Dell XPS 27 