When you're looking for a new home computer it can be tempting to go for the cheapest you can find. But make no mistake about it, when it comes to computers, cheaper is very rarely better.
It's better to spend a couple of hundred extra than to have something that is going to make you pull your hair out.
In this article, I'm going to share with you some of the things to look out for when buying a decent mid-range computer that can handle everyday tasks with speed as well as handling some of the adobe products like Photoshop and Illustrator.
CPU - (Central Processing Units)
The first thing you should be checking is the processor or CPU.
CPU's, or Central Processing Units, are responsible for processing and executing instructions.
In the old days, every CPU had just one core unit that could focus on one task at a time. Today, CPU's have multiple cores, each of which can work on a different task so the more cores a CPU has, the more efficient it is.
The two main CPU providers these days are Intel and Ryzen. Intel tends to be a little more expensive but, in this case, expensive doesn't mean better as Ryzen has been proven to be on par with Intel.
My Option - If I was looking for a good budget option then I would be picking the Ryzen 5 2600X which features 6 cores.
SSD or HHD for storage
What you have your operating system and programs stored on will make a huge difference to how fast your computer is going to operate.
But what's the difference I hear you ask? A hard disk drive (HDD) is an old-school storage device that uses mechanical platters and a moving read/write head to access data.
A solid-state drive (SSD) is a newer, faster type of device that stores data on instantly accessible memory chips.
Most cheap computers will have the older HHD but I can assure you the difference in speed of an HHD vs an SSD is astronomical. Check out the link to see for yourself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j84eEjP-RL4
Now that's not to say you can't have an HHD. My computer has the operating system and all my programs stored on an SSD for fast access but it also has an HHD where I can store photos, videos and other saved files that can take up a good chunk of space.
My option - If it just has an SSD I would be looking for at least 500GB. Then purchase an external hard drive to store essential files to keep your SSD freed up.
RAM which is short for Random-access memory is used as temporary storage ("memory") by your computer, which determines the number of applications and services the computer can have opened and running at the same time.
The higher your RAM, the more memory capacity your computer has and the more efficiently it operates.
When your computer uses up all its RAM it goes to the slower hard drive for "virtual memory" to compensate. At this stage, your computer will slow down - and the more virtual memory your hard drive needs to use, the slower your computer will get.
The majority of cheap computers will have 4GB of RAM which wouldn't take long to use up. 8GB would be the standard these days and if you're looking at playing games or doing video or photo editing you should be aiming for 16GB.
My option - The good news is RAM these days doesn't cost a lot and can be easily changed but if you want a computer just for everyday use then 8GB should be fine.
The majority of cheaper computers will have an Integrated graphics card build in that will use a portion of the computers RAM instead of their own dedicated memory and this will do if you just want a computer for browsing the web or for the children to do their homework.
You could even play some games and use the majority of Photoshop's features.
They generate a lot less heat than a dedicated video card and use drastically less power but if you're planning on playing graphic-heavy games or doing heavy editing then you'll need something that is a little more powerful.
But if you add in a more powerful Graphics Card (GPU for short) you will notice the tasks that take a long time on an integrated graphics chip can run much faster on dedicated graphics.
Plenty of well-known editing software applications take advantage of the added boost of a GPU, including Adobe Photoshop (for serious photo editing), Premiere Pro (for editing and rendering video), and today's graphics-heavy games.
My option - I think for our general everyday computing the Integrated graphics card will be significant, just don't expect to be playing Call of Duty anytime soon.
Another thing I would touch on when it comes to desktop computers is the case that all these parts are in. I made the mistake a few years ago of getting a Lenovo H30 computer which had a very small case. Now it was a good little computer but it was very limited in the way I could upgrade it. I added in more RAM and an SSD because they didn't need a lot of space but I couldn't add in a more powerful chip, even a Ryzen 3 would have needed a cooler which I wouldn't have had space for or a more advanced graphics card (which would possibly also need a fan to keep cool) as there simply wasn't enough space for these parts.
So, my advice would be don't just go for a little computer because it looks tidy and won't take up much space on your desk. Desktops are simple enough to upgrade and there are plenty of tutorials online that show you how it's done. So, in 5 or 6 years, you may be thinking you need something with a little more power, instead of forking out hundreds on a new computer it may just be a case of taking off a few screws, unplugging your graphics card and adding in a new one.
So just a quick recap on the parts of a decent home computer
Ryzen 5 or Intel Core-i5
SSD (500GB) or more / Even better if it has both an SSD and an HHD
For more serious computing (gaming and editing)
Ryzen 7 or Intel Core-i7
SSD (500GB) and an HHD with at least 1TB of storage (for games, videos and photos)
Graphics Card with at least 6GB RAM
I hope this helps; it can be intimidating when reading the specs of a new computer but if it has the specs above then it's going to be a decent computer.
A decent mid-range computer should cost in the region of €500 - €600, be aware though that is not including a monitor, keyboard and mouse.