Buying guide: Desktop computers
The versatile PC (personal computer) machine has had a huge impact on our lives, in fact it has changed the way we interact, we do our work, and even the way we socialize. Laptops and desktops are the two prominently available PCs. PCs that are meant to be used on a desk and are, for all practical purposes, non-mobile are referred to as desktop computers or sometimes only desktops. Whereas, as the name suggests, laptop PCs are mobile and can be carried around. Buying either of these is not as simple as it appears given the innumerable choices available in the market. This guide will assist you in narrowing down the choices and select a desktop PC that meets all your requirements, so read on!
When buying a desktop computer, it would be a good idea to first decide as to what you would want your computer to do for you. Do you want a full-spec gaming rig or a casual gaming machine? Do you wish to only surf the Internet, watch movies, and view images? Getting your priority right is important so that you are not disappointed with your desktop after you have bought it.
Once you are done deciding upon what sort of computer you are looking for, you will need to figure out whether you want to buy individual components and assemble your own PC or buy a pre-configured branded one. While assembling a machine from individually bought parts can be cheap (and gratifying to some), it also brings with it maintenance headaches. The problem is further compounded if your knowledge of computer hardware and software is limited. On the other hand, while a branded desktop computer may be slightly expensive and less configurable, it does come with the manufacturer’s warranty, which acts as an assurance of the overall quality and performance. HP desktop PC, Lenovo PCs, Acer PCs, and Dell desktop PCs are some of he prominent branded PCs.
Types of Desktop PCs:
Computers can be broadly classified into three types: low-end desktop computers, mid-level desktop computers, and high-end desktop computers. Before, we proceed further, it needs to be noted that this classification is very broad and may not always be apt. Another thing that needs to be noted is that almost all computers come with such elementary options as Internet connectivity, USB ports, and so on. The configuration of a computer largely depends on the purpose for which it is used. The price of a computer in turn will depend on its configuration.
- Low-end desktop computer: These types of computers are largely meant for those who intend to use their desktops for watching movies, listening to music, viewing images, surfing the Internet, checking mails and so on. While these computers can be used to play games, the latest gaming titles may not be supported. Most office computers fall under this category.
- Mid-level desktop computers: Technically advanced than their low-end counterparts, the mid-level desktops offer more functionality with better performance. These constitute the most popular desktop computers in the market. These are well-balanced all-rounders, and often feature low- to mid-range graphics cards and better-performing components, to enable better gaming even on the latest titles.
- High-end computers: These desktop computers are meant for enthusiasts, hardcore gamers, graphics artists, and the like. These are often very expensive and feature high-end graphics card, large-screen LCD monitors, multiple hard drives and DVD drives, etc.
Deciding factors for purchasing desktop PCs:
Deciding on the type of personal computer that you want – whether it’s a laptop PC that you are looking for or whether a desktop PC will serve your needs best. Then comes the most critical part, which is to decide on the preferred configuration of your computer. What’s inside the computer is way more important than how the computer looks. One advantage with desktops is that these PCs offer more flexibility in selecting components of our choice than the laptops, which are more or less available with fixed configurations. Read on to know more about the various components of a computer.
- Motherboard: The motherboard, also known as Mainboard, is the central circuit board on which the processor and some of the other components (such as RAM, graphics card, LAN card, etc.) are attached. This circuit connectivity between the components housed on it and the other components of the system (such as hard disk drive, optical media drive, etc.). Note that the processor you buy will be compatible with only some of the motherboards. Among the compatible options, it is recommended that you pick the motherboard that offers the maximum number of slots (and thus upgrade options) and that fits your budget.
- Processor (CPU): The processor is a tiny chip that does all the heavy work when it comes to the functioning of a computer. Right from the stage when a command is given to the request processing stage to the final output stage, processors play a critical role. Currently, Intel and AMD are two of the major processor makers in the market. Both offer single-core and multi-core processors (which are much faster), and both cater to all segments of the market. While the Intel CPU range stretches from the low-end Centrino Duo series processors to the mid-range Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad, Core 13, and Core i5 series processors to the Core i7 series high-end processors. AMD, too, has a similar line-up.
- Cabinet: The cabinet houses the motherboard (along with the attached components), the power supply, and the hard disk and optical media drives.
