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Desktops

What's the best budget PC for all the family?

What's the best budget PC for all the family?

My kids are asking for a gaming computer this Christmas. They are not big gamers but are approaching teenage years so could be in time. Our stereo is broken so I thought we might as well get one to store CDs on, too. We are not big on watching loads of telly, but I suppose it would be useful if it could record TV as we only have an old analogue TV, and I love photos and home videos so I'd like to use it for that, too. 

Basically we want an all-singing, all-dancing PC but not for loads of money. Can you give us any suggestions?

Judith

Hi Judith,

It's difficult to tell exactly what you mean by "not for loads of money", but for around £650 you can get yourself an HP dx5150 -- a small form factor (highly compact) PC that can do just about everything. It isn't super-powerful, but it'll serve you well for everyday tasks. Its 80GB hard drive is big enough to store around 1,500 music CDs, or around 120 movies, which might sound like a lot but your kids will fill it up in no time at all -- and this is when the bundled DVD burner comes in handy.

If you have a bit more cash, you may want to opt for a Compaq Presario SR1729. This comes with a massive 300GB hard drive, an entry-level graphics card for playing games (this can be upgraded as more demanding games are released), a dual-core processor for running multiple applications simultaneously and a 19-inch TFT monitor, so it's a pretty good bargain.

Another alternative is the Acer Aspire E300. It has a nippy single-core processor, a slightly quicker graphics card than the two previous options and a 200GB hard drive. Best of all it's available for less than £500.

If none of the above floats your boat, or you think you spot a cheaper bargain, try to keep a few things in mind. First of all, avoid anything with so-called 'integrated' graphics -- these are no good for running games. Secondly, try to opt for as large a hard drive as you can afford -- games, music and video eat up lots of disk space. Thirdly, make sure your PC includes some software! There's nothing more frustrating than turning on a PC and realising you can't actually do anything with it. If you have a broadband Internet connection you should visit our Downloads channel, where you can find thousands of free or free-to-try applications and games.

Whichever PC you buy, remember to ask the retailer whether you can get a free upgrade to Windows Vista -- the forthcoming replacement for Windows XP. A PC isn't just for Christmas, it's for life, or at least until someone breaks it...

Happy shopping!