When it comes to buying a Desktop PC there are a few key things to take into consideration that will help ensure you are purchasing a system which meets your needs and budget. This guide will give you a greater understanding of the typical things you would want to look for in the ideal desktop PC.
We're not going to drill down too deeply into what each component is made of, instead, we'll be focusing on easily understanding the terms used to indicate a PC's performance such as RX vs RTX, SSD vs NVMe and so on.
Despite the recent advances in mobile computing, traditional desktop PCs are still extremely popular due to the higher performance, lower cost and ability to upgrade easily. Desktops immobility appeal to parents, businesses and institutions, as well as their familiarity, performance, features and their ability to add new ones via upgrades.
If you consider yourself a general-purpose user, and just want to watch Netflix and movies or read online news, a smaller PC, laptop or tablet might be satisfactory for you. If you're using your PC for any sort of heavy task though, such as large spreadsheets, design, editing, or gaming for example, a desktop PC is probably the way you should go.
How will you be using your new PC?
If your needs include a workday PC to web browse and complete general office-type tasks, as well as light media consumption and editing, you can go for a mainstream, affordable model. These typically run with integrated graphics from within the CPU.
In comparison to Gaming PCs, these Media/Editing PC options are not that different. However, to provide the best possible performance in media editing and other work-related performance tasks you will often find the graphics card within if from the Quadro or Pro series.
Other things to keep in mind
If you’re very budget-conscious a mid-tower will generally offer the best value as this is the most popular size. Slim form factor PC are a bit more expensive for the same performance. If you’re looking for cheaper models of either, refurbished or off-lease computers can provide excellent value for money.
You should be selective about the features you pay for when choosing a desktop system. If you’re not going to be gaming frequently, a high spec graphics card is not going to be necessary. If you’re not going to be regularly watching Blu-ray movies, a Blu-Ray drive will have limited value to you.
PCs can be purchased, pre-built and ready to go, in a range of configurations like Home & Office PC or Gaming PC ranges. You can also use an Online System Builder to create a system matching your exact specifications. In order to save yourself time and money, including any common extras, such as WiFi, that you might require later on is often a good idea.
Are All-in-One PCs for you?
All-in-One PCs offer a large monitor with the powerhouse of the PC built directly into the back of the screen which makes up the fastest-growing desktop category. All-in-one PCs come across a broad price spectrum, come in many different screen sizes which have both inclusive and exclusive touch input.
The advantages of all-in-ones include easier setup and cleaner appearance in comparison to separate tower and display setups. With built-in webcams, you have the ability to video conference without needing a separate camera peripheral device. It’s simpler to bring an all-in-one into non-office environments for example due to fewer wires/cables/plugs required.
The disadvantages, on the other hand, include having laptop versions of their listed CPU and graphics cards which tend to be less powerful than desktop equivalents. Lack of upgradeability of all-in-one desktops is also a major limitation. Generally, monitors usually last longer than computing components, however, it pays to be aware that if your all-in-one’s display no longer meets your needs, an entirely new computer may need to be purchased.
Concerned with getting full HD display and decent image quality, you can do so without spending a drastically higher amount, and these types are perfectly satisfactory for a solid and immersive gaming experience.
Which Operating System? (OS)
Windows offers a flexible operating system, which many users appreciate as it has the ability to be altered and personalized. In addition, Windows is available on almost all varieties of hardware. Until recently this was largely a question about which version of Windows to get, but now, it's going to be Windows 10 in one form or another.
There are still two mainstream versions of Windows 10 to choose from, Windows 10 Home & Windows 10 Professional.
The Home edition is the ideal starting point for nearly all users, it's the Windows we know and love and you can install games, office and all the usual software on it without issue.
The Professional edition of Windows 10 offers sophisticated connectivity and privacy tools such as Domain Join, Group Policy Management, BitLocker, Enterprise Mode Internet Explorer (EMIE), Assigned Access 8.1, Remote Desktop, Client Hyper-V, and Direct Access. If you are using your new PC for business some of these features might be important to you.
If unsure it's best to check first with the person who manages your business network.
Which Processor? (CPU)
Ryzen is the latest generation of premium AMD processors and they are available in many kinds to suit your budget. The Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 series make up the bulk of the range, becoming more powerful (and more expensive) as the numbers escalate upwards. It's important to note that only the latest Ryzen 3200G and 3400G include integrated graphics and with others you'll need to have a dedicated graphics card within your system or it won't work.
The latest Intel range consists of the Core i3, Core i5, Core i7 and new Core i9 series. Pentium series lower-end chips available, however, most users tend to avoid desktops which include these parts as the performance gain from going with the i3 is massive.
Majority of the Intel series feature integrated graphics, the exception to this being the Intel X and F series.
You can use the PB Tech website to easily filter all the CPU options, great for those wanting to run demanding programs that require an Intel i7 inside.
Which Graphics Card? (GPU)
Nvidia Geforce GT, GTX, RTX, SUPER and Ti
When looking at specifications for PC you'll notice the graphics cards from Nvidia start with either GT, GTX or RTX.
