Follow Us

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

How to buy a new PC: The specs

We help you identify the key specifications and components you need to consider when shopping for a desktop PC

Article comments

Once you've determined the type of desktop system you want, a compact PC, a budget system, a mainstream all-purpose model, or a performance crackerjack, you need to know what components to look for. The processor and graphics chip you choose will determine many of your machine's capabilities, as will the system's memory and hard drive. Understanding those components will help you get the performance you need, without paying for things you don't.

You'll also want to consider details like the layout of the case, which can also make the difference between a pleasant workstation and a nightmare PC.

Processor

The CPU is one of your PC's most important components. The processor you choose is likely to determine your PC's shape and size, and will definitely determine its price. Generally, the higher the CPU clock speed, the faster the performance you may see, and the higher the price. A 3.46GHz Core i5-670 PC will trounce a 2.93GHz Core i3-530 system, but you'll pay nearly twice as much for the faster CPU. Another spec to watch is cache size: More is better, here: Core i3 and Core i5 parts have 4MB caches, while performance geared Core i7 chips have 6MB or 8MB caches.

Compact PCs and some all-in-ones use relatively puny netbook or notebook processors. Though these CPUs deliver weaker performance than desktop processors, they're also smaller and generate less heat, which makes them ideal for small machines. A PC packing an Atom processor should be fine for basic word processing, web surfing, and limited media playback, but little more.

ClarkdaleIntel's new Clarkdale line of Core i3 and Core i5 desktop processors tend to appear on systems in the budget desktop and mainstream desktop PC categories. Most users will find something they like in the Core i3 and Core i5 lines, as these CPUs offer dual core performance at palatable price points. Core i3 chips are the cheaper, lower powered models, so you'll generally find them in cheaper machines.

The quad core Core i7 targets users who need a real workhorse processor. If you play highend games or edit hours of audio or video, you'll benefit from the Core i7. The lowliest Core i3 CPU can easily handle basic computing tasks, so stay within a reasonable price range when possible. At the lowest end are dual core Pentium and Celeron processors. These chips appear in budget PCs, where price tags starting at £300 compensate for weaker performance.

Desktop PCs use either Intel or AMD processors. Intel currently holds the performance crown, but AMD has priced its dual- and quad-core chips aggressively. If you're looking for quad-core performance on a budget, AMD-based offerings are certainly worth a look.


Share:

More from Techworld

More relevant IT news

Comments

Paul Corbett said: Lots of good advice and in plain English The info is however a year old does anything need updating Thanks for the help though




Send to a friend

Email this article to a friend or colleague:

PLEASE NOTE: Your name is used only to let the recipient know who sent the story, and in case of transmission error. Both your name and the recipient's name and address will not be used for any other purpose.

Techworld White Papers

Choose – and Choose Wisely – the Right MSP for Your SMB

End users need a technology partner that provides transparency, enables productivity, delivers...

Download Whitepaper

10 Effective Habits of Indispensable IT Departments

It’s no secret that responsibilities are growing while budgets continue to shrink. Download this...

Download Whitepaper

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving

Enterprise information archiving is contributing to organisational needs for e-discovery and...

Download Whitepaper

Advancing the state of virtualised backups

Dell Software’s vRanger is a veteran of the virtualisation specific backup market. It was the...

Download Whitepaper

Techworld UK - Technology - Business

Innovation, productivity, agility and profit

Watch this on demand webinar which explores IT innovation, managed print services and business agility.

Techworld Mobile Site

Access Techworld's content on the move

Get the latest news, product reviews and downloads on your mobile device with Techworld's mobile site.

Find out more...

From Wow to How : Making mobile and cloud work for you

On demand Biztech Briefing - Learn how to effectively deliver mobile work styles and cloud services together.

Watch now...

Site Map

* *