Best Non Gaming Pc Build 2020

By | 24/10/2022

Snazzy, innovative laptop designs are constantly evolving. Smartphones are ubiquitous and astonishingly capable. So where does that go out that ’80s relic, the desktop PC? There are still plenty for sale, and innovation never stops in the desktop market, especially amongst small-course-factor and all-in-one models. Just many shoppers seem to consider desktops an anachronism, heading straight to the laptop aisle for their next computer purchase.

That’southward not ever the right move. Desktops aren’t facing extinction, and they’re doing anything just standing still. For consumers and businesses akin, they’re nonetheless the well-nigh price-effective and customizable computers effectually, as shown past our favorite examples from recent reviews. Check them out, and so read on to learn everything you need to know about finding the all-time desktop for you.

Dell Inspiron Desktop (3891)

Best Upkeep Tower for Near Buyers

Why We Picked It

Many economy models make do with Intel Pentium or Celeron or AMD Athlon processors that frankly don’t cut the mustard nowadays. Dell’s Inspiron Desktop 3891 is a happy exception, offer a perky Intel Cadre i3 CPU, Wi-Fi half dozen, and even a DVD burner in a Windows xi PC priced under $400 every bit tested. Its mini-tower instance has some (though not a ton of) room for expansion and, except for gaming—its integrated graphics merely aren’t upward for information technology—the Dell can handle any mainstream job.

Who It’southward For

Information technology gives you just the basics, but there’southward zip wrong with that. Both families and small-scale-office entrepreneurs will notice the Inspiron 3891 a handy productivity and online communications station at a cost low plenty to buy a pair.

PROS

  • Bargain price
  • Perky Intel Cadre i3 CPU
  • Runs quietly
  • Congenital-in DVD burner and Wi-Fi 6
  • Includes 12-month McAfee subscription

CONS


  • Merely one HDMI port

  • Integrated graphics limit gaming potential

  • Base model supports only one internal storage bulldoze

  • Nonstandard power supply

Read Our Dell Inspiron Desktop (3891) Review

Lenovo Legion Tower 5i (2021)

All-time Mainstream or Upkeep Gaming Desktop

Why We Picked It

Gaming desktops can be bulky, blingy machines whose side-panel windows reveal elaborately RGB-lit components and whose prices can reach the stratosphere. Lenovo’south Legion Tower 5i flunks on that concluding count—information technology’s under $1,000—simply hangs with the large boys surprisingly well in other respects. Its see-through side shows off iii lighting zones (the Lenovo logo on the front is a fourth) and it delivers enjoyable 1080p gaming with a pair of sixes instead of fours: a six- rather than quad-core Intel Cadre i5 processor and a 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super graphics card instead of a 4GB GPU.

Who It’due south For

We can quibble that the Legion Belfry 5i lacks a front-mounted USB-C port and yous’ll probable want to upgrade its 8GB of standard RAM to 12GB or 16GB, but otherwise it’due south a great gaming bargain. Mid-level players with depression-level budgets will discover it an ideal option.

PROS

  • Six-cadre CPU and 6GB GPU for under $1,000
  • Fashionable example with customizable lighting
  • Quiet under load

CONS


  • Inadequate 8GB of RAM as tested

  • Could utilize a front USB-C port

Read Our Lenovo Legion Tower 5i (2021) Review

Falcon Northwest Tiki (2022)

Best High-Stop Gaming Desktop

Why We Picked It

Too often, particularly in the gaming segment, a desktop PC is really an under-the-desk or next-to-the-desk-bound PC; full-size belfry cases are just plain big. The Falcon Northwest Tiki’s footprint is tiny—it takes just 4 by 14 inches of desk space and stands thirteen inches tall—but it uses full-bore, manufacture-standard desktop components and is more upgradable than its closest rival in size, the Corsair 1 a200. Loaded with a screaming AMD Ryzen seven 5800X3D processor and over-the-elevation Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 graphics card, our unbelievably fast test unit is unbelievably expensive at $4,591, but it gives y’all unbeatable gaming bragging rights in an ultra-compact, quiet package with but astounding build quality.

Who Information technology’s For

The custom-tailored, more-than-immaculate Falcon Northwest is simply as good every bit a desktop gets, whether for ultimate gaming or workstation-class creativity and digital pattern. There are millions of PCs more affordable than the Tiki, but few meliorate.

PROS

  • Start-grade build quality
  • Ultra-compact and serenity
  • Stellar gaming performance
  • Fully upgradable
  • Excellent standard warranty

CONS


  • But high-end configurations available

Read Our Falcon Northwest Tiki (2022) Review

Alienware Aurora R13

A Solid Alternative to the Falcon Northwest Tiki

Why We Picked It

Falcon Northwest has few peers in the ultra-high-end gaming infinite, merely Alienware is one, and the Aurora R13 shows Dell’s exotic subsidiary at its finest. The curvaceous tower is not very meaty, measuring twenty by 8 by 23 inches, but is so beautiful it belongs on instead of under your desk-bound, with a honeycomb front panel and windowed side to show off gorgeous lighting and flawless associates. Base models are actually pretty affordable, though you tin reach for the heaven with a 12th Generation Intel Core i9 and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090. (Our test unit approached $4,700.)

Who It’s For

The Aurora R13 is Alienware’s gaming flagship and by and large targets the price-no-object crowd, though a midrange configuration will allow yous relish its fashion for less. Its plastic instance is arguably less elegant than some metal sculpture, and its cooling fans get noisy under pressure level, but otherwise it’s a smashing success.