The GT series provides a low-cost option for those using a CPU that doesn't have integrated graphics, these also are great for adding additional monitor connections as the graphics cards will often include multiple DVI, HDMI or Displayport options.
GTX is the gaming series from Nvidia and starts with the GTX 1050 which is great for games like League of Legends, Overwatch and other popular titles. The numbers signal an increase in performance - so a GTX 1650 is less powerful than a GTX 1660.
RTX graphics cards are much the same as the GTX series, but include a new technology that will allow you to turn on special settings in specific games (such as Battlefield 5) for additional lighting and reflection effects.
The numbers escalate (as does the price) to signal the increased performance that comes from a graphics card. With 1650 being the current entry-level option, and 2080 being the highest end.
The additional product tags SUPER or Ti are used to signal an increase in performance for each model too, but performance gains won't exceed the numbers, so a GTX 1650 SUPER is still not quite as fast as the GTX 1660, but faster than the GTX 1650.
For those looking to play in Virtual Reality with the HTC Vive VR you'll want to look at systems featuring the GTX 1660 or above, to make this all very easy you'll find a handy filter option (shown here) to show only VR Ready systems at PB Tech.
AMD Radeon R5, RX & XT
The AMD RX series behaves in much the same way, with the R5 series being equivalent to the GT series above, making it ideal for adding a little additional graphics performance and additional monitor connections.
The RX series is more suited to gaming and right now it starts around the RX 570, going up in power through the new RX 5500, RX 5600 and RX 5700 series as the graphics cards become more & more powerful.
Adding an XT onto any of these, such as the RX 5700 XT vs a regular RX 5700 signals a little extra performance from the graphics card.
You can use the PB Tech website to filter our range of Desktop PC so it only shows the specific graphics cards you are looking for, perfect for those who are buying a new PC to play a certain game.
What will you store your files on? (Hard Drive & Solid State Drive)
In terms of hard drives and storage, your desktop will come with either of the following options. A traditional spinning-platter hard drive (HDD) or a solid state drive (SSD) also known as flash memory. Hybrid drives, a small SSD paired with a larger HDD, are also available on desktop PCs. A hybrid drive enhances faster boot time and helps apps open quicker as well as being able to store bulky music and video files on the standard hard drive.
Platter hard drives offer inexpensive storage and are found in most desktops. A hard drive at least 500GB, even in a budget system would be ideal. Most drives run at 7,200rpm, an ideal rate (revolutions per minute) and some more slowly at 5,400rpm. If you are using your PC for day-to-day use you may not notice the speed of your computer however if you are going to be using your PC for transferring large files or loading games and rendering video files you will benefit from a faster hard drive.
SSD drives are a lot faster (often 4x faster to boot up your PC!) than conventional mechanical hard drives and thusly come with a higher price tag and smaller capacity. Often you'll find SSDs are used to install the operating system on, with a secondary HDD also installed for storing media and programs.
When it comes to how much space you want in your PC you can use the PB Tech website to show the storage capacity for each too, using the slider to filter down our many options to quickly show the ones that are right for you.
NVMe M.2 SSD
NVMe stands for non-volatile memory express and it's crazy fast. These new SSD drives and smaller in physical size and connect via a new M.2 port, which can be found on modern desktop PC & laptop motherboards. Just because you've got an M.2 port doesn't mean it's NVMe ready though, some will say SATA and they have speeds like the SSD above, but if it says NVMe, or PCIe NVMe, it will provide extremely fast read/write speeds (Often 6x faster than a traditional SSD).
PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD
This latest technology is currently exclusive to desktop PC that uses the X570 series AMD motherboards. Much like NVMe above it works with the M.2 slot, but at even faster speeds. (Almost 2x faster than NVMe in some cases)
Which Ports, Cables and Connections do you need?
Two USB ports are the minimum you'll find on many desktops, with most sporting 2x on the front with an additional 2x on the back. Take a moment to think about what you'll be connecting to your PC, a mouse, keyboard and headset could take up 3 and this would leave 1 for a USB flash drive, portable hard drive or cable for your smartphone. If I then want to plug something else, I'd have to take something out... so it's a good idea to count up your USB devices then factor this in when checking the specifications on your new Desktop PC purchase.
HDMI, DisplayPort and DVI
These terms apply to the cables used to connect your Desktop PC to a monitor or TV. Much like the USB above it's good to have a quick think about what you'll be connecting your new PC too, if you're planning on running a multi-monitor setup this is of particular importance.
DVD and Blu Ray Drives
Many users want to know whether or not an optical drive is necessary. Mostly they are unnecessary. Some users favour CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs as forms of storage or media playback. Minimizing the need for optical drives is increasing as almost all current applications are able to be downloaded. You can always add an external USB-powered DVD drive to any desktop PC for a low cost should you need one.
We hope this quick guide helps, we'll continue to improve it as we get asked more questions so be sure to use the comments section below to let us know what you would like to know more about!