Buying a new PC can be a daunting prospect, especially if you don’t know much about modern computing. What should you be looking for? Is it going to be expensive? What do you do if your child puts a ‘Z370-based PC’ on their wish list?
We’ll answer all those questions in this article. But let’s start with some good news: there’s never been a better time to buy a PC, both in terms of power, performance and value. Whether you want a desktop or a portable, a machine for video editing or gaming, there’s something to suit every need and every budget.
What should you be looking for?
The answer to this question depends on what you’re going use a new PC for. Will it be a gaming PC? A work computer? Or something that will do a little bit of everything? Furthermore, do you want a desktop PC (with lots of power and a big monitor) or a laptop (that provides go-anywhere portability)?
Answering these questions will determine what sort of processor you’ll need. Gamers, for example, tend to favour an Intel® Core™ i7 with a high clock speed (measured in GHz) — the faster the better for smooth, immersive gameplay.
Here’s a tip: if there’s a game you (or your kids) want to play, then look at the title’s ‘recommended’ specs and use them as a guide to your PC purchase. For example, Star Wars: Battlefront 2 recommends an Intel Core i7 6700 or equivalent, while Assassin’s Creed: Origins suggests at least a 3.5 GHz Intel Core i7-3770 for the best results.
Playing with an i7 and a good graphics card mean that gameplay will typically be smoother when games are played at higher resolutions, like 4K.
Is it going to be expensive?
Yes and no. It depends on your definition of expensive. If you’re looking to match the recommended specs for Battlefront 2 (an Intel Core i7 6700, 16GB RAM and a 3GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060), then the price tag could be over £1,000. That said, the investment will be well worth it, especially for avid gamers. However, you can get a decent machine for less if you consider other options.
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly machine, then an Intel Core i5 processor will be a better fit. Systems with an i5 will cost a little more, but they will deliver more than enough power for gaming, video editing, streaming and even VR.
There’s one other thing to consider in all this. Do you pick a 7th or 8th generation Intel Core processor? Eighth generation chips (launched in 2017) represent the latest in processor technology – they use a Z370 motherboard and are identified by an ‘8’ in the processor name, e.g. i7-8650U. These CPUs build upon the success of the 7th generation processor family (launched in 2016) – they typically use a Z270 motherboard and are identified by a ‘7’ in the designation, e.g. i7-7700K.
Going 8th Gen sets you up for the future. It has more cores and so PCs with an 8th Generation processor inside can be up to 40 percent faster* than existing 7th Generation chips. That said, 7th Gen CPUs are still competitive and powerful. With 8th Gen on the scene, they also cost less.
Desktop or laptop?
For gaming, a desktop PC is usually your best value option. You can either opt for an off-the-shelf system from a high street store or build your own online. There are plenty of well-known Internet retailers that offer the ability to customise a PC to suit your needs, allowing you to pick the processor, the case, the amount of memory, the graphics card and your preferred storage options (SSD, HDD or both) from convenient drop-down lists.
The other option requires a bit of skill, but if you order the parts separately online you can easily put together a PC entirely of your own spec. Even though this isn’t the easiest option it can prove to be a lot of fun and a great learning experience.
Of course, buying a new desktop PC also requires extras like a good monitor, plus a decent keyboard and mouse. Make sure that you factor that into your costs. If you have an existing system, however, perhaps you can save some money and reuse the hardware you have.
Or you can buy a gaming laptop. Machines like the Acer Helios 300 and the ASUS ROG Zephyrus are powerful enough to rival a desktop system, equipped with desktop-class processors and graphics. They cost significantly more than a traditional PC setup, but they compress all that cutting-edge technology into an all-in-one system you can use on the go.
As we said at the top of this article, there’s never been a better time to buy a PC, both in terms of power, performance and value. Need more ideas? This is a good place to start.