desktop-buying-guide-data

The desktop buying guide

Finding the perfect PC can seem a little overwhelming with all the choice and features available. We’ve created this guide to get you started and to help you make the right decision.

You can pour over specs and features if that’s your thing (we explain what they all mean if you’re after something specific), but a great way to start narrowing things down is to think about what you want to use your new PC for.

Whether you want a new family computer, a business workstation or a performance PC for gaming and design, we’ll help you find a desktop PC that’s right for you.

If you’re still stuck, have some extra questions or just want to see them in action, call into one of our stores to try them out for yourself.

What’s important to you?

1.Gaming

2.Family

3.Business, education or everyday use

4.Design and creative

1.Gaming PCs

Gaming PCs are built purely with performance in mind. They all feature dedicated graphics cards, powerful processors and plenty of memory to make sure you get the best out of your games.

PC gamers tend not to replace computers as frequently as normal users. They usually upgrade and add hardware as technology develops to make sure they stay current. Not only is this much more cost-effective over the years, it makes sure you always experience the latest games at their very best.

As you’re likely to be keeping hold of a gaming PC for a good few years, it’s important to choose one with enough performance to keep you current for as long as possible between upgrades.

Things to consider when buying a gaming PC

Graphics card

A graphics card is a processor that deals only with visuals. You can tell the difference in performance by comparing memory size, number of cores and clock speed. A bigger number is typically better, and enables you to run newer and more demanding games at higher graphics settings. We list this info on our gaming PCs to help you find the right one.

You can easily upgrade or even add a second graphics card to your gaming PC, so don’t worry if your budget is preventing you from getting the exact graphics card you want.

Look out for the NVIDA GTX and AMD R9 range to experience today’s games as intended.

Processor

Unlike the graphics card, RAM and storage, the processor isn’t particularly easy to upgrade. While it can be done, you’ll have to match a very specific chipset and more than likely upgrade the power supply.

It’s advisable to choose a gaming PC with the most powerful processor you can find within your budget. Even the most demanding games don’t need vast amounts of power, but we’d recommend a quad-core processor with a clock speed of over 3 GHz to prevent it from restricting the graphics card.

Intel™ i5 and AMD FX processors are ideal, although look out for Intel™ i7 processors for top-end performance.

Memory (RAM)

RAM isn’t as important in gaming as it is in design or media editing, as running a game typically doesn’t use that much – anything over 8 GB is plenty. If you find yourself needing more for demanding tasks or the next generation of gaming, RAM is one of the quickest components to upgrade.

Gaming PCs feature plenty of space and ports for adding more, just make sure you match the specification and slot type with the existing RAM. This is as easy as opening the case and having a look at what’s already installed.

Expansion

Gaming PCs are usually quite spacious inside, which lets you easily customise and add components as you see fit. You can add almost anything you want, including performance storage such as an SSD, a Blu-ray drive or additional graphics card.

This allows you to create the perfect PC over a few years, and when the time comes to replace the whole thing, your upgraded components can easily be swapped over to your new machine.

Accessories

From mice and keyboards to gaming surfaces and controllers, there are lots of ways to personalise and expand your gaming set up. If you’re serious about gaming, a mechanical keyboard and gaming mouse give you much more precision and comfort.

Normal mice and keyboards are built specifically for typing or cost. Gaming accessories have been designed by gamers and dedicated gaming companies to let you game at your best. Once you try a gaming mouse or keyboard, you won’t settle for anything else.

Family :All-in-one PCs

All-in-ones are the ideal multimedia hub for the whole family. They are just as suited to entertainment as they are to school and college work. They combine the screen and base unit to save space, so can be used in even the cosiest home.

All-in-ones are available with either Windows or OS X operating systems. Apple iMacs are the only all-in-ones that feature OS X – they also come with powerful processors, beautiful LED screens and are built from premium materials.

There are powerful Windows-based all-in-ones too, so you can work and create on the same PC the rest of the family use for school work, games and web browsing. Look out for touchscreen all-in-ones for a fun and intuitive way to navigate your PC.

Things to consider when buying an all-in-one PC

Screen Type

All-in-ones are available with different screen sizes and types, ranging from a compact 21.5″ to a huge 29″. Smaller screens are great if space is at a premium, while the larger ones are ideal for streaming TV and playing games.

If you’re into films, look out for PCs with Full HD screens for media streaming that can rival your TV in terms of quality and detail.

Windows 8 is the first version of the popular operating system to be designed around touchscreen. While you can still navigate with a mouse and keyboard, touchscreen control is quicker, easier and much more enjoyable.

