If you're looking to handle more than day-to-day office tasks, you might consider a tailor-made "Whitebox" computer rather than an off-the-shelf, brand name PC.
A Whitebox PC is basically one which doesn't have a big brand name sticker on the front, such as Dell, HP, Asus, Acer or Lenovo. Instead a Whitebox PC is built using a mix of components, usually by a local specialist computer shop or business IT provider.
Whitebox doesn't necessarily mean a budget "home brand" computer. Whitebox means that it's a custom job, built to suit your needs. Both brand-name vendors and Whitebox builders usually offer a set menu of computers, ranging from entry-level student machines to office desktops and high-end powerhouses for serious number crunching, video editing and gaming. If you're lucky they might let you tweak a few options such as the hard drive capacity and the size of the monitor.
The problem with these deals is that you often can't pick and choose if you've got very specific requirements. If you want a faster graphics card or a powerful power supply, you might be forced to go up a model and pay for a bigger hard drive and larger monitor. Now you're paying for extra features you don't want, just to get the few features you really need.
The great thing about Whitebox builders is that you can usually specify every component, from the monitor and case design right down to the make and model of the motherboard, RAM and power supply. Perhaps you need dual graphics cards for an AutoCAD design workstation. Perhaps you're building a video editing suite and need a hardware RAID controller and extra hard drive bays. Perhaps you need a high-end monitor for colour accuracy in photo editing, or a whisper-quiet power supply for audio recording. If you've got specialist needs, it's worth looking beyond the pre-configured brand name PCs sitting on the shelves.
When it comes to choosing from a set menu, Whitebox makers might struggle to match the prices of a multinational PC vendor. But if you're building a tailor-made workhorse, then the ability to only spend extra money on the components which are important to you might work out to be more cost-effective than upgrading to the next off-the-shelf model from a big vendor's set menu.
Of course you're relying on the Whitebox builder to know what they're doing when it comes to matching components and ensuring everything is running smoothly. Look for an established provider with a history of offering business-grade service and support rather than a fly by night mob. A good Whitebox builder should listen to your requirements and make recommendations rather than simply tell you want to buy.
You're also more likely to get better pre- and post-sales customer support from a specialist computer shop than from a huge electronics retailer selling PCs alongside washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Decent personalised customer support can be worth the few extra dollars, especially if you to go back for repairs or to update specific components without voiding the warranty. When it's time for your next hardware refresh, your Whitebox supplier might be able to upgrade key components without the need to throw away the entire PC and start again.