Best for Creatives: Razer Blade Stealth 4K at Amazon, “Considered to be the best Apple MacBook Pro alternative.” Best for Work: Lenovo ThinkPad T450s at Amazon, “The latest and greatest in Lenonvo’s line of laptops specifically designed for business use.”. This popular all-in-one desktop PC from Dell is a perfect blend of laptop functionality and desktop productivity, making it the ideal in-home computer for most families. The 24-inch Full HD wide-viewing-angle screen is an attractive display for the Windows 10 tile app interface at 1920x1080 resolution.
Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
- Most Popular:Acer Aspire S24 at Acer
“The ultra-thin, 23.8-inch display is just 0.24 inches thick.”
- Best Overall:Apple iMac at Amazon
“Remains the same stunningly designed all-in-one desktop computer that’s been impressing for almost two decades.'
- Best for Gaming:Dell Alienware Aurora R7 at Walmart
“One of the first gaming desktops to offer a tool-less upgrade.”
- Best Basic:HP Pavilion 590 at HP
“Shows that you don’t have to make too many compromises even on a limited PC budget.'
- Best for Creatives: Microsoft Surface Studio 2 at Amazon
“The ultimate solution for digital artists, architects, and other serious content creators.'
- Runner-Up, Best Overall:Corsair One Pro at Amazon
“A beautiful machine that packs a lot of power into a small space.”
- Best Budget:Lenovo ThinkCentre M600 at Amazon
“A budget-friendly PC with the power to handle your daily computing.”
- Best for Families:Dell Inspiron 24 3477 Touch at Dell
“From a trusted line of affordable all-in-one desktops, this can make a valuable addition to many homes.'
- Best Portability:Acer Aspire Z3 at Amazon
'With battery life listed at five hours, you can carry it around the house like a large tablet.”
- Best for the Home Office:Dell Inspiron 22 3277 at Dell
“Offers value and features ideal for the home workstation.'
- Most Compact:Apple iMac Mini at Apple
'If you’re an Apple fan who wants a small, speedy CPU, the iMac is a great choice.'
- Best Features: Acer Aspire U27 at Acer
“This versatile all-in-one PC performs nicely for daily work and streaming.'
- Best Refurbished:2018 HP Flagship Pro at Amazon
'One of the fastest work stations in its price bracket.'
Our Top Picks
Most Popular: Acer Aspire S24
The Acer Aspire S24 knows how important it is that your technology augments your décor: the ultra-thin, 23.8-inch display is just 0.24 inches thick, and with bevels that are just 0.12 inches, boasts a 90 percent screen-to-body ratio. The black and matte gold color scheme and wireless keyboard and mouse enhances the sense of sophistication.
However, achieving the super-slim appearance means cutting back on a few other features: the 1TB 5,400rpm SATA hard drive can be slow, apps are prone to loading sluggishly, and the UHD 620 graphics aren't the best compared to its more high-end competitors. Acer tries to make up for a lack of 4K or touchscreen options with the screen’s in-plane switching technology, which reduces glare from ambient light. The Intel Core i5-825OU might not be the most powerful processor, but it comes equipped with 12GB of RAM and the ability to rotate the screen between -5 and 25 degrees. A Qi built-in wireless charging pad is an additional bonus.
Best Overall: Apple iMac
Apple’s iMac remains the same stunningly designed all-in-one desktop computer that’s been impressing for almost two decades. The 2017 model shines in a lot of the same ways as the previous version, but with enough improvements to make it the best desktop computer for most people.
The super-slim 21.5-inch 4096 x 2304 pixel Retina display is crisp and brighter than ever, backlit with 500 nits of brightness. (A 1080p non-Retina option is available as well.) It boasts great color range with the cinema-quality DCI-P3 color gamut. The iMac also comes in a 27-inch 5K version, but for a lot of people, the extra screen real estate won’t be worth the jump in price.
The value of the latest 21.5-inch iMac comes through in its upgraded performance as well, allowing it to stand up against pricier competitors. You can equip it with up to a 3.4GHz 7th-generation Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM (expandable with advanced hardware work). In terms of storage, you can opt for a 1TB Fusion Drive that combines a higher-capacity hard drive with speedy flash storage for commonly used apps.
Other new features include support for Thunderbolt 3 via two USB-C inputs and virtual reality capabilities with certain graphics cards. Included with the iMac are two excellent Bluetooth accessories: the Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2.
You can also check our picks for the best all-in-one desktop PCs available today.
