Desktop PCs are ideal for any situation where immediate portability isn't a requirement - be it for use as a family computer, for working in a home office or for entertainment or gaming. Though desktops are customisable and some elect to upgrading the component parts individually or choosing custom builds, manufacturers offer whole packages with suitable specs for a range of budgets. So, whether you're looking to get your first desktop, are after a specific set of specs or simply want a general upgrade to your existing machine, these are well worth considering.
We have top picks when it comes to brands including HP desktops, Acer, Asus, Lenovo, and gaming specialists like MSI, Cyberpower, Corsair and Stormforce. And Apple's iMac can be a necessity for those with special software requirements, such as video editors, musicians and artists.
The world of computing can be daunting. If you're struggling with a decision or don't know where to start and have resorted to using price as a quality gauge, our computing guides can help you.
Tower PCs and all in ones
Whether you go for a desktop tower or an all in one PC depends on a number of factors. The advantages of an all in one PC over a tower are that they take up less space, they are more portable, they can be touch screen and they are very easy to set up. The advantage of a tower PC is that you can customise and upgrade the individual components, including the monitor.
The central processing unit (CPU) is the brain of your computer. When choosing a CPU there are two main features to note - the number of cores and the clock speed. Multiple cores allow multiple tasks to be performed at once. All modern CPUs are at least dual-core and those who demand more from their machine can purchase quad-core, hex-core, octa-core and all the way up to 16 cores. A faster clock speed means the CPU can process instructions faster. When looking at the options, the basic knowledge you need to understand the model names of CPUs is that higher numbers are generally more powerful and more expensive.
Random-access memory (RAM) is the storage area for information that the computer needs to access quickly and often. Known as a computer's short-term memory, it is also temporary and information is lost when it loses power (i.e your computer turns off). Having a decent amount of RAM is needed for your computer to run smoothly and not having enough is very noticeable. For most users there's no need or benefit to going overboard. Currently, for standard use, 4GB is the minimum, whilst having 8GB ensures smooth performance. High-end gaming and demanding productivity tasks will often require more.
Aside from RAM, information is stored in a hard drive. There are two main types - hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid-state drives (SSDs). SSDs are newer, sacrificing capacity for speed. HDDs are older and, although give access to huge amounts of storage, retrieve information more slowly. Both function without issue and your choice will depend on your budget, preference and requirements. SSDs are more expensive per GB of storage. If your usage requires frequent loading, such as working with heavy files or loading games, a SSD will provide a noticeable quality of life improvement. If you do decide on a SSD, you are also able to attach a separate cheaper and larger HDD, to store files which you don't need to access quickly or regularly.
Unless you're planning to use your desktop for visually demanding tasks such as gaming or video editing, a good graphics card or graphics processing unit (GPU) is not necessary to prioritise. For those who are, the GPU is very important for performance. Games all state minimum requirements which you should aim to exceed by some margin, in order to ensure longevity for your purchase. NVIDIA and AMD are the main manufacturers, though Intel intend to release a GPU in 2020.
Of course, a computer on its own is limited in use. A range of accessories are available - some are mandatory and some simply to enhance your use. Mandatory are computer cables, a PC monitor, a PC keyboard and a mouse. On top of that you may want a PC monitor stand to make sure the centre of your screen is eye-level, a mouse mat to reduce cursor inaccuracies and some speakers or a headset for audio. For backing up or transporting files, it's always a good idea to have an external hard drive to hand so you never risk losing your important information.