PROS

  • Redesigned chassis with side window
  • Blazing-fast CPU performance thanks to new 12th Gen Core i9 “Alder Lake” chip
  • RTX 3090 GPU delivers top-cease frame rates, even at 4K
  • Midrange starting price with plenty of configuration options

CONS


  • Pricey every bit configured

  • Loud fans under load

  • Plastic case (even with window) not as premium feeling equally high-end metal builds

Read Our Alienware Aurora R13 Review

Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 (2021)

Best High-End Tower Desktop for Power Users

Why Nosotros Picked It

Velocity Micro is Virginia’southward premiere boutique vendor, and the Raptor Z55 is its masterpiece. Hardcore gamers may find its conservative tower case a bit irksome, but though it can push frame rates heaven-loftier with the best of them it’s even meliorate as an ultra-loftier-stop productivity or digital content creation automobile. If you spend your days crunching jumbo datasets or doing extreme 3D rendering but allow your hair down with the near demanding gaming titles later hours, look no further.

Who It’s For

Offer a beautiful custom build and impressive U.Southward.-based support, the Velocity Micro is a showpiece for Intel’due south 12th Gen “Alder Lake” CPUs and Nvidia’s fastest graphics cards. It’s tailor-made for deep-pocketed pros whose sense of taste in work and play tends toward subtle rather than garish.

PROS

  • Blistering operation
  • Bachelor “Alder Lake” Intel Core i9, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti options
  • Pristine custom build
  • Professional artful
  • Robust US-based support

CONS


  • Pricey, particularly for base model

  • Conservative, professional person design may turn gamers off

Read Our Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 (2021) Review

Lenovo Thinkstation P620 (2022, Threadripper Pro 5995WX)

Best High-End Workstation Desktop

Why Nosotros Picked It

Thanks to an epic 64-core AMD Threadripper Pro CPU, Lenovo’s ThinkStation P620 can outrun even dual CPU workstations like our previous summit pick for loftier-end workstations, the Dell Precision 7920 Tower. The Precision is an heart-watering $23,289, making the ThinkStation’s $16,905 toll equally tested await like a deal. It’south not, of course, simply you do go a lot for your money: a the 64-cadre Threadripper Pro 5995WX, two professional graphics cards, 5 3.five-inch storage drives, and up to an amazing 1TB of RAM. Mere 2d blueprint apps like AutoCAD are appetizers for this Lenovo; it’s built for near-supercomputer levels of information science, 3D rendering, and simulation modeling.

Who It’s For

Obviously, ordinary workstations similar Dell’s more mainstream Precision or HP’s Z or Lenovo’s ThinkStation desktops tin handle nearly all creative, architectural, and data analysis jobs. Many software applications (including our performance benchmarks) actually can’t take full reward of the P620’due south power. But when only the ultimate will practise, scientists and engineers will be grateful for this monster’s musculus.

PROS

  • Highly scalable performance
  • Easily serviceable
  • ISV certified
  • Ample connectivity
  • Standard iii-year warranty

CONS


  • Gets expensive rapidly

  • Audible fans under load

Read Our Lenovo Thinkstation P620 (2022, Threadripper Pro 5995WX) Review

MSI Modern AM241P 11M

Best Budget All-in-One Desktop

Why We Picked Information technology

Apple’s iMac is probably the model of a 24-inch all-in-one desktop, just it starts at $1,299. MSI’southward Modern AM241P 11M starts at $849.99 with a peppy Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB solid-state bulldoze, a reasonably good-looking total Hd display, a nice array of ports, and a wireless keyboard and mouse. Its screen bezels are too thin for a born webcam, merely MSI bundles a sharp 1080p USB webcam you can park on the top bezel and remove when non in use.

Who It’south For

Don’t await to play games with the MSI’s integrated graphics or relish audiophile music quality from its subpar speakers, just expect it to serve you well as a family-room homework, browsing, and email station. Sure, a sharper screen and more than RAM and storage would be overnice, simply for the price it’s a abode run.

PROS

  • Compact design, with very sparse top bezel
  • 1080p webcam included
  • Both HDMI-in and HDMI-out ports
  • Wireless keyboard and mouse
  • Bay for a 2.5-inch bulldoze upgrade

CONS


  • Underwhelming sound output

  • Webcam is not built-in

  • 256GB SSD in our test model will fill upwards speedily

  • No Thunderbolt iv back up

Read Our MSI Mod AM241P 11M Review

HP Envy 34 All-in-One (2022)

Best Loftier-End All-in-One Desktop

Why Nosotros Picked Information technology

Did we just say a sharper screen would exist prissy? HP’south Envy 34 all-in-one offers a massive (34-inch diagonal) 5K display with panoramic 5,120-by-2,160-pixel resolution, as well as a 16-megapixel webcam that magnetically snaps near anywhere along the pinnacle or either side of the screen to make you wait your best. Information technology’s as well a lively performer, even for mid-level gaming thank you to a discrete Nvidia GeForce GPU instead of the usual integrated graphics, and has all the ports, retentiveness, and storage you’ll likely need every bit well equally a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

Who Information technology’s For

With Apple tree taking its 27-inch Retina Display iMac off the market, there’s a dearth of premium all-in-one PCs, and the Envy 34 fills the niche nicely. Though not cheap, it’s not prohibitively expensive, and its 21:nine attribute ratio widescreen is as good as a dual-monitor setup for arranging multiple app windows for max productivity. One of PCMag’s staffers bought one and edited this writeup on information technology.