Best for Gaming: Dell Alienware Aurora R7
With cutting-edge performance and future-proof upgrading abilities, the Alienware Aurora R7 is the complete gaming desktop. Certified to handle HTC's Vive and Oculus' VR hardware, the Aurora handles 4K gaming with ease thanks to an 8th generation Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive combined with a 256GB solid-state drive, and an NVIDIA GeForce 1080 Ti graphics card. It has been re-engineered from the ground up to support not one but two 300W graphics cards like the NVIDIA — it's even powerful enough to support up to 12K gameplay in the future.
In terms of build, the Aurora is one of the first gaming desktops to offer a tool-less upgrade, which makes it an upgrading dream. It pops open with the push of a button for access to the graphics card, hard drive, and memory. A total of 15 USB ports adds connectivity inputs for any form of gaming accessory, and Alienware users can also rest assured knowing that the air intake and exhaust fan will keep things cool during even the most intense gaming sessions.
Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best gaming PCs.
Best Basic: HP Pavilion 590
Desktops like the HP Pavilion 590 show that you don’t have to make too many compromises even on a limited PC budget. The ash silver box sports a stylish design and measures a compact 6.69 x 10.9 x 13.3 inches. A number of its ports are right in front for quick access, including USB 3.1 inputs and a USB-C input.
Running the Pavilion 590 on an AMD Ryzen 5 2400G processor means you get an excellent, modern quad-core CPU for your money. AMD CPUs are generally a better value than Intel ones, and any performance differences at this level will hardly be noticeable for most users. Plus, with an AMD Radeon RX 550 dedicated graphics card, it can perform decently as a gaming machine. It also comes with 1TB of hard drive storage space and 8GB of RAM, which can be upgraded to 32GB if you find yourself slowed down. But for basic usage — including moderate gaming, video watching, and multitasking — the Pavilion 590 comes with enough hardware to get the job done reliably.
Best for Creatives: Microsoft Surface Studio 2
The Surface Studio is designed to be the ultimate solution for digital artists, architects, and other serious content creators who count on an all-purpose touch- or stylus-based display. It doesn’t aim to match the performance of gaming or workstation-level desktops, but the second generation of Microsoft’s unique machine does make many improvements to its inner workings. With an Intel Core i7 CPU on all models, improved NVIDIA GTX graphics cards, and faster solid-state drives of 1TB or 2TB capacity, your creativity can flow through it at a quicker pace than ever.
What remains unchanged in this iteration is the Surface Studio’s position as the top digital drafting table out there. It all revolves around the gorgeous and massive (yet thin) 28-inch PixelSense display, with 4500 x 3000 pixels of resolution that now boast 38 percent more brightness and 22 percent higher contrast ratio. You can work with ten points of touch or the included Surface Pen stylus that attaches magnetically to the sides when not in use. Then there’s the Zero Gravity hinge, which lets you smoothly and effortlessly adjust the screen’s angle from vertical to flat to anywhere in between.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Corsair One Pro
Corsair is one of the best-known gaming equipment manufacturers out there with a reputation for building powerful and stylish machines. The One Pro is Corsair’s first PC and, true-to-form, Corsair has created a beautiful machine that packs a lot of power into a small space. This computer comes fully loaded with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card, an INTEL Core i7-7700K processor and CORSAIR's award-winning DDR4 memory. Even if you’re not a gamer, this PC provides stunning power and graphics presentation all while running extra-quietly – when idle, the One Pro operates at just 20 dBa. Custom liquid-cooling technology keeps this computer running fast even when using a demanding VR program.
Best Budget: Lenovo ThinkCentre M600
Gone are the days of unattractive big box computers — the Lenovo ThinkCentre M600 is a budget-friendly PC with the power to handle your daily computing, all in a super-compact package. To keep things streamlined, Lenovo opted not to include any VGA or HDMI ports and went instead with dual DisplayPort inputs (be warned that this may require an extra adapter if you want to hook up a monitor).
On the inside, the M600's Intel Pentium J3710 2.64 GHz processor is perfectly suited for day-to-day computing tasks. It's outfitted with a 500GB solid-state drive for ample storage space, as well as 8GB of RAM to help out with multitasking between applications. The included Intel HD graphics 405 GPU is more than capable of running or streaming videos, but is not designed for 4K or VR gaming.
To help extend the life of the M600, Lenovo met military specifications for durability and added a dust shield to further reduce the need for maintenance. Its longevity, combined with suitable performance and a wallet-friendly price tag, make this PC a solid budget option.
Need some more help finding what you're looking for? Read through our best budget desktop PCs article.
