HELPROOM ANSWER: Unlike a laptop, which is limited in its upgrade scope, desktop PCs can be more easily brought up to date for entertainment duties. More RAM, a better graphics card and a widescreen flat-panel display with a response time of 5 milliseconds or less are the main criteria here.
If you wish to play the very latest games, you have two choices: one is to install a single high-end graphics card; the second is to get a less powerful – and equally less expensive – card that supports ATI CrossFireX or nVidia scalable link interface (SLI) and can be installed alongside a second compatible card. If you plump for the latter, you’ll need to check your motherboard has an additional PCI Express slot and supports the technology. The manufacturer’s site should tell you what cards your PC supports.
For flight-simulators and other games titles that offer immersive, 360-degree environments, an extended desktop with a second screen sitting beside the main display can be a real boon. Graphics cards that support ATI’s EyeFinity and adaptors such as Matrox’s TripleHead2Go will even let you add a third screen.
If it’s a really old PC running Windows XP or Me that you want to use for gaming, your options are limited. A DVD/Optical drive, as much RAM as the PC can take and a screen that offers faster response rates will be useful for less demanding games.
For both elderly PCs and laptops, however, emulators and online games are likely to be more satisfactory. You don’t need much firepower to play Angry Birds or Peggle, but you may prefer to rediscover the joys of older platforms such as the Sega Mega Drive, Nintendo 64, ZX Spectrum and even arcade games using the Mame program. See How to play classic games on your PC.