Updated August 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom line
Best of the Best
Apple iMac 27-inch Retina 5K Desktop
iMac 27-inch Retina 5K Desktop
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Most Comprehensive
Bottom Line

For those who love Apple products, this all-in-1 Retina 5k desktop can tackle any task with impressive speed.


Brilliant 27-inch Retina display with True Tone technology is great for streaming or editing photos or videos. Powerful 3.1GHz 6-core Intel Core i5 processor. This model has 16GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage. Equipped with stereo speakers and studio-quality 3-mic array for recording and playback. Comes with Apple's wireless keyboard and mouse.


Apple's proprietary software is incompatible with PC operating systems.

Best Bang for the Buck
Dell Inspiron 24-Inch All-in-One Computer
Inspiron 24-Inch All-in-One Computer
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Best Value
Bottom Line

This Dell desktop has an array of impressive features at a great price point.


Equipped with Windows 11, this Dell PC is a great all-in-1 desktop for the whole family. Features a 24-inch anti-glare display with a stunning 1920 x 1080 resolution. With 8GB DDR4 SDRAM and an AMD Ryzen 5 5625U 6-core processor, this machine is a great multi-tasker for the price. The 256GB SSD storage can handle all of your family's files.


The mouse and keyboard that are included feel cheap, so an upgrade may be preferable.

HP All-in-One PC Desk Computer, 21.5" Full HD Micro-Edge Display
All-in-One PC Desk Computer, 21.5" Full HD Micro-Edge Display
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Best for Beginners
Bottom Line

HP's all-in-1 desktop is a great entry-level machine.


Features a movie-quality 21.5-inch HD display. Comes with Windows 11 operating system and an AMD Ryzen 3 3250U processor. Includes 256GB SSD storage and 8GB DDR4-2400 SDRAM. The built-in 720p HD web camera is great for high-quality video chats, but can be slid down for privacy when not in use.


There is no disc drive on this machine.

Acer Aspire C24-1700-UA91 AIO Desktop
Aspire C24-1700-UA91 AIO Desktop
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Easiest to Use
Bottom Line

This Acer desktop is easy to set up and has a user-friendly interface.


An all-in-1 desktop with a 23.8-inch HD display, 8GB of DDR4 SDRAM, and 512GB SSD storage. Choose between the i3-1215U and i5-1135G7 processor to fit your personal computing needs. Integrated 5.0MP webcam and 2 stereo microphones that are ideal for video calling, and comes with a webcam cover for privacy. Seemless WiFi connectivity.


The sound card on this desktop is not as good as other models, which may be frustrating for some users.

CyberpowerPC Gamer Xtreme VR Gaming PC, Black
Gamer Xtreme VR Gaming PC, Black
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Best for Gamers
Bottom Line

This PC has all of the speed and power of a gaming computer, but makes a great home desktop for the whole family.


Unique AI-powered features improve gaming capabilities over other models. Features a tempered glass side panel with RGB fan lighting. Equipped with an Intel i5 processor and 8GB of RAM. The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 6GB video card makes for a spectacular visual gaming experience. Great multi-tasking machine.


For optimal WiFi connectivity, a network adapter may be needed.


We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for best desktop computers

Last Updated September 2023

Desktop computers may not seem as critical a tool as they were fifteen, twenty years ago, but they’re still important. They’re just important in a different way. With the advances in mobile technology and laptops, we’re using our desktop computers for more specific tasks. They’re no longer our sole source of computing.

This means that when shopping for a new desktop computer, we need to look for different things than before. With cloud storage in use in many ways, memory is no longer as important as it once was. Optical drives are even less important as they once were, and sometimes aren’t even included in today’s machines.

So, what is important now? That really depends on how you will be using your computer, whether you’re using it mostly as a base for your laptop or mobile devices, or if you’re still sitting behind your desktop for at least a few hours every day working, communicating, browsing, playing games, or watching and listening to media.

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Though desktop computers lack portability, a designated working area with the desktop computer can be a key part of the functional design of your home.

In this guide we’ll examine the different things you need to look for when shopping for a desktop computer.

You can start by checking out our top picks to see if they have what you’re looking for.

If not, follow along with our shopping guide, and learn how to compare and contrast your own selections.

Operating system

The operating system, or more informally “OS,” will always be a bone of contention among computer users. While there are some who use multiple OS and others who have been known to switch allegiances, for the most part each user tends to have a favorite OS.

