5 questions to ask before buying a desktop computer
Windows or Mac? Demanding programs or Word and web browsing? Find your perfect desktop with our guide
1. Am I Windows or Mac?
Desktop computers run different operating systems. Both Windows and Mac give you a home-screen, a taskbar to launch programs from and places to save and find your work.
Windows is the most widely used operating system in offices, schools and other organisations. It’s produced by Microsoft, who also make Office (Word/Excel/PowerPoint). This makes it perfect for home workers and students. Windows 10 works on tablets, phones and even Xbox as well as laptops and PCs.
Apple MacBook laptops and iMac desktops run OSX. It’s made by Apple and syncs with your iPhone or iPad – making it a good option if you already have Apple devices. The interface is very smooth and easy to use and also comes with built-in apps for photo editing and making movies. Macs are commonly found in design, photography and recording studios but they make great family computers too.
2. How much power do I need?
The processor in a computer is a bit like the engine in a car - it determines how fast your machine can go and how much work it can handle.
Faster processors are generally made from multiple cores. Each core can handle a specific task. This means they do many different things at once.
- For web browsing, Netflix streaming and working in Office – Intel Core i3
- To work in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator while browsing the web and streaming Spotify – Intel Core i5
- For intensive video editing and rendering, 3D modelling and serious gaming - Intel Core i7
What about RAM? This is as important as choosing the right processor. RAM is your computer's short-term memory. Along with the processor, it affects how fast your desktop can run and how many jobs it can handle at once.
If you’re working in Abode Photoshop or Illustrator or handling heavy-duty spreadsheets in Excel, you’re going to need more RAM – 8GB is a good place to start.
For basic, everyday computing 4GB RAM should be sufficient.
3. Storage – the capacity of HDD vs the speed of SSD?
The hard drive is your computer's storage space, where your documents, downloads and programs are saved.
Most desktop PCs have a traditional HDD or hard disk drive. These are often as big as 2TB giving you enough space for hundreds of thousands of photos, for example.
Some desktop PCs use SSD, or solid state drives. Though lacking the same capacity as HDD, an SSD will make your computer boot faster and programs run more efficiently.
4. An all-in-one or tower design?
The days of the desktop PC meaning a bulky tower and monitor dominating your desk are over.
- All-in-one: The workings of the computer is built into the monitor. These take up less desk space and have a sleeker, more compact design – using a single cable to connect the keyboard or sometimes Bluetooth.
- Tower: Traditional tower designs are these days favoured by people looking for affordable family PCs and also gamers looking for powerful systems that can be upgraded.
5.What about graphics?
What you need from your computer in terms of graphics depends on what you’re going to be using it for.
Integrated graphics share your computer’s RAM, whereas dedicated graphics have their own memory.
- Everyday computing: Basic integrated graphics will meet your needs.
- Photoshop/Illustrator: These Adobe programs aren’t as dependent on graphics processing. But look at computers with better integrated graphics like Intel Iris or NVIDIA GeForce to make the most of features like Blur and Sharpening.
- High-end PC gaming and video editing: These are both graphics intensive. Look at PCs with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX range of graphics cards for the best results. These dedicated graphics cards have their own memory.