The 7 Best Desktop PCs of 2021

The desktop of your dreams awaits.

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The best desktop PCs are powerful and often upgradable. The original home computer took the form of the desktop computer and tower. Since then, computers have adopted all sorts of form factors, like laptops, all-in-one PCs, mini-PCs, and more. Further, desktops PCs can be designed for work in a cubicle, gaming, streaming entertainment, school, and more. In short, a good desktop PC is a sort of jack of all trades that fills a number of needs.

Desktop PCs typically come at a lower price point than other computers of similar power. That's because they're generally easier to design and build. But the compromise comes in portability. Desktops are harder to transport and often are sold just as a tower without a monitor, mouse, or keyboard. When shopping for a desktop PC, it's important to note what comes with it and what you'll have to buy separately.

When shopping for a desktop PC, it's important to keep things like upgrades, processing power, RAM, and storage in mind. Some desktops can be pieced together from separate parts. We're focusing primarily on pre-built machines that come ready to go out of the box. But just because you buy a pre-built computer doesn't mean it can't be upgraded later. Our experts have rounded up our best picks that we feel will give you the power you need while still giving you value for your hard-earned dollars. So check out our list below!

The Rundown
This looks like a computer for someone with refined taste, as opposed to a colorful spectacle.
Best for Gaming:
HP Omen 30L at Amazon
The case opens with a single button and it's very upgradable, so this is also a PC that can grow with you.
We like the value that this inexpensive machine provides.
ChromeOS's strengths lie in the power of Google's services, and the ability to run on minimal hardware.
The M1 is an ARM-based processor that punches way above its weight class. The power of the M1 stands up to the toughest tasks.
Best For Students:
Dell Inspiron 3671 at Amazon
If you need a nice middle-of-the-road PC for some light tasks and basic processing, the Dell Inspiron 3671 will do a good job for you.
Best for Video Editing:
Lenovo Yoga A940 at Best Buy
Put simply, this is a computer designed for creators. It's an all-in-one creativity machine.

Best Overall: Alienware Aurora R12

Alienware Aurora R12 desktop computer
What We Like
  • 11th generation processor

  • Lots of customization options

  • Mature design

  • Easy to upgrade

What We Don't Like
  • Upgrades get expensive

  • Generates a lot of heat

  • Loud fans

Dell's Alienware desktop comes from a long legacy of top-quality gaming hardware. Shortly after Intel announced its 11th generation processors, Dell upgraded its Alienware to take advantage of them. We haven't had the chance to go hands-on with the Alienware R12, but we did look at the R11 and we're confident enough in the Alienware brand to draw conclusions about the R12.  Put simply, it's a beast.

Specifically, you have an 11th generation Core-i7 processor, with eight cores running at 2.5GHz (max at 4.9 GHz) and sixteen threads. Add an NVidia GeForce RTX 3080 Super GPU, 64GB of DDR4 RAM, and two SSDs for a combined total of 3TB. That means you can store basically anything and access it very quickly.

Erika Rawes who reviewed the Aurora R11 said, "While some gaming PC towers boast bold designs with transparent glass, RGB fans, and enough colors to make you feel like you’re at a rave, the Aurora R11 takes a much different design approach. The R11 is unassuming—not too flashy and not too loud. It's elegant and simple in appearance with subtle strips of lighting on the front trim of the oblong chassis. This looks like a computer for someone with refined taste, as opposed to a colorful spectacle."

Put all that under a load, and this computer will spit out quite a bit of heat and fan noise, but that's consistent with a lot of gaming PCs. It's important to make sure this PC is in a place with good ventilation and airflow. But overall, this computer will happily chew up any processes you care to throw at it and come away smiling.

CPU: Intel Core i7-11700F | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 SUPER | RAM: 64GB | Storage: 1TB SSD + 2TB SSD

"The Aurora R11 replaces its predecessor as the best gaming desktop of the year."Erika Rawes, Product Tester

Alienware Aurora R11

Lifewire / Erika Rawes

Best for Gaming: HP Omen 30L

The HP Omen 30L is our pick for best gaming desktop
What We Like
  • Lots of power

  • 2TB storage

  • Clear case

  • Lots of upgrade options

What We Don't Like
  • Gets expensive quickly

  • Fans are loud...

