What Desktop Computer Should I Buy?

steve How to , , ,

It doesn’t matter if you are a techie or not. We all use computers everyday. Everything we use is beginning to use more technology. They even have fridges that tell you when you have room out of something. Asking yourself “What desktop computer should I buy?” is something that we’ll all ask at some point.

Living with all of this tech doesn’t mean we need to live life in the dark about what we are actually purchasing. Just because you found a killer deal on a computer for $150 doesn’t mean you’ll be happy with your purchase afterward. On the flip side, spending $1000 to keep in contact with the grand kids is outrageous.

How much you spend on a computer should be determined by the activities you plan on using the computer for. There are a few items in the computer that can drive the cost of a computer up. With a little bit of computer knowledge, and my advise it’s easy to get a great computer for a great price.

CPU – The Brain!

Every computer has a chip that solves the logic on the computer. The central processing unit (CPU) is the brain of the computer. Whether you are building a computer or buying one, picking a CPU affects everything else you can pick.

This is one of those items that will determine the overall cost of the computer. you don’t have to be surprised about what you are getting. There are two things in a CPU that you can look for to get at idea of what you can expect.

The first is called the frequency. This determines how many items the computer can complete in a second. It can typically range from 1.25 GHz to 3.25 GHz. The bigger the number the faster your computer can do things, but the more it’ll cost you.

If you plan on using the computer to play newer games, you’ll want to stick closer to the high side. If all you are using the computer for Facebook, email, Instagram, Netflix, or the occasional word document, than you can get a slower CPU an you’ll never know the difference. But you don’t want to go too low.

It maybe fine right now, but every computer slows down after time. You don’t want your computer to go so painfully slow in 3 years that you can’t stand it.

The second item to look at is the number of cores. There cores determine how many things can be done at once. A single core CPU can only do one thing at a time, but if it is a 2.0 GHz CPU it can do 2,000,000,000 things per second. That many seem like a lot, but every action you take makes the computer think.

That blinking cursor when you type, that’s two of these items one to make it appear and one to make it disappear. When you hit a button that uses one for the computer to know what you hit and one to put the letter on the screen.

It may look like your computer is performing lots of things at once but with a single core it is just switching between tasks like crazy. Some of the things it is doing happens without us knowing about it.

With a dual core CPU there are two processors working together. Your computer is actually performing two tasks at once.  That 2 billion items from before can be done in half the time.

With a quad core your computer has four cores and can do for things at once. As cool as that sounds, there really aren’t a lot of things you can do on your computer that require that much.

If you are doing anything really intensive, there’s a good chance that you’ll already know it. For everyone else, I’d recommend a dual core. Most video games aren’t optimized to use more than two cores and will limit you anyway. Even if you’ll only be using one core for email and Facebook.

I’d still recommend a dual core processor rather than single core, because during start up one core will be used almost exclusively to get the computer up and running. A single core computer will have a much longer boot up time. If your budget can afford it, I’d always opt for a better CPU.

Graphics Card – Visuals Make All the Difference

The graphics  card is another item that can greatly increase the cost of a computer. Most CPUs have the ability to process a basic graphical functions. This will work perfectly for all of your basic computer needs. This includes Instagram, Facebook, web browsing, and the rest of typical everyday stuff.

Playing games, and I don’t mean the Facebook game, or solitaire, or any number of the games you can play on a website, or having a large number of displays will require something a little bit more powerful than what a CPU can do.

If you decide a graphics card is important to you, selecting the right one is very similar to getting the right CPU. You’ll look at frequency (sometimes referred to as core speed) and number of cores. The frequency will be measured in MHz or GHz. Just like before, a bigger number means it’s faster and more powerful.

For the graphics card, the number of cores doesn’t work the exact same way as the cores of the CPU. The bigger the number the more power the card will have, but you can’t compare cores across manufacturers. Cards from different manufatures can have a vastly different amount of cores and still achieve the same level of performance.

There are some other features you can look for and get, but they aren’t needed for a basic home computer. I’ll go into these features in another post. As well as what you really want to look for when selecting a graphics card. The biggest take away is that you need to know if you need an independent graphics card or not. Modern video games are the biggest reason for separate video cards.

