Impressive specs yield fast speed, crisp images, and great storage capacity. Easy setup. Comes w/monitor, wireless keyboard, and mouse.
Boots slowly. Not a touchscreen. Customer service could be more responsive.
It supports 4K monitors, has a USB-C port, and sells for a great budget price. It’s got a huge user base that provides stellar support.
They’re not ideal for intensive tasks, and onboard storage is limited to micro SD cards.
A complete package w/keyboard, mouse, and touchscreen monitor in a space-saving design. Windows 10 Home OS and Bluetooth connectivity.
Pricey. Some issues with programs closing unexpectedly. Audio isn't very strong. Some consumers report issues with the touchscreen.
It truly is an all-in-one solution. It runs Windows 10, supports 4K resolution, uses eMMC file storage, and even has a gigabit network port.
It’s a little sluggish compared to traditional desktop computers with similar specs. It doesn’t support 802.11ac WiFi and instead relies on older versions of WiFi.
It’s got all the right ports: gigabit Ethernet, multiple USB-C, and HDMI. It’s small, quiet, and elegant. It’s stable enough to be a server and fast enough to make any task easy — even editing 4K video.
It’s expensive. It’s not upgradeable. No keyboard or mouse included.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Laptops and mobile devices may be all the rage these days, but there are times when nothing but a proper desktop computer will do. Whether you’re a hardcore PC gamer, a work-from-home warrior, or a once-in-a-while user, a desktop computer is the perfect way to get peak performance at a fraction of the cost of an equivalent laptop.
Desktop computers come in all shapes and sizes. Plenty of people love the traditional tower design of larger machines, which are big enough to fit the latest and greatest components available, while others much prefer inexpensive microcomputers like the Raspberry Pi, which are still powerful enough for everyday use.
The sheer variety of desktop computers available can make finding the right one a challenge, but the good news is that you can find a just-right machine no matter what your needs or budget. Here’s everything you need to know to find the perfect desktop computer for you, including a few of our favorites.
It’s easy to get lost in the desktop computer market, so start with these questions to help narrow your search.
The first thing to know before you buy a desktop computer is which operating system — the interface that controls how you interact with programs and features — you want to use. Windows and MacOS are the most popular, although both ChromeOS and Linux are quickly gaining popularity. The operating system you want is a personal choice, so spend some time watching videos that explore the different interfaces before you decide. Don’t be afraid to try out an operating system you’ve never used before. They're easy to learn, and they all include tutorials to help you get started.
If you’re looking for a desktop computer specifically for playing video games, you’ll need to limit your search to gaming computers. Gaming computers are built for the task, so they include things like powerful video cards, mechanical keyboards, and multiple ventilation options.
Spend some time thinking about all the things you want to do with your desktop computer. If you foresee doing a lot of processor-intensive work with it like editing audio or video, you’ll want a computer that’s powerful enough to handle everything. On the other hand, if most of your interactions take place in a web browser, or if you mainly plan on using your computer with software like Microsoft Office, you don’t need to overspend and get a super powerful machine. The more powerful the machine, the more you’ll spend.
The minimalist’s dream computer
Dell’s Inspiron 3464 is the perfect desktop computer for people who don’t like desktop clutter. The computer components are built into the monitor, and the included mouse and keyboard are wireless, so there aren’t any messy cables anywhere. Best of all? It’s even got a DVD burner, so you can watch movies or back up your critical files to disc.
While there’s a wide variety of form factors for desktop computers, they all have the same internal components. Pay the closest attention to these specs:
CPU: The central processing unit is the heart of your computer, the part that processes every bit of data and governs how fast a machine is. It also plays a big role in the overall cost: machines with the fastest processors are always the most expensive.
RAM: Random-access memory is memory that your computer uses to perform multiple tasks simultaneously. The more RAM the better — it can make a big difference. We recommend a minimum of 8 GB of RAM on standard computers, and 2 GB of RAM on microcomputers.
File storage: File storage devices like hard disk drives (HDD) and solid-state drives (SSD) for storing your data and system files. Onboard file storage can range from 16 GB to 2 TB. We recommend getting a desktop computer with a minimum of 256 GB of available file storage. It goes quickly, and the operating system itself typically requires a decent amount of storage space.
Connectivity: Every desktop computer has multiple ports for connecting to other devices. For example, you’ll see an Ethernet port for connecting to your local network, a 3.5 mm jack for connecting headphones, and USB ports for connecting peripherals like your mouse and keyboard. Consider what you’ll need to be connecting, and whether you’ll need to meet modern standards like USB-C, and make sure the desktop computer you buy has room for all of them.
