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The best desktop computers you can buy
We’re big laptop fans here at Android Authority, but sometimes you need a little more. You can’t always jam the best graphics or cooling into the compact body of a laptop. If you’re thirsting for a stuffed spec sheet, it might be time to consider a desktop. The world of desktop computers can be more than a little daunting, though, so here are our picks for the best desktop computers you can buy.
We’ve done our best to cover many of the main manufacturers on this list. You’ll find both Windows and macOS represented, which should give you plenty of freedom to choose. Just don’t forget that you can always build a completely new PC from scratch as well.
See also: The best gaming PC desktops
Buying the best desktop computer
Buying the best desktop computer is not an easy decision to make, but should be simple enough if you know how you’re going to use it, and how much you can spend. If you’re looking to do creative work that needs a lot of horsepower, like graphic designing, video editing, and such, a Mac desktop is likely to serve you well and is recommended unless you have a reliance on Windows apps.
On the other hand, if you want a gaming desktop, there are a few Windows options that offer solid performance. The only issue with these systems is that the higher-end GPU trims tend to be sold at a price that is much higher than the actual retail price. Availability is spotty too, so you’ll need a lot of patience, or money, or both.
Make sure you pick the latest generation of processors you can. 10th gen Intel, 5000 series AMD Ryzen, and above will serve you well. In terms of storage options, pick according to your needs, but try to aim for at least 512GB of SSD storage for the OS to run off of. GPU options will be a difficult decision due to shortages, but if you have a strict budget, you will need to compromise on that front.
Also see: AMD vs Intel: Which one is better?
The best desktop computers
Editor’s note: We’ll be sure to add new desktop options to this list as they launch. Check back frequently for updates.
The days of the bright and colorful iMac are here again. Apple’s desktop line has existed in one form or another for years, and the latest 24-inch refresh shows just how far the Cupertino company has come. Apple will let you choose between six colorful finishes and classic silver for your money, each with a seven-core or eight-core M1 chip inside. Apple’s new iMac is slimmer than ever and nearly resembles a beefed-up iPad on a stand. Memory kicks off at 8GB, or you can try 16GB, and storage tops out at a whopping 2TB.
See also: The best MacBook deals
Of course, the more you add to your iMac, the more you can expect to pay. It’s one of the best desktop computers around and probably the most stylish all-in-one yet.
Alienware Aurora R12
If Apple’s iMac is the pillar of macOS, Alienware’s Aurora line is one of the Windows gaming stalwarts. Now on its R12 generation, the powerful desktop has gone through plenty of refreshes and upgrades. You can now find the tower packing up to Intel’s 11th-generation Core i7 processors as well as brand-new NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 graphics. Up to 64GB of RAM is plenty for your gaming endeavors, and you can configure your Aurora R11 with up to 3TB of total storage space.
See also: The best Alienware laptops you can buy
As always, the Aurora R12 is dripping with a premium gaming style. It’s as futuristic as ever, and the RGB lighting is key to any gaming battle station.
Intel Phantom Canyon NUC
Bigger doesn’t have to be better when it comes to desktop computers, at least not if Intel has anything to say about it. The Phantom Canyon is Intel’s 11th-generation offering in the Next Unit of Computing line (NUC). It packs almost everything you’d expect from a new gaming machine — 11th-generation Intel Core i7 hardware, 16GB of RAM, and ample storage space. The Phantom Canyon doesn’t sacrifice much in the way of ports, either. It offers Thunderbolt 4 ports, Bluetooth 5, Wi-Fi 6, a mini DisplayPort option, and even more USB 3.2 ports to choose from.
You can even connect up to four 4K monitors to the pint-sized beast, though you may be slightly let down by the graphics. Intel’s Phantom Canyon comes with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 Max-P onboard, now outdated by NVIDIA’s RTX 30 series.
HP Omen 30L
The HP Omen might make this list start to feel like the best gaming desktop computers list, but we promise it’s not. Sure, you can use HP’s desktop to game to your heart’s content, but the sleek styling and modern internals are ready for anything. We gave the Omen 30L the edge over its smaller 25L sibling just for the ability to cram a little extra power into the package. Depending on your configuration, you’ll find an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, 10th-gen Intel Core i9 or Ryzen 5000 CPU, 32GB of RAM, and more.
See also: The best HP laptops to buy
The entire side panel of HP’s Omen case is see-through, so make sure you have your rig in tip-top shape and don’t skimp on the RGB effects.