PROS

  • Sharp, snazzy 34-inch 5K display
  • Strong all-around functioning
  • Loftier-quality 16-megapixel magnetic photographic camera
  • Thunderbolt 4
  • SD card reader
  • Like shooting fish in a barrel access to RAM and M.2 SSD slots

CONS


  • Less-powerful, mobile-class GeForce RTX 3060 GPU

Read Our HP Envy 34 All-in-I (2022) Review

HP Chromebase All-in-I 22

Best Chrome Os All-In-One Desktop

Why Nosotros Picked It

At the other terminate of HP’s all-in-one desktop offerings, the nether-$500 Chromebase 22 brings the appeal of an easy-to-apply, online-friendly Chromebook to your desk-bound or den or kitchen counter. Its 21.v-inch 1080p screen pivots between mural (horizontal) and portrait (vertical) modes, letting y’all switch from enjoying a YouTube or Netflix video to seeing well-nigh of a webpage or Google Workspace word processing certificate without scrolling. Its small-footprint, cone-shaped base doubles as a surprisingly high-quality speaker, and it offers a high-res webcam and wireless keyboard and mouse.

Who Information technology’due south For

Chrome Bone’ mostly browser-based design means it’s a poor selection for demanding apps like photo or video editing (equally is the HP’s Pentium Gold CPU), simply a fine fit for everyday productivity, schoolwork, email, and web surfing. Few Android games can have advantage of its rotating brandish, merely it’s a slap-up online kiosk for a family room or fifty-fifty a home office.

PROS

  • Attractive, infinite-saving design
  • Rotating display useful for some websites
  • High-res webcam
  • Booming audio
  • Includes wireless keyboard and mouse
  • Affordable as configured

CONS


  • Display isn’t the sharpest

  • Occasional screen-rotation hitches

  • No side-mounted ports

Read Our HP Chromebase All-in-I 22 Review

HP Z2 Mini G9

Best Mini Desktop

Why Nosotros Picked It

Technically i of HP’due south Z series desktop workstations, the Z2 Mini G9 outdoes even Apple’s Mac mini at cramming serious computing power into a diminutive desk accompaniment. Taking just 8.3 by viii.6 inches of desk space (or zero if you use the optional VESA mount to stash information technology behind a monitor or adhere it to the underside of your desk), the HP combines Intel’s twelfth Generation “Alder Lake” silicon (up to a blazing Cadre i9) with an manufacture-standard swappable graphics card and upwardly to 64GB of memory and 8TB of storage.

Who It’southward For

You’ll pay about $3,000 for a Z2 Mini G9 besides-equipped every bit our review unit, but if yous need genuine workstation muscle in a tiny space, it’s a heaven-sent solution. Architects, graphic designers, and engineers can get even faster performance and more expandability in bigger boxes, but if yous crave not the most bang for the buck merely blindside for the square inch, it’southward your dream auto.

PROS

  • Compact VESA-compatible design
  • Impressive performance
  • Hands serviceable, fifty-fifty the graphics bill of fare
  • Aplenty connectivity
  • Modular I/O ports

CONS


  • Tin can become louder than expected

  • External power brick

Read Our HP Z2 Mini G9 Review

Intel NUC xi Pro Kit NUC11TNKi5

Best Bare-Bones Kit Desktop

Why We Picked It

Intel’s NUC (Next Unit of Computing) mini desktops are impressive enough to claim two spots on this listing. The NUC eleven Pro Kit (NUC11TNKi5) is overqualified for the electronic-signage and display-kiosk applications that traditionally star small-form-gene (SFF) systems—it’south a total-featured, seriously powerful desktop that will advantage anyone looking for an office productivity or creative PC (though not a gaming rig). Information technology’s also available in both preconfigured models and bare-bones kits (Intel installs the CPU, you provide the RAM, solid-state drive, and Windows license).

Who It’s For

Both enterprise and professional customers can profit from the NUC xi Pro’south mix of compactness and adequacy, especially if they accept advantage of its back up for multiple monitors. It’s fine both for traditional SFF tasks like digital signage and for its desk-space-saving general-purpose potential.

PROS

  • Super-trim contour
  • Very proficient CPU musculus for the price and size
  • Clean, minimalist classic-NUC design
  • Above-average connectivity for the chassis size
  • Supports up to four directly-connected displays

CONS


  • Not an option for gamers

  • Must factor SSD, RAM, and Bone costs and installation into kit version

Read Our Intel NUC 11 Pro Kit NUC11TNKi5 Review

Corsair One a200

All-time Loftier-End Meaty Desktop

Why We Picked It

Speaking of taking almost no space, the Corsair One a200 is the derringer of gaming desktops. Our most contempo test unit ($3,799) paired a 12-core AMD Ryzen 9 5900X processor with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 graphics carte for blazing-fast, silky-smooth 4K gameplay. It even fabricated room for 32GB of memory and a 1TB SSD plus 2TB difficult drive. The 15-by-six.ix-past-seven.9-inch PC sports a handsome metal case with 2 RGB lighting zones on the front console and plenty of ports.

Who Information technology’s For

With white-glove build quality and blissfully quiet liquid-cooled operation, the Corsair One a200 is obviously an exceptional gaming rig only also ready to serve as a powerful productivity or artistic workstation. Small-scale is cute? Make that minor is mighty.

PROS

  • Stellar gaming performance
  • Great-looking, minimal-footprint design
  • Whisper-quiet functioning
  • Includes PCI Express 4.0 SSD

CONS


  • Complicated, though non impossible, to upgrade

Read Our Corsair One a200 Review

NUC 11 Farthermost Kit (NUC11BTMi9, “Beast Canyon”)

Best Meaty Desktop for DIY Power Users

Why We Picked It

Intel’s NUC 11 Farthermost Kit stands apart from its Next Unit of Computing siblings by beingness large plenty to accept a full-length desktop graphics card (its footprint is 14.1 by vii.4 inches). Information technology’s obviously non a mini PC you tin mountain on the back of your monitor, simply it’s a blank-bones structure projection that tin give you colossal gaming or other desktop performance in what’s still a small-course-cistron pattern. Information technology’southward comparable in size to an Xbox or PlayStation game console, merely runs all Windows software—and decorates your desk with a wild RGB-illuminated skull faceplate and “ground effects” bottom light bars. Plus, Intel’south unique Compute Element design pushes the processor, chief system retentiveness, and other core components into a single plug-in module that makes hereafter upgrades like shooting fish in a barrel.