  • ...and they don't work very well

Gaming computers are built to be workhorses.  Games push computers harder than normal tasks largely because of the graphics and constant sending and receiving of information. So you need a computer that's able to keep up with all that.  The HP Omen series is a line of gaming PCs that can be just as big as you need them to be. You can get configurations as low as an Intel Core i5 and NVIDIA GPX 1660 GPU which itself is quite capable. But, if you want to get a rock-solid performer, we recommend splurging and picking up the Intel Core i9, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, 32GB of RAM, and 2 TB of storage. That configuration gets expensive quickly, but in terms of raw horsepower, it'll be worth it. 

If you're into RGB lighting on your gaming rig, you'll love the HP Omen with its clear front and sides. Some reviewers feel that the internals don't do enough to justify the glass case, but that's more a matter of taste. You can make this computer light up if you want it to.

Some users report that the computer's thermal management isn't the best. The PC is liquid and air-cooled, and the fans themselves can get pretty loud. Some reviewers suggest using software to keep the clock cycles down on the processor which keeps the fans down a bit. It makes a difference.

The configuration we linked to should keep you humming along quite nicely. If you're into games or more focused on productivity tasks like video editing, this computer will handle it with aplomb. The case opens with a single button and it's very upgradable, so this is also a PC that can grow with you.

CPU: Intel Core i9-10850K | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 | RAM: 32GB | Storage: 1TB SSD + 1TB HDD

Best Value: Dell G5 2020

Dell G5 2020
3.5

Our Ratings
  • Design
    3/5
  • Setup Process
    5/5
  • Performance
    3/5
  • Productivity
    3/5
  • Audio
    2/5
What We Like
  • Great power

  • Not expensive

  • Flashy design

What We Don't Like
  • Hard to upgrade

  • Thermal issues

The Dell G5 2020 is one of our favorite values in desktop computing. The computer is a mini-tower, which means it's smaller than a conventional tower. The recommended configuration for this computer is below, but Zach, our reviewer found the base model to be surprisingly powerful. He writes, "Using a 144Hz 1080p monitor to ensure lots of overhead while testing, less intensive games like World of Warcraft, League of Legends and indie titles like Starbound performed quite well, all of which easily hit over 100 FPS on average. For AAA games like Gears of War 5 and Battlefield V, the G5 struggled a bit more, but was still able to get a pretty consistent 60 FPS with such demanding titles."

Zach calls the mini-towers design, "an interesting geometric pattern with little fins across the surface, a single G5 logo, an RGB light bar, and the front input panel." The fact that it's a mini-tower comes with some compromises. There are only two fans in the computer which can cause the CPU to get hot under intense tasks. It may also present a challenge to upgrade due to limited space concerns.

Speaking of upgrading, Dell uses a custom motherboard and power supply unit (PSU) to keep the design this compact. This could make upgrades harder down the line. We recommend putting as much money as you can afford into your initial purchase which will make upgrades less important.  Specifically, Zach recommends putting your money into the GPU first, especially if you have gaming in your sights.

CPU: Intel Core i7-9700 | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB SSD

“In the end, the base level G5 is a perfectly capable gaming machine, albeit with some minor issues.”Zach Sweat, Product Tester

Dell G5 5090

Lifewire / Zach Sweat

Best Chromebox: Acer Chromebox CXI3

The Acer Chromebox CXI3 is a nice little ChromeOS computer.
What We Like
  • Small

  • Runs ChromeOS

  • Runs great on minimal hardware

  • Built in VESA mount

What We Don't Like
  • Immature OS

  • Ports on both sides

ChromeOS is a very respectable operating system in its own right, even if it is the least mature of the "big three." While Windows and macOS both have their advantages, ChromeOS's strengths lie in the power of Google's services, and the ability to run on minimal hardware. Indeed, the specification sheet for this Chromebox is not impressive. You've got an 8th-generation Intel Core-i3, 8GB of RAM, and 64GB of onboard storage. But ChromeOS runs great on this hardware. Erika, our reviewer says it "feels lightning fast because it has more than enough processing power for a Chrome OS machine. It’s like driving a sports car through a neighborhood. It won’t miss a beat as you open applications, search the web, or watch videos."