Best for Families: Dell Inspiron 24 3477 Touch
The Dell Inspiron 3000 series is a trusted line of affordable all-in-one desktops, and the Inspiron 24 3477 model with a touchscreen option can make a valuable addition to many homes. Its 23.8-inch full HD (1920 x 1080 resolution) display uses in-plane switching (IPS) technology, which offers wide viewing angles so every family member can gather around to see. The sharp-looking desktop makes movie-watching a focus, incorporating the company’s new Dell Cinema features: CinemaSound delivers rich audio with dynamic highs and lows from the built-in speakers, and CinemaStream prioritizes bandwidth and resources to provide smoother video and audio streaming experiences.
With 8GB of RAM and 7th-generation Intel processors as a base configuration, the Inspiron 24 3477 won’t have any problem keeping up with standard day-to-day use. For heavier users and multitaskers looking for more performance, a high-end build with a 3.5GHz Core i7 CPU and 12GB RAM is available. There’s also an option for a NVIDIA GeForce MX110 graphics card for the gamers in the family. As a smart bonus design touch, the webcam pops up from the top when it’s needed, keeping it out of the way and maintaining privacy when it’s not.
Best Portability: Acer Aspire Z3
We don’t often talk about portability when it comes to desktop computers, since laptops, tablets, and even laptop-tablet convertibles usually have that space covered. But the Aspire Z3 (model number AZ3-700-UR11) by Acer is an all-in-one desktop that’s designed to move. The 17.3-inch 1080p touchscreen is 0.61 inches thin and weighs 4.4 pounds. With battery life listed at five hours, you can carry it around the house like a large tablet. You can also lay it down flat or with a slight tilt and use the touchscreen or a passive stylus (not included). When you want it to serve as a traditional desktop, you can prop it up on its two rear kickstands and use the included wireless keyboard and mouse.
The downside to the unique build, though, is fairly limited hardware that can lead to some sluggish performance. Its 4GB of RAM is essentially the minimum for modern PCs—upgrading to 8GB may be a good idea. Even then, it probably doesn't have the right level of power for extensive gaming. The Aspire Z3, with its nice touchscreen and affordable price, is at its best when passed around among family members to watch movies and browse the web.
Best for the Home Office: Dell Inspiron 22 3277
The Dell Inspiron 22 3277 all-in-one PC offers value and features ideal for the home workstation. Having the computer, monitor, and speakers all together provides a small footprint and more flexibility in how you set up your desk. Thin bezels surround the 21.5-inch 1080p IPS panel that serves as an edge-to-edge touchscreen with 10 touch points. It’s overall a great-looking display, and built-in Dell Cinema features enhance audio quality and video streaming even further.
Best Mac Computer For Audio Recording
The hardware—8GB RAM, 1TB hard drive, and up to a 3.1GHz 7th-generation Intel Core i5 processor—suits day-to-day office work perfectly. (If your work is heavy on graphics and media editing, though, you may look for the better specs and bigger screens of higher-end all-in-ones offered by Dell or other companies.) The selection of inputs include three USB 3.1 ports and one HDMI port.
To help with home office needs, the Inspiron 22 3277 comes with a one-year McAfee Small Business Security subscription to help keep your work protected. You can also get a business-oriented configuration with a year of Dell’s ProSupport service bundled in.
Most Compact: Apple iMac Mini
If you’re looking for a compact desktop computer and don’t want to pay the hefty price for the all-in-one PC iMac, look no further than Apple’s Mac Mini.
The small device, measuring 7.7 inches by 7.7, is compact without sacrificing power. The Mac Mini can still handle heavy duty photo and video applications with a desktop-grade 3.0GHz 6-core Intel Core i5 processor. Apple claims the 2018 Mini is five times faster than the company’s previous model. For extra money, you can get an even faster 3.2GHz 6-core Intel Core i7 (with Turbo Boost up to 4.6GHz) processor. For multitasking, the Mini can come with up to 64GB of RAM.
One of the most exciting parts of the Mini is the sheer number of ports. The device comes with four USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, an ethernet port, a dedicated HDMI port, two regular USB ports, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The only thing the Mini is lacking is a standalone, discrete graphics card. So if you’re doing creative work that’s heavy on graphics, the Mini might not be for you. Still, if you’re an Apple fan who wants a small, speedy CPU, the iMac is a great choice.
Best Features: Acer Aspire U27
Acer’s Aspire U27-880 all-in-one PC does a lot of things well for a lot of people, and looking good is one of these things. The attractively designed silver-and-black housing measures only half an inch thick, slimmer than other premium competitors. The 27-inch ten-point touchscreen provides a big, bright display in full HD, though an option for 4K resolution would’ve been nice.
