Desktops buying guide

As the name suggests these are systems designed to sit on or under a desk. They're made up of a separate base unit, monitor, keyboard and mouse.

Desktops have a number of advantages. Primarily they offer larger screen sizes and a better environment to use them in. They can also offer faster processors and larger amounts of storage and system memory. These make them more suited to demanding tasks such as games and high-end applications, as well as storing vast amounts of files.

They can also be upgraded over time, so it's possible to replace or add parts to make the system better without the need to buy an entirely new system, which makes them attractive to some.

When choosing a system it's important to balance your needs with cost. If you only require basic internet access and office use then a budget system will be suitable.

If you're interested in a media centre system that you plan to use to store films and TV then it's important you choose one with a dual- or quad-core processor, so it's able to play high-definition content, and has plenty of storage space - we'd recommend at least 500GB.

Gaming and high-end systems require faster processors - look out for the Intel Core i5 and i7 ranges or the AMD Phenom processor. For gaming systems your desktop needs a good 3D graphics card manufactured by ATI or NVIDIA to be able to play the latest 3D games.

As a guide here are a few select examples of system specifications for different grades of systems:

Home and business work

  • Processor: Intel Celeron, Pentium or AMD Sempron
  • Memory: 1GB
  • Hard drive: 80GB+
  • Graphics: Integrated
  • Display: 19-inch
  • Optical drive: DVD rewriter

Media centre and entertainment

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon II
  • Memory: 2GB+
  • Hard drive: 320GB+
  • Graphics: Integrated
  • Display: 22-inch
  • Optical drive: Blu-ray drive

Gaming and high-end user

  • Processor: Intel Core i5/i7 or AMD Phenom
  • Memory: 4GB+
  • Hard drive: 500GB+
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon or NVIDIA GeForce
  • Display: 22-inch
  • Optical drive: DVD rewriter