Who It’s For

The NUC 11 Farthermost’s chief audience is hardcore gamers who carry their PCs to LAN parties. Only tinkerers and do-it-yourselfers who can upkeep for some RAM, a solid-state drive, and a game-worthy GPU volition enjoy building it as much every bit using information technology.

PROS

  • Heaps of power potential in a modest package
  • Supports full-length graphics cards
  • Generous port option, including twin Thunderbolt four
  • Modular Compute Chemical element makes potential future CPU upgrades a single-carte swap
  • Dandy RGB logo and ground-effects lighting

CONS


  • No preconfigured models, simply blank-basic form

  • Larger than other tested NUCs

  • Skull logo may not exist everyone’s vibe

Read Our NUC eleven Extreme Kit (NUC11BTMi9, “Animate being Canyon”) Review

Apple tree Mac Studio (M1 Ultra)

Best Loftier-Cease Mac Desktop

Why We Picked It

We more often than not refer to Windows systems when nosotros talk most workstations, just macOS holds a well-earned function of the design and digital content creation market. The Mac Studio with Apple’due south M1 Ultra processor delivers performance that’s simply stunning, well worth our test unit’s $six,199 price—you may error it for the petite Mac mini at outset glance, but this is a superior alternative to the Intel Xeon-based Mac Pro. Its unibody aluminum chassis (7.7 inches foursquare and iii.7 inches loftier) holds upwardly to 128GB of memory and 8TB of storage. A plethora of ports support all the monitors and peripherals you could desire. And as for speed, well, we applaud PCs that perform our HandBrake video encoding test in under eight minutes. The M1 Ultra Studio does information technology in two and a one-half.

Who Information technology’south For

Artistic pros and macOS speed freaks won’t notice a meliorate desktop than the Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra chip. We found the M1 Max version underwhelming, but this one’s the real deal.

PROS

  • Incredible functioning from M1 Ultra processor
  • Impressive industrial design
  • Plenty of ports

CONS


  • Display and accessories sold separately

  • Not user-upgradable after purchase

Read Our Apple Mac Studio (M1 Ultra) Review

Apple Mac mini (M1, 256 GB SSD, Late 2020)

Best Mainstream Mac Desktop

Why We Picked It

The Mac mini has been around since 2005, and it’due south never been amend. Its starting cost of $699 is dirt cheap by Apple tree standards, but its move from Intel to Apple’s in-house M1 processor has revitalized the vii.7-inch-foursquare (one.4 inches high) desktop. Its seamless aluminum design even so makes the arrangement the prettiest paperweight on your desk-bound, and its combination of macOS and preinstalled productivity apps make it an unbeatably user-friendly family PC. The mini offers enough of ports, surprisingly repose operation, and lively functioning.

Who It’southward For

As long as they don’t mind ownership a monitor, keyboard, and mouse a la carte, both consumers and pocket-size-part entrepreneurs will be delighted with the Mac mini. It’s an elegant all-around solution that forms an unbeatable ecosystem with your iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.

PROS

  • New, lower starting price
  • Much improved overall performance from 2018 model
  • Especially promising demote results with native “Universal” apps
  • Surprisingly quiet and cool performance nether load

CONS


  • Boosting RAM and SSD capacity at purchase time is pricey

  • Fewer Thunderbolt ports than previous Mac mini

  • Memory no longer upgradable post-purchase

Read Our Apple Mac mini (M1, 256 GB SSD, Tardily 2020) Review


How to Buy a Desktop

Impressive diversity and capability, right? We don’t deny that a laptop or tablet is a meliorate selection for people who depend on business concern travel or whose computing consists mostly of basic surfing and typing from the living-room burrow, but for small offices, families, artistic pros, gamers, and tech tinkerers, desktops are often the all-time choice and the best value.

Cyberpower Gaming Desktop


(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

While desktops don’t come up in as many singled-out form factors as laptops, there’s groovy variation in computing power and room for upgrades and expansion. Permit’s swoop into these, and a agglomeration of other important factors, every bit you lot ready to buy your next desktop.


How Much Should You Spend on a Desktop?

One of the desktop’due south most attracting promises is the value it delivers. Your coin simply goes farther with desktop PCs and their components. Instead of buying a $700 laptop with a competent Intel Core i5 processor, you can become a $700 desktop with a more powerful Core i7 CPU in information technology, and mayhap even squeeze in a dedicated graphics carte du jour.

Yous tin find complete mini PCs for very light piece of work and display-signage tasks for under $300, and perfectly serviceable modest towers for $300 to $600. Gaming desktops with dedicated graphics cards showtime at effectually $500. You can also discover all-in-ane desktops, with the display and all of the computing components congenital into a unmarried device, starting at effectually $400.

The thing with desktops is, opting for a cheap one does not carry some of the same risks you’d face with a like-priced laptop. A $250 Blackness Fri special or a steeply discounted refurbished desktop could perform just fine for bones calculating, and you wouldn’t need to worry about the wear and tear on cheap materials that you lot might with a laptop of a like cost. That inexpensive laptop would exist subject to the vagaries of daily commuting and the occasional drop from a java table. The desktop, in dissimilarity, would need to stay put and merely piece of work.

Dell Inspiron Desktop PC


(Credit: Molly Flores)

At the elevation stop of the market are business organization workstations, tricked-out gaming rigs, and magnificently engineered all-in-one PCs that cost several yard dollars. Not but volition a $3,000 gaming tower offering immense computing power today, but it should come up with so much room for expansion and potential for upgradability that its useful life volition exist far longer than any laptop’s. And that’due south before you fifty-fifty delve into the wild globe of custom PCs: automotive-grade paint jobs, liquid cooling, and fanciful lighting and wiring.