Dell XPS 8940 Special Edition desktop
Dell’s XPS line already includes some of the most successful and refined laptops on the market, and the desktop version lives up to the hype. While we can’t really boast about slim bezels here, we can praise the rest of the spec sheet. Dell chose Intel’s 11th-generation Core i7 processor to carry most of the weight along with 32GB of DDR4 RAM to back it up. You can also keep all of your files close at hand on the 512GB SSD and 2TB HDD.
We didn’t love the basic Intel graphics on the standard XPS desktop, but this special edition model leaps up to a GeForce RTX 2060 Super GPU, making it an all-around performer.
Mac Mini (M1 chip)
Apple’s Mac Mini beat the iMac in its move to the new M1 chip, and it’s not looking back. It sits among the smallest desktop computers you can buy, and the Mac Mini is by far the smallest device running macOS. You’ve got two USB-A ports and two USB-C options to work with, as well as 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.
See also: The best Apple laptops you can buy
The entire Mac Mini package is as Apple as possible — all you get is the small metal computer and a power cable in the box.
Acer Aspire TC-895
This next desktop computer is among the most flexible on the list. If you really want to, you can configure Acer’s Aspire TC-895 for less than $500. However, we prefer the more powerful version, complete with a six-core 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor. It’s sleek, stylish, and packs plenty of power. You can also grab 12GB of DDR4 RAM, a 512GB SSD, and plenty of ports in the same configuration.
Acer’s updated hardware should also keep you connected at high speeds with Bluetooth 5.1 and Wi-Fi 6 options onboard.
HP Envy All-in-One 34
We’ll end our roundup of the best desktop computers the same way it started — with an all-in-one. This large option from HP is a creator’s dream with its crisp 34-inch 5K ultrawide display and up to 11th-generation Intel hardware inside. HP tapped NVIDIA to provide the GPU, with options going up to the RTX 3080. as well as B&O for the sound. The Envy All-in-One isn’t just powerful, and it’s stylish too. The bezels are almost nonexistent on three sides, and the bottom bezel is way thinner than the older 32-inch model. Not to mention the fact that you get a magnetic webcam that latches onto the top.
Desktop vs laptop: Which one to choose?
Desktops and laptops used to be quite far apart in terms of specifications, pricing, and use cases, a few years ago. Today, however, they’re more in line with each other. With rising prices for desktop components and falling availability, laptops have actually become a solid alternative to desktops. Additionally, power efficiency has also been increasing, meaning that a compact laptop actually works almost as well as a desktop would.
Case in point — Apple’s custom silicon. While Intel and AMD are yet to hit the same levels of efficiency, the M1 chip has stellar performance in laptops and desktop Macs. In general, if you’re swaying towards buying a laptop over a desktop, the buying process is likely to be simpler for the former.
It comes down to your use case, budget, and patience. If portability is something you may need, a laptop will obviously be the better pick. On the other hand, if you want the full PC experience, a desktop is the way to go. Just remember that desktop prices, especially for Windows machines, are bound to fluctuate. You’re also going to have a harder time finding desktops in stock. For Mac desktops, the buying process is much simpler, so it only depends on whether you need portability.
Also read: The best laptops for video editing and graphic design
Frequently asked questions
Q: Are gaming desktops worth it?
A: Gaming desktops are pretty powerful, but currently going at prices that are much higher than what they’re worth. If you can grab one at a reasonable price for the specifications on offer, then it would be worth it.
Q: Who makes the best desktop computers?
A: In terms of the value-for-money proposition right now, Apple’s options are the best. The performance-per-watt is unmatched, and whether you choose the Mac Mini or the new iMac, you’ll get a streamlined experience. Of course, there are disadvantages to buying a Mac, but no other company comes close to Apple’s desktop offerings, all things considered.
Q: How much RAM do I need in a desktop computer?
A: Nowadays the minimum recommended RAM in a desktop is 16GB, although 32GB or higher would be a better way to go depending upon your use cases.
Q: Where is the best place to buy desktop computers?
A: There are a ton of great retailers to buy desktop computers, including Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Newegg, and more. You can also use the online stores on the brand sites, like Dell.com and Apple Store Online.
Q: Should you buy a refurbished desktop computer?
A: Refurbished desktop computers can be great value purchases if you buy the right one. Several retailers have their own refurbished programs where you can get the quality assurance and warranty from the retailer itself, so you can get that extra bit of assurance with your purchase.