Another unique design feature is Acer’s “LiquidLoop” cooling system, which keeps the heat down without the use of fans, thus keeping the noise down as well. Also benefiting the Aspire U27’s acoustics are a pair of down-firing speakers with strong volume, crisp audio quality, and rich bass thanks to an integrated subwoofer.
Rounding out the features is an infrared camera for Windows Hello facial recognition security and a decent port selection that includes three USB 3.0 and one USB-C. The Aspire U27’s hardware falls in the middle of the road: its 7th-generation Intel Core processor was designed for laptops, but in this versatile all-in-one PC, it performs nicely for daily work and streaming.
Best Refurbished: 2018 HP Flagship Pro
Maximize your work output with the Flagship Pro. HP’s latest desktop model prides itself as being one of the fastest work stations within its price bracket. This PC comes equipped with a 3.6 GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM (expandable to 32GB), and 512GB of storage. Although its memory capacity is slightly lower compared to other models, the Flagship PC makes up for it with its processing power, which is well-suited to daily tasks and browsing. The Flagship Pro also comes with a plethora of port space including a DVD slot, six USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, as well as connectors for VGA, Display Port, RJ-45, and PS/2. The Flagship Pro comes with a one-year warranty and a 30-day trial for Office 365 software.
How We Tested
We bought and tested five top-rated desktop PCs. Our reviewers spent 180 hours doing work, playing games, and streaming videos. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these computers, from their display to their power. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
What to Look for in a Desktop PC
Monitor -If you buy an all-in-one computer, the monitor comes packaged in. However, if you’re customizing your setup yourself, there are a few points to consider, like size and resolution. Twenty-four-inch monitors are most common now, but if you want a multi-screen setup or don’t have much space, you might want to deviate from that. Most monitors also use LCD technology, which has support for full 1080p high-definition video.
Processor -AMD and Intel are the two main manufacturers you have to choose between, with the former being better for efficiency and budget, while the latter is better for performance. After that, it comes down to how many cores each processor has, and their relative speeds — the more cores and the faster the speeds, the more powerful the processor. Depending on your use, though, you may not need the most powerful processor out there.
RAM -For years, desktops used the standard DDR3 memory system, but many are now upgrading to DDR4. DDR4 is more expensive but also hits much higher clock speeds. We recommend at least 8GB of memory, although 16GB will perform better over long-term use.
Test Results: Acer Aspire S24 (Most Popular)
What We Don't Like
Wireless keyboard too small
According to our testers, this PC would be the best fit for someone with basic needs like word processing, writing emails, or online banking. One highlight was its design, with one reviewer noting that it “looks very good and takes up no space. I positioned it behind my monitor and completely forgot it was there. It made having a desktop computer pleasant again.” However, our testers weren’t as impressed with its speed, nor with the quality of its mouse and keyboard.
This desktop computer’s sleek look was a big plus for our testers: “I love the design,” raved one reviewer. “It’s so compact but has a beautiful and thin display. It fits so nicely on my desk without taking up a lot of room.” One tester also found it to be “super fast and easy to use.” Our testers had only one complaint: They wished the size of the keyboard that came with the device was a little larger.
Test Results: Apple iMac 21.5-inch (Best Overall)
What We Like
Gorgeous 4K screen
What We Don't Like
Difficult to upgrade
Not ideal for gaming
“If you love the Apple ecosystem and prefer macOS over Windows, this is the easiest way to get a solid computer that has everything you need in one beautiful, minimal package,” raved one of our testers. In particular, our reviewers loved the “gorgeous 4K display,” the “ridiculously simple” setup, and its overall ease of use. On the other hand, one of our testers described upgrading the computer as an “incredibly unnerving and time-consuming process.” Plus, our reviewers pointed out it’s not designed with gaming in mind. However, one of our testers concluded, “It's not cheap for what it is, but it delivers everything it promises and does so in a design that's good enough to be sitting in MOMA.”
Test Results: Dell Alienware Aurora R7 (Best for Gaming)
What We Like
Super easy to upgrade
What We Don't Like
Difficult to remove dust from vents
The Dell Alienware Aurora R7 came highly recommended by our testers as a powerful gaming desktop PC. Our reviewers loved the simple setup, with one noting, “It's ready to roll out of the box with Windows and within 10 or 20 minutes you can be gaming (assuming you have a screen on-hand).” Other highlights, according to our testers, include how easy it is to upgrade and how well it keeps up with frame rates no matter what game you’re playing. In terms of negatives, one of our reviewers noted it’s difficult to clean dust out of the vents. Overall? “If you need a VR-ready gaming PC and want simplicity and convenience above all else, the Aurora R7 is absolutely worth purchasing,” one of our testers declared. He did add, “However, if you're looking for maximum performance on the smallest budget, this isn't your best option.”
