People certainly aren’t camping outside tents in the rain to get the latest and greatest desktop computer these days, but PCs are far from dead. Simply put, there are certain functions that mobile devices and laptops cannot or cannot do as well as a desktop computer.
Not to mention, you can’t beat the price. An inexpensive desktop computer will be way ahead of an inexpensive laptop. Small things are expensive to do. Small size is what draws some people when it comes to choosing a new computer, but these days big honking towers aren’t your only option.
Desktop computer styles
There are many more variations and options in the desktop form factor, which is great in some respects, but it also makes the buying process that much more complicated. You can find computers in each of these categories at a variety of prices, so the most important thing to consider is how you plan to use your desk.
The classic desktop form factor, the towers have held up for good reason. It’s hard to put a lot of power into smaller devices like a laptop or tablet for a reasonable price. The power / price ratio of tower computers is unbeatable.
There is also a lot more flexibility with a tower. There is more room to upgrade and expand the system when newer technology comes out, whereas with smaller devices you may only have to buy a completely new system.
Towers, however, take up quite a bit of space and if space is at a premium in your home, a tower might be out of the question. They also require a separate monitor, keyboard, and mouse. There are some cases where those accessories are included, or you can get a discount if you buy them at the same time as the computer, but plan to buy them when you budget.
All in one
All-in-one computers offer a simple and space-saving setup. These are, in essence, a cross between a desktop and a laptop. They have a large monitor with all the necessary components built into the back or base.
The small design gives you much more flexibility with placement and keeps your work area clutter-free. Also, because everything is all-in-one, the setup usually just involves plugging it in. However, you still need a separate keyboard and mouse.
Because these computers are smaller, they are not as powerful as a tower and cannot be customized and expanded (although this also makes them much simpler). There is also the problem that if the monitor breaks, you need a brand new computer.
Mini and Stick PC
These computers use moving components to keep them small (like all-in-one). As such, they are not very powerful, but they are extremely portable. Mini PCs are small enough to hide behind a monitor or TV, and stick PCs are slightly larger than a USB stick. Due to their small size, they are not very powerful and internal expansion is limited to impossible.
While you won’t be able to do any advanced game or multimedia editing, they work great for daily tasks, surfing the web, and viewing multimedia content. Setup is extremely easy and they are quite versatile as you can use it as a home office during the day and then connect it to a TV for a home theater at night.
The different operating systems
The question of which operating system (OS) to choose isn’t asked as often with desktops as it is with tablets and smartphones, but it is still something to consider.
This is definitely the most common desktop operating system, so you will have a great selection of compatible third-party hardware and software. It’s designed around a touchscreen interface, although it still works great with the classic mouse and keyboard, so if you don’t buy a touchscreen monitor, you won’t have a problem.
If you are in a family of Apple lovers, Mac could be for you. Sierra is only found on Mac computers, so it has limited hardware, but these are well-made computers that historically have fewer problems with viruses. A Mac will also pair seamlessly with your other Apple devices and programs.
Chrome operating system
If you are just looking for simple, no-frills computing, Chrome OS will be your ally. The operating system runs custom applications and cloud-based programs unlike other operating systems that run software. It’s not suitable for demanding tasks like gaming, but it’s great for email, file sharing, and browsing. You will always need to be connected to the Internet, but that is not usually a problem with desktop computers.
Types of desktop computers
Not everyone is going to use a desktop computer for the same reasons, and how you use it will influence the type of computer you buy. After all, you don’t need a complex, high-powered machine just to check your email.
These PCs are straightforward, straightforward machines that don’t allow for advanced computing, but are easy to maintain and upgrade. They also typically offer additional security, software and hardware certification programs, software support, and some even have on-site technical support.
These are specialized PCs that feature rich graphics and multi-core processors. They’re perfect for scientific calculations, media creation, and other high-powered tasks that wouldn’t be remotely possible on a laptop.
These are (as the name suggests) made for games. They feature specialized graphics cards, extremely fast multi-core processors, and many have eye-catching design elements, although they generally cost more. Upgradability is a must as newer and more immersive games are released.
Learn the lingo
There is a lot of terminology you need to know before buying a PC to really know what you are buying. This list from PCWorld offers more details, but here is a quick breakdown of the terms you need to know and understand.
This is the brain of your computer. Processor speed is measured in gigahertz (GHz), and generally the higher the clock speed, the better the performance, and the higher the price. The more cores a processor has, the better the performance will also be. Desktop computers have an Intel or AMD processor.
Random access memory (RAM) determines how good your computer is at multitasking. The higher the RAM, the better, especially for high-powered tasks like gaming. For simple tasks like email and web browsing, 2GB is fine, but for something more advanced than that, look for a computer with 4GB or more.
The amount of storage your desktop has determines how much you can store on your computer. Desktops almost always have more storage than laptops and for a fraction of the cost. It’s also easy to upgrade your hard drive for more storage or upgrade to a solid state drive.
Expect the best price, but don’t wait too long
Once you’ve figured out which computer you want (and read a lot of reviews to make sure it’s really up to the task), it’s time to shop. This can be tricky with a desktop computer because they can be quite expensive and technology is always evolving.
While it may be tempting to buy the computer when you’re ready, you might miss out on a great deal or the latest technology. Shop regularly over a period of time instead of spending an entire day looking around. You are more likely to get a deal that way. Also check the launch dates of the new models. Chances are you’re getting a good deal on an older model, or maybe you just want the latest technology.
Waiting for a sale also means that you can increase the specs of your computer with the money you save, which means that your computer is a little more “future-proof” than if you had to choose the cheapest one you can find.
However, this is a balancing act. If you spend too much time waiting for the perfect deal or the latest model, you will never end up buying your desktop. So be patient and wait for the markdowns, but once you find the model you want in an acceptable price range, go ahead and buy it.