- RAM: RAM memory plays a very role in the smooth functioning of your PC by providing extra space needed to execute commands that require more space. Popular RAM modules include anything ranging from 1GB to up to 6GB. Another point to note here is the bus speed, which again is better if higher. When buying a RAM, do check whether the type of RAM (DDR2 or DDR3) is compatible with your motherboard. And remember, ‘More the RAM – Better the Performance’.
- Hard disk drive: Hard drives provide you with the space to store your data. The most popular hard drives today are SATA (Serial ATA) ones. These are reliable, and come in a range of capacities from 160 GB to more than 1.5 TB. Other hard drive types also exist including PATA (Parallel ATA) and SSD (Solid State Drive) drives. Beside the memory capacity, another thing to consider here is the rpm supported by the hard drive. With hard drives, higher the rpm, better the performance. Also, if you are assembling your own desktop, do remember to go for the hard drive type that is supported by rest of your system (especially, the motherboard and power supply).
- Power supply: An essential part of the computer, the power supply provides power to all the components of a computer. Choosing a power supply with high ratings is always preferable as it will easily handle upgrades that you may later go for in your desktop.
- Optical media drive: More popularly known as the CD/DVD drive, this handy device allows you to play and access the contents of CDs and DVDs. These can also be used to write data onto DVDs. Nowadays, dual-layer DVD and Blu-ray media players and writers are also available; these, however, are slightly expensive.
- Monitor: Also known as the display screen, the monitor is the TV-like device that displays the visual information and acts as a source of output for the processor. CRT monitors have gradually made way for high-definition (HD) LCD monitors that deliver visuals with unparalleled details.
- Keyboard: This is the typewriter-like device used to enter alphanumeric command strings into the computer. While in most cases, a basic keyboard suffices, there are many fancy alternatives available including gaming keyboards, cordless keyboards, multimedia keyboards, and more.
- Mouse: The small pouch like device often found placed beside the computer is the mouse. It is used to navigate by means of an on-screen pointer, and usually comes with 2-3 buttons that have several basic functions. As with keyboards, there are many more fancy alternatives (to a basic mouse) available including gaming mouse and cordless mouse.
- Graphics card: A graphics card is an add-on card that contains a graphics processor. A graphics card’s sole purpose is to improve the visual performance of a desktop computer. Note, however, a graphics card needs a compatible slot to be attached. Further, graphics card are no longer the sole privilege of high-end systems. Nowadays, decent-performing graphics cards are also available relatively cheaply. In high-performance systems, one can also find multiple graphics cards.
- Speaker: Almost all computer systems feature a set a speakers to deliver sufficiently good sound. In higher-end PCs, 5.1-channel and 7.1-channel speaker systems are also common. For such high-end systems, however, a compatible sound card is a must.
- Sound card: While almost all motherboards feature a built-in 5.1-channel sound card, audiophiles might want to have a look at a sound card, a special add-on card whose sole purpose is accurate sound reproduction.
- Add-ons: In addition to the above rather essential components, there are a multitude of components and peripheral that can be attached to your computer. Examples include Bluetooth cards, Wi-Fi cards, high-performance LAN cards, memory card readers, etc. It is recommended that you have a look at all of these before deciding your final configuration.
Summing it up:
- A desktop computer is a non-mobile personal computer (PC) designed to be placed on desks.
- The components that usually make up a desktop computer are the processor, motherboard, RAM, hard disk, optical media drive (CD/DVD drive), power supply, cabinet (the vertical box that houses the previously mentioned equipment), monitor (display screen), keyboard, mouse, and speakers. Depending upon the PC’s configuration, a desktop may also contain a graphics card, a sound card, a high-performance LAN card, multiple hard drives and optical drives.
- Further, any desktop computer can be upgraded, given the hardware compatibility. You can either buy individual components to build the machine yourself or you can buy a branded computer.
Research on desktops as much as you can before purchasing a new desktop PC; the Internet’s full of forums frequented by people who are experts in assembling computers. The above listed factors will help you to compare different models so as to narrow down the choices. Always remember that considering the rate at which technology changes, no matter how advanced your computer might be, it will get outdated in a few years. This stands true for all computer types including laptop computers, and desktop computers. Hence it is important that you think twice before going in for a top-of-the-line product since the shelf-life of such systems is not more than that of a medium-level desktop PC.
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