Test Results: HP Pavilion 590 (Best Basic)
What We Like
Nice selection of ports
Plenty of space for moderate updates
What We Don't Like
A little too big
No tool-less access to the internals
“It's worth buying if all you need is a standard desktop computer for productivity work and the most basic of games,” one of our testers said of the HP Pavilion 590. “It's everything you need and nothing you don't in a standard desktop PC,” he added. However, one of our reviewers cautioned, “If it's power and performance you're in search of, you're better off looking elsewhere.” The positives? In addition to a nice selection of ports, one of our testers liked that “for modest updates, it leaves plenty of space internally to tweak and alter the internals.” Still, aesthetically the computer is lacking, according to our reviewers. One of our testers also wished for easier access to the internals, saying, “A simple lever or handle to open the side of the case would be a nice addition.”
Test Results: Microsoft Surface Studio 2 (Best for Creatives)
What We Like
Incredibly responsive touchscreen
Easy switch from desktop to drawing mode
Massive, gorgeous screen
What We Don't Like
Placement of ports isn’t ideal
Our testers were blown away by the design of the Microsoft Surface Studio 2. “The screen is absolutely massive and crystal clear and the machining on the entire product is nearly flawless,” one of our reviewers reported. The spring-loaded hinge system is another major plus, according to our testers, with one explaining, “For such a massive screen it takes little more than a finger to switch from desktop mode to drawing mode.” One of our reviewers added, “The touchscreen is incredibly responsive and the pen is a wonderful inclusion that brings the whole experience together.” However, our testers were quick to point out that if you aren’t an artist or illustrator, this computer doesn’t make much sense: “For how much it costs, the CPU, GPU, RAM, and storage inside are abysmal,” one explained. He added, “On a similar note, as beautiful as the screen is and as impressive as the touch and drawing is on the beautiful 28' screen, Windows just doesn't make use of touch functionality enough to make the computer truly worthwhile.”
Desktop PCs: All About the Power
Why, given the advanced state of laptops, would you want to buy a desktop PC or Mac nowadays? Simply put: sheer muscle and computing comfort. Mobile devices like laptops and tablets simply can't fill some computing needs as well as the stalwart desktop.
Desktop-class CPUs and graphics processors are more powerful than their mobile counterparts for the same money. They give you the grunt to finish whatever task you're working on in less time. Your money goes further with desktop components in general, too, so instead of buying a $500 laptop with a competent Intel Core i3 processor, you can buy a $500 desktop with a more powerful Intel Core i5 desktop CPU in it and maybe even squeeze in a dedicated graphics card.
The Best Desktop Computer Deals This Week*
- Dell Vostro Small 3470 Intel Core i5-9400 6-Core Win10 Pro Desktop — $529 (List Price $927.57; Save $398.57)
- Dell Vostro 3670 Intel Core i7-8700 6-Core Win10 Pro Desktop — $659 (List Price $1,141.43; Save $482.43)
- Apple Mac mini With 8th Gen Intel Core i3 Quad-Core, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD — $699 (List Price $799; Save $100)
- Dell XPS 8930 Intel Core i7-9700 8-Core Tower Desktop With GTX 1050 Ti, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD — $949.99 — use code DTXPSAFF1 (List Price $1,399.99; Save $450)
- Alienware Aurora R8 Intel Core i7-9700 8-Core Gaming Desktop With RTX 2070, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD + $200 Visa Prepaid Card — $1,286.49 (List Price $2,129.99; Save $843.50)
- Overpowered DTW3 Intel Core i7-8700 6-Core Gaming Desktop With GTX 1080 Ti, 32GB RAM, 512GB SSD + 2TB HDD — $1,299 (List Price $2,099; Save $800)
*Deals are selected by our partner, TechBargains
You can get desktops with screens that are already built in (see our guide to the best all-in-one PCs), or they can be connected externally to a monitor. In either case, you'll get a bigger display than even the largest desktop-replacement laptop, which tops out at about 18 inches in screen size. Another plus is that expandable desktops can accommodate multiple graphics cards to support sky-high frame rates for competitive gaming or powering through the latest titles on super-fine 4K displays.
For some sensitive situations, buying a desktop gives you physical control of the computer and its use. Limiting access to desktop PCs lets you control who sees confidential business data, and the combination of a desktop PC and a large screen means that parents can monitor what their children are doing online via a quick glance across the room.
