If you work in an office and run typical productivity applications, then building a PC for you is much easier than for some other kinds of workers. Creative professionals, for example, require a lot more power and must consider many more factors in choosing a PC. The typical PC for office computing, on the other hand, can be fairly basic and still get the job done.
What kind of applications am I talking about? Specifically, I mean office productivity software that doesn’t require much in the way of high-powered processors, loads of memory, and tons of storage. They’re applications like:
- Word processing (e.g., Microsoft Word)
- Spreadsheets (e.g., Microsoft Excel)
- Presentations (e.g., Microsoft PowerPoint)
- Notetaking apps (e.g., Evernote)
- Proprietary business applications
- Web applications
That’s not to say that every productivity user is identical. Some people work with extremely large spreadsheets, for example, which require a bit more memory and a faster CPU than someone who works with a few rows and columns at a time. And so, the office PC isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition.
That’s why we’re presenting a few PC configurations that you can consider for your office PC– but there really aren’t that many ranges. I’ve kept things generic because these specifications can apply to either a desktop PC or a laptop — the power you need to run productivity applications matches up pretty well between the two form factors.
|Intel Core i3||Intel integrated graphics||21″ LCD||1x 256GB SSD||8 GB DDR4|
|Intel Core i5||Intel integrated graphics||24″ LCD||1x 512GB SSD||8 GB DDR4|
|Intel Core i7||Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics||24″ LCD – multiple monitors||1x 1TB SSD||16 GB DDR4|
There’s a reason Intel makes the Core i3 CPU, the entry-level in its Core series of CPUs — it’s fast enough to meet the needs of the most basic productivity users. If you typically work with one or two applications at a time and maybe keep open a few web browser tabs, then you’re a candidate for a Core i3. Again, that’s true on desktop PCs and laptops, and choosing a machine with a Core i3 can really keep your costs down.
Next up is the Core i5, which is a faster midrange CPU that gives some extra power when you need it. This might apply to you if you keep more than just a couple of applications active and use more than just a handful of browser tabs. Depending on the model, a Core i3 might have two physical cores and four threads (running multiple processes on a single physical core), whereas the Core i5 has four physical cores and eight threads. That makes it a better CPU for productivity users who are heavier multitaskers.
Finally, there’s the Core i7, which is overkill for most productivity users but makes sense for those workers we mentioned earlier — such as, anyone who works with extremely large spreadsheets. Other users who might benefit from a Core i7 are extreme multitaskers, and office workers who occasionally need to work in more advanced applications like Adobe’s creative apps. The Core i7 also comes with four cores and eight threads, but it’s also significantly faster than the Core i5.
The typical office user won’t need more than 8GB of RAM in their PC. That’s the sweet spot for memory today, where Windows 10 and Mac OS can run efficiently even with a few applications running and a fair number of web browser tabs open. Don’t make the mistake of running with less than 8GB of RAM, however. Going with 4GB will save some money, but there’s a serious risk of slowing down even a basic suite of applications.
If you’re one of the power users we’ve mentioned, then you can consider upgrading to 16GB of RAM. That will give you plenty of headroom for large spreadsheets and any photos or simple videos that you might need to edit. You’ll also be able to open more applications and keep your browser stocked with tabs without worrying about slowing yourself down.
Depending on the processor you buy, if it’s an Intel 10th-gen or 11th-gen CPU, you’ll likely have integrated graphics that will be able to keep up with everything you need to do. 10th-gen CPUs come with Intel’s UHD integrated graphics, while 11th-gen CPUs come with Intel’s new Iris Xe integrated graphics.
In either case, you’ll be able to keep up with your productivity apps and, in the case of power users, choosing a CPU with Intel Iris Xe graphics will help with the occasional creative application that benefits from a faster GPU. You won’t be gaming on this PC nor will you be working with extremely large photos or videos, and so a discrete GPU won’t be needed.
Chances are, if you’re working in an office then you’ll have access to networked storage. That means you don’t need to worry about stocking your PC with as much local storage space. The basic office worker can get away with 256GB of storage, although we always recommend solid-state drives (SSDs) rather than old-school spinning hard disk drives (HDDs) because they’re so much faster at booting a PC, opening applications, and saving data.
From there, the number and size of applications that you need to install locally will determine how much storage space you need. In a desktop PC, it’s easy to add more drives and expand storage, whereas in a laptop, it’s more difficult and in some cases impossible. With a laptop, then, you might want to consider starting with 512GB to ensure that you don’t run out of space.
Power users, of course, might need even more, which is why we recommend 1TB of SSD storage for our high-end configuration. That’s enough to load up as many applications as you’re likely to need and still have some room left over.
Finally, you’ll need a display to get you work done, and we recommend nothing smaller than a 21″ LCD monitor running at Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution. That’s the most basic display you can buy today, and it’s large enough to handle most productivity tasks.
If you work with large spreadsheets or documents or want to see more of a web page at a glance, then you can consider a 24″ display running at 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160) resolution. That’s the sweet spot for most productivity users and will let you easily place application windows side-by-side for efficiently swapping data from one to another.
If you really want to be productive, though, we recommend a dual monitor setup. This lets you work more easily with many applications at once, and to keep both an important application and a web browser open full-screen. If you opt for multiple 24″ 4K displays, then you’ll have tons of screen real estate for getting your work done.
Productivity work can be some of the least computing-intensive, far less than creative work and specialized tasks like computer-aided design and scientific computing. That means that many office workers can get away with a pretty basic PC. If your needs are more complex, then you don’t have to step up too far to get a PC for office computing that will meet your requirements.