How to buy the best Desktop PC
How to buy the best Desktop PC
By Michael Passingham
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A desktop PC can be a large investment, and as you'll be using it regularly you'll want to be sure you pick the right one. We tell you how.
Desktop PC or All-In-One?
If you're looking for a computer to use primarily at home or in the office, the choice will come down to either a traditional desktop PC or an all-in-one PC.
There are noticeable differences between desktop PCs and all-in-ones to consider. Most obvious is the form factor. While desktops comprise of a separate tower, screen and keyboard, all-in-ones combine the inner workings of the PC in the screen itself - there’s no separate tower to wire up.
Outside of whether you want a traditional 'box' and separate monitor and accessories, it's the specifications (and what you’ll pay for them) that are the key difference between desktops and all-in-ones.
If you're regularly on the move, then you may wish to pick up a laptop. Read our laptop reviews to find the best one for you.
Advantages of a desktop PC
A desktop PC is essentially a more tradition 'tower' style computer, although you'll find that they come in various shapes and sizes, from large bulky hulks that need to sit under your desk, to more discreet and stylish models that can be tucked away.
More customisable - The big plus-point of a desktop PC is that it can be easily adapted to suit your needs. Not only can you pick the monitor that you want to use with it, but you can make more significant changes internally, such as adding more Ram or a new graphics card.
When buying a desktop, you can typically choose the power of the processor you want, with the option to spend more for a faster model. The upshot of this that a desktop can be kept ticking over longer than an all-in-one, as you can upgrade as and when needed.
Can be cheaper - If you already have a monitor and a keyboard and mouse, then a desktop PC can be a good value option compared to an all-in-one. It’s not always the case, so be sure to shop around, but generally you’ll find that a desktop PC comes in cheaper than it’s equivalent all-in-one. Generally speaking, it can be cheaper to buy a powerful i5 or i7-processor desktop, compared to the equivalent processor tiering on an all-in-one or laptop.
Disadvantages of a desktop PC
Sometimes bulky - Not all desktop PCs are created equal, and we’ve tested some models that managed to pack their workings into a small box than can be easily hidden on a desk. However, you’ll find that there are plenty of bulky desktop towers out there too, so make sure you know the measurements of anything you’re buying, especially if ordering online.
Seperate accessory costs - What comes in the box with your desktop depends on where you order it from. Some come with keyboard and mouse, while others will require you to purchase a monitor, speakers, and peripherals separately. While this does grant you the freedom to pick the ones you want, it does lack the convenience of an all-in-one where everything you need is in the box.
Not as user-friendly - While we’ve come a long way since the days of home PCs being the reserve of the technologically minded, if you’re skittish around tech, you might be slightly put off by the concept of a connecting up a desktop or custom-choosing its inner workings, compared to the ‘plug and play’ nature of an all-in-one.
Advantages of an all-in-one PC
Gaining popularity in recent years, an all-in-one is essentially a PC with all the workings conveniently placed in the screen. There’s no separate tower to contend with, and they’re easy to set up. They come with a keyboard and mouse, and the speakers are usually integrated into the monitor.
Easy set up - There’s very little fuss involved in setting up an all-in-one PC, with most simply requiring you to take it out of the box, place it where you want it, and turn it on. It’s a good option if you don’t want to be bogged down by cables and you want to get up and running quickly.
Space saving - If space is at a premium, an all-in-one can be a good fit (pun intended), as you only need to consider where to place the screen, and don’t have to house a traditional ‘tower’ too. This makes them more flexible in the home, and also a degree more portable. While you won’t want to take it on the train with you, it’s much easier to move an all-in-one from one spot in your home to another.
Touchscreen - Many all-in-ones are available with a touchscreen, which adds an extra option for how to interact with your computer. They’re not for everyone, but anyone who misses the feeling of prodding at a tablet can find a touchscreen all-in-one to suit them.
Disadvantages of an all-in-one PC
Cheap accessories - While all-in-ones do come with accessories in the box and built in speakers, are tests tend to reveal that they’re rarely great, and usually rather basic. A desktop PC might allow you to choose the peripherals you would like, but with an all-in-one, you’re stuck with those it comes with, unless you want to shell out and purchase additional accessories.
More expensive - You can end up paying extra for convenience. While there are benefits to picking up an all-in-one, you’re often left paying extra. You could find that an equivalently powered desktop PC is considerably cheaper, even once the monitor and accessories have been taken into account.