It-manageable, security-conscious business desktops—well-nigh of them nowadays made by Dell, HP, and Lenovo—have their own pricing dynamic and tend to toll more, all else beingness equal. That’s because of their premium warranty or back up plans, equally well as the possible addition of enterprise-specific silicon focused on manageability or security. Sometimes, part of the cost premium of business desktops reflects the PC maker’due south guarantee that it volition stock replacement components and upgrades for that line of machines for a stock-still future menstruation. That allows It pros to count on the ability to continue servicing a armada of a given business organization machine over that stretch of time.


Windows vs. Mac: Settle on an Operating System

The Mac vs. PC debate is i of the oldest in mod technology, and nosotros’re not going to choice a side or attempt to settle that particular religious war here. But if you’re non wedded to one or the other by years of habit (or the peripherals and software you own) and are open to switching, here’due south a quick rundown of your choices.

Windows is the latest iteration of Microsoft’s operating system. Desktops that apply information technology and previous versions of the Os are what most people typically rely on, so you’ll be assured of the best compatibility and the widest selection of third-party software. Desktops running Windows are also readily available below $500, making them attractive to casual users, families looking for a 2d PC, and bargain hunters.

Mac versus Windows


(Credit: Jose Ruiz)

Macs are an excellent choice if you’re already in an Apple-centric household, since they offer seamless compatibility with iPads and iPhones, including the ability to send and receive messages on any device connected to your iCloud account. The toll of entry will be higher than with the least expensive PCs, nevertheless.

Google’s Chrome OS is a viable alternative to Windows and macOS, but desktops running information technology (called Chromeboxes) are rare and best suited to niche uses like powering a restaurant menu brandish. A fourth option is to buy a desktop with no operating organization at all and install an open-source ane of your choosing, such as Ubuntu Linux. Nosotros don’t recommend going this route unless you lot’re technically savvy, willing to experiment, and okay fixing software compatibility problems and other quirks.


What Desktop Form Cistron Practise You Need?

Macs and Windows PCs are available in all 3 of the major desktop form factors: mini PCs that tin can fit on a bookshelf, sleek all-in-ones with built-in (and usually high-resolution) displays, and traditional desktop towers that are bulky but offer room for more than or less easy expansion. These iii forms each have strengths and weaknesses, and none of them is an obvious best selection for everyone. You’ll have to choose based on what you plan to do with your desktop and where you plan to put information technology.

For truly cramped quarters or light workloads, equally well as for people who beloved the efficient use of space, a mini PC could be the all-time selection. They come up in sizes ranging from tiny sticks not much larger than a USB pollex bulldoze to small-grade-factor (SFF) towers that may be nearly a foot tall but take compact footprints. The very smallest sizes accept the benefit of disappearing backside an HDMI-equipped monitor or TV, and they contain a processor, retentivity, storage, and ports to hook up keyboards and mice. They’re economical and power-efficient, and can serve equally adequate web browsing or multimedia viewing platforms. Only know that the models at the truly tiny end of the scale offer no room for adding extra internal components, and their preinstalled parts are normally difficult or impossible to upgrade.

Origin 5000T


(Credit: Molly Flores)

That said, yous can notice a fair mix of what qualify as mini PCs that practise offer the power to customize or upgrade components. Models based on or inspired past Intel’s Next Unit of Calculating (NUC) platform tin can be equally small as 5 inches square but yet allow for one or two solid-land drives of your choosing, and the ability to choose and install your own RAM. They’re bigger than the “stick”-fashion PCs simply much more flexible.

Traditional tower desktops offering even more flexibility, only also a lot more majority. Nowadays, the differences betwixt midsize and full-size towers are less well-defined, and some of the new PC case designs—from cubes to glass boxes—defy easy categorization. Still, nearly all desktop towers accept generous amounts of interior space and total-size (a.k.a. ATX) motherboards, and so you tin can install 1 or more (sometimes, many more than) secondary storage drives, more RAM in empty slots on the motherboard, a video bill of fare if one isn’t installed, and in some remote cases, fifty-fifty a 2nd graphics card for extreme gaming or graphics-accelerated tasks. (Note that not all desktop mini towers and towers can accept a graphics upgrade. That is where reviews come in.)

An all-in-1 (AIO) desktop is quite a unlike beast than both of these form factors. An AIO can save yous some space, since the brandish is built in. An AIO’s value proposition comes downwards to space saving and whether you happen to be shopping for a desktop display at the same fourth dimension. Though you can observe budget AIOs with basic feature sets, lower resolutions, and not-touch screens, many new models offering affect-enabled screens, and some AIO panels have exceptionally high native resolutions of 4K (iii,840 by 2,160 pixels) or even 5K (5,120 by two,880 pixels). Bear upon displays make them splendid choices for watching movies or serving every bit a multimedia hub in the kitchen or other public area of your home, though the very highest resolutions target content creators rather than consumers.

HP Envy 34 AIO


(Credit: Molly Flores)

With a few exceptions for business organisation-oriented models, you volition give up a lot of room for expansion in an AIO versus traditional desktop tower. Cracking open an AIO for an upgrade or ready, while not impossible, is a bigger deal than opening the side of a desktop tower. Apple’s tardily-model iMacs are peculiarly difficult to open.


How Much Processing Power Is Plenty?

One of the principal benefits of a desktop tower is that it will use a desktop-grade CPU. That may sound obvious, just it’s a key distinction.

AMD and Intel, the two biggest makers of processors for PCs, offer desktop-class chips and laptop-class chips to system manufacturers, but ofttimes the CPU model names are similar and tricky to tell apart. For example, yous will run across Intel’s Core i7 in both laptops and desktops, but having a “true” desktop CPU versus one made for a mobile device makes a big performance difference.

