Your Guide to Buying a Box Computer

A Buyer’s Guide for Box Computers

If you are in the market for a box computer, you’ll find it enormously helpful to know a few hallmarks of a quality machine. Not all computers are created equal and having the right knowledge will help ensure that you get the best computer for the money.

Brand Research: One of the most important considerations you need to make is the brand of computer you intend to purchase. Unfortunately, you often get what you pay for with computers, whether you’re interested in box computers or a different style. Simply put, budget brands usually offer budget performance and can suffer from short lifespans. Do a bit of digging on the various brands, particularly those listed in the previous section, before you make any decision. Compare user reviews for their box computers to find out what you might expect in the way of usability, reliability and functionality.

  • CPU: The CPU, or central processor unit, in your computer is going to be another big consideration. Ideally, you’ll opt for a box computer with a relatively new CPU, though these are going to come at a higher cost. Intel i5 or i7 processors are currently the best option out there, though this changes very quickly. You should choose a machine that offers at least a dual core processor, though a quad core machine is better. The more cores the CPU has, the faster it will process data and operate.
  • RAM: RAM, or random access memory, is just as important as the CPU. If you opt for a computer with little RAM but a fast processor, you’ll find that the machine performs rather slowly. RAM is vital for operating more than one program at a time – multitasking requires that you have a significant amount of memory. Older computers will have very little RAM – somewhere around 500 MB. You need to have far more than that to really get the use that you need. Opt for a machine that offers at least 4 GB of RAM, though more is better. You can find machines that offer upward of 8 GB of RAM, though they will be more expensive.
  • Hard Drive Size: The size of your computer’s hard drive is also vital. Without adequate storage space on your machine, you can quickly find that you have an outdated computer. While you can certainly opt to use an external hard drive, that’s just one more thing that you’ll need to pay for. You should choose a box computer that offers at least 500 GB of space. However, even that amount is small if you will be storing a lot of pictures or graphics on your computer. If that is the case, you should opt for a machine that offers at least 1 TB of space.
  • Monitor Size: The monitor size for a box computer is more important than with some other configurations. Part of this is because the entire computer will be that size. The larger the monitor the more space you’ll need on your desk. However, you should be aware that box computers are not available in some of the very large sizes in which you will find standard computer monitors. Most top out at about 25 inches (measured diagonally). No matter what size the monitor might be, make sure it is rated for HD quality.
  • Internet Connection: Buying a computer without any type of connectivity is not advisable. Thankfully, box computers usually come with at least an Ethernet connection. However, it’s advisable that you buy one that has an 802.11b/g connection (you’ll find that most of them come with built-in wireless connectivity, but make sure you check to ensure that the machine you want actually has it).
  • Peripherals: The term “peripherals” covers a very wide range of items, including CD/DVD drives, USB connections, SD card/memory card slots and more. Your computer should have at least four USB connections (more is better) and they should be USB 2.0 compatible. You should also make sure that the machine has a built in memory card reader so that you can easily offload pictures from camera memory cards and the like. Finally, you definitely need to ensure that the machine has a CD/DVD burner. You might also consider a machine with a built-in Blu-ray player as well, especially if you want full HD content.
  • Operating System: The operating system on the machine that you choose is important, but not as important as the items listed above. This is because you can always buy and install a newer copy of the OS. However, it is definitely more convenient to buy a machine with a reliable OS on it. If you’re in the market for newer box computers, you should opt for Windows 7, rather than Windows Vista, unless the manufacturer offers a free upgrade to 7 from Vista. Windows 7 is a far superior product to Vista or XP, and you’ll find that using it is very intuitive.
  • Speakers: Chances are good that your box computer is going to come equipped with integrated speakers. These systems can be hit or miss. Brands like Sony often have decent speakers, but others can have inferior speakers. The best thing to do is to buy a set of external speakers that you can connect to the machine if sound quality is important to you. This will mostly come into play if you intend to watch movies on the computer or will be doing gaming.
  • Graphics Card: While the graphics capabilities of computers are most important for gaming purposes, they also play a role in watching TV and movies on the machine. If you will be doing anything graphically intense (yes, watching a movie counts). You will want a computer with at least 500 MB of dedicated memory for graphics, but more is better. There are options out there that offer 1 GB or more here, but you’ll need to be prepared to spend a little bit more for those.