This PC actually falls into a category called the mini PC due to its extremely small size. This computer even ships with a VESA mount which allows you to attach the computer to the back of a monitor, essentially turning it into an all-in-one PC.  There are ports on both sides of the computer, which can make cabling messy unless you're using the VESA mount on the back of your computer. That cleans things up a bit.

ChromeOS is still young, having just reached its 10-year anniversary. Put into perspective, Windows 10 has been around for six years. Some say that ChromeOS still has a lot of maturing to do before it can stand toe to toe with macOS and Windows. We won't argue that point, but we will point out that anything you can do in a Chrome browser, you can do on this computer. Plus, the Android app ecosystem works here as well, so combine your browser and your phone, and you have a fairly robust set of capabilities.

CPU: Intel Core i3-8130U | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 62 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 64GB Flash Solid State

"A lightning-fast mini PC that will faithfully serve those who use their computer primarily for web-based functions. The Acer ChromeBox CX13 is an intelligently designed minimalistic PC that will faithfully serve Chrome OS fans, and the Linux Beta feature adds even more functionality."Erika Rawes, Product Tester

Acer ChromeBox CX13

Lifewire / Erika Rawes

Best Apple: Apple Mac mini (M1, 2020)

Apple Mac mini M1
What We Like
  • M1 Processor

  • Lots of native apps

  • Rosetta 2 compatibility

  • Good price

What We Don't Like
  • Previous model had more ports

  • Can't be upgraded

In late 2020, Apple introduced the M1 Chip, its first ARM-based processor built by Apple specifically for Apple hardware. That hardware included the Mac mini. Our reviewer took the Mac Mini for a spin, and ran some benchmarks, starting with the Cinebench multi-core test. "The Mac mini achieved a score of 7,662 in that test, putting it between an Intel Xeon E5-2697 at 3GHz and an X5650 Xeon processor at 3.66Ghz. That’s almost within spitting distance of an eight-core AMD Ryzen 7 1700X, but only about half the score of a 1950X Threadripper."

The M1 is an ARM-based processor as mentioned which is an entirely different architecture from the Intel chips that previous macs ran on. As such, developers need to rebuild their apps for that architecture. Apple addresses that in two ways. First and foremost by encouraging developers many of which have done so including Adobe, Microsoft, Mozilla, Blizzard, and more. Second, Apple built a Rosetta 2 compatibility layer which allows non-native apps to run on the M1 chip. Even if the apps you rely on haven't been ported over, your productivity should not suffer.

The build on the Mac mini is a little disappointing, our reviewer Jeremy explains, "The biggest disappointment here, aside from the fact that the M1 Mac mini didn’t receive any sort of aesthetic update, is that Apple removed two Thunderbolt ports and the ability to upgrade your memory...The lack of upgradeability certainly removes a degree of flexibility from the hardware, though, making it much more important to select the amount of memory and storage that you’ll be comfortable with for the life of the device."

We really like the Mac mini as a buy to get into the Apple ecosystem, but it's important to make sure you buy everything you need at the outset. Like the Chromebox above, this is a mini PC as such it's not upgradable once you buy the initial configuration. Keep that in mind when ordering.

CPU: Apple M1 | GPU: Integrated 8-core GPU | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB SSD

"The Apple Mac mini with M1 is a tremendously impressive piece of hardware, offering staggering performance at an affordable price. The only real catch here is that in leaving Intel behind, Apple may have left you in the lurch. If you can live and work in a world that’s entirely free of Windows, then the M1 Mac mini is ready to welcome you home."Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Apple Mac Mini

 Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Best For Students: Dell Inspiron 3671

The Dell Inspiron desktop computer is a highly-expandable desktop computer.
3.2

Our Ratings
  • Design
    3/5
  • Setup Process
    4/5
  • Performance
    3/5
  • Productivity
    3/5
  • Audio
    3/5
What We Like
  • Inexpensive

  • Compact tower

What We Don't Like
  • No USB-C

  • Speed issues

If you have a student that needs a computer, The Dell Inspiron 3671 is a great choice because it's small and portable. It's also powerful enough to get through basic tasks. We tested the midrange option with a Core-i5 processor and 12GB of RAM.  Our reviewer called that configuration a little processor light and a little RAM heavy, so he suggests you go the other way with that. He suggests a Core-i7 processor and around 8GB of RAM to balance out costs. Andrew writes, "The Dell Inspiron 3671 is not designed to be a powerhouse, and the specs in our configuration make it a pretty middle-of-the-road option."