Dedicated graphics

If you love watching films or streaming catch up TV, dedicated graphics will improve your experience with more much detail and smoother playback.

You can’t add dedicated graphics to all-in-one PCs at a later date, so it’s worth considering if you or your family plan on using your PC as a media hub or as an additional screen when the mains TV is taken.

Storage

If the whole family is planning on using the computer, we recommend a large amount of onboard storage. A 1 TB hard drive offers plenty of room for every user to store their files, photos and documents. You should consider a 2 TB hard drive or bigger if you know everyone in the household likes downloading films and music.

Look out for solid-state hybrid drives (SSHD). These drives combine the capacity of a full-size hard drive with the performance of a solid-state drive (SSD) for faster booting and smoother all-round computing.

Processor

The processor powers your PC, and is primarily responsible for how fast it works. Typically the more expensive all-in-ones have faster processors, although lower-priced PCs are more than capable of everyday computing.

Intel® Core™ i3 and AMD A8 processors offer a good mix of performance, efficiency and price and are ideal for most families. Look for Intel® Core™ i5/i7 or AMD A10 processors for more speed.

Business, education or everyday use:Tower PCs

Tower PCs are the box that you plug your monitor, mouse and keyboard into. They are available in lots of different specifications, but to keep things simple, we’ve split them into two categories.

Business, education and everyday PCs are designed for daily computing – that might mean typing up essays, creating presentations or browsing the internet. If you need a simple workstation or are looking for your first family PC, they are a great-value way to work, play and stay connected.

Design and creative PCs are much more powerful and are capable of running specialist software for activities like photo editing, graphic design and music production. They feature powerful processors, more memory and other features tailored to high-performance computing.

Everyday Use

From typing up essays and researching projects to working through mountains of emails and spreadsheets, tower PCs are perfect for business, education and everyday computing.

Finding the right one is easy if you think about what you want to do with it. Browsing the web, office work and typing up essays don’t require a lot of processing power, but a faster PC will run smoothly and allow you to do more at once.

We have PCs ranging from great-value, simple workstations to more powerful setups that are ideal for running more demanding software such as databases and occasional photo editing.

Things to consider when buying a PC for business, education and everyday use

Processor

The processor powers your computer, and although everyday computing doesn’t require a great deal of performance, a quicker processor is worth considering if your budget allows.

Processors like the Intel® i3 and AMD A8 make your computer boot quicker, open software faster and allow you to do more at once, so are worth considering for regular users.

Memory (RAM)

When you ask your computer to do something, the request goes to the memory (or RAM), where the processor picks it up and makes it happen. More memory lets the processor take on more at once, so you can download, chat, browse, work and listen to music at the same time without worry.

6 GB is enough for everyday computing, but you should consider 8 GB or more if you find your current computer slows down a lot.

Storage

The hard drive is where you save your documents, software, media and information. 500 GB is plenty for general use, while a 1 TB hard drive (twice the capacity of a 500 GB drive) is ideal if you plan on saving films, music and photos.

Dedicated graphics

Dedicated graphics let your PC produce images, videos and games with much more detail. They’re essential on gaming PCs but can also benefit your family PC by greatly improving the quality of videos. If you ever use your PC for streaming films, TV on demand or playing the occasional game, dedicated graphics give you more detail and a smoother performance throughout all your daily computing.

Software:

If you’re using your PC for college, university or business, Microsoft Office is essential. From lifetime licences for students to yearly subscriptions for the whole family, there are different versions available to suit your needs.

Staying safe online is equally important, especially if you have children. We have a large choice of anti-virus and internet security software to keep your PC protected, your little ones safe online, and your files and personal data secure.

Monitors:

Whether you’re simply using your PC as a simple workstation or need true-to-life colour representation for design, a great monitor setup can drastically improve the way you work. We have monitors in a wide range of sizes, with each one capable of delivering Full HD images.

If you use your PC regularly, a dual-monitor setup is a great way to improve productivity. We recommend using two versions of the same monitor so that the image is exactly the same across both screens.

Refurbished towers:

Whether you’re looking for an everyday PC or something with more power, refurbished tower PCs are worth considering for their value and performance.

Refurbished PCs are available from all of our brands, including Lenovo and HP, and are available in a huge range of specifications.

They come with the same one-year guarantee as a brand new computer, so you can buy and use with confidence.

Design and creative

Graphic design, music production and photo editing software all require serious power to run at their best.

A PC tuned to deliver high-speed processing and instant multitasking lets you stretch your imagination and create something you can be proud of.

We recommend a Tower.