Which OS: Windows 10, macOS, or 'Other'?
The Mac vs. PC debate is one of the oldest in modern technology, and we're not going to pick a side here. But if you're of an open mind, not wedded to one or the other by years of habit, and are considering a switch, here's a quick rundown of your choices.
Windows 10 is the latest iteration of Microsoft's operating system. Desktops that use it and previous versions of the OS are what most people typically rely on, so you'll be assured of the best compatibility and widest selection of third-party software. This also applies to browser plug-ins, since some only work with Windows.
The current version of Apple's operating system is macOS Mojave. It's an excellent choice if you're already in an Apple-centric household, since it interfaces seamlessly with devices like iPads and iPhones, with all your iTunes purchases and subscriptions, and lets you receive iMessages on any device connected to your iCloud account.
Although it's less prevalent than Windows or macOS in desktop PCs, Google also has its own PC operating system, called Chrome OS. Many apps designed for Windows and macOS also have Chrome OS versions now, including the popular Microsoft Office suite. Many Chrome OS-powered PCs can also run any Android-based app available for download from the Google Play store, which means the OS can now run millions of smartphone apps. Laptops running Chrome OS, dubbed Chromebooks, are easy to come by, but desktops running the OS ('Chromeboxes') are less common. Most of them are tiny, inexpensive PCs with small amounts of memory and storage.
While it has many fans, Linux is more of a do-it-yourself operating system, where you'll have to rely on your own faculties for installation, sourcing programs, and support. Chrome OS, macOS, and Windows are certainly easier choices if you simply want to buy a desktop and use it right away.
How Much Desktop Do You Need?
If all you need to do is surf the internet, write Word documents, or make simple spreadsheets, then an entry-level desktop is the way to go. You will have to make some compromises in terms of graphics, power, RAM, and storage compared with higher-end systems, but then again, you won't be paying as much, as entry-level PCs typically cost less than $600.
You'll find a wide selection of Intel and AMD processors in this category, from the budget Intel Celeron and Pentium CPUs, up to the more expensive (and more powerful) Intel Core i3 or i5 and AMD Ryzen 3 or Ryzen 5 processors. You should look for at least 8GB of RAM, though you might have to make do with 4GB if you're limiting your search to very compact, extreme-budget sub-$300 machines. As for storage, a paltry 32GB of eMMC flash storage is found on the absolute least-expensive desktops. (These are all compact budget models, usually far smaller than a laptop.) But a 1TB hard drive is more prevalent as a baseline for larger desktops and a better option for most users.
Midrange desktops will stay functional longer, thanks to more CPU power and speed, more memory for multitasking, roomier storage, or a larger built-in screen. You will have to make some sacrifices, but even demanding users will be able to find a midrange system that will last them at least five years. Look for a capable Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 processor in this class of machine, along with 8GB to 16GB of memory, and a 1TB hard drive or 256GB solid-state-drive (SSD) storage. Some machines will offer both an SSD and a hard drive, with the SSD as the boot/program drive and the hard drive destined for mass storage. This is an ideal arrangement for people with large media collections.
High-end desktops offer top-of-the-line components, such as the latest CPUs that will give you all the power you need for multimedia projects, loads of storage (a 512GB SSD or a 1TB hard drive, but typically 2TB or more, sometimes in an SSD-and-hard-drive combination), 3D graphics capability for gaming, or a combination of all three. These high-performance machines typically start at $1,500, and can go up to $5,000 and beyond for workstations or gaming rigs with customized paint jobs and multiple GPUs. Expect to see Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7 CPUs in the lower tiers here, and the very highest end populated by systems based on Intel Core X-Series and AMD Threadripper processors.
While sticking to one of the three price ranges, we recommend that you buy just a little more than you need for the tasks you do now, if you can. That way, you future-proof your purchase and won't have to shop for a replacement for a while.
See How We Test Desktops
What Do You Need to Do?
General-purpose desktops, which are the kind you typically see in retail stores, are well suited to general office tasks, surfing the internet, video conferencing, and the like. They're designed to be jacks-of-all-trades: good at most tasks, but rarely great at specialized functions such as multimedia creation or gaming.
Performance PCs, which include multimedia machines and workstations, will give you more power for complex creative or math and scientific projects. Faster processors with four, six, or even 18 cores make quick work of your tasks. More RAM (16GB to 64GB) is installed, so you can keep larger images in memory for fast transformations while editing a video, rendering a 3D model, or processing a gigantic spreadsheet full of numbers you have to graph. You'll also find extra storage in the form of large hard drives and SSDs that will let you hold a multitude of work documents and program library files.