Specifically, we had some speed trouble with this computer. The Core-i5 processor had a tendency to get bogged down when processing tasks and the onboard Wi-Fi had trouble keeping up with the speeds his home internet was capable of.  Andrew writes, "while a wired connection may have you happily humming along on high-speed internet, the Wi-Fi card here doesn’t seem capable of hitting anywhere near the same speeds."

The computer has a lot of I/O ports including HDMI, VGA, and a ton of USB-A ports, but no USB-C which is disappointing. In 2021, we really need to see USB-C ports on a computer. But overall, if you need a nice middle-of-the-road PC for some light tasks and basic processing, the Dell Inspiron 3671 will do a good job for you.

CPU: Intel Core i7-9700 | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 630 | RAM: 12GB | Storage: 256GB SSD

"If you’re working with a limited budget, this basic, mid-range desktop provides solid power for schoolwork and everyday tasks." Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Dell Inspiron 3671 Desktop Review

Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

Best for Video Editing: Lenovo Yoga A940

Lenovo Yoga A940-27ICB
3

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4/5
  • Setup Process
    4/5
  • Performance
    4/5
  • Productivity
    4/5
  • Audio
    4/5
What We Like
  • Qi charger

  • 27" 4K display

  • Peripheral storage

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Cumbersome screen tilting

  • Highly reflective display

The Lenovo Yoga a940 is our pick for the best video editing computer due to its large, 4K screen, and precision dial accessory that allows you to customize settings in creative applications like Adobe creative suite and Microsoft Office. This is an All-in-one (AIO) PC that combines the tower and screen into a single unit.  While most AIO PCs confine their components to the back of the monitor, the Yoga has a base that takes up a lot of room on your desk but is extremely functional. Our reviewer, Yoona explains, "The Lenovo Yoga A940 trades the typical bulky PC tower with a sleek (but plastic) all-in-one design. Extras like a built-in Qi wireless charging pad, LED lights underneath the display, and plenty of base storage for neatly tucking away the provided peripherals can help you streamline your work space."

The monitor mounts on a tilt hinge that allows you to put it into an easel configuration that works well as a touchscreen or with a stylus that is included. The screen is 4K and a full 27" on the diagonal. It's a very large, but highly reflective screen which makes it good for photo and video editing.  

While the CPU is older, our reviewer put the Lenovo Yoga A940 through a wringer of tests. She writes, "The overall PCMark productivity score came in at 5226, which is slightly above the company’s general recommendation that computers equipped for office work should earn at least a 4500. This PC also earned a 7635 score for photo editing, which surpasses the recommendation that 3450 and above is best for creative tasks. GFXBench scores were fair as well. The high-level Manhattan test garnered a score of 126.3fps and TREX brought in a score of  61.5 fps. This isn’t a gaming machine by any means, but you could get by loading a game here or there and not be too disappointed." 

Put simply, this is a computer designed for creators. The easel configuration makes editing and drawing a lot more convenient. At the same time, it's powerful enough to handle video editing and exporting. It's an all-in-one creativity machine.

CPU: Intel Core i5-8400T | GPU: AMD Radeon RX 560 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TB HDD

"If you’re looking for an affordable alternative that can still meet your creative demands, the Lenovo Yoga A940 is in a class of its own with its convertible desktop-to-tablet design and built-in storage hubs for peripherals." Yoona Wagener, Product Tester

Lenovo Yoga A940

Lifewire / Yoona Wagener

Final Verdict

Overall, we love Alienware Aurora R12 (Read our R11 review) as the best overall desktop computer. It's highly configurable and capable of enormous power (for an enormous price). IT can also slot in as a hardworking midrange desktop for a more reasonable price.


