People certainly aren’t camping out outside stores in the rain to get the latest and greatest desktop these days, but PCs are far from dead. Simply put, there are certain functions that mobile devices and laptops can’t do or can’t do as well as a desktop.

Not to mention that there is nothing better than the price. A cheap desktop will be way ahead of a cheap laptop. It is expensive to do the small things. Small size is what draws some people when choosing a new computer, but these days big honking towers aren’t your only option.

desktop computer styles

There are a lot more variations and options in the desktop form factor, which is great in some ways, but also makes the buying process a lot more complicated. You can find computers in each of these categories at a variety of price points, so the most important thing to consider is how you plan to use your desktop.


The classic desktop form factor, towers have been retained for good reason. It’s hard to pack a lot of power into smaller devices like a laptop or tablet at a reasonable price. The power-to-price ratio of tower computers is practically unbeatable.

There is also much more flexibility with a tower. There is more room to upgrade and expand the system when newer technology comes along, whereas with smaller devices you may just have to buy an entirely new system.

However, towers take up quite a bit of space and if space is at a premium in your home, a tower might be out of the question. They also require a separate monitor, keyboard, and mouse. There are some cases where those accessories are included, or you can get a discount if you buy them at the same time as the computer, but plan to buy them when you’re working out your budget.

All in one

All-in-one computers offer a simple, space-saving setup. These are essentially a cross between a desktop and a laptop. They feature a large monitor with all the necessary components built into the back or base.

The small design gives you much more flexibility with placement and keeps your work area uncluttered. Plus, because everything is all in one, setup usually just involves plugging it in. However, you still need a separate keyboard and mouse.

Because these computers are smaller, they’re not as powerful as a tower, and you can’t customize or expand them (although this also makes them much simpler). There’s also the problem that if the monitor breaks, you need a whole new computer.

PC Mini and Stick

These computers use moving components to keep them small (like all-in-one). As such, they are not very powerful, but they are extremely portable. Mini PCs are small enough to hide behind a monitor or TV, and stick PCs are slightly larger than a USB stick. Due to the small size, they are not very powerful and internal expansion is limited to impossible.

While you won’t be able to do advanced gaming or media editing, they work great for everyday tasks, browsing the Internet, and viewing media. Setup is extremely easy and they are very versatile as you can use them as a home office during the day and then hook them up to a TV for a home theater at night.

The different operating systems

The question of which operating system (OS) to choose doesn’t come up as often with desktop computers as it does with tablets and smartphones, but it’s still something to consider.

windows 10

This is definitely the most common desktop operating system, so you’ll have a huge selection of compatible third-party hardware and software. It’s designed around a touchscreen interface, though it still works great with the classic mouse and keyboard, so if you don’t buy a touchscreen monitor, you won’t have a problem.

mac OS Sierra

If you belong to a family of Apple lovers, Mac could be for you. Sierra is only found on Mac computers, so it’s limited in its hardware, but these are well-made computers that have historically had fewer problems with viruses. A Mac will also pair seamlessly with your other Apple devices and programs.

chrome operating system

If you’re just looking for simple, no-frills computing, Chrome OS will be your ally. The operating system runs custom apps and cloud-based programs unlike other operating systems that run software. It’s not suitable for demanding tasks like gaming, but it’s great for email, file sharing, and browsing. You’ll always need to be connected to the Internet, but that’s usually not a problem with desktop computers.

Types of desktop computers

Not everyone will use a desktop computer for the same reasons, and how you use it will influence the type of computer you buy. After all, you don’t need a complex, high-powered machine just to check your email.

commercial PCs

These PCs are plain, simple machines that don’t allow for advanced computing, but are easy to repair and upgrade. They also often offer additional security, software and hardware certification programs, software support, and some even have on-site technical support.

Work stations

These are specialized PCs that feature multi-core processors and intense graphics. They’re perfect for scientific calculations, media creation, and other high-powered tasks that wouldn’t even be remotely possible on a laptop.

gaming pc

These are (as the name suggests) made to play. They feature specialized graphics cards, extremely fast multi-core processors, and many have flashy design elements, though they generally cost more. Upgradability is a must as newer and more immersive games are released.

learn the jargon

There’s a lot of terminology you need to know before you buy a PC so you really know what you’re buying. This PCWorld list goes into more detail, but here’s a quick breakdown of the terms you need to know and understand.

Processor (CPU)

This is the brain of your computer. Processor speed is measured in gigahertz (GHz), and in general, the higher the clock speed, the better the performance and the higher the price. The more cores a processor has, the better the performance too. Desktop computers have an Intel or AMD processor.


Random Access Memory (RAM) determines how good your computer is at multitasking. The higher the RAM, the better, especially for high-powered tasks like gaming. For simple tasks like email and web browsing, 2GB is fine, but for anything more advanced than that, look for a computer with 4GB or more.

Internal storage

The amount of storage your desktop has determines the amount of stuff you can keep on your computer. Desktop computers almost always have more storage than laptops and for a fraction of the cost. It’s also easy to upgrade your hard drive for more storage or upgrade to a solid-state drive.

Expect the best price, but don’t expect too much

Once you’ve decided which computer you want (and read plenty of reviews to make sure it’s really up to the task), it’s time to buy. This can be tricky with a desktop computer because it can be quite expensive and technology is always evolving.

While it may be tempting to just buy the computer when you’re ready, you may be missing out on a great deal or the latest technology. Shop regularly over a period of time instead of spending a whole day looking around. You are more likely to catch a deal that way. Also check the launch dates of the new models. Chances are you’ll get a good deal on an older model, or maybe you just want the latest tech.

Waiting for a sale also means you can upgrade your computer’s specs with the money you save, which means your computer is a little more “future-proof” than if you just went for the cheapest you can find.

However, this is a balancing act. If you spend too much time waiting for the perfect deal or the latest model, you’ll never end up buying your desktop. So be patient and wait for the sales, but once you find the model you want in an acceptable price range, go ahead and buy it.

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