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PC Advisor's 11-step designer PC buying guide

Grab yourself a stylish, souped-up bargain PC

Computers come in many different guises; some barely resemble a PC at all. We've had it with plain-vanilla and boring black machines, and we've gone designer. Here's how to get a PC that looks good, both inside and out.

Entertainment today

Attaching any PC to a flashy screen – perhaps a vast widescreen LCD or plasma – will immediately add to its entertainment credentials, although you'd do well to check on the amount of noise the machine makes in general operation. There's a market for inaudible machines for good reason.

Just as importantly, look for support for high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) and high-bandwidth digital content protection (HDCP) – important standards for the latest high-definition content and the hardware that can play it. Some entertainment-focused PCs have connections for Scart leads and S-Video, as well as the more usual digital visual interconnect (DVI) and component audio and video ports. If you really want a multimedia PC that works with your set-top box, plasma screen and so on, you'll want some of these options.

Hi-Grade is about to update its DMS digital home range of compact base units with digital connectors, while Sony is making moves to bring more esoteric items into its Vaio desktop range – including the rebranded Vaio LocationFree Base Station, which enables you to push TV and video content between machines over a web connection.

The problem with buying into the very latest technologies became apparent with the recent demise of HD DVD. Blu-ray fans may crow, but anyone with a pricey HD DVD player in their PC shouldn't worry too much.

HD DVD drives will continue to work and prices for such titles will no doubt plummet. Furthermore, optical drives in PCs are easily replaceable. Even so, it will have been an expensive lesson for some, demonstrating why having a decent broadband connection in a media-centric system is a good idea: movie downloads and online rentals don't bind you in the same way.

Games fans keen to impress friends might also consider a cutting-edge display such as Zalman's 3D Gaming Monitor. For less in-your-face entertainment, a screen that supports ‘true' 1,080p HD playback with a response time of 2ms will do wonders for your viewing and gaming pleasure. Upscaled and 720p screens simply aren't on a par.

NEXT PAGE: all-in-one approach > >

  1. Designer PC buying guide
  2. General PC buying advice
  3. Pimp my PC
  4. Crystal-clear
  5. Super-skinny models
  6. Entertainment today
  7. All-in-one approach
  8. Miniature PCs
  9. Ever-decreasing circuit boards
  10. Silent nights
  11. And now for something completely different

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