A desktop CPU gives you more power for complex content-creation work, PC gaming, or math and scientific projects. Faster processors with four, 6, eight, or even as many as 18 cores will benefit software written to take advantage of the extra cores. The desktop version of a given CPU will consume more power and generate more heat than versions designed for laptops, which must be incorporated into environments that have less thermal and power-delivery elbowroom. A desktop CPU also has greater jerk room to contain a key characteristic, multithreading, that allows each of the CPU’s cores to address two processing threads at a time instead of just one. Multithreading (which Intel calls “Hyper-Threading”) tin can deliver a major performance boost when engaged with suitably equipped software.

Intel Core i5 and Core i7


(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

The very highest-end desktop chips may crave liquid cooling systems, which limits their apply to high-end towers with lots of interior space. Processors in these families are specialized and expensive, and you’ll but want them if you have very specific software needs that y’all know, explicitly, can leverage their higher base and peak clock rates, as well as all of their addressable cores and threads. These are non casual purchases.

Many AIOs and mini PCs, conversely, apply the same efficient, libation-running types of CPUs that yous’ll find in laptops. Intel typically labels these mobile-start bit designs with a CPU name containing “U,” “H,” or “P”; almost desktop chips instead have a “T” or a “K,” or just a zero at the end. A mobile CPU might have the same number of processor cores as its desktop counterpart (four- and half-dozen-core chips are common in both), but its maximum ability consumption volition oft be far lower. Also, the typical base and boost clock speeds may be lower, and the chip may not back up multithreading. That said, many desktop PC buyers will be fine with these lower-powered CPUs for everyday piece of work, and a little more.

AMD Ryzen CPU


(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

For a typical tower using a true desktop-grade CPU, mainstream users should wait for an Intel Cadre i5 or AMD Ryzen five; the Core i7 and Ryzen 7 are too excellent, powerful choices, but overkill for nigh folks who aren’t serious PC gamers, intensive multitaskers, or prosumer or pro video or image manipulators. If CPU power is critically important, though, these should suffice. The Core i9, Ryzen nine, Ryzen Threadripper, and Core X-Series are worthwhile only if y’all know your workflow is being held back by as well few cores or threads, or you take farthermost needs in terms of internal storage (for which the Threadripper and Core X tin help with internal resources). Again, meet our deep-dive on desktop CPUs to understand the nuances of these higher-finish choices.


Practice You Need a Powerful Graphics Card?

All computers have a CPU, but about laptops and many cheaper desktops don’t accept a dedicated graphics processor, or GPU. Instead, their display output comes from a portion of the CPU, a slice of silicon known as an integrated graphics processor (IGP). An IGP is fine for basic tasks, such every bit checking your email, browsing the web, or fifty-fifty streaming videos. Doing productivity work on an IGP is completely within bounds. Indeed, most business organization desktops rely on IGPs.

GeForce RTX 3080


(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

That said, an IGP is not the answer for anyone who wants to run intensive 3D games, render architectural simulations, or perhaps train an artificial intelligence algorithm. These situations—especially games, just often pro-class apps, too—can benefit from more than muscular graphics. Times like these phone call for a graphics carte, which will bring its own GPU to the game, and the most powerful of these are found in desktop PCs.

AMD Radeon graphics card


(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

Choosing a graphics card is a complex matter. Gamers should consider the capabilities of their monitor starting time. A 4K monitor or i with a loftier refresh rate (144Hz or greater) will crave a very powerful GPU (or occasionally even two GPUs) to display games at the monitor’due south maximum potential. If you’re just looking to do some middle-of-the-road gaming on a 1080p monitor (and non looking to win whatever professional esports crowns), a mainstream card like those in Nvidia’due south GeForce GTX series volition practise just fine. At the high terminate, current GPU choices for gaming desktops comprise Nvidia’due south GeForce RTX 3000 serial, and AMD’s Radeon RX 6000 serial. The RTX 2000 series and RX 5000 series respectively point previous-generation cards.

Nvidia graphics card


(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

Meanwhile, creative professionals and other power users should consider the graphics-acceleration recommendations of the apps they plan to run, using the software maker’south arrangement requirements as a guide. Graphics-accelerated video rendering or AI programs tin benefit from the same types of GPUs every bit intensive 3D games. Professionals eyeing workstations volition desire to consider Nvidia’southward RTX A serial lineup or AMD’s Radeon Pro models. Check out our deep-swoop guide to graphics cards for much, much more on the nuances of today’s video cards.


How Much Storage and Memory Should Your Desktop Have?

While powerful CPUs and GPUs are mostly relegated to desktop towers, nearly every desktop form factor tin can handle copious amounts of storage and memory. This is thanks to the advent of college-capacity memory modules and especially solid-state drives (SSDs). The latter take up vastly less space than the spinning hard drives of old.

It’due south still possible to find desktops with only spinning hard drives, just we recommend fugitive these and choosing an SSD as the primary boot drive whenever possible. Some desktops characteristic a single-bulldoze combination of an SSD and a hard drive. A “true” SSD is really the only way to go as a boot drive today, though, considering how far prices take dropped in the concluding couple of years.

A single 500GB or 512GB SSD is fine for most users. A 250GB or 256GB SSD is also a common size for a kick drive these days, just information technology’s a piddling tight if yous shop much locally. Anyone with large media and game collections will want to consider several terabytes of storage across multiple drives. Consider choosing a fast SSD every bit the kick drive, and one or more than large-capacity but slower hard drives for majority storage of capacity-sapping video or games.  A typical configuration in this case is ane 512GB SSD and two or more than hard drives with at least 1TB of space on each. Such a setup can be more affordable than you might think—an SSD plus i hard drive is sometimes seen on under-$1,000 desktop towers.