As for a second or third pick, we'll go with the other two operating systems on the list.  Both are mini-PCs so you don't have the expandability that you normally get in a desktop PC, but both of them are specced out just as powerfully as they need to be for their respective operating systems.  If you're a fan of macOS or ChromeOS, the Mac mini or the Acer Chromebox CXI3 would be great options.

About Our Trusted Experts

Adam Doud has been writing in the technology space for almost a decade. When he's not hosting the Benefit of the Doud podcast, he's playing with the latest phones, tablets, and laptops. When not working, he's a cyclist, geocacher, and spends as much time outside as he can.

Yoona Wagener is a copywriter and product reviewer whose areas of expertise include computers and computer peripherals.

Zach Sweat is an experienced editor, writer and photographer based in New York City. He is a gaming expert and praised the Dell G5 2020's base model for being surprisingly powerful.

Jeremy Laukkonen's obsession with technology tempted him away from the automotive industry to become a full-time ghostwriter for several major tech trade publications and a product tester for Lifewire. He loved the Acer Aspire E 15's full HD display and long-lasting battery, and called the HP Spectre x360 15t a "high water mark" for 2-in-1s. He also tested the MacBook Air with the M1 chip, praising its excellent performance and long-lasting battery.

Erika Rawes has written for Digital Trends, USA Today, Cheatsheet.com, and more. She tested several of the desktop PCs on this list.

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based writer who has been covering technology and video games since 2006. He reviewed the Dell Inspiron 3671 and praised it as a solid middle-of-the-road option.

FAQs

Do desktop PCs come with a monitor, mouse, and keyboard?

That depends. Often, when you're buying a desktop computer, you're getting just the tower. Other times, you'll get a mouse and keyboard, but no monitor. Sometimes, you'll get the whole kit. Getting a monitor along with a desktop tower is rare. Most people like to buy separate peripherals for their computers according to what's comfortable, and most computer OEMs have adopted that sales style.

Should you build your own PC?

Speaking of tinkering inside your PC, why not just build one from scratch? That's a very real possibility, and by doing that you can pick everything from the case to the power supply to the graphics card, memory, and more. It's a great way to get your own PC and often it turns out to be cheaper than buying one like in the list above. But, there is a fairly high knowledge/research bar you need to clear before you consider it. Knowing what components work with each other, the amount of cooling necessary, how to properly assemble the components and more can all be very intimidating.

What should you do with your old PC?

There are a number of ways you can recycle your old PC. Some people use older PCs as a sort of media server to store and stream videos. Some people install ChromeOS or Linux onto older PCs since they will often run well on lower specifications. You can also look into seeing if your local school district takes donations, or see if there is a computer recycling center nearby. If you go that route, be sure to scrub all of your personal data off the computer first.

Alienware Aurora R11

Lifewire / Erika Rawes

The Ultimate Desktop PC Buying Guide

In a world where smartphones and tablets are the norm, desktop PCs are making a comeback. Generally, a great desktop PC will make a case for itself against a well-rated laptop by providing better value and power, especially when it comes to gaming and graphics processing. If you’re not so concerned with portability when looking to invest in a new computer, you should be looking at higher specifications for roughly the same price, and there are a slew of options on the market today, priced comparably to the best laptops, with such value.

Desktop PCs work well for multi-monitor setups geared toward productivity or for those who use a computer for long stretches of time. They have all the necessary ports, unlike some laptops today, which may only offer two USB-C ports. They also allow you to use a separate, larger keyboard and mouse—an ideal setup for people across professions.

Whatever the case may be, it’s almost certain that there’s a PC out there for you, as these machines, both prebuilt and customized, are more affordable than ever before. Read on for our guide to finding the best desktop PC for you.

Microsoft Surface Studio 2
 Lifewire

Why Choose a Desktop PC Over a Laptop?

As mentioned in the FAQ, desktop PCs work well for increased power, improved productivity, and graphical performance. It’s also worth noting that new laptops are not as upgradable anymore, as thinner laptops must have their hard drives into the motherboard, and you can’t change a hard drive if you can’t take it out. So, you’ll have to pay a premium when you purchase a laptop to have everything on it in the highest specifications.

