Top Buyer Tips: Desktops

What to look out for when buying the right desktop PC for your home

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Top Buyer Tips: Desktops Pay special attention to the CPU and memory specs because they'll directly affect system performance.
By  Vineetha Menon Published  October 6, 2009

Sometimes a notebook just can't give you what you need - it can't be upgraded easily, it's not the best home entertainment platform and costs a lot for all the bells and whistles. That's why buying a desktop PC for family use at home is both a practical and affordable option.

The most important things to look out in buying the right desktop PC for home use are graphics, display, storage and performance.

Display

LCD monitors are available in most desktop PC bundles, but make sure it's a widescreen model as a lot of applications are being optimised for this type of display. Also, you want a screen of at least 17" in size. You might find manufacturers pushing smaller screens, especially as a bargain at Shopper, but anything smaller and you will begin to find that your virtual desktop gets cluttered and they are aren't that good for watching multimedia.

If you're looking for an environmentally friendly option, consider monitors from Hewlett-Packard and Fujitsu Siemens that will help save power and lower your electricity bills as well, especially since conventional monitors are known to use between one to six watts of power even when on the ‘standby' mode.


Graphics

Graphics cards specifications change all the time; make sure you have one that is powerful enough for multimedia and other applications. Graphics cards are not just for gaming purposes anymore since so many applications and tasks, like photography, multimedia, and even Windows Vista, make heavy use of the card. It's advisable to stick to cards with chips from ATI, nVIDIA and Intel as these are the most common brands and will be compatible with most tasks.

Storage

Storage is simple - the more hard disk space you have, the more you'll be able to store. 500 GB and 750 GB are commonly available on desktop PCs. If you're an ordinary user, 500 GB is enough to last you a couple of years and won't slow tasks down. Many PCs also have two smaller drives, using one as a real-time backup to minimise the risk of data loss.

You may well want to invest in back-up software and an external drive, especially if you take a lot of  digital photos and videos.

Performance

For performance, you need to consider the CPU and the RAM.

The CPU is the main processor at the heart of the machine. The main choices are processors from AMD and Intel.  The capabilities of processors are almost identical, so it's more a question of brand loyalty in terms of your final choice. Look out for processors that are dual- or multi-core, which have more processing power and are able to manage complex tasks better.

Memory - our advice is to get as much RAM as you can afford to shell out for. The minimum recommended is 1 GB, which is also expected to work with Microsoft's new Windows 7. Still, try for a little bit more so your system won't be in danger of slowing down with heavy multimedia content.


Extras

While a fancy mouse and keyboard might not make a great difference on performance, it does provide added convenience and comfort. To avoid a tangled mess of wires and ensure ease of use, wireless options are your best bet. For sound, if you want to watch movies or play music, a 2.1 speaker set (two satellite speakers and one subwoofer) or a 5.1 set for surround sound performance.

Pay special attention to the warranty terms.  As almost all vendors are now present in the Middle East, you can usually rely on them to fix any problems, but you might want an extra warranty to cover three years. Don't bother with anything more than that time though as chances are if something goes wrong after five years, the technology will have moved on and repairs will be more trouble than replacing the device altogether.

 

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