Crucial 2.5-inch SSD


(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

If you think you’ll add together storage subsequently, consider how many expansion bays your desktop has. A combination of two or more 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch bays should exist plenty, as these can suit whatever type of traditional SSD or difficult drive. You’ll besides want to ensure your desktop has at least one M.ii slot to accept a PCI Express SSD equally the principal kicking bulldoze, since that will offering the fastest throughput speeds. In most new systems, the boot drive will come as an M.2 bulldoze. These drives are very small-scale, the size and thickness of a stick of gum.

WD Blue M.2 SSD


(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

While a desktop’south SSD stores your information, its organization retentiveness (or RAM) works with the CPU to run apps and helps define its capacity to multitask. Memory capacities of 8GB or 16GB are fine for most users, and these are the most common configurations on entry-level or midrange desktops of all forms and sizes.

Few people volition see much benefit from retentiveness amounts higher up 16GB, but at that place are exceptions. Gaming PCs above the budget level should have at to the lowest degree 16GB of RAM, and 32GB is a prudent upgrade for esports hounds who desire to play and simultaneously edit and stream in-game footage.

Finally, assuming your professional software can address higher retentiveness amounts, professional person workstations should have at least 32GB of memory with error-correcting code (ECC) capabilities to keep everything running smoothly. You’ll want to follow the guidance of the software maker, in that example.


What Wired and Wireless Connectivity Does My PC Need?

You might exist able to excuse a relative lack of input and output ports on a sleek AIO. The screen and speakers are built in, and yous’ll likely apply a wireless keyboard and mouse, anyway. Merely mini PCs and desktop towers need the right selection of ports. At a minimum, they’ll have to connect to a brandish, speakers or headphones, and a power source.

On all but the very tiniest of mini PCs, yous should look for at least 3 USB 3.0 (or college) ports, at least one of which should be the newer, oval-shaped Type-C variety if you have whatsoever compatible peripherals that plug direct into that kind of port. You lot’ll as well typically find an HDMI output (and mayhap another video output or ii, such every bit DisplayPort or VGA), a iii.5mm audio jack, a connector for an external Wi-Fi antenna, and a receptacle for a physical lock. Note that some mini PCs use scaled-down “mini” versions of HDMI or DisplayPort, which crave a unlike kind of input cablevision or a dongle. Brand certain the machine’s video outputs are compatible with your brandish and its cabling.

Intel NUC Bean Canyon Ports


(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

Larger tower PCs volition take many more ports, offering support for pretty much any peripheral you need to connect. Wait six or more USB ports, for starters. On larger towers, one or 2 of these should support Thunderbolt over USB-C. Also a given: an Ethernet jack for wired networking, and multiple DisplayPort and HDMI jacks on the dedicated GPU (assuming there is one) for connecting i or more than external monitors. Note that a belfry with a graphics card may also accept video outputs that stem from the motherboard, but you should only use the video outputs on the GPU.

Cyberpower PC Port Panel


(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

Many towers volition also accept multiple audio ports, including possibly an optical output and ports for individual speaker channels in a surround-sound setup. Make sure that these lucifer upwards with any gear you may have; the number of environs-sound jacks can vary depending on the PC and its motherboard. Annotation that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, while reliably nowadays on even the cheapest laptops and many smaller desktops, is non a given on larger towers.

Loftier-cease workstations and gaming desktops sometimes have a 2d Ethernet port for doubling network bandwidth or for ever-continued redundancy, while business organization desktops sometimes offer legacy connectors such as VGA video outputs, PS/two peripheral ports, or series ports. The throwback-mode ports are at that place for people who nonetheless demand to use them with older, specialized hardware such as indicate-of-sale scanners or industrial equipment. Of course, you can buy dongles and adapters for these special port needs, but the possibility of having them built in is a key benefit of choosing a desktop over a laptop.

Desktop PC Ports at Front of Chassis


(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

When evaluating a desktop, beyond looking at what ports are present, also evaluate where they are. Are they easily accessible? Towers tend to have a few commonly used ports on the top or front (usually a headphone jack and few USB ports). Some AIOs, in contrast, have some of their fundamental ports hidden backside the stand up, in hard-to-reach places.


Screen Size, Expansion Trophy, and More

Some buying concerns, no less crucial than the ones higher up, use only to sure types of desktops. Deciding on a screen size and type is critical for AIO shoppers, for instance. A touch-enabled brandish with support for in-aeroplane switching (IPS) to widen viewing angles is squeamish to have for an AIO that serves equally the family’southward agenda or photo album, but know that bear on back up is not currently bachelor on Apple’due south iMacs.

Give some deep thought to the screen resolution, whatever the panel size. A 4K or even 5K resolution makes for a breathtaking screen, peculiarly one that’s 27 inches or larger, merely such resolutions often add together significantly to the price. As a issue, you may want to settle for a screen with a full HD or 1080p (1,920-past-1,080-pixel) native resolution and spend money to upgrade other components instead.

Likewise look for multiple cameras, i facing the rear, that could make an AIO a good selection, say, for an ID-card press station. Fan noise is too a consideration with AIOs, since their computing components volition be on your desk instead of subconscious underneath information technology.

Desktop towers have many of their own idiosyncrasies. Enthusiasts who like to tinker with components but aren’t interested in building their ain PCs from scratch will need to pay special attention to the number and type of expansion trophy and how easy information technology is to access power and data cables.