Upgrades on PCs, on the other hand, are much easier. Processor, RAM, graphics cards, storage, and other components can all be upgraded. And a big part of improving your experience comes from changing the monitor (a non-starter for laptops). There are larger options and curved options, which add to functionality based on your needs, and we’ll get into more specifics on those later.

How Will You Use It?

Desktop PCs are a great setup in many professions. Financiers and accountants often benefit from a number pad, while designers and editors tend to have better precision on Adobe programs with a mouse rather than with a trackpad. Typists and gamers might prefer a mechanical keyboard or additional accessories like trackballs and controllers. And when it comes to editing spreadsheets and documents, the bigger screen or multiple monitors you can get with a desktop pays dividends. 

Ultimately, due to a combination of increased screen real estate and increased power, desktop PCs can simply do more in terms of productivity, games, and photo/video editing. If any of these use cases sound useful to you and the lack of portability isn’t an issue, a desktop is the best choice for you.

Apple iMac 21.5-inch 4K
Lifewire 

Where Will You Keep It?

Desktops can be kept at your office or in your home. For communal use at home, you might put it in a kitchen or a shared office. We tend to see multi-monitor setups in home office or work settings. Wherever you put it, you’ll want to make sure it’s a location where you have access to plenty of plug points. If you don’t, you may want to pick up a surge protector to give you more places to plug in and for some added protection. 

PC Operating Systems: The Programs You Need

If you decide you want a desktop PC, you’ll have to consider which operating system you want to use. The operating system is the software that you engage with while using the computer. On an Apple computer, the operating system is macOS, while virtually any other computer will have Microsoft Windows. There are advantages and disadvantages to both operating systems. They’re outlined below.

macOS:

When you use an Apple computer, you’re using macOS to manage your files, run your applications and more. If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Apple user, you probably know that already and are familiar with the user-friendly nature of their software both for PCs and mobile devices (its smartphone operating system is iOS). What you may not know is that Apple doesn’t license out its operating system to other companies, so you can only use this system if you buy an Apple computer.

Another thing to consider is that macOS is the only software with a streamlined App Store (Windows doesn’t have such a user-friendly experience, and Linux doesn’t have a store at all). Photo and video editors often opt for macOS, because it has a lot of native, or preinstalled, applications. MacOS is also the only software to run Final Cut Pro, and some users have argued that Adobe Suite runs smoother on macOS.

iMac Core i5

Windows OS: 

Inspired by Apple’s operating system that was introduced in 1984, Microsoft went to work on developing its own system—and boy, did they succeed. Windows has been, and continues to be, the operating system used with the majority of PCs worldwide. And perhaps this has to do with the fact that it’s licensed to a panoply of computer manufacturers, including Apple. So, if you like Windows but prefer the build of an Apple computer, you’re in luck, because Windows will run on it.

A downside mentioned above is the App Store experience, as downloading well-known applications can sometimes mean users will have to search the Internet for them because they’re not centrally located in the store. Still, gamers and programmers are partial to Windows; you’ll seldom find them using macOS. You can’t game with macOS because the specs simply aren’t there for it, and programmers tend to like macOS because it’s Linux-based (more on that later). Perhaps a tradeoff for the deregulated App Store is Microsoft Office Suite, a productivity software with some programs exclusively offered through Windows, including Publisher and Access. Of course, that’s for you to decide.

ChromeOS

Google's own desktop operating system is largely based on Google's Chrome web browser. Indeed the entire experience feels like surfing the web. Years later, Google added a significant number of Android apps from the Google Play store to the ChromeOS experience. Apps and extensions are run in tabs.

ChromeOS also requires a Google account to run. Along with that comes automatic tie-ins to all of your Google accounts including Gmail, Drive, Maps, YouTube, and more. While most of ChromeOS is designed to be used along with a high-speed internet connection, ChromeOS has become an offline operating system as well.

Chrome OS is designed to be a light operating system that can run on comparatively underpowered hardware. That's not to say there aren't any high-powered ChromeOS machines. Indeed, ChromeOS has as wide a variety of great Chromebooks as any other operating system. It's a very versatile operating system that can run on basically any hardware which is its key advantage.