RAM – Even A Computer Needs Short-term Memory

RAM stands for random access memory. Your computer uses this to store temporary information while it processes the actions it has. When you restart your computer, it clears the RAM. RAM comes in pairs. You can have one chip, or you can have two chips that are the same.

You can’t mix a 2 GB piece of RAM with a 1 GB. If your computer has four slots, you can have two 2 GB and two 1 GB chips, but how they are positioned is important.

RAM is important. More so if you are like me and you never close windows down when you are through with them. When you buy a pre-built computer it doesn’t matter if you have DDR3 or DDR4.

DDR4 is a newer technology and costs a bit more than DDR3. But it really isn’t needed. There are some people that will want it anyway though. What you really need to be looking for is the amount of RAM you have.

With everything that comes pre-loaded on a computer, you’re going to want at least 4 GB of RAM. This will be plenty for older games, Facebook, email, documents, etc. You’ll start to see issues if you keep lots of things (more than 20) open especially if any of these are embedded in another document. If it’s in your budget, I’d get at least 8 GB of RAM.


If you want a high end computer (>$750) than you’ll want:

  • 3.0 GHz dual or quad core processor
  • A graphics card (I like Nvidia, but others are good too)
  • 8 or 16 GB of RAM

Depending on the graphics card, there really isn’t much this basic setup will do.

If you have a tight budget (<$250) or aren’t planning on doing a lot with the computer, than consider looking at the following:

  • 2.0 GHz dual core processor with an integrated graphics card
  • 4 or 8 GB of ram

This won’t handle all of the requirements of those modern video games but it’ll function for Netflix, Facebook, and general web surfing

If you have a little bit extra left in your budget, the single best upgrade you can get on a computer is a Solid State Drive. Even if it is a small 128 GB drive with just Windows installed on it. This will significantly improve your startup time.

When you ask “What desktop computer should I buy,” This depends on you. How much is in your budget and what you’re going to use it for. If you want to get a computer based entirely upon what it will be used for, great! If you want to max out your budget because you can, awesome!

If you just need to something that will get you by check out the Acer Aspire Desktop. It’s a low end model that work great for your basic needs like surfing the web, and streaming Netflix.

If you want something with a little more power, and have the budget to afford it. Then check out the SkyTech Archangel II. This is a gaming computer that is designed with video games in mind.

If you have the budget to get all of the bells and whistles, then check out the iBUYPOWER 9200. Not only does this beat come with liquid cooling, it a a six-core I7 processor. With this computer you’ll be able to enjoy everything virtual reality has to offer in the highest settings.

There is a lot more that you could know about hardware, but I’ll save those for another day. This will at least let you get a feel for what kind of computer you should be looking at and how much it should cost you.

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  1. This is so informative. I have a laptop with 4GB RAM but it’s become so slow lately. Now I know it’s because I open so many tabs and hardly close them.

    I love your site and will be back to stay informed.

    1. 4GB of RAM will go pretty quickly. Especially if you use Google Chrome. You could upgrade to 8 GB really easily. If you have a laptop you would need to buy two 4 GB chips designed for a laptop. It’ll cost $80-$100. If it’s a desktop, it’s a little more complicated. It might be as easy as buying two 2 GB chips for around $40-$50. Or you might need to replace all of your RAM.

      Depending on how old your computer is, your processor might be part of the issue as well.

  2. This is a great post and site. Very authoratative. Next time I’m looking to buy a desktop I’ll check your website to see what latest info you are sharing. Great post!

    1. The world of computers and technology is constantly changing. Stop by as often as you’d like to see what kind of new stuff might be happening.

  3. Hi, thanks for the information here. I’m needing a new computer but feel that a laptop would suit me better right now as I would like to be able to work from a number of different locations. I was going to go with a MacBook – honestly only because I live close to an Apple store and they seem to have a good reputation. What would you recommend? Thanks in advance.

    1. The best thing about a laptop is its mobility. I’m a big fan of buying a computer based on what you intend to use it for. If you need to edit video, or photos than the MacBook Pro is an excellent choice. It comes with awesome software for editing video and photos out of the box. If you aren’t going to be using it for that, then the MacBook is just an over priced status symbol. Regardless of manufacturer, looking at the specs of the computer will tell you what you are getting.

