Choosing A Cheap Desktop Computer

How To Choose A Cheap Desktop Computer?

Cheap desktop computers are actually pretty easy to put together or find for yourself if you know what to look for. Cheap desktop computers are on the lower end of the current range of desktop PC's and Computers. They are away from the cutting edge and benefit from well-tested technology. They can also be put together for you, or by yourself from a mix of computer components that you, the consumer, can select from various online sources and retailers.

The main objective when choosing cheap desktop computers is to get the best-valued but not-quite-cutting-edge components on the market. Although low price is the primary concern here, I recommend keeping current and up-to-date with parts. Where it's necessary, I'll point out alternative discount computer accessories and components as well as the pros and cons of those decisions.
Often the most expensive part in cheap desktop computers is the computer processor. The fastest, most cutting edge processors can be more than $1000, but for a quarter of the price you can get one that is only 15-20% slower and allows you to put money into other components of the computer. Currently I would recommend at least an Intel Core 2 Duo, or AMD Athlon 64 X2. Intel Core 2 Duo go for anywhere between $150 - $550, while AMD Athlon 64 X2 go for anywhere between $100 - $250.

According to benchmark testing, the Intel processors are the better choice and offer more performance per dollar in most of today's applications. Although you can get better prices with AMD, currently Intel is the better choice. However, please note that this is only my opinion and you should buy whatever type of processor you can budget for, whether it's AMD or Intel.

In speed per dollar, I wouldn't recommend going any higher than the E6600 2.4GHz model, as the prices do jump higher after that. The AMD range are spread evenly, so the choice is yours, best value is still found around the middle of the range though.

The best motherboard should come packed with lots of features. My recommendation is to go for motherboards that offers a lot of features. So here is what you should expect to get these days:

  • USB 2.0 with at least 4 slots at the back of the desktop and an additional 2 usually available in the front of the case
  • External SATA (not a necessity, but would be a plus)
  • Built-in audio, with 5.1 channel (or equivalent) support as well as mic and headphones (USB sound card is fine as well)
  • LAN Port preferably Gigabit, 2 ports a bonus
  • PCI express for graphics card upgrades (if not used already). SLI a bonus
  • PCI-X, which is a faster PCI slot, but still compatible with older PCI cards Expect 2 or more
  • Make sure SATA2 is supported, it’s faster and more future-proof!
  • Firewire (IEEE1394) slots, just 1 or 2 (not essential)

Cheap desktop computers should come with at least 1GB or more of RAM memory. More RAM memory makes a huge impact and you should try to get as much as you can when you buy your desktop computer. My recommended minimum for running Windows XP is 512MB, while Vista will run a lot better with at least 1GB or more of RAM memory. If it's in your budget, try to get double the minimum as it will save you time and money down the road as new memory-hungry applications come out. This is same rule-of-thumb I recommend as for a more expensive desktop computer. Instead, get a smaller hard drive or a slightly slower processor.

The hard drive should be a balance between storage size and speed. Definitely get a drive bigger than 100GB. One DVD movie is about 8GB, so you might only get 10 on your hard drive if you stick to a 100GB hard drive. Fast hard drives spin faster, at 10K rpm, like the Western Digital Raptor (I have 2 of these bad boys!), but are smaller sized for the price. I prefer speed as I don’t need massive space, I backup to DVDs when necessary.

A DVD writer is essential in today's market. Make sure it does dual-layer, DVD+R and DVD-R, and should be rated about 16x. DVDs are a fantastic way to back up any data, including your DVD Movie collection.

And that’s about it in a nutshell. You should be good to go for the time being with a computer that will stay current for at least a few years and can last for many more than that, given that you do routine maintenace such as defragging the hard drive from time to time and having a good antivirus/firewall application installed to block any potential hackers.

I've leave you with a final note here. The most alarming fact in my opinion, and the one that makes cheap desktop computers so appealing is that the most up-to-date computers are complete overkill for surfing the net, listening to mp3s, word processing and running the Windows operating system. With cheap desktop computers the core principle in getting the best deals is… you don’t need the latest and greatest PC for killer performance!

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