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.
Apple Mac Mini (2014) Best affordable Mac If you want Apple's OS X experience, but don't want to pend thousands, the Mac Mini gives you a great desktop experience for under $500 to start. Here are pointers to the best resources. Switching from Mac to PC, part 5: Gaming is a serious business Learn about the games, games, and more games you get when you move to a Windows PC. PCs have a considerably larger library of games available than Mac computers due to the PCs traditional use as a gaming machine. Many computer games are release for Mac much later than they are released for PC, or they are not released for Mac at all. Gaming and Mac computers haven’t always been on the best of terms. Many believe the optimal PC gaming experience comes via a Windows-based machine and won’t waste their time shelling out the.
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.
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
Today we’re looking for the best computer for music production and recording. So you have the music production gear; keyboards, speakers, microphones, and most importantly, the ideas storming around in your brain. But what about the actual computer to act as the backbone of your entire digital music production setup? When it comes to a music making computer, we want to settle some anxiety you may have right off the bat: it isn’t too big of deal which one you get. When we say that, we mean what kind, type, brand, etc. You will want to follow our checklists for musts so you ensure you have a computer that can actually handle the modern-day digital music production setup; however, there is a vast majority of models to choose from that will work perfectly fine.
How to choose your computer for music production
- Your budget – As perhaps assumed, this is our first and foremost the biggest deciding factor. Although you don’t necessarily have to drop thousands of dollars on your music making computer, the higher you go, the better overall quality your work flow will be. Many reading this article may be just starting to build a home studio, so keep in mind what other gear you need to balance your money out. To have a fast and easy setup however shouldn’t take more than a thousand bucks (and lower). If you’re a starter musician buying your beginners music gear, you may want to save some money and grab a more budget-friendly computer to get going (read our beginners music computer guide for that). However, we do recommend saving up as much cash and being as patient as you can, since computers will be a long-term investment for the next 5 or so years. As stated previously, they’re also the backbone of a home studio — without a solid music computer, your other gear won’t even work properly and will be useless.
- Mac vs. PC? Uh oh, we’re not going to get into this debate. When it comes to music production, this debacle is quite overplayed. You need to understand that in the end both are merely just computers. There is not a preferred “brand” of computer for music making! The only deciding factor for using a Mac or PC (in our opinion) is explained in the next bullet point (or if you’re loyal to a certain route, but that’s not our business). However, you can also read our PC or Mac for music making article for more detail into this popular argument before you continue on.
- What DAW are you using? Do you have your digital audio workstation picked out yet? If so, this may steer you towards a specific Mac or PC choice. We would only go with Mac if you’re planning on using Pro Tools (they do have a Windows version out now), Garageband or Logic since they are Mac-only. Otherwise, both can work, but double-check on your preferred software’s compatibility.
- Laptop vs. desktop – Here’s another debate when it comes to computers for music. Nowadays, I’ve heard of producers using laptops at home considering how powerful and capable they’ve become in recent years. One of the biggest deciding factors for a laptop vs. desktop choice is if you’re planning on traveling or performing live. If this is so, we’d grab a laptop since it’ll work amazing for these purposes as well as can hold its own while you’re at homein the studio making some tunes in between gigs (you can read our music production laptops guide as well). Otherwise, grabbing a powerful desktop PCMac has a lot of potential. We have mostly desktop below, so read our guide we’ve just linked in case you’re in need of a laptop — we did sprinkle a few below, too.
- These are all pre-built – We know many computer junkies out there who frown at those who buy computers that already have their insides picked out. We wanted to mention this last since it won’t pertain to everybody. If you’re in the mood to just get going on making some tunes, pre-built is the way to go. Creating your own music computer does give you some flexibility when it comes to doing a little more work and researching the best RAM, hard drive and processor you’d like to mix and match with (which can probably save you a few bucks in the long run as well); however, many pre-built PC’s in the market are still amazing for recording and producing music, so if you aren’t into learning how to make your own computer right now, it’s no worries. We’ll leave that up to you. If you are indeed into making your own music computer, read our article for an in-depth guide.
