Desktop buying guide
This buying guide has everything you need to choose a desktop PC you'll love.
Desktop computers are available in a wide range of specifications and designs. To make it easier for you to pick the perfect one, we've highlighted and explained some of the most important things to consider before buying.
If you still have questions, would prefer to speak to someone in person or want to see the latest PCs firsthand, why not call into your nearest store and speak to one of our knowledgeable colleagues.
The operating system of your PC determines the way it looks, how it works, and the type of software you can use. There are three main operating systems, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.
Windows is the most common operating system in the world, so if you've used a PC before, chances are it ran on Windows.
Windows is powerful yet easy to use, with all your files and important documents within easy access. If you're looking for a new PC for university, gaming or creative computing such as music production or video editing, Windows is a great place to start.
- Well supported: The majority of software, accessories and components are designed to work perfectly with Windows
- The gamers choice: All major PC game releases are optimised for Windows, making it the only choice for a serious gaming PC
- If you've never used a PC before, it can take a while to learn the layout and navigation
OS X is Apple’s exclusive operating system. It is only available on iMac, Mac Pro and Mac mini desktops, along with MacBook laptops.
It features a bright, stylised desktop focussed on ease-of-use and stability, making it the preferred choice of professionals with focussed requirements and casual home users that prefer a simple layout.
- Optimised for design: Some of the most popular design software, such as Photoshop and InDesign, is optimised for OS X and can give you improved stability and performance
- Works best with Apple: OS X is designed to work flawlessly with other Apple devices, so if you have an iPhone or iPad, transferring files, contacts and apps between them is much easier. They share a similar layout too, so you’ll be much more at home and find navigation easier
- A lot of popular software and accessories don't work with OS X, so if you want to use something specific and it’s only available for Windows, you may need to find an alternative
Chrome OS is a web-focussed operating system that's designed to get you to your online content as quickly and easily as possible.
Anything not necessary to your daily computing has been removed, making it ideal for people that want a simple way to get online.
- Easy web access: Chrome OS gives you fast access to the internet and the Cloud, making it ideal for web-based computing
- Google Play: The only operating system that gives you access to over one million apps courtesy of Google Play - the same app store used by Android smartphones and tablets
- Most PC software isn't compatible with Chrome OS, so it isn't a great choice for anything other than web-based computing
Not all desktop PCs are just big boxes that sit under your desk. There are different sizes and types (which are known as form factors) of desktop PC. Each one has its benefits.
Tower PC: Function over form
Tower PCs are the traditional, under-the-desk style of PC. Although much larger than the latest mini PCs, they are a lot more compact than they used to be a few years ago. The main benefit of a full-size tower PC is that you can fit much more powerful components inside than you can in a mini-PC, all-in-one or laptop.
The extra space in a tower PC gives you the opportunity to customise and upgrade much more easily. If you need a high-performance PC for gaming, media editing, music production or design, a tower PC is a great choice
All-in-one: Slim, stylish and functional
All-in-one PCs are a combination of a monitor and tower PC. This means you can place an all-in-one anywhere a monitor will fit, making them ideal for keeping an office tidy or fitting into rooms where space is at a premium.
Some all-in-ones feature touchscreens, which open up a whole new way to control your PC. Simply touch, tap and swipe the screen to navigate the web and your software. Windows is designed to support touch control and gives you a simple, enjoyable way to use your PC.
Mini PC: Fits into any space
Gaming PCs all have powerful processors and dedicated graphics cards which allow them to handle the demands of the latest and most demanding games. All of our gaming PCs will run any game currently on sale today, although the more powerful PCs deliver better visuals and higher frame-rates for a more immersive experience.
The most powerful gaming PCs even allow you to game in 4k if your monitor or TV supports it.
The processor is the brain of your PC. Whenever you click, move your mouse or a program does something, the processor makes it happen. Any software you buy comes with a minimum set of requirements that the processor must meet or exceed. On our product pages we give you all the information you need to check whether a laptop has a suitable processor.