While there are others, there are three main operating systems found in desktop computers.

Microsoft Windows has been around for more than thirty years, through several different iterations. At one time it was used by most computer users, but that number has been slowly declining. Because of its popularity, it may still be the operating system most often targeted by hackers.

macOS is the predecessor of the other operating systems, and most computer aficionados either love it or hate it. Many times the attachment to the actual OS is secondary to a user’s allegiance with the Apple ecosystem and culture. The problem with choosing this OS is that the hardware associated with it is usually more expensive than others.

Linux is free and open source, and there are many derivatives of it, called distributions or distros. Ubuntu and Debian are two of the most popular. Since it’s not used by as many people as Windows or macOS, systems running Linux tend to be virus-free, since those who write viruses look to affect as many people as possible.

Settling on a preferred OS helps you narrow down which computer to get. All computers come with one OS or another pre-loaded, but many times there’s an option to load and run a different OS, or even run two of them in a dual boot.

Hard drive only vs. all-in-one

Assuming that you’ve already examined how you will use a new desktop, and decided on an OS, the next thing to consider is whether you want what is basically just a hard drive, or if you’d prefer an all-in-one.

Several desktop computers are offered without the monitor, keyboard, and mouse, allowing you to put together your own system. They’re basically just a hard drive.

This can be useful if you already have those other items, or if you want to have specific components, such as a wireless keyboard, a wireless mouse, or a particular monitor.

An all-in-one is just what it sounds like. When you buy this computer, you buy all those pieces together: hard drive, monitor, keyboard, and mouse, and the hard drive is built into the back of the monitor.


While an all-in-one is more convenient, it’s also less flexible, not allowing you to make changes to separate components.

Necessary features

There are features that you need to have in your desktop computer. You must have a processor, memory (RAM), hard drive, and external ports. These are the common items between something like a Mac Mini — which is just basically a hard drive — an entire system, and an all-in-one.

Hard drive

Look for two factors in a computer hard drive: capacity, in terms of storage, and speed. Once again, these are factors that are constantly changing.

The capacity, or storage, will be measured in either gigabytes (GB) or terabytes (TB). This will be the unformatted capacity. Once you format your system, the operating system takes up some of that space, so you’ll actually have a little less than advertised.

Storage space always matters in your purchase, but how much you need can depend on what you’re storing. If you use cloud storage, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, or other services, you won’t need as much space on your hard drive for your photos and documents.

Memory (RAM)

Like processors, RAM is important for performance. All the same things apply here. What you will be doing with the computer plays an important part in how much RAM you need, and it’s also a factor that is constantly changing and being updated.

However, there are two things to keep in mind. A good idea before buying a new computer is to check how much memory you need for the applications that you use or will be using. Make sure you get more memory than your applications need. That way you’ll be sure to have enough, won’t be putting a strain on your memory, and will hopefully have enough for future applications you may buy or download.

The other thing to keep in mind is that often there are options for memory expansion. Once your performance slows down, instead of buying a new computer, you may decide to just give your current system more memory. Be sure to check if the memory in the desktop you are buying can be expanded, and the maximum memory the motherboard can support.


As our expert Matthew Helm pointed out, "You can save yourself a lot of money if you research the specific processing power of each machine, depending on what you’re trying to use it for."

A processor, or CPU, is indeed integral, but the size or power you need depends on what you will be doing. It can be a difficult category to keep up with, as processors are constantly changing and being updated.

But a little applied common sense tells you that you don’t need a very large or fast processor If your desktop computer is just a hub for your mobiles, or if you’re doing minimal computing, such as emails, social networks, and Internet browsing.

However, if you’re doing anything performance-related, such as gaming or streaming media content, you’ll want a faster or larger processor so that the performance is smoother.

Likewise, if you stream your entertainment, such as music or videos, and don’t actually store it on your hard drive, you obviously won’t need hard drive capacity for it.

What you will need space for is your system, your utilities, your applications, and data files you don’t store in a cloud service.

Speed will be identified in terms of how quickly the drive spins, or the rpm. Unless you do significant database operations, computer aided design, or media-intense gaming, the hard drive’s speed isn’t as critical a factor as storage capacity.

Additionally, some desktop computers now come with solid state drives or SSDs. These drives offer faster performance, but less overall storage space. They’re generally more expensive as well.

External ports

External ports, such as USB ports, are one item that have become more important with the advance of mobile devices. Not only do we have a need to plug peripherals in, we also have a need to plug our mobile devices in, for updating, uploading/downloading, or charging.