Our checklist for computers for making music
In order to get a feel for what specifications we actually need in our computers, let’s first compare and contrast with some of the most popular music software out there and what minimum system requirements they ask for. We can then use this as a guide to see what the absolute minimum is. Going above is always a good idea since a lot of software out there update quite frequently and sometimes increase their requirements, and you want to be set for the long-term, not just the “minimum”.
Let’s review the three most popular software out there right now in Pro Tools, Ableton and Logic. Pro Tools is by far the most demanding software, so if you aren’t using it but still want a computer that supports it, you’ll be in the clear for literally anything else out there.
- Operating System: Windows 8.1 or higher, Mac OS X 10.11.6 or higher
- Processor: Intel Core i7
- RAM: 16 GB (32 GB ‘recommended’)
- Hard Drive: 15 GB (installation only)
- PCle slot for HDX or HD native cards
Ableton Live 10
- Operating System: Windows 7 or higher, Mac OS X 10.11.6 or higher
- Processor: Intel Core i5
- RAM: 4 GB (8 GB ‘recommended’)
- Hard Drive: At least 10 GB
Logic Pro X
- Operating System: macOS 10.12 or higher
- Processor: Intel Core i5
- RAM: 4 GB
- Hard Drive: 6 GB for installation, 63 GB for full Sound Library installation
- Graphics: OpenCL-capable, Intel 3000 or later
Now that we’ve analyzed the “minimum requirements”, and key word here is “minimum”, let’s organize it al into a checklist for you to use when shopping for the best music production and recording computer.
- Processors – This is a tough one because a 3.0 GHz processor is a huge difference if it’s let’s say dual core or quad-core. Processor is extremely important (besides RAM or an SSD drive listed below), because it allows us to work in a quicker, more fluid manner, as well as merely to handle the “processes” we need while we make our music. In our opinion, the faster you can work, the more ideas you can get out of your head and into your music canvas. You also don’t want your computer clogging up during a crucial moment of creation, especially if you’re recording and there’s a blip in your track and you have to re-do it all! We would go with at least a 3.0 processor that is at least a quad-core — more specifically, an Intel Core i5 or AMD equivalent.
- There must be at least 16 GB of RAM. Any higher you go in the RAM department is always a plus, so be our guest. For this year we’ve just increased this from 8 to 16 because Pro Tools now has a minimum requirement of 16 GB! RAM is short for Random Access Memory, which is responsible for storing temporary data to act as the “working memory” of our computer. This is important because just like our processor, music software needs to constantly “work” with each action you partake in, calling for not only “enough” working memory but fast enough so we don’t experience any glitches or lag.
- At least 500 GB of hard drive capacity– This is up to you, as some say 1TB at least; however, 500 GB is pretty hefty if you aren’t downloading sounds and storing them on the computer or using the device for anything else (such as work, school, images and videos). Keep in mind however a lot of VST software plug-ins and effects are very demanding in regards to hard drive space. We actually use both our internal hard drives as well as an extra external hard drive with about 2 more TB on it (we have thousands of VST’s and samples).
- Make sure at least some of your hard-drive is SSD (Solid-State Drive)! This is very important because SSD helps process data and requests much faster than regular HDD. Read more about SSD vs. HDD here.
- A big enough screen to work with (15″ and up), but that really comes down to your personal preference and whether or not you’re on a laptop or desktop computer. We personally couldn’t imagine making music without two for a dual-monitor setup. But that’s your call.
- We don’t think video cards matter at all unless you’re editing videos on the side. The stock card in most pre-built computers are feasible, since nowadays most computers will come with some great video cards that support most types of video work or video games.
The top 10 best computers for music production and recording
The following list is our recommended 10 best computers for production currently in the market. We made sure to choose a wide range of types. Also understand that there are new models of computers coming out almost weekly now, so don’t let the “this one is new!” label get too into your head. We feel the following models are solid because of user reviews, specs, and overall reputation. Let us know if you have any questions or comments!