Workstations are specialized machines made to do the heavy lifting of high-end media creation, scientific calculations, and strenuous work tasks that have razor-thin deadlines. You'll find multicore Intel Xeon processors and ISV-certified graphics solutions from AMD and Nvidia in this category, as well as the potential, in some cases, to install enormous amounts of special error-correcting (ECC) memory in excess of 64GB.
Business PCs are typically utilitarian in appearance, but they offer work-friendly features such as easy serviceability and upgradability, extra security in the form of biometric sensors and Trusted Platform Module (TPM) support, software/hardware certification programs such as Intel vPro, and software support. Some come with onsite tech support.
Best Mac Computer For Home Use
Gaming PCs have even faster versions of the multicore processors found in the performance PCs. Plus, they have dedicated graphics cards, so you can smoothly view and interact with the virtual worlds that the game developers create. Flashy design elements like automotive paint, multiple graphics cards viewable through clear plastic or glass case doors, and elaborate liquid-cooling setups are available, for a price. In earlier years, these kinds of options were typically only available from boutique PC makers such as Digital Storm, Maingear, and Origin PC, but many have filtered down into configurations from the major makers.
Also, in gaming PCs, upgradability is almost (but not quite) a must-have. The most expensive gaming systems can cost upward of $10,000, capable of giving you the ultimate gaming experience possible on a PC with multiple 1080p HD or 4K displays, or when using a VR headset like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive Pro. That said, even midrange gaming systems today in the low $1,000s can deliver a very satisfactory gaming experience with a single 1080p monitor or a VR headset.
Sizing Up (or Down) the Chassis
Desktops are no longer the uniform metal boxes that they used to be. Even certain relatively tiny PCs today can have built-in components that rival high-performance PCs of years past. Choosing one these days is a matter of space constraints and purpose.
If you live or work in truly cramped quarters, an ultra-small-form-factor (USFF) or small-form-factor (SFF) desktop is what you need. USFF (or mini) PCs take up the least amount of room, but don't have much expandability, if any at all. Even so, they contain a processor, memory, storage, and ports to hook up displays, keyboards, and mice. They are usually the most economical to buy and run, since they use power-saving components and processors. The total volume of one of these systems is rarely larger than that of a small jewelry box.
In recent years, we've seen PCs not much larger than USB flash drives, like the Intel Compute Stick. These have the benefit of disappearing behind an HDMI-equipped monitor or HDTV. You may be limited to one or two configurations and will have to give up expandability and I/O port selection, but stick PCs and slightly larger mini desktops, like those in the Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC) series and their ilk, are the most flexible way to play internet streaming media and access cloud computing in your living room or conference room.
SFF desktops have more internal space, allowing you to attach additional hard drives and possibly even a gaming-grade graphics card. You'll also find more powerful CPUs here, with their more strenuous cooling requirements.
Traditional tower desktops, including mini, midsize, and full-size towers, have the most internal space, so you can install multiple hard drives, more RAM, or multiple graphics cards, depending on your needs. They are the most flexible, but also the bulkiest.
An all-in-one (AIO) desktop will save you some space, since the display is built in. With a few exceptions for business-oriented all-in-ones, you will give up expandability compared with the traditional desktop, however. Most AIO screens come in sizes from 22 to 34 inches, and the top models support up to a 5K (5,120-by-2,880-pixel) native resolution. A 1,920-by-1,080-pixel screen is the mainstream-AIO norm, however, and some outliers have widescreen designs with resolutions that lie between 2,560 by 1,440 pixels and 4K (3,840 by 2,160).
Ready for Our Recommendations?
We review hundreds of PCs every year at PC Labs, evaluating their features and testing their performance against peers in their respective categories. That way, you'll know which are best suited for gaming, which is our favorite general-purpose all-in-one, and which is the best if all you need is a small, powerful system you can get up and running quickly.
We pull from our full range of desktops reviews for the frequently updated list below, and we include top-rated models from as many categories as possible. These are our current favorites, but for a full feed of all of our very latest desktop reviews, check out our desktops product guide.
Best Desktop Computers Featured in This Roundup:
Apple iMac 27-Inch With 5K Retina Display (2019) Review
Pros: Gorgeous Retina display. Sleek styling and extreme attention to detail. Top-notch computing performance. Solid sound quality. Excellent software bundle.
Cons: Expensive as configured. Small storage capacity. No HDMI or dedicated DisplayPort output. Lacks height adjustment. No touch screen.
