ASUS CHROMEBOX-M115U Desktop
If you're confused by the different processors used in home computers, you're not alone. Even if you can get a handle on Celerons, Pentiums, and Cores, the subject is further complicated by dual and quad-core specifications. As a generalization, Celerons are the least expensive processors (and the slowest), followed by Pentiums, then Cores. (Current Core versions are i5 and i7, with i7 being faster.) There is a simpler way to make this comparison, and while it's not perfect, it is quick and fairly accurate. Instead of looking at the name of a processor, look at its speed in gigahertz (GHz). The higher the number, the faster it is. Having said all that, a desktop's processor is only one element, and for most, RAM and hard drive size are equally important. It's not something to get hung up on; even the slowest of our five finalists would be adequate for the majority of home users.
With a dual-core Intel Celeron running at 1.4 GHz, the Asus Chromebox Desktop hovers at the lower end of the processor speed range. We won't get into cache sizes in this review; that information is readily available if it's important to you, but for the majority of us, it amounts to another layer of technical jargon that doesn't really make or break a purchasing decision. This particular Asus has two GB of RAM and a 16-GB, solid-state hard drive. Although that capacity is quite small, solid-state hard drives are considerably faster than traditional, disk-based drives. Should you need an external drive, it's easy to add one via USB port, (The Chromebook has four of them.) You also get an HDMI port so you can do things like stream Internet content to a high definition TV (given appropriate connection speeds). Like all of our finalists, the Asus Chromebox has Gigabit Ethernet support and 802.11 wireless connectivity.
LG ChromeBase 22CV241-W 22-Inch All-in-One Cloud Desktop
In terms of specifications, the LG ChromeBase 22CV241-W 22-Inch All-in-One Cloud desktop has a lot in common with the Asus. It runs an identical 1.4 GHz Celeron processor, has the same RAM capacity, and also offers a fast, 16-GB solid-state hard drive. Once again, there are four USB ports so you can add any peripherals you choose, plus an HDMI port to plug in TVs or media devices.
Lenovo C260 19.5-Inch All-in-One Touchscreen Desktop (57327041) Black
The Lenovo C260 19.5-Inch All-in-One Touchscreen Desktop comes with an Intel Pentium processor rated at 2.4 GHz. This high-speed processor towers over the speed of the Asus and LG ChromeBase and is reinforced by four GB of RAM. While the Lenovo doesn't have a rapid, solid-state memory, it compensates by offering 500 MB of hard drive space. Like the Asus and LG models on our shortlist, there are four USB ports and one for HDMI.
Dell XPS X8700-3130BLK Desktop
Although the Dell XPS X8700-3130BLK desktop we're featuring includes an Intel Core i7 processor running at 3.6 GHz, you could save yourself a few dollars by choosing a similar Dell model with the slightly slower (but still impressive) i5 chip. Likewise, while this machine offers 16 GB of RAM and a huge, two-terrabyte (TB) hard drive, there are cheaper 12-MB RAM and 16-MB RAM options with a one-TB drive in the Dell family. Connectivity is one of the Dell's strongest features; in addition to HDMI capability, it offers a total of 10 USB ports.
Apple iMac with Retina 5K display
The Apple iMac features an Intel i5 processor with Retina 5K display. Although you might expect it to be quite a bit slower than the i7 in the Dell XPS, it actually runs at a very healthy 3.5 GHz. The Apple carries 8 GB of RAM and has a one-TB 'Fusion' hard drive. In most desktop computers, you have a choice: small amounts of fast, solid-state drive, or much bigger (and slower) traditional drives. Apple combines the two; frequently used files live in 'flash' storage for virtually instant access, and the rest reside on an "ordinary" drive -- ready to be swapped in and out as needed. There's no HDMI, but there is support for DVI and VGA via one of the two Thunderbolt ports. There are also four USB ports.