Linux 

A completely free software, Linux can be installed on virtually any computer. Programmers like it, though businesses don’t tend to use it because there’s no technical support. It’s a community-based and -driven software, so security updates aren’t regulated by one single company. This means that there is perhaps a larger margin for error as the updates come out. Since the root of macOS is Linux-based, programmers today might opt for macOS, if they’re willing to pay the premium for an Apple product.

Alienware Aurora R7
Lifewire 

Configuration Choices: All-In-One vs. Tower Desktop

When comparing an all-in-one and a tower desktop configuration, it really comes down to your probable need to customize the computer in the future. You can add components to a tower desktop that you can’t easily add to an all-in-one because the hardware is less accessible (the monitor and computer are housed in one place, making it a more complicated machine to take apart). With a tower, you can upgrade and replace your current hard drive, add storage, increase RAM, swap out the GPU. You can add a second or even a third hard drive or CD and Blu-ray drives. The best part is it will cost way less because it requires less labor.

Another note: if you’re creating a multi-monitor setup, consider that purchasing an all-in-one desktop would preclude you from purchasing a matching second monitor. So, if you want a uniform setup, a tower configuration could be a better option for you.

Processors: Intel vs. AMD

Intel and AMD processors are two main manufacturers buyers can choose between, and they are comparable in performance, power, and price. You can’t necessarily go wrong with either, but finding the best option for you depends on need and budget. The Intel Core i7 CPU is widely favored right now, with manufacturers including it on the Surface Studio 2 and the Lenovo Yoga A940. AMD tends to be better for those on a budget who aren’t looking for the best possible performance. If price isn’t a big issue, you’ll have to take a closer look at the specs, such as clock speed and multithreading, to decide which processor is right for you.

All processors factor in clock speed; this is how fast the processor runs. Why does it matter how hard your processor works? In a gaming context, a processor that’s working too hard will glitch. If you’re designing in CAD, spinning an item in 3D will prove difficult. Using Excel, alphabetizing thousands of rows of data will be a slow and painful process. Core i3, i7 and i9 reflect the size of the processors. The higher the number, the lower the clock speed you’ll need because the stronger processor won’t need to work as hard to accomplish its task.

Most modern processors support multithreading. One thread is a unit of execution, and multithreading is a technique that allows a processor to execute multiple tasks needed to complete a process at once. The AMD Ryzen 3700X is an 8-Core, 16-Thread processor means that it can handle tasks like gaming and streaming simultaneously. It’s a great workhorse processor for mixed-use cases. Higher-end processors like the Ryzen Threadripper 3990X have an incredible 64 cores and 128 threads, making them capable of doing impressive amounts of rendering with blazing fast speeds. They’re a great, albeit expensive, pick for intensive workflows.

Alienware Aurora R7
Lifewire 

Hardware: What Drives Desktop Capability

SSDs vs. HDDs 

An HDD, or hard disk drive, is a data storage device that’s actually pretty outdated. It uses magnetism to store data on a rotating platter, and the faster the platter spins, the quicker the HDD performs. If you need lots of storage, an HDD could work, but highly capable desktops should be SSD-equipped. With an SSD—a solid-state drive—a computer boots, runs programs and transfers files more rapidly. SSDs are faster than HDDs because the former stores data on interconnected flash memory chips instead of platters, so it has a shorter latency and read and write time. It’s also lighter and less noisy.

"The greatest danger [to protecting] local files is a technical failure of the hard drive. In that case, files can become inaccessible forever. So, online backups are essential. However, if the documents contain sensitive information, online storage can be targeted by attackers. To prevent that, I would suggest using encrypted online storage, which is the absolute safest option." — Marijus Briedis, CTO at NordVPN

A new computer will most likely be equipped with an SSD, but the question is whether you’ll want an HDD for extra storage. In the current market, large capacity SSDs are very expensive, so people are buying HDDs to increase their reserve. When looking at SSD sizes, you should consider 250 GB at the minimum. This will keep your operating system and essential software. As a gamer or graphic designer, you’ll want an HDD with one or two TB.

RAM

Desktops used the standard DDR3 memory system for years, but an up-to-date machine will have the DDR4 instead, especially with DDR5 around the corner. RAM is arguably one of the most important components of any desktop, as it’s responsible for storing PC information in the short run. Without it, user activity would slow and perhaps even stop. RAM is measured in gigabytes (GB), and a good desktop for browsing and basic productivity like spreadsheets should have a bare minimum of 8GB. Designers and gamers will want 16GB to 32GB of RAM. If you have particularly intensive tasks like 4K video rendering, you may need as much as 64GB to 128GB. 