Check price of Apple iMac: US UK
Pc Or Mac College
If you’re planning on being a “studio only” producer (whether you’re home, semi or even professional), here’s the best Mac computer to buy. If you grab one of these, you can use their Mac-specific DAWs, such as Logic, Garageband, and of course Pro Tools. Even if you don’t plan on using Pro Tools right away, you can always upgrade in a few years (we think this will last you at least 5+ years if you purchase a model with a decent specification list). So don’t forget to keep the future (long-term of course) in mind when investing in a computer for music production, considering it’s what holds the entire setup together. If you want a Mac, grab either this or the laptop we first presented and don’t look back, we wouldn’t bother reading on.
We link you to a broad search page because there are many iMac versions available and are continued to be released to this day. This is also first due to this — we have options to pertain to our budgets and can mix and match certain specs we need or don’t. Of course, be sure to use our checklist above when finding the right Apple iMac for you. This is by far the safest pick as the best music making computer in the market today.
View price for the Lenovo ThinkServer: US UK
We’ve done a lot of research and talking to our friends who make music for a living, and when it comes to a PC that isn’t Mac, the name Lenovo continued to come up. Although it really doesn’t matter (really, it doesn’t) which brand you grab, there are a few aspects to take into consideration: user reviews, reports on longevity, brand support, and stats on the quality of internal parts they use. That’s why we feel as compared to some other PC brands like HP, Acer or Dell (although mentioned later), it’s safe to grab one we’ve analyzed and have used personally. Therefore, this is our (our recommendation) choice for Windows PC for producing music. Lenovo builds tanks, and the word among the internet supports that. This may be a bit excessive for some, but can more than handle any process you throw at it to act as the best music recording and production computer out there if you need a Windows machine. Enter the Lenovo ThinkServer.
See prices for the Acer Aspire: US UK
When it comes to the best music making and recording desktop PC, we have a few options. The Acer Aspire is one we couldn’t ignore as another one of the best music production computers due to the reviews backing up its overall quality and build. Depending on which model you grab, there will be very feasible specifications to get your music making going out of the box. You have numerous USB ports for your interfaces and other external pieces of gear, ability to have multiple screens (oh yes, this helps tremendously), a decent weight (it’s a desktop, so in our opinion the heavier the more sturdy), and a wonderful Acer community out there if you need any help. Here’s a great pick for a desktop PC to run Windows with your music making endeavors, and you get some great options to customize to your price-point on top of it all.
Apple MacBook Pro
Check price for the MacBook Pro: US UK
Here’s the consensus when it comes to the best laptop for music making and recording — The Apple MacBook Pro. Talk to many producers who have a laptop in their setup and they’ll swear by it (if they’re “Mac people” of course). In fact, there will probably be people who scoff at the thought of making music anything but this. You all can have your opinions; however, if you don’t have a strong belief yet and if you want a computer for making music that you’re confident others use, this is one to grab. There are many specification combinations available to fit within your budget range, too (such as screen size, memory capacity, processor speed (for a price) and more).
Another big reason we recommend the Apple MacBook Pro first for a laptop-seeker aside from Mac’s obvious reputation is the flat-out performance of these things — they’re sturdy, last a while, come with feasible internal builds (that you can’t customize, though) and more. Lastly, some music software come as mac only, while others both — it’s more likely software and gear are mac-only as opposed to windows-only — something to think about. MacWorld’s article loves the MacBook Pro for music making.
PC Audio Labs Rok Box
Flying under the radar at times (unfortunately) due to the lack of heavily marketed brand names, PC Audio Labs brings us computers literally made for the tough processes of music production. We were unfamiliar with what they brought to the table until a few years ago, but after heavy research and asking around with other producers what their thoughts were, many had zero complaints and actually scoffed at the fact that we recommended any other music production computer aside from these guys.
