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PC Buying Guide

Posted in Articles on 04/9/2015 (updated on 14/3/2019)

Desktop PC Buying Guide at PB Tech

When it comes to buying a Desktop PC there are a few things to take into consideration to make sure you are purchasing the best performing machine which meets your needs and budget. This guide will give you a greater understanding of the typical things you would want to look for in the ideal desktop PC.

We're not going to drill down too deeply into what each component is made of, instead focusing on easily understanding the terms used to indicate a PC's performance such as GT vs GTX vs RTX, HDD vs SSD and so on.  

Despite the recent advances in mobile computing, traditional desktop PCs are still extremely popular! Desktops immobility appeal to parents, businesses and institutions, as well as their familiarity, performance, features and upgradeability. A desktop may no longer be the centre of the computing world for a majority of people, however many still buy them as the price/performance is excellent.

You may want to begin by assessing whether or not you need a Desktop PC, or if you could meet your needs with a laptop or tablet. If you consider yourself a general purpose user, where you use devices to watch Netflix and movies, read online news and play games, a laptop or tablet would be satisfactory for you. The advantages of desktops really come down to the full-speed CPU performance, powerful graphics cards, storage and RAM expandability.

How will you be using your new PC?

General purpose - If your needs include a workday PC to web browse and complete general office-type tasks, as well as light media consumption and editing, you can go for a mainstream, affordable model. These typically run with integrated graphics from within the CPU.

Gaming PCs - If you’re wanting to enjoy some gaming, you will likely require a more powerful CPU and additional Nvidia or AMD series gaming-focused graphics card within the PC. 

Media/Editing/Professional PCs - In comparison to Gaming PCs, these Media/Editing PC options are not that different. However, to provide the best possible performance in media editing and other work-related performance tasks you will often find the graphics card within if from the Quadro or Pro series.

If you’re very budget-conscious a mid-tower will generally offer the best value as this is the most popular size. Slim form factor PC are a bit more expensive for the same performance. If you’re looking for cheaper models of either, refurbished or off-lease computers can provide excellent value for money.

Buy the best desktop you can afford with the features you need

You should be selective about the features you pay for when choosing a desktop system. If you’re not going to be gaming frequently, a high spec graphics card is not going to be necessary. If you’re not going to be regularly watching Blu-ray movies, a Blu-Ray drive will have limited value to you.

PCs can be purchased, pre-built and ready to go, in a range of configurations like our Home & Office PC or Gaming PC ranges.

You can also use our Online System Builder to create a system matching your exact specifications.

In order to save yourself time and money, not including extras which you don’t require could be a good idea, and if you do need a specific component later, ask at your local PB store or check with our online team at websales@pbtech.co.nz and they'll provide the best advice around any additional parts that might be needed.

All-in-one PCs offer a large monitor with the powerhouse of the PC built directly into the back of the screen which makes up the fastest-growing desktop category. All-in-one PCs come across a broad price spectrum, come in many different screen sizes which have both inclusive and exclusive touch input.

The advantages of all-in-ones include easier set up and cleaner appearance in comparison to separate tower and display setups. With built in webcams you have the ability to video conference without needing a separate camera peripheral device. It’s simpler to bring an all-in-one into non-office environments for example due to less wires required. You can also enjoy home entertainment content from your PC, with a larger screen size.

The disadvantages on the other hand, include having laptop versions of their listed CPU and graphics cards which tend to be less powerful than desktop equivalents. Lack of upgradeability of all-in-one desktops is also a major limitation. Generally, monitors usually last longer than computing components, however it pays to be aware that if your all-in-one’s display no longer meets your needs, an entirely new computer may need to be purchased.

Concerned with getting full HD display and decent image quality, you can do so without spending a drastically higher amount, and these types are perfectly satisfactory for a solid and immersive gaming experience.

Which Operating System? (OS)

Windows offers a flexible operating system, which many users appreciate as it has the ability to be altered and personalized. In addition, Windows is available on almost all varieties of hardware. Until recently this was largely a question about which version of Windows to get, but now, short of needed Windows 7 for a very specific old program, PB Tech recommends Windows 10.

There are still two versions on Windows 10 to choose from, Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Professional. The Professional edition of Windows 10 offers sophisticated connectivity and privacy tools such as Domain Join, Group Policy Management, BitLocker, Enterprise Mode Internet Explorer (EMIE), Assigned Access 8.1, Remote Desktop, Client Hyper-V, and Direct Access. If you are using your new PC for business some of these features might be important to you, and if unsure it's best to check first with the person who manages your business network.

