A reliable desktop PC is a must-have for users looking for a great computing “base station” in their home. Though they’re nowhere near as portable as laptops or tablets, desktop PCs are often exponentially cheaper and more powerful for the money, and meant to be used as everyday workhorses, family computers, or gaming-centric PCs. But with so many configurations out in the wild, it can be difficult to choose which one is right for you. With that in mind, we’ve compiled this guide to help you choose the right desktop PC for you. It should help you be more discerning about which PC works best for you depending on your computing needs.
There are various factors you should keep in mind when on the hunt for a desktop PC. First, you should establish your use case. Are you going to be doing a lot of work on your new computer, or is it a family-use PC that everyone will share? Do you want to make sure it still has some gaming power? All of this will come into play when you look into specs, hardware, upgradeability, and tower size. The best desktop computers will ensure all your boxes are checked, too.
Money is also a factor, as you might not want to empty your wallet so quickly on a desktop PC, for example, if you also use a laptop for certain situations. Similarly, you may decide that you want a powerful desktop PC that can handle anything you throw at it, and money isn’t an object. Budget is always important to keep in mind in these cases.
Best desktop computer overall: Dell XPS 8930 Tower Desktop
Pros: Very customizable, Intel Core i7-8700 6-core processor, plenty of HD space, 16GB DDR4 memory, sleek black case
Cons: Prone to fingerprints, weaker GPU
If you need a desktop PC that works as both a great option for gaming and an excellent centerpiece for your home office, you can’t go wrong with the Dell XPS 8930. It’s versatile, powerful, and full of components that will ensure you don’t have to worry about running resource-heavy apps, a hard drive that offers a ridiculous amount of space, and an integrated GPU that can handle a bit of gaming, too. That makes it one of the best desktop computers by far.
This tower build comes with an 8-core i7 processor with 64GB of RAM and 4TB of storage. It uses an integrated graphics card, which means it won’t be able to run any game you might throw at it, but it’s more than capable of handling most tasks, from graphic editing to word processing and internet browsing with multiple tabs. Plus, there’s plenty of space to store all of your files.
The XPS 8930 also comes outfitted with a variety of ports, including three USB-A slots, one USB-C port, a microphone and headphone jack, and an SD card reader, with more on the back of the machine should you need them. This is a machine truly meant to handle all situations in a sleek, space-saving package great for most users.
Best gaming computer: Alienware Aurora R11
Pros: Very customizable, high-end processor, good GPU, great-looking chassis
Cons: Loud when running, very pricey
If you’re looking for a dedicated gaming PC, it can be difficult to gather all the components necessary to build one right now, especially a powerful GPU. The Alienware Aurora R11 may be expensive, but it comes with everything any gamer could want to run any game on the market on its highest settings. It also happens to be one of the most distinct-looking desktop PCs you’ll find on the market.
It’s a powerful machine that you can customize to your liking when you order, with plenty of impressive options. It comes packing up to an Intel Core i9-10900F CPU, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 GPU, with up to 128GB, up to 2 TB SSD. It also has customizable RGB lighting, and it comes with a Dell mouse and keyboard to boot.
For many, this PC might seem a little pricey, especially when there are so many components you might want to purchase in addition to the desktop itself. But if you don’t want to track down a GPU to use for making your own PC, then you can buy this pre-made to bridge the gap. It’s a powerful enough machine to handle anything you can throw at it.
Best desktop Mac: Apple iMac
Pros: Colorful design, solid performance, works with other Apple stuff
Cons: A little expensive, limited port selection
Looking for a desktop computer and want to stay within Apple’s ecosystem? The Apple iMac is a great option. The iMac may not be the most powerful computer out there, but it’s certainly powerful enough for the majority of users, and has a fun design too.
The 2021 iMac represents the return of colors to the iMac series. It’s available in a number of different colors, like the pink model that we reviewed. The white bezels take a little getting used to, but you will get used to them, and they don’t look bad at all.
