5 questions to ask before buying a desktop computer
Are you an essay writer or an artist? Do you have an iPhone? Would you call yourself a gamer? We'll help you find your perfect PC
1. Am I Windows or Mac?
The first question to ask is what operating system (OS) you’d prefer to go for, as this is integral to any desktop. There are two main camps when it comes to OS: Windows (Microsoft) and Apple. We take a look at them both…
Many people grow up using Microsoft, which comes complete with the Office suite (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.). If you’re familiar with the programs, then getting uni work done could be easier - presentations, essays or just keeping up with emails.
Windows 10 is its latest version, and it works on your phone and tablet as well as your PC – you can even pick up where you left off as you go between devices.
Windows best bits:
- Its digital assistant Cortana keeps tabs on your calendar to remind you of upcoming appointments, as well as answering ad-hoc questions.
- “Cortana, what else is great about Windows 10?” Well, a range of new security features make sure your system stays safer than ever, without slowing it down.
- A new and improved, simple-to-use interface helps you get to what you need quickly and efficiently.
MacBook laptops and iMac desktops run the Apple-made OSX. The software syncs with your iPhone or iPad so all your Apple gadgets work together.
Apple best bits:
- Built-in creative apps for photo-editing, designing and movie-making make Apple devices any creative’s dream.
- Extremely high security means Mac users are far less likely to encounter viruses.
- Storage is made super easy with the iCloud, where you can store everything from any iDevice. Plus, Time Machine lets you go back in time to find documents that you’ve already deleted. Essential for students!
2. How much processing 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.
As a student you’ll likely need something that can download a movie (or two), run a couple of creative programs, and let you pull together a presentation or type up an essay, all with Mum chatting away on Skype at the bottom of your screen. It’s all about multi-tasking.
Intel has different Core processors for every uni need.
- 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?
RAM is your computer’s short-term memory. How much you’ll need depends on what you’ll be using your computer for – heavy duty creative work demands more RAM (8GB) whereas everyday use gets by on less (4GB).
3. Storage – capacity vs speed
Everything from your documents and photos, to programs and downloads, will live on your hard drive. But which to go for: a traditional HDD drive or a new SSD drive?
HDD (hard disk drive)
- Found on most desktop PCs
- Can store thousands of songs/files/photos but is slower and more noisy
SSD (solid disk drive)
- Found on higher spec PCs
- Will make your PC super fast and more robust but has less storage space
4. An all-in-one, mini or tower design?
Choosing a desktop PC doesn’t have to mean a bulky tower and monitor dominating your desk. You now have three options:
- All-in-one: The computer is built into the monitor, taking up less desk space with a sleek and compact design.
- Mini or small form factor: Even smaller, the mini PC is a tiny box designed to fit into small spaces
- Tower: 2 main options for this traditional design - affordable family PC or powerful gaming rig as an upgrade.
5. What about graphics?
It depends how you’ll be using your computer. Integrated or built-in graphics are good enough for everyday computing. For creative work and gaming, dedicated graphics cards (which use their own memory) may be better.
- Photoshop/Illustrator: Get more from Adobe with better integrated graphics (Intel Iris or NVIDIA GeForce)
- High-end PC gaming and video editing: PCs with NVIDIA GeForce GTX graphics cards give best results