For a truly uncluttered look, buy a small form factor computer and mount it behind your monitor. Many smaller computers, such as the Raspberry Pi, work with kits that allow you to install your computer out of sight while still being able to take advantage of all of its features.
Inexpensive: Between $30 and $100, you’ll find a lot of good desktop microcomputers (like the Raspberry Pi), as well as computer sticks (computers about the size of a pack of gum that plug directly into monitors). If you just need a desktop computer for web browsing and basic tasks like word processing, a computer in this price range will definitely work. If you’re looking for a more powerful computer with plenty of file storage, or you want a machine that runs Windows or MacOS, you’ll need to spend a little more.
Mid-range: Between $300 and $800, you’ll encounter budget machines that are good middle-of-the-road options. Desktop computers on the low end of this price range meet modern standards for speed and power, but often just barely. Expect to see a lot of last-generation processors and machines with smaller hard drives at these price points. If you’re looking for a machine that only needs to last a few years, this is the price range to keep in mind.
Expensive: Between $800 and $2,000, you’ll see the desktop computers that are the cream of the crop. Machines in this price range don’t cut any corners: fast processors, ample RAM, plenty of storage, and quality accessories. If you’re looking to invest in a desktop computer for the long term, or you just want the best computer out there, there’s no avoiding it — it’s going to be expensive.
Not all desktop computers include Bluetooth functionality, and it’s definitely worth getting. If you plan on connecting headphones, mouse, or keyboard via Bluetooth, make sure the computer you buy includes it. You can add a USB Bluetooth adapter later, but that will tie up one of your USB ports.
Most desktop computers don’t include optical drives for CD-based media like DVDs, CD-ROMs, or Blu-ray discs. If you have a lot of data or software on disc that you want to access with your new desktop computer, you’ll need to buy an external drive, which will connect to your machine via USB cable.
Love at first byte
The Raspberry Pi 4 is the latest iteration of the incredibly popular microcomputer series. Don’t let its size fool you: it supports 4K video, has a gigabit network adapter, has a USB-C port, and includes a full 4 GB of RAM. All that hardware works well with Linux, making this a solid option for anyone who needs a computer for casual use. Whether you’ve got a limited budget, or you’re just looking for a machine to tinker with, the Raspberry Pi 4 is the best value around by a long shot.
If you’re into microcomputing but want to look beyond the Raspberry Pi, check out the ASUS Tinker Board. It’s got 4K video support, a quad-core chip on board, and eMMC file storage (which is much faster than the Pi’s micro SD card storage). It’s a little pricey when compared with the Raspberry Pi 4, but key features like HD audio playback and eMMC file storage definitely justify the cost. If you’re looking for an affordable desktop computer that makes reasonable compromises while still being incredibly powerful, we recommend the Acer Aspire TC-885. It’s got an Intel i3 CPU, which is powerful enough to serve as a family computer or one for a college student. The onboard WiFi, DVD burner, USB-C support, and 16 GB of RAM make the TC-885 easy to love: it’s fast and can connect to anything. The best part, however, is the price — at less than $400, it’s an absolute steal.
Q. Some computers require HDMI cables for video while others say they need displayPort cables. What are the differences, and which is better?
A. Both HDMI and displayPort are standard industry cables for connecting video sources (like a computer or a streaming box) to monitors and TVs. There are a few differences that will matter in specific scenarios; for example, HDMI can carry both audio and video, which is great in home theater situations, and displayPort cables can be used to daisy-chain multiple monitors. Most monitors support both HDMI and displayPort. If you’re buying a desktop computer for basic home use, either cable will be fine.
Q. How hard is it to learn to use Linux on a desktop computer?
A. Learning Linux can be easy and fun if you pick the right version. There are dozens of variants of Linux, often referred to as “distributions,” or “distros,” and many are aimed at first-time users (they even mimic the look and feel of other operating systems like Windows and MacOS). If you’re new to Linux, we recommend using either Mint Linux or Ubuntu Linux, both of which do a fantastic job at providing easy-to-use interfaces and applications.
Q. Do desktop computers come with speakers?
A. Not usually. Many desktop computers include a mouse and a keyboard, but that’s usually about it when it comes to accessories. That’s not a bad thing — in many cases when manufacturers do include speakers with their computers, the sound quality is subpar. To help your computer sound as good as it can, pick up a pair of computer speakers or headphones.
BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.