Bottom Line: With a newly available Intel Core i9 CPU and updated AMD Radeon Pro graphics, the 2019 reboot of the 27-inch Apple iMac all-in-one is now as powerful as it is beautiful.Read Review
Apple iMac Pro Review
Pros: Intel Xeon CPU and AMD Radeon Vega offer serious computing power. Gorgeous design in Space Gray extends to the wireless peripherals.
Cons: Pricey. Performance gains depend upon workflow. Uncomfortable keyboard.
Bottom Line: The Apple iMac Pro is a beautiful ode to creative professionals, combining remarkable computing power with the same brilliant 5k display and sleek design of the iMac.Read Review
Apple Mac mini (2018) Review
Pros: Deep connectivity for its size, including four Thunderbolt 3 ports. Memory is SO-DIMM, not soldered. Configurable up to six cores/12 threads. New storage (2TB) and RAM (64GB) ceilings. Top-notch pre-installed software.
Cons: RAM not technically a user upgrade. No option for a 2.5-inch hard drive as internal mass storage. Scanty SSD on base model.
Bottom Line: Apple's iconic Mac mini compact desktop delivers more core-processing, storage, and memory potential than ever, in a polished box brimming with cutting-edge connectivity.Read Review
Corsair One i160 Gaming PC Review
Pros: Compact case with small footprint. Sleek look. RTX 2080 Ti ensures superior gaming performance, even at 4K. Advanced cooling system. RAM and storage accessible for upgrades.
Cons: Custom design limits core component upgrades. Expensive.
Bottom Line: The thoughtfully designed Corsair One i160 Gaming PC delivers outrageous RTX 2080 Ti grunt and blistering CPU speed in an attractive, super-compact chassis.Read Review
Dell Inspiron Gaming Desktop (5680) Review
Pros: Affordable price. Appealing low-key case lighting. Smooth HD gaming performance. Speedy new Intel 'Coffee Lake' processor. Plenty of storage (boot SSD and a hard drive).
Cons: Messy interior. Only 8GB memory in test model.
Bottom Line: The configurable Dell Inspiron Gaming Desktop delivers 60fps 1080p gaming and Core i7 pep at $999, making it an attractive bargain for gamers on a budget.Read Review
Dell OptiPlex 7760 All-in-One Review
Pros: Strong performance from Core i7 eighth-gen CPU and GeForce GPU. Beautiful 4K display on sturdy, flexible stand. Surprisingly strong audio output. Connectivity options abound.
Cons: No touch support on test system.
Bottom Line: A peppy CPU and dedicated GeForce graphics power the 4K display of the Dell OptiPlex 7760 All-in-One, a flexible business desktop for designers and creative types. Plus, it packs one of the best AIO stands we've seen.Read Review
HP Z2 Mini G4 Workstation Review
Pros: Small footprint. Good Xeon multicore computing performance. ISV certifications. Relatively inexpensive for a desktop workstation.
Cons: Large external power brick.
Bottom Line: The HP Z2 Mini G4 is a mini desktop with the performance of a far larger workstation, complete with Xeon processor options and ISV certifications.Read Review
Microsoft Surface Studio 2 Review
Pros: Elegant all-in-one digital creation solution. Snappy performance. Super-thin, spectacular display that reclines. Accurate touch input for art/design work. USB-C support. Bundled Surface Pen.
Cons: Expensive. CPU could be beefier, considering separated base. Video out via USB-C, not a dedicated port.
Bottom Line: Microsoft's Surface Studio 2 is a beautiful, pricey all-in-one desktop for artists, content creators, and professionals wedded to pen input. It packs components peppier than the original's, and a downright stunning screen.Read Review
Lenovo ThinkCentre M720q Tiny Review
Pros: Tons of at-purchase configuration options. Includes security features for businesses. Chassis is compact, rugged, and easily serviced. Plenty of ports. Runs quietly.
Cons: Minimal room for internal expansion, beyond 2.5-inch bay. Bundled keyboard and mouse are wired and subpar.
Bottom Line: Lenovo's ThinkCentre M720q Tiny is a well-rounded, capable SFF PC suitable for cramped offices or other space-constrained work environs. Just nail the configuration you need up front-upgradability is limited.Read Review
Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 (2019) Review
Pros: Exceptional performance. No-fuss case design that fits professional settings. Clean installation and cable management. Good customer-support offerings.
Cons: Minimalist aesthetic may not please all shoppers at this price.
Bottom Line: Velocity Micro's 2019 Raptor Z55 is a straightforward, cleanly assembled power desktop that posts excellent all-around performance. Its GeForce RTX 2080 Ti in our test config is ready for high-refresh 1440p gaming and capable of 60fps 4K gaming.Read Review