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Desktop Computer Shopping Guide

Technology has changed tremendously over the years and with it, so have desktop computers. But with so many brands and styles on the market, it can be hard to decide on which desktop computer is the best for your particular needs. So, where do you begin?

Whether you want a desktop computer for school, work or personal use, our easy to use, step-by-step guide will educate you on all the features that are important to consider when purchasing a new desktop computer.

Types of Desktop Computers

When setting out to find the lowest price on a desktop computer, the first step is to understand the tasks your computer will need to perform. Depending on your computing needs, there are a few basic categories that desktop computers fit into. Identifying the appropriate category that matches your needs will make choosing the correct model easier. Below we explain each of the categories desktop computers fall into and the needs they fulfill.

(1) Home User & Small Business

Computers in this category appeal to those who require a basic computing device capable of accessing the Internet, composing documents, maintaining spreadsheets, storing images and other files, and managing all other aspects a home or business consumer would demand. They can also play DVDs, mix and burn audio CDs, and perform other light multimedia functions. Consumers who purchase computers in this category aren't interested in editing video, recording TV, or playing advanced video games that require high-end processors. The information below will help you choose a computer in this category that best meets your needs.

(a) Price

The lowest price on desktop computers in this category is around $850, while the more expensive models can cost upwards of $1,100.

(b) Processor & Processor Speed

Try to find a desktop computer with a Celeron, Sempron, Pentium 4, or Athlon 64 processor. Make sure the process speed is 2.2 GHz and up.

(c) Memory

The lowest price of desktop computers in this category should have at least 512 MB of RAM.

(d) Hard Drive

If you plan to use your desktop to store images and play videos, you should make sure the model has at least an 80-120 GB hard drive.

(e) Screen Size

The lowest price of desktop computers in this category can be anywhere between 14 inches and 17 inches. Keep in mind that the screen size often corresponds to the computer's price. A desktop unit with a 17-inch screen will be more expensive than a desktop with a 14-inch screen.

(f) Graphics Card

Make sure your desktop computer has at least a 128 MB graphics card.

(2) Gaming and Graphic Design

Gaming computers are often needed for individuals who require faster processor speeds and ample memory to power the high-end graphics that today's video games are capable of. Graphic designers will need the same capability to operate the complex programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Although this guide is designed to educate you about desktop PCs, you may want to consider shopping for an Apple Macintosh computer instead of a PC, as Macs are better at handling colors and fonts and are less prone to viruses and other maintenance issues.

(a) Price

The cheapest desktop computers in this category are around $1,400, while the more expensive models can cost upwards of $3,500.

(b) Processor & Processor Speed

Try to find a desktop computer with a Pentium 4, Pentium 4 Extreme Edition (EE), Athlon 64, Athlon 64 FX, or G5 processor. Make sure the process speed is 3 GHz and up.

(c) Memory

The lowest price on desktop computers in this category should have at least 500 MB of RAM. If your budget allows, try to find a model that has 1 GB of RAM.

(d) Hard Drive

If you plan to use your desktop to store images and play videos, you should make sure the model has at least a 200GB hard drive.

(e) Screen Size

Computers in this category usually have 18-inch to 21-inch size screens.

(3) Multimedia

If you're interested in editing video, recording TV, or using your computer to control your home entertainment system, a multimedia computer is an excellent choice.

(a) Price

The lowest price on desktop computers in this category is around $1,400, while the more expensive models can cost upwards of $3,500.

(b) Processor & Processor Speed

Try to find a desktop computer with a Pentium 4, Athlon 64, or G5 processor. Make sure the process speed is 2 GHz to 2.5 GHz for normal use. If you plan to have many programs running simultaneously, make sure the process speed is 2.5 GHz or higher.

(c) Memory

The lowest price of desktop computers in this category should have at least 512 of RAM.

(d) Hard Drive

If you plan to use your desktop to store images and play videos, you should make sure the model has at least a 200 GB hard drive.

(e) Screen Size

Computers in this category usually have 18-inch to 21-inch screens.