Shopping Guide: Tips and Advice for Your New Desktop Computer
We have decided to also write a short article on how to select the best desktop computer for your next buy, as we wrote extensively on buying guides for smartphone and new laptop users in our previous article.
As we have done on other occasions, today we are also going to recommend which components should your new desktop computer have?. Logically, we will focus on teams of so-called clones, of which we can customize any component as we wish. However, this special article can also serve as a reference to buying a branded desktop computer, although that will not be our priority.
What Do We Need To Know About Computer Component?
Aside from the purpose of buying, there are a number of components that are fundamental:
- Graphics card.
- Memory RAM.
However, others components may be added, such as a card reader or additional ventilation. Let’s focus on the most difficult aspect of it, avoiding almost minor decisions such as the choice of a DVD recorder or card reader.
Processors for your Desktop Computer
As always, we will meet the two main competitors: Intel and AMD.
The latest Intel solutions are the Intel Core i, divided into three ranges below from lowest to highest power:
- Intel Core i3
- Intel Core i5
- Intel Core i7
The most interesting and striking are that some models include integrated GPU and manufacturing at 32 nanometers in which none of AMD processor has presently.
The prices are, moreover, quite interesting and not much expensive. Yes, it is true that figures are somewhat higher than many AMD models, but personally, I think paying 100 Euros for an Intel Core i3 530 (the most basic model) is not too much.
The Intel Core i3 is a good solution for users who are more than powerful but looking for something basic with acceptable power, the Intel Core i5 is one step higher than Core i3. This Core i5 is much more powerful and is generally built for users who use their computer for gaming and most daily tasks. If you’re going to play occasionally, or even if you call yourself a gamer, a Core i5 can be an interesting solution.
Finally, the Intel Core i7 is already the most powerful processors on the market today, and there are even certain models that cost a few hundred Euros. From my point of view, they are the perfect solution for users who want the most powerful computer on the market, even if they have to pay an enormous amount of money.
With AMD, things are much more moderate. AMD only have two ranges of processors, these are:
- AMD Athlon II
- AMD Phenom II
It is acknowledged that the most powerful processor of AMD which is “Phenom II” does not attain the best of Core i7; it is true that AMD processors are very good in quality/price. In fact, in practical, all the ranges we will find AMD processors that equivalent to Intel in performance do sell at lower prices.
For instance, the Athlon II 240 dual core is sold for about 50 euros, while there is the Phenom II 545 costs about 75 euros. They are the cheapest models of both ranges.
However, that AMD is cheap does not mean that it has low power. Some models like the Phenom II 950 are very proficient in performance, at the level of the most powerful Core i5 models at more affordable prices.
Which Processor Should I buy for my Desktop Computer, AMD or Intel?
The classic question without a simple answer…
It depends on the level of usage and intention of buying your desktop or laptop. We would divide the possible uses into three basic categories:
- For an occasional user, who does not put the desktop computer to uses often. Then an AMD Athlon II in its basic versions will be more than enough. But if you have to some extent higher budget, a Core i3 is more complete and you have to keep it in mind that with it, no additional graphics is needed since it includes it in the GPU.
- For a more advanced user, who wants to use it both for basic uses (office or web, for instance) and for certain video games, an Intel Core i5 or AMD Phenom II are the options. Depending on your budget we will choose a higher or lower model, but around 150 or 200 Euros may be a good price to pay.
- For advanced or advanced users the thing is much clearer. Intel Core i7 in any of its versions will yield enough to have the power to run any application smoothly.
However, it must be borne in mind that the processor is just one more component of the whole desktop computer. For example, if we want a very powerful computer, nothing will be worth buying the most expensive Core i7 if accompanied by an integrated graphics from Intel, or an NVidia, GeForce 4, MX200. It is very important that all the equipment is compensated in all the aspects of either the range you choose.
Unlike the choice of the microprocessor, where the two major manufacturers are already at the same level, in the choice of graphics card, the market is much more different.
ATi 5870 or higher for pure gamers. Now, its price is about 350 euros for this model, which can rise to more than 500 if we choose 5970. The good thing is that you’re ensured of best performance.
ATi 5770 for users who want power but not at any price. It is from my point of view a graphic with an excellent quality/price ratio, since it costs about 150 euros and has a very good performance, prepared for practically any video game with maximum quality.
ATi 5450 or 5570 for less demanding users. Despite being quite good it is possible that they stay somewhat short in certain configurations or equipment. Now, they are almost given away, since they can be bought for 46 to 70 euros respectively. Despite the price, this is complete and recommended for users who do not look for power in a graph but just functionalities.
It is necessary to take into account a novelty recently emerged: the GPUs integrated with the Intel processors.
While not delivering performance at the level of dedicated solutions, these GPUs are an excellent choice for users who do not seek power in graphics. For example, users who want a computer just to browse the Internet, watch movies (including HD content, HD) and nothing else. This is not for gamers and the bad thing is that, in a way we are forced to acquire an Intel processor, but even though it is a little more expensive than an AMD model, it is possible that it may be worth spending something more on the CPU and then saving on the graphics card.
For everything else, ATi 5000 Series is today, the best choice for your new graphics card.
While there are dozens of different motherboard models, the vast majority of them are the same or very similar. There are few changes that affect very little or nothing to the final performance.
A much greater problem with the choice of motherboard is to choose the CPU, which we have already discussed above. Once you have it clear, you will greatly limit the set of compatible motherboards, since there are now only one or two chipsets compatible with each processor. They are:
- AM3, for Athlon II and Phenom II processors
- Intel X58, for Intel Core, i7 900 series processors.