Microsoft Surface Studio 2
Lifewire 

Ports and Connectivity

Desktops offer tons of connectivity options, unlike today’s laptops. When you compare the standard Apple iMac 21.5-inch 4K and the MacBook Pro 16-inch Retina, it’s easy to see the differences. The former has a 3.5mm headphone jack, an SDXC card slot, four USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, an Ethernet connector, and a Kensington lock slot. The latter has four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports and a headphone jack. VGA, HDMI, DVI, SDXC, and Thunderbolt 2 outputs are only supported using adapters sold separately.

What this means is that desktops give you more options to connect displays, audio devices, and other accessories. If you want to set up multiple monitors, you’ll usually have three or four ports to use, along with plenty of USB ports for mice, keyboards, touchpads, trackballs, or anything else you might want. The wired Ethernet port also tends to be fairly rare to find on laptops now, giving desktops another advantage in internet connectivity options and speed. 

All-in-one desktops (Mac or Windows) are generally limited to Ethernet, USB-A, USB-C, a headphone jack, and a media card slot. Meanwhile, tower desktops allow for more customization. You can add graphics or connectivity cards to increase the number of ports.

Brands: A Myriad of Manufacturers
Acer

This manufacturer has a breadth of choices known less for standing out from the crowd and more for their budget-friendly price tags. It has many towers and all-in-one PCs to choose from, with the majority falling under $1,000. Acer’s computers generally won’t outperform those of other manufacturers but they have garnered some decent reviews from Lifewire, especially if you’re looking for productivity on a budget.

Apple

The Apple brand has pervaded modern society unlike any other technology corporation in the world, by creating phones, tablets, watches, and computers with sleek designs, brilliant displays, and user-friendly interfaces. Their products often have higher price tags than those of their competition, but they’re also built to last, so the splurge is perhaps more easily justified. That aside, if you like the all-in-one model and you’re looking for one company to streamline your life, Apple might be for you.

Apple also pivoted hard into developing its own processors, eschewing Intel processors in favor of its own M1 processors. The M1 processor is ARM-based, which means it has more in common with your smartphone than it does your desktop PC. But don't let that fool you. M1 chips are powerful and Apple is all-in.

Dell

The main reason market experts consider Dell a top manufacturer is its selection of desktops and ability to customize them. Dell machines can be pricey, but that higher cost tends to give buyers a quality computer that fits their needs exactly. Whether it’s gaming on an Alienware machine or productivity on a Dell Inspiron workstation, you’re certain to find what you’re looking for with Dell.

Lenovo

A computer manufacturing powerhouse, Lenovo boasts a massive selection of products. They cover a broad spectrum of price and capability, and yet, there isn’t a range of quality, as this manufacturer has a proven track record of prioritizing performance across the board. This is perhaps why corporations opt to use Lenovo computers. Design and functionality are also major considerations for the makers, as demonstrated in machines like the Yoga A940, which includes a 4K IPS touch display and a stylus among other basic accessories for an all-in-one desktop.

Dell Inspiron 24 3000 on

Accessories: Keyboards, Mice, and More

Keyboards and mice are the basic accessories you’ll need for a desktop. Both usually come with the all-in-one computers, making that system (again) a less easily customized option. Tower desktops give consumers the flexibility to choose a keyboard and mouse that’s right for them from the get-go. Typists and gamers may opt for a mechanical keyboard for precision.

Extra monitors and drawing tablets are other accessories to consider as you devise your setup. It’s generally easier to connect bulky accessories to any desktop than it is to any laptop. Doing the former will allow you to spread out your setup and perhaps create a more comfortable workspace.

Conclusion: How to Pick the Best Desktop PC

No two computers are created equal, and with so many manufacturers and options created by those makers, it can be hard to know what the right buying decision is for you. The bottom line is that understanding your needs and measuring them against configuration options and the capabilities, price and overall quality of those options will hopefully send you in the right direction.

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