The number of USB ports you need depends on how many items will be plugged in, of course. Your peripherals, such as wired versions of a printer, keyboard, and mouse, are integral. But there can also be external drives, game controllers, or other peripherals. Additionally, if you make use of flash drives, those also need to plug into USBs, as well as however many mobile devices you are connecting at any one time.

Additionally, desktop computers can be equipped with other ports, such as HDMI, FireWire, SATA and Thunderbolt. Whether or not you need these will depend on whether or not your peripherals need them.

Desktop computer options

Once you’ve satisfied the necessary features on a desktop computer, there are other options to consider for your computing experience, such as optical drives, video cards, and monitors.

Video cards

Most off-the-shelf computers come with a video card already installed. Check whether the video card is integrated with the motherboard (IDE) or replaceable. An upgraded card isn’t necessary for every user; a high-performance card is more important for those who do graphics-intensive gaming, graphic design, or computer aided design (CAD).

Optical drives

Not too long ago, not having an optical drive of some type in a computer was unthinkable. But with the advances in technology, namely the internet, cloud storage, and streaming, they’re no longer the necessary component they once were.

Those who still play media from CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays will still have the need for an optical drive.

If an optical drive isn’t included in the desktop computer that you are buying, there are always external optical drives. Just remember that an external drive will take up one of your ports.

Monitors, keyboards, and mice

It seems a little silly to mention monitors, keyboards, and mice as options, but as mentioned earlier, they aren’t always included. Sometimes you don't get much more than a hard drive with ports, and it’s up to you to build the rest.

But if you are buying a complete system or an all-in-one, these three items will be included. There isn’t much to take into consideration with the keyboard and mouse, other than if you want wireless or wired. Again, there are exceptions for those with speciality usage in mind: gamers tend to prefer high-performance mice, and some graphic designers prefer a trackball or other specialty mouse.

When considering monitors, make sure the screen size is adequate, along with the resolution. As with video cards, some of it will depend on what you’re planning to do with your desktop computer. Ensure you have a higher resolution if you’re doing anything graphics intensive, such as gaming or graphic design, or if you intend to stream a lot of movies or television shows.

Desktop computer prices

As Matthew Helm has said, "You shouldn't buy a computer based on price alone, but price is obviously an important part of the equation."

In some ways it can be very much a “You get what you pay for” type of situation. If you buy the cheapest computer you can find, you’ll get likely get slower performance, smaller screens, less hard drive space, and few bells and whistles.

However, buying the most expensive computer isn’t necessarily going to get you the best result either. As Helm says, it’s just part of the equation. All of the above-mentioned items need to be taken into consideration, along with the price.


While a slow computer often makes you think it’s time for a new one, that isn’t necessarily so. Research the possible causes for degrading performance first. Often it can be an easy fix, such as cleaning out the hard drive.

Complicating the process even more is that you’re looking at a range in price between $300 and $3,500, generally. There’s a lot of room in there. And remember that sometimes you’re not getting a complete system, but just basically the hard drive.

In that case, after your initial purchase, you still have to pay for the monitor, keyboard, mouse, and any other options that you may want.

For general home or business use of a computer, look to spend between $500 for the most basic use and $2,000 for more intensive use.

Don’t buy a desktop computer on impulse. Take your time, do your homework, and you’ll get a computer that will last you a while.


Q. What is a “mini PC?” Does this mean it’s smaller, or that it will do less?

A. A mini PC, also called a miniature PC, is smaller, cheaper, less powerful, and is meant for only doing basic computing such as surfing the internet, word processing, emailing, and audio/video playback.

Q. What is a “stick computer?”

A. Stick computers resemble flash drives, but actually plug directly into an HDMI port on a television set or monitor. However, they operate independently; they don’t rely on another computer. Some are meant to play visual or audio playback, such as a Fire TV Stick, and some can be a complete system, if you add a keyboard and mouse.

Q. I’ve heard that desktop computers are better for gaming than laptops. Is that true?

A. While it’s great to use a laptop for the portability, it’s not always as portable as it should be. To have everything a good gaming system needs, a laptop can be too heavy and bulky.

Q. How long will a desktop computer last before I need to replace it?

A. Desktop computers in general will last four or five years before they need to be replaced, which is longer than laptops — these can have as short of a lifespan as three years.

The team that worked on this review
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