Inside a desktop PC


(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

They should also check the maximum wattage rating of the power supply unit (PSU) and whether or not the instance has the clearance for bigger coolers (or the mounting points for liquid cooling gear), if they might plan to add a more powerful CPU later on. A depression-wattage PSU, such equally a 300-watt model used in a desktop with integrated graphics, might preclude adding a graphics bill of fare later on without upgrading the PSU, too. Note too, that some very inexpensive desktop PCs utilize depression-wattage, custom-design PSUs that tin’t back up a graphics bill of fare and besides aren’t easy to upgrade, due to their use of nonstandard connectors on the motherboard side. Again, this is where a careful reading of reviews comes in.

PC Power Supply


(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

Desktop towers and mini PCs also require separate speakers or headphones to deliver audio. If you don’t already accept them, you’ll accept to spend extra coin to buy some, and in the case of dedicated speakers, they’ll take up room on your desk. For people who don’t intendance as much most audio quality and just desire loud enough audio to hear family members on the other end of a Skype telephone call, the built-in speakers of an AIO should work just fine.


When Is the Best Time to Buy a Desktop?

For most people in the market for an cheap desktop tower, there’s no unmarried best time to purchase. While traditional sale holidays such as Black Fri can net you lot the odd deal, when you find a arrangement whose features, price, and performance match what you’re looking for, take it abode.

That said, people who need copious amounts of CPU or GPU musculus (and who have a clear idea of what hardware moves the operation needle with the apps they apply) should pay attending to PC-component release cycles. Traditionally, Intel has announced new desktop CPU generations once a year, with the new chips showing up in PCs in the fall or early in the holiday shopping period. (This has shown more variance in contempo years.)

New graphics-carte du jour releases are less frequent and depend on the vagaries of technical advances—Nvidia’s highly successful GeForce GTX one thousand series, for example, was the cutting edge for several years before the get-go GeForce RTX cards were appear.

Keeping track of PC-component release cycles helps you become enlightened of what’south new before you purchase, and as well what is going off-market. For shoppers seeking maximum value or on a tight budget, getting a desktop based on a discounted terminal-generation (merely still powerful) CPU or GPU can be the way to become.

Dell XPS Desktop


(Credit: Molly Flores)

Shoppers looking for an all-in-ane PC, meanwhile, should pay attention to announcements from Apple. Many other manufacturers end up copying—and, sometimes, improving upon—the field-leading designs of the Apple iMac.


Where Should I Buy a Desktop?

Since you won’t exist lugging a desktop effectually about every bit much every bit yous would a laptop, it’s less important to handle the chassis and test-drive its build quality in the store before you bring it home. Still, if the desktop comes with peripherals included, information technology can be helpful to type a few lines and move the mouse around in the store. And setting eyes on an all-in-one desktop is more crucial than with a typical tower desktop or mini PC. The screen is an integral role of what y’all are ownership, and eyes-on fourth dimension matters, especially if you’re non well-versed, say, in the differences between a 24-inch and 27-inch panel, or a 1080p screen versus a 4K i.

If you limit yourself merely to the selection at your local electronics outlet, though, you’ll miss out on many not bad desktops. In fact, some configurations can exist exclusive to a single reseller, such as Best Purchase, Costco, or Walmart. Other merchants, such as Micro Middle, often accept in-store-merely deals that aren’t available anywhere online.

Desktop PC With Liquid Cooling


(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

This is where render policies come up in handy. If yous find a desktop with your ideal specifications online but can’t audition it locally, a seller with a liberal return policy is your best friend. Just make sure you’ve got acceptable time to return it, if it ends up not working out.


How Long a Warranty Does My Desktop Need?

Nearly desktop makers offer one-yr warranties on parts and labor, with extensions available for as many as five years at an boosted charge. Before y’all pay to extend the warranty, though, bank check your credit-bill of fare account benefits guide—your issuer might embrace mishaps for a brusque period of time after you buy a new product, and possibly extend the manufacturer’s warranty, too. (Many MasterCard accounts include a doubling of the standard warranty period, up to one year, for instance.)

If your card issuer doesn’t cover you, and y’all plan on keeping your desktop for several years, look into the cost of added coverage. Some manufacturers and resellers offer wide ranges of extended warranties; expect to spend $100 to $300 for one of these options. Our dominion of thumb is that if a warranty costs more 15% of the desktop’s purchase toll, you lot’re better off spending the money on backup drives or services that minimize downtime and protect precious data that you can’t supersede.


Should I Buy a Refurbished Desktop?

Many people because desktops in the $200-to-$500 range should besides consider a refurbished machine. They can be excellent values in sure circumstances.

Large corporations charter fleets of desktops for a few years at a time, after which third parties refurbish them and offer them for resale on eBay, also as via retailers such equally Best Buy, Newegg, and TigerDirect. To find them, search or filter the production category pages for “off-lease” or refurbished systems.

These refurbished PCs are often surprisingly inexpensive ($150 to $250 is common), and many are desktop towers, so they’re easy to upgrade or service if a component goes southward. They practice come with drawbacks. Their components are usually several years behind the cutting edge, they may be in imperfect cosmetic condition (some refurbishers grade condition on an A-B-C scale), and different refurbishers can accept varying levels of attention to item.

Still, if you’re looking for a cheap desktop to stow in a chiffonier or under a desk, used just to check your email and calendar, refurbs can be a fine option. Just be sure to buy from a seller with a reasonable render policy in case yous get a dud.


So, Which Desktop Is the Best One to Purchase for You?

Armed with all of the cognition and decision points higher up, y’all’re most gear up to shop. The final consideration is how well a desktop PC performs. We review hundreds of PCs every year, evaluating their features and testing their performance against peers in their respective categories. That fashion, 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 go up and running quickly.

Our current favorite desktops are below. Not finding anything that looks good? Cheque out the total feed of all of our latest desktop reviews, also as our narrower-focused guides to our favorite all-in-1 PCs, business desktops, and gaming desktops.

Source: https://www.pcmag.com/picks/the-best-desktop-computers