Under the hood, the computer is relatively powerful too. The computer comes with Apple’s M1 chip, which is its first attempt at a computer processor, and definitely powerful enough to handle most basic tasks. If you need something to browse the web, handle office documents, and so on, the M1 is up to the task.
On the back of the computer is where you’ll get your ports, and they’re a little limited. The computer offers either two or four USB 4 ports, along with a headphone jack. Still, for most, the iMac is a great way to get a desktop computing experience in Apple’s ecosystem.
Best all-in-one desktop PC: HP Envy 32
Pros: Large display, RTX 2060 GPU, Intel Core i7-9700 CPU, great sound
Cons: Large charging brick, screen does not turn
For many looking for an all-in-one PC, Macs are a fantastic option. However, not everyone prefers to use the Mac ecosystem. HP’s Mac-like all-in-one Envy 32 is aesthetically similar to everything that draws buyers to Mac computers while serving up a feature package that’s a premium Windows machine and productivity powerhouse.
This is a gorgeous machine to behold and looks great on any desk. It features a massive 32-inch display with 4K resolution and impressive HDR support. It features a glass cover that’s fingerprint-deterrent and comes on a stand that lets you tilt and move the screen forward to your liking — though unfortunately you cannot pivot it or change between portrait and landscape modes. Some of the best desktop computers do offer a bit more flexibility here.
More than just its screen as its crowning jewel, the Envy 32’s internals are also impressive. There are packages available that come with an impressive Intel Core i7-9700, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060, 32GB of memory, and a 1TB solid-state drive that combine to make this a great desktop option for work, play, and everything in between. It comes with both a keyboard and mouse as well, so you have everything you need out of the box to get started creating, working, or gaming with your favorite titles.HP Envy 32
Best workstation computer: Intel NUC 9 Pro
Pros: Sturdy and reliable workstation, small and compact, great for completing most tasks
Cons: Too pricey for some, cannot lay on its side
For a workstation desktop that’s great for home office use, the Intel NUC 9 Pro is an excellent upgradable mini PC. It may be small in stature (and fantastically thin, too!), but it’s easy to expand with additional RAM, hard drives, and more should your work needs change and the desire for a more powerful workstation appear.
This modular is less than 5 pounds, with an Intel Xeon E-2286M CPU and a 1TB SSD under its hood. Using an Intel Compute Element motherboard, it features built-in cooling and an integrated GPU to make sure graphical tasks or more demanding edits you might need to complete can get done on the double.
This is the type of desktop you want in your home office, as it’s perfect for opening a bunch of tabs for work in Chrome, editing a few PowerPoints and Word documents, then creating graphics to go along with the ideas you just discussed during a quick Zoom call. It can handle all of that and more. Just don’t think about gaming with it. Otherwise, it’s an excellent desktop PC that will ensure you’re not the odd one out left without a working computer, having to commute to the office when everyone else stayed at home.
Best budget desktop computer: Acer Aspire TC-895
Pros: Just over $500, 10 Gen Intel Core CPU, lots of port options, included keyboard and mouse
Cons: No option for dedicated GPU
Acer is a recognizable name in the hardware space, and a reliable manufacturer when it comes to hard-working, capable PCs. The Acer Aspire TC-895 is a fantastic pre-built budget option that includes a 10th Gen Intel Core i3-1000 and Core i5-10400 CPU options with a 512 GB M.2 PCIe NVMe solid-state drive for plenty of speedy storage space. It also comes with up to 12GB OF DDR4 RAM to ensure the computer has little trouble tackling the tasks you throw at it. All this in a package for just over $500, thanks to the lack of a dedicated GPU.
This desktop is firmly nestled between the past and the present in terms of ports and accessibility. For instance, it comes with an optical drive for anyone who still needs to do any business with disc-based media, as well as a number of ports, including USB-A, USB-C, an SD card reader, and more when the system is flipped over. It also comes with a wireless adapter in case you’d like to forgo cords for a cleaner desktop experience.
If you plan on using this desktop PC as a workstation, personal social media navigation machine, or even a central computer for the whole family, you can’t go wrong in terms of pricing or features.