- Intel H55 and H57, for the Intel Core i5 of 32 nanometers (those that have the integrated GPU).
There may be some doubt in the choice of H55 against H57. Being fast and direct, the H57 is a bit more powerful, but nothing more outstanding.
At the time of choosing a motherboard, I would go through other directions. Some recommendations:
- Take a brand that you like, I mean that you trust.
- Keep in mind the number of PCI-Express you have, in case you want to add a graph to it in the future.
- All current motherboards are compatible with DDR3 memory. Do not worry about it.
- USB 3.0 starts to hit the market. Little by little, but there are already many plates that support it natively.
Storing on a home desktop computer is something that is changing in recent years. The SSD storage is reaching the market and is beginning to be accessible to most users.
We have some very good SSDs for more or less affordable prices, although with little capacity. With little I mean 40 or 64 GB, more than enough to store the operating system but rather short compared to the various teras that can reach traditional hard disks.
If truly we look for performance, an SSD for the operating system and traditional hard drives for mass storage is an ideal choice. If we already make a RAID of SSD for the operating system (two units of 64 GB, for example) plus another RAID of traditional hard disks for the rest of the system (1 TB each) then we will have a very fast and efficient storage. Of course, let’s prepare the wallet, because of the best and most affordable are the latest Kingston V + and come out to about 150 euros a 64GB drive.
Another less powerful but much more affordable option is a combination of traditional hard drives in RAID. Leaving SSDs completely aside until they come down (even more) in price, it is arguably the best performance/price option, and we will maintain a huge capacity available.
And finally, if you are looking for a cheap and affordable computer, prepared for the most basic tasks (including games) forget about some good hard drives. Buy a traditional hard drive that fits your needs in terms of capacity, but keep in mind that maybe you get for the same price to buy two disks of half that capacity and mount them in RAID thus gaining some performance.
Currently, the manufacturers already have in the market traditional hard disks of 2TB capacity, whereas the SSD reach in their models more pointers the 256 or 512 GB.
This is a point that we have explained for a long time: RAM memories have evolved little or nothing, and between the different manufacturers the differences are minimal, except for a little detail.
Of course, there are better memories and worse ones. Within the higher range, I really like Corsair or Kingston HyperX. The mid-range in price is Kingston itself, Mushkin or OCZ, to name a few.
The little detail in which I spoke to you previously is that, at least from my experience, I do not recommend the RAM of unknown manufacturers. In a vast majority of cases, I have been disturbed over time, it is better to spend a little more on memories of the known brand rather than saving a few euros on bad ones. In the long run, it pays off a lot.
The box is usually a component that we do not usually give it the importance it has. It is also true that it can be one of the most expensive items.
If we have a tight budget then the tower has to go according to it. They are very cheap and they work like any other, although a good box guarantees us more durability. I speak of boxes of mid-high range, from 80 or 100 euros without including the power supply.
I was not in favour of the good boxes before, but for a while, I do believe that it is a fundamental component. Maybe not go for something excellent, but do away with a box of poor quality. Spending 50 or 60 euros in a more or less decent box (mid-range low, as little) is a good investment.
Now, if we are looking for a very cheap desktop computer and we are limiting any component at the lowest price, then the box will have to be as cheap as possible. There are some that for like 30 euros which are not bad and will be a good solution. Of course, if we want more powerful equipment then it is advisable to go for a box of higher quality.
One aspect to keep in mind is that many of the market towers do not include the power supply, which is necessary to buy separately. It is also important to think about what kind of box we need since there are many varied and, above all, various sizes.
My favourite brands, Antec and Thermaltake. Lian-li has a lot of fame, but his boxes are, in my point of view, too expensive compared to the products of the competition.
Here are some basic guidelines for choosing other secondary components:
Power Supply: As with the box, long ago was not a supporter of good sources. But to this day and with several sources burned behind my back, choosing a good power source is basic. Not for a high range, but for something decent and not of unknown brand. Run away from unbranded power supplies, because the least expected day when starting the computer you will find the source burned, and it is quite likely that you have to throw the whole computer in the trash (as it has happened to me on several occasions). By the way, the smell of a burnt fountain is unbearable. My favourite brands, Antec, Xilence, Tacens or Corsair, although in general, any brand makes good products in this field.
Ventilation: Although the components do not heat up as much as a few years ago, good internal ventilation is recommended. A couple of additional fans for the box, if it does not include them, will cost us about 15 or 20 euros each and will help to maintain the life of our team much longer. The bad thing is that the noise will also be increased, although there are very good fans and practically soundproof at very affordable prices.
Soundproofing: since the fans increase the noise emitted by the equipment, we can acquire panels to soundproof our computer. They are usually affordable, although the bad ones do not do their job well.
CPU coolers and Graphics cards: Although, as I said before, the current components do not usually overheat (at least not as much as in the past), if we want to overclock or use very demanding programs for long periods of time, it is advisable to buy a new heatsink for CPU. Its price varies depending on the quality, but for 40 or 50 euros there are already very good and decent things.
This guide is intended as a small reference for all those who are thinking about buying a new desktop computer. It is not the definitive guide, much less, if not a few general points to take into account.
Every user is a world, and therefore his desktop computer has to adapt to his needs. There is no definitive computer for any type of user, but it is true that you can give some general recommendations depending on what you need for each one. That is precisely what we try to contribute to this “small” shopping guide.
Of course, I would be grateful if you would add your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments.