Choosing a desktop for students can be a daunting task with all the high number of available choices on the market. For that reason, we have highlighted all the factors that are and aren’t important when choosing the best desktop computers for students. Here’s all of them:
1. Types of desktops
Firstly, let’s take a look at the three main forms of desktop computers for students:
This traditional form factor is the most common you will see in the wilds. Tower PCs are regular desktops with standard-size chassis. A tower pc is the most upgrade-friendly option and can house future parts without breaking a sweat. I advise you choosing desktops of this type due to their reliability and upgradability. Check out this Acer Aspire TC-885-UA91.
As its name implies, AIO PCs have everything you need in one purchase, from the pc itself to monitor and keyboard or mouse. As all the components are crammed into a single unit, these are easy to carry around the house. Plus, by buying the whole package you don’t break your budget from buying separate peripherals. Acer Aspire C27-962-UA91 is a great AIO desktop computer for everyday use.
This type of desktop is different to the two above types in terms of sizes. Their compact forms allow you to tuck them away from view and save desk space. However, upgrading them is a challenging and time-consuming task due to their small size. Mac Mini is one of the best mini PCs you could get at the moment.
2. Operating systems
Operating systems are the framework for your computer experience. A good OS must provide a user-friendly interface, being stable and secured, and software library. Now let’s a look at the most common operating systems at the moment and what they have to offer:
The most popular operating system is no doubt Windows. The biggest advantage of this OS is the immensely powerful Microsoft Office package. It also has the largest library of programs and highest compatibility with software. The variety of Windows desktops also means that there are enough choices for your specific needs. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with Windows 10 as a standard OS.
Mac OS features various Apple-made apps such as iMail, iChat, etc. this makes the OS a lot of extra functionality which you can’t find on other OS. Mac OS excel in editing, design or creative work in general. If you are a student who is learning design, arts, or media creation, an iMac is a good purchase for your money.
There are some desktops with Chrome OS installed such as Acer Chromebox CXI3-i38GKM2 out there.
This operating system is known to be light and simple to use, perhaps far too simple. A Chrome OS machine can get some basic word processing or light office work done. A desktop is where you will likely to perform heavy duty tasks rather than those basic tasks. Therefore, we would advise against buying a Chrome OS desktop computer.
If you are an IT student, you can consider a Linux-based system. Linux is more suitable for programmers and coders. Linux is also the best OS for those who want to learn some coding or gain IT knowledge. Ubuntu or Linux Mint are a good starting point for beginners.
The thing is a pre-installed Linux desktop is almost non-existence. Fortunately, you can install this OS on almost every desktop computer through USB. And it’s free to boot.
After deciding the OS, next comes the specifications. The specs determine how fast and efficient a pc is at handling everything you throw at it. Here’s some factors you need to take into consideration to choose the best desktop computers for students:
The rule of thumb is avoiding low-powered CPUs such as Celeron, Pentium, Atom, etc. these are adequate for very basic task such as checking email, browsing the web, etc. but for general learning and future-proof, it is advisable to get at least an Intel Core i3 or Ryzen 3 and a clock speed of 2.0Ghz.
The baseline for every PC, especially Windows machines, is 8GB RAM. You can get by with 4GB RAM but everything will be sluggish hence your productivity will be affected. If you need to do some heavy video editing, content creation or 3D rendering, you should get 16GB RAM.
There are two types of disk space on the market: HDD and SSD. Remember to ALWAYS get a desktop with at least one SSD drive. Despite being more costly, SSD increases your computer speed in almost everything, from booting up, starting programs to processing tasks.
If you are on the budget, the best solution is using a hybrid storage option. This means that you will get SSD for OS files and HDD for storing documents and projects. A combination of 128GB SSD and 1TB HDD like Dell Inspiron 3470 is great value for price.
For general office apps and light use, an integrated graphics will do the job. However, if you are a design, architect or engineering student, you will need a powerful discrete GPU. It’s important to know what apps you will be using in order to be able to decide the best desktop computers for students. If you intend to use CAD or 3D rendering apps, get a workstation with Quadro GPU like this HP Z420.
So I hope you now have the general idea of how to choose the best desktop computers for students. However, there’s more to it. Aside from the main machine itself, here’s our advice for some other things you should consider buying:
- Monitors: Unless you bought an AIO computer like HP22-dd0010, this is definitely the first thing on the list you should get. Do not choose a screen that is too small, at least get a 24 inches display. Here’s another advice: avoid TN panels at all costs. Trust me, IPS panels are easier on the eyes after hours of staring at the screen. You could get two monitors for more screen estate.
- Keyboards and mouses: The next thing you need to get after a monitor to get a fully-function computer. You can grab some cheap wired mouse and keyboard and they will get the job done. Wireless keyboard and mouse are another great option.
- Graphic tablets and pens: If you study arts or some forms of digital creation, these are the things you should get. In case you don’t know what kind of drawing tablet to choose, get one made by Wacom – the famous manufacturer.
- Webcams: Unlike laptops which have built-in cameras, desktops generally don’t have this feature. A webcam is necessary for attending online classes or meeting with friends.
1. In what way a desktop computer can enhance a student’s learning process?
When computers are introduced into the academic setting, students have never been able to have a more helpful tool in their hand. In their day to day learning activities, they get a lot of assistance from this modern-day invention. Here’s how the best desktop computers for students help our studying by a large margin:
- Convenience: A desktop computer can help a student write their essays or research with ease. Word processing software makes the whole process a simple and pleasure task to do.
- Easy access to information: Students now can conduct research at home thanks to the Internet. They can look up information from online libraries and fetch whatever documents they need for reading later. Moreover, digital textbooks which are readily available can help a pupil get their hand on them whenever necessary.
- Course schedules: Students can see real-time updates about courses and classes. Therefore, they can pick up any classes at the right time.
- Easy communication: No man is an island, especially in learning and at a school. Students need to communicate with their peers and professionals on a regular basis. Email or instants messenger apps allow them to do just that anywhere and anytime of the day.
- Remote learning: When the school is closed, students can still attend online classes so as to not miss out any sessions. Further, they can take any subjects of their choice on their own through online courses.
2. Can I play some games on desktop computers for students?
Yes, you can. However, the bigger question is how well will the games run on these machines. Some low-end, e-sport or indie titles such as Among us or Overwatch don’t require much to run smoothly. You can enjoy these kinds of games on $100-150 desktop computers. On the other hand, graphic-intensive titles such as Crysis Remaster or Doom Eternal require more powerful specs.
Some Ryzen desktop computers have competent integrated graphics and can handle the more demanding games to a certain degree. Not by much, though, maybe 20fps max. Fortunately, a desktop computer’s potential knows no bounds. You can simply just install an adequate GPU and you can enjoy these high-end games at 60fps.
3. What are the advantages of desktop computers for students over laptops?
Laptops are portable and easier to transport them from home to school and vice versa. However, in a home-schooled or remote-learning scenario, desktops are more preferable. They also pack more power than laptops of the same price range. If you are a student whose major is design, architecture or graphic-intensive majors, a powerful computer will meet your needs.
Another great feature of the desktops is the fact that they are easily upgradeable. You can add some hardware such as RAM and your desktops can be used for a few years more.
4. Instead of desktop computers for students, can I buy tablets for my studying purpose?
Some people think that a tablet with a wireless keyboard is a good replacement for desktop computers for students. This setup may be adequate for checking email, basic documents typing or browsing the web. However, the biggest problem with using a tablet for studying or work is multitasking.
Tablets OSs such as Android, Chrome OS, etc. are designed to run one or two programs smoothly on a low-end hardware. The interface on tablets is severely lacking in features such as toolbars, desktop icons, etc. Thus, making it unsuitable for work or studying.
Some high-end tablets such as Galaxy Tab s7+ on have some feature like DeX to tackle this issue. To some extent, multitasking is a tad bit better. However, they haven’t reached the same functionality as a mid-end desktop computer yet. Plus, the price is also more expensive.
5. Are there any other accessories which might be helpful for desktop computers for students?
There are some additional equipments that will make your learning more accessible and more efficient:
- Printers: While most of homework is done digitally, sometimes you need to get one of these to print things out.
- Portable hard drives or USB thumb drives: These are great for transporting data between school and home. In addition, you need some form of physical backup in case your desktop is damaged, stolen or hacked.
- Earphones: You should get one of these with the noise canceling feature. It will help you concentrate on homework without being distracted by background noises.
- USB Hubs or docking stations: These are great if you want to expand your connectivity options. These also make those ports become within-reach.
- Portable card reader: For those photography students out there, get a portable card reader so you can access those images captured on the camera.
The best all-rounder of desktops for students is Dell XPS 8930. This desktop features a conservative chassis that would fit in a dorm room, classroom, or your house easily. You can choose from a wide range of pre-configurations the specs that suit you the most. What’s more, you can even upgrade its hardware down the line. This is certainly the best bit of machine for students.
The HP 24-df0170 is a no-brainer choice for everyone who favors AIO computers out there. This all white desktop blends the elegant design of a slim monitor and power of a desktop in one place. Beside its powerful specs, this AIO PC also features a 10-point FHD IPS touchscreen, a built-in webcam and DVD-writer. This HP 24 AIO desktop really hit the sweet spot for a studying and general purpose computer.
And there you have it, everything you need to know about the best desktop computers for students. Some desktops are suitable for day to day use such as researching or report writing. Others are catering toward engineering or creative students who are in needs of powerful rigs. The important thing is to know what you need your pc for and how you will use the desktop to its fullest potential.