, then a laptop is provides a lot of convenience and practicality.
Desktop beats laptop in many areas, such as in performance (full-speed CPU and better graphics card), in storage space (larger hard drive), and for tower PCs in particular, upgradability.
Q. Windows or Mac OS X, which is the better choice?
A. This is a big question which may take the whole page to cover. However, to summarize each strengths and weaknesses; Windows OS is known for its flexibility, allowing users to personalize and even tweak their computer to the extreme. Also, this OS is available in almost any hardware brand, giving you a lot of options to choose from. Apple’s Mac OS X on the other hand, is available only in a handful of products (desktop and laptop). This however, gives the OS better stability and predictable overall performance. Many say it’s more user-friendly. Windows on the other hand, has a significantly wider library of available software programs, especially when it comes to games and free software.
Q. How about Windows 8?
A. Being the newest OS of Windows, Windows 8 is considered as a hug upgrade to OS technology. Nearly all computer manufacturers today design CPUs to work with this OS. This iPad-like touch support and interface makes Windows more user-friendly than ever. An upgrade from old Windows OS to Windows 8 usually costs around $60, but the convenience and pleasant experience it provides makes the cost for the upgrade a bargain.
(image from Amazon)
To get the best out of your money, it is imperative that you find the computer with the best performance and capabilities your budget can afford and storage space and memory big enough to run your applications and programs. You don’t need to spend a fortune to get the best build; the perfect desktop PC is the one that to fits all your needs.
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