Number of cores
Every PC we sell has at least a dual-core processor. This allows it to process more threads of information at once, so you can move quickly between different software windows and have more apps and tabs running simultaneously.
Quad-core processors are great for demanding software, such as photo editing and music production, as all modern creative programs are optimised to run at their best on several cores.
This is measured in GHz, and determines how fast the processor runs. A higher clock speed means your software will load faster and run more smoothly.
Some processors feature Turbo Boost (Intel®) or Turbo Core (AMD) technology, which increases the speed of the processor to match the task at hand. This allows the processor to consume less power and give out less heat when it doesn't need to run at maximum output.
What is the right processor for me?
Intel® or AMD?
All of our desktop PCs feature either Intel® or AMD processors. If you're looking for an everyday PC for browsing the web and typing essays, there isn't really much difference between the two brands. Instead, make sure your PC has the features, hard drive capacity and design to suit the way you work. If you're more focussed on performance, here are the pros and cons of both brands:
Intel™ processors are typically more powerful than their AMD counterparts. If you're looking for pure performance, an Intel® Core™ i5 or i7 processor is the ideal choice. These processors feature Hyper-Threading technology, which allows them to double the amount of threads they can handle. For example, a quad-core processor with Hyper-Threading can give the performance of an octa-core processor - perfect for running complicated software or the latest PC games.
Most of AMD's processors are known as accelerated processing units (APU). An APU combines a processor and graphics card in one chip, so you can enjoy great-quality visuals without the need for a dedicated graphics card. If you do decide to add a dedicated graphics card, the graphics within the processor works with AMD graphics card for an even better visual performance.
Random-access memory (RAM) is an important spec to consider if you're looking for a high-performance PC. Memory (RAM) has nothing to do with the amount of documents you can save - this is what the storage is for.
What does memory (RAM) do?
How much memory (RAM) do I need?
PC storage is the place where all of your documents, photos, music, software and apps go when you save them. There are three different types of storage available on desktop PCs; each with their own benefits.
Hard disc drive (HDD)
Solid-state drive (SSD)
Solid-state hybrid drive (SSHD)
All-in-one screen size
All-in-ones are available with a variety of different screen types.
Like TVs, all-in-ones are available with HD or Full HD screens.
Any screen resolution is fine for everyday family computing, but if you expect to watch a lot of films, play games or edit photos, Full HD gives you much more detailed visuals for seriously immersive entertainment.
Touchscreen control gives you a whole new way to use your PC: simply tap, swipe and pinch the screen to intuitively navigate your content and documents. It works just like it does on your smartphone or tablet, so you’ll feel right at home even if you've never used a touchscreen PC before.
From flipping through business documents to playing family games, touchscreen control makes computing fast, fun and productive.
Other things to consider
Once you’ve decided on the main specs, there are a few other things you might want to think about.
While desktops are the functional choice for computing, there's no reason they can't look good too.
Mini PCs are the most design-focussed desktop computers. They've been designed to look just as at home next to the TV as they do on a desk, so if you want a discrete yet stylish way to access your documents and online content, a mini PC is a great choice.
All-in-ones suit even the most style-conscious PC users. They don't clutter your desk up with cables and the slim bezels on the latest designs give a clean, modern look that fits into any home or workspace. Apple's all-in-one PC, the iMac, is renowned for its minimalist and distinctive design.
If you want your PC to really stand out, gaming PCs have space inside for you to customise them the way you like. Gaming PCs feature distinctive cases, with many giving you the option to add LEDs and other visual accessories for a truly personalised look.
A dedicated graphics card is a processor with the specific role of handling graphics, visuals and videos. They are available in varying specifications and range from those designed to give you improved multimedia playback to high-performance cards made to run the latest games at their absolute best.
If you plan on gaming, editing videos or creating visual media, a dedicated graphics card is a vital. Gaming or editing photos at very high resolutions (above 1080p) needs serious power, so if you plan on connecting your PC to 4K monitor or TV, look for a PC with a high-end NVIDIA GeForce GTX or AMD Radeon R9 graphics card.