      Admittedly, the MacBook Pro has some cool features. Like being able to support two 5k displays from the lightning ports, but you’ll need adapters for everything. Hardware wise, You could get a better deal with a Windows computer. You’ll be paying an around $1500 more than you would with a windows computer, but you’ll get some awesome software.

      If you do video and photo editing, it’ll cost you $600 per year for Adobe Premier Pro. With a Mac, it comes with decent software already installed.

    1. Neither a laptop or a desktop is better. This is strictly a personal preference or lifestyle choice. With a desktop you can replace a broken part or upgrade a single component to extend the life of your computer, but it’s not mobile. You certainly can’t haul a desktop to the local coffee shop to “work at home” for a day.

      Both laptops and desktops have there spot in the computer world, but the one that is right for you depends on what you are expecting out of a computer. If you aren’t comfortable messing with computer hardware, or want to have the ability to take your computer on a trip, then a laptop is better for you.

      If you like to play video games but don’t like to uninstall them, consider a desktop. When your hard drive fills up you can buy another one and then you’ll have two hard drives.

      Connecting a camcorder depends on what kind of camcorder you have and how old it is. If it isn’t from the 90’s, than it’ll probably have some kind of USB port of it. It might be a mini USB, or micro USB. The camcorders I’ve seen typically have them under a plastic or rubber flap.

      You’ll need a cable that has a USB on one side and fits into the port on the camcorder. That’s all you’ll need. Your computer will do the rest to install the drivers automatically. You might need to import or copy the video to your computer. If you have a specific make and model of the camcorder I could be a little bit more specific as to what you would need to do.

  4. Nice basic introduction to buying a desktop. I actually need a laptop. Any suggestions on a quality laptop?
    Do you think there is much difference between the 7th and 8th generation Intel chips? I think I want the latest of everything.
    Do you think we should start going to at least 12-16Gig of Ram with all the apps we use now days?

    1. When it comes to computer shopping there are only a few minor difference between shopping for a desktop and a laptop. The biggest differences are upgrade ability and battery life. With a desktop you can spend less now and upgrade as you go, but with a laptop this isn’t an option. For a laptop, I’d stay on the high end of your budget.

      There is a substantial boost in performance for the 8th generation Intel chips over the 7th generation. If it’s in your budget, go with the 8th generation. You’ll still need to pick between the I3, I5, and I7. The I7 will be much faster than the other two.

      Your RAM requirements depend on what you are doing. If you are like me, then you have a habit of never closing any apps or internet tabs. This can take up quite a bit of memory. Normally, your computer will get rid of the temporary files for a tab or app you have used in a while. You can tell this has happened by clicking on an app or tab. If you get a white screen it has to render the image again instead of pulling it from the RAM.

      With more RAM, you’ll experience this less often. You could make do with 8GB of RAM, but if you are just looking for a powerhouse of a computer, go with 16 or 32 GB of RAM.

      If I was looking for a laptop with the latest of everything, I’d go for one of these:
      Asus Zenbook Flip
      8th gen Intel I7
      16 GB RAM
      Nvidia MX150 video card

      hard drive is only 512GB

      With the solid state drive and the I7 you should experience a boot time (minus the time to login) in less than 10 seconds. You’ll also be able to easily handle multiple displays. The hard drive is a standard size for a laptop, but these days 500GB goes quickly.

      $1299 USD.

      Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon
      8th Gen Intel I7
      16 GB RAM
      1 TB SSD

      No independent graphics card

      This still has a solid state drive, but it’s almost twice as big. You’ll see the same boot time of less than 10 seconds. You won’t be able to play the latest video games with this, but it’ll still handle 3 displays. If this is strictly a business PC than the graphics card won’t matter.
      $2500 USD

  5. Hi, I’m giving you feedback on your site. You know your stuff, that’s great. So, the overall impression is good, it sounds like you know what you’re talking about, you have a voice of authority, that’s important. I would brighten up the site, more color, images. And your font, I believe, is too small. Perhaps you might consider changing your theme.

    Anyway, good luck.

    1. Thanks for the feedback! I am in need for adding more images. I can look at changing the theme as well. This was just a convenient one at the time a started.

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