Perhaps labeled as ‘expensive’ by others (you’ll get what you pay for, trust us), especially compared to dinkier machines, their Rok Box series in particular brings us many solutions in not only the personal computer department but laptops as well. They have quite a few models to choose from depending on budget — you can up go to a few thousands to grab a tank, or perhaps just under a thousand for a decent budget-friendly workstation for beginners. They also allow for add-ons for your PC’s internal parts, such as RAM, hard drive and more. Praised by many professional musicians around the world, we’re glad this takes a place relatively early in our best recording and production computer guide. They also have tons and of how-to’s and support videos on their website to help you through out your music journey.
Check pricing for the Dell Inspiron: US UK
We’ve had Dell around our entire lives, and although they had mixed reviews back in the day when it came to quality, the Inspiron series as a whole has been recommended quite a few times when it comes to overall effectiveness, especially for music considering the specs are up there. If you aren’t a fan of Mac and don’t recognize the Lenovo name, we’d grab this one and check out the reviews for yourself. The Dell Inspiron is a highly reviewed and reputable desktop PC for music production. They have decent user support if you ever need (we suppose is a plus), and it doesn’t hurt to have a brand name you’re familiar with. Dell Inspiron help is always available, too.
Difference Between Pc And Mac
Read reviewspricing of the HP Pavilion: US UK
The HP Pavilion is another popular and highly reviewed pre-built computer series in the market right now that brings us great specs and power for handling music production tasks. Widely praised for their compatibility with ‘gaming’, this also gives us confidence music software is viable as well. Again, this is a pre-built ‘series’ (yes, they have laptops as well if you’re a big HP fan), so you can choose a particular model that fits not only your budget but music software’s needs as well. Of course, we require going a bit higher than the ‘minimum’ (a few of the higher models have more than enough, or you can always add-on let’s say some more RAM or hard drive memory later down the road as well). Just another decent computer series here that can act as the best music recording computer if you want a known brand and Windows desktop.
View price for Lenovo ThinkPad: US UK
These things are tanks. Lenovo is a heavy hitter in the quality department of both laptops and PC’s (we have a few of their models in this article for a reason). The overall build is extremely sturdy (which is one of the main reasons we recommend Lenovo’s to our readers) and they’ll last you for quite a while if you’re looking to invest in a laptop that will be around for a while. Additionally, a lot of these come with SSD (Solid State Drives) which as we’ve stated previously, is a must and a huge plus for convenience and speed (SSD’s are basically less affected by impacts, load apps and your computer quicker, and lower failure rates).
What’s even better are the options they give you; you can go as high as you’d like in the RAM and processor department. We’ve again linked you to a broad page to see the many different types of ThinkPad’s out there if you wanted one of the best laptops that uses Windows (in our opinion) — we recommend sticking in the middle price-point, fulfilling our checklist above; however, if you can go higher, we’d say go for it if you have the cash. We’re typing on a Lenovo ThinkPad right now.
View price of the Acer Predator: US UK
This Acer Predator is considered by many as a “gaming desktop computer”, and although obviously by the video card it is, the processor, RAM and overall quality of the machine works quite well as the best computer for music making, too. We put this in here because it’s just another option — although the PC’s listed first are more suited (and perhaps a bit cheaper) when it comes to music production (since video cards aren’t necessary with recording or producing), the Acer Predator is a PC to keep in mind while you shop if you indeed plan on perhaps playing games, making videos or other activities on a computer. I mean, it’s not like you’re buying a PC just to make music with (perhaps some of you are), so purchasing a computer that is more of an all-around type may be in your interest.
Check price of the ThinkCentre: US UK
This is Lenovo’s bit of a mix between a laptop and PC. The Lenovo ThinkCentre is considered a “tiny” desktop due to the size, and when it comes to price it’s relatively cheap as compared to many models we’ve listed in here. It’s just another option; you may be looking for an in-the-middle price point and something that fits snug into your existing studio setup. It’s also great for traveling if you plan on setting up a desktop at a friends or stage. Although we do recommend spending the extra few bucks on a computer we’ve previously listed, the ThinkCentre still brings what we feel are requirements for the “best music production computer” specifications, is by a reliable brand on top of it.