The main advantage of a PC as a platform is the ability to change its configuration. You can choose the hardware that will best suit the tasks assigned to it and will not require excessive spending. But sometimes you need a ready-made device that you can buy and start using on the same day. This article will tell you what to look for when choosing a finished computer.
Step 1. Find the type and size of the system unit
The choice should begin with the form factor of the future computer. Each solution will show its advantages in its own scenario.
Varieties of system blocks
A thin client
A thin client is a rather specific device. In fact, this is not even a personal computer, but an interface for the input/output of information, the processing of which takes place entirely on a remote server.
In offices, this is very convenient: space is saved at the workplaces of employees, the problem of installing third-party software, and, in part, the safety of information is solved. But the performance of thin clients directly depends on the state of the internal network of the enterprise, communication with the server, and, of course, the server itself. The same type is used for games by bookmakers. More details can be found on the 20Bets.
Nettop is already almost a full-fledged PC on which you can install an operating system and other programs. Such computers are distinguished by their small size and the use of energy-efficient, but low-performance “stuffing”. However, there are many more scenarios for using a nettop than a thin client. And they are not even limited to offices: many ordinary users purchase such systems as a computer for a garage or dacha.
The platform is by and large the same nettop, however, it is not supplied in a completely ready-to-use form, but without a hard drive and RAM modules (and sometimes even without a processor). You can add them later by choosing the appropriate models yourself.
Stick – a kind of “big flash drive”. True, their main interface is not USB, but HDMI. With this connector, they connect to a monitor, TV, projector, or any other device that displays an image, and turn it into a full-fledged PC.
But, of course, there are also traditional system units, and their range covers all market segments, from office “typewriters” to gaming systems and workstations. And here there is also a gradation of shapes and sizes.
Step 2. Find the system block sizes
Slims are assembled in compact low-profile cases. Their main advantage is saving space, but you should not think that this is always achieved at the expense of low-performance hardware.
Slim cases offer powerful solutions for running professional software, and even game stations, not to mention multimedia PCs that can easily be installed in the living room instead of a VCR or DVD player.
Micro-Tower – compact system units, very limiting the ability to connect additional devices. And, if the lack of bays for optical disc drives in our time is not a drawback, then the restrictions on the number of hard drives and expansion cards can already cause inconvenience.
Mini-Tower is also a compact format, but only in height. Otherwise, these are completely ordinary cases, so you can install efficient cooling systems and high-performance video cards in them. Consequently, the range of gaming systems in this form factor is already much wider.
Midi-Tower is the most that neither is the gold standard in the field of PC. Here, the dimensions of the cases no longer impose any restrictions on compatibility with hardware, so the system units of this format can represent absolutely everything that their owner wishes.
Step 3. Find the processor manufacturer and model
The processor is, in fact, the device that determines how quickly the archive with the sources you need is unpacked, how long the code will compile into a ready-to-use utility, how quickly the original layout will be written into a printable format … And also how fast the math will be done in any given game scene.
With the choice of processor manufacturer, everything is simple: it’s either Intel or AMD. Only thin clients stand apart, where you can find products from VIA, Allwinner, and other exotics.
But with the choice of a specific model or at least a line, everything is somewhat more complicated: there are a huge bunch of offers, and it is not always clear how one processor model differs from another.
But the issue is quite simple. All you should be interested in is the performance of the processor that falls within your budget. It doesn’t matter who wins in price segments above or below – you will have to get along with a particular CPU model.
A marker (not always accurate) of processor performance can be the number of cores and their position in the line. Everything is pretty transparent here.
Processors with two processing cores from the AMD Atnlon and Intel Celeron/Pentium product lines are solutions for exclusively office work or users who are completely undemanding to performance.
Quad-core processors from the AMD Ryzen 3 and Intel Core i3 lines are a good choice for a low-cost home PC with a claim to gaming use. And even for some workstations, where more than four cores are simply not involved.
Exceptions to this rule are Intel Atom processors, as well as their descendants, masquerading as Pentium and Celeron. Despite four physical cores, these are processors exclusively for nettops and inexpensive laptops. You will not get any special performance in games and professional tasks from them.
Six-core processors from the AMD Ryzen 5 and Intel Core i5 product lines are the gold standard for gaming PCs and mid-range workstations. They are naturally not as productive in multithreading as eight-core models, but they do an excellent job with modern games and not the most complex professional tasks.
AMD Ryzen 7 and octa-core Intel Core i7 processors are the way to build a workstation without the extra cost. Their performance is already quite enough for amateur video editing, creating 3D models, and other professional tasks. And even more so for games.
AMD Ryzen 9 and Intel Core i9 processors with 10, 12, 16, or more cores are already solutions for more specific tasks. In games, you most likely will not feel the difference between them and the Ryzen 7 / Core i7, but when streaming through the processor, professional work with video and creating special effects, designing complex engineering structures, etc., this is a very good option.