CPUs/Processors

AMD

Ryzen is the latest generation of premium AMD processors and they are available in many kinds to suit your budget. The Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 series make up the bulk of the range, becoming more powerful (and more expensive) as the numbers escalate upwards. It's important to note that only the latest Ryzen 2200G and 2400G include integrated graphics and with the others, you'll need to have a dedicated graphics card within your system. 

Intel

The latest Intel range consists of the Core i3, Core i5, Core i7 and new Core i9 series. Pentium series lower end chips available, however, most users tend to avoid desktops which include these parts as the performance gain from going with the i3 is massive. All except for the i9 series feature integrated graphics, the exception to this being the 9th Gen Intel i9-9900K which not only includes the UHD 630 graphics but also works with Z300 series motherboards instead of the X299 required by other i9 CPU options.

Choosing a CPU for your PC at PB Tech

Graphics Cards

Nvidia Geforce GT, GTX, RTX and Ti

When looking at specifications for PC you'll notice the graphics cards from Nvidia start with either GT or GTX.

The GT series provides a low-cost option for those using a CPU that doesn't have integrated graphics, these also are great for adding additional monitor connections as the graphics cards will often include multiple DVI, HDMI or Displayport options.

GTX is the gaming series from Nvidia and starts with the GTX 1050 which is great for games like League of Legends, Overwatch and other popular titles. Going up through the GTX 1060, GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 ranges each signal an increase in performance - for those looking to play in Virtual Reality with the HTC Vive VR you'll want to look at systems featuring the GTX 1060 or above, to make this all very easy you'll find a handy filter option (shown here) to show only VR Ready systems at PB Tech.

Ti is an indicator of even better performance in the same series, for example, and GTX 1070Ti is faster than the standard GTX 1070.

RTX is a new technology that takes its name from the real-time raytracing feature of these latest graphics cards. Right now the performance benchmarks favour the highest end systems playing at 4K resolutions but do keep an eye out as the new ray-tracing aspect of the new GPU is still being tested.

AMD R5, RX and VEGA

The AMD RX series behaves in much the same way, the R5 series is ideal for adding a little additional graphics performance and additional monitor connections.

The RX series is more suited to gaming and starts with the RX 560, going up in power through the RX 570, RX 580 and RX 590 series as the graphics cards become more & more powerful.

VEGA graphics cards are more powerful still and introduce another naming system with the models starting at the VEGA 56 and increasing performance with the VEGA 64 model.

Choosing a Graphics Card for your new PC at PB Tech

Hard Drive/Solid State and Digital Storage

In terms of hard drives and storage, your desktop will come with either of the following options. A traditional spinning-platter hard drive (HDD) or a solid state drive (SSD) also known as flash memory. Hybrid drives, a small SSD paired with a larger HDD, are also available on desktop PCs. A hybrid drive enhances faster boot time and helps apps open quicker as well as being able to store bulky music and video files on the standard hard drive.

HDD

Platter hard drives offer inexpensive storage and are found in most desktops. A hard drive at least 500GB, even in a budget system would be ideal. Most drives run at 7,200rpm, an ideal rate (revolutions per minute) and some more slowly at 5,400rpm. If you are using your PC for day-to-day use you may not notice the speed of your computer however if you are going to be using your PC for transferring large files or loading games and rendering video files you will benefit from a faster hard drive.

SSD

SSD drives are a lot faster (often 4x faster to boot up your PC!) than conventional mechanical hard drives and thusly come with a higher price tag and smaller capacity. Often you'll find SSDs are used to install the operating system on, with a secondary HDD also installed for storing media and programs.

Ports, Cables and Connections

USB

Two USB ports are the minimum you'll find on many desktops, with most sporting 2x on the front with an additional 2x on the back. Take a moment to think about what you'll be connecting to your PC, a mouse, keyboard and headset could take up 3 and this would leave 1 for a USB flash drive, portable hard drive or cable for your smartphone. If I then want to plug something else, I'd have to take something out... so it's a good idea to count up your USB devices then factor this in when checking the specifications on your new Desktop PC purchase.

HDMI, DisplayPort and DVI

These terms apply to the cables used to connect your Desktop PC to a monitor or TV. Much like the USB above it's good to have a quick think about what you'll be connecting your new PC too, if you're planning on running a multi-monitor setup this is of particular importance.  

DVD and Blu Ray Drives

Many users want to know whether or not an optical drive is necessary. Mostly they are unnecessary. Some users favour CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs as forms of storage or media playback. Minimizing the need for optical drives is increasing as almost all current applications are able to be downloaded. You are able to add an external USB-powered DVD drive to any desktop PC for a low cost.

We hope this quick guide helps! We'll continue to improve it as we get asked more questions so keep your eyes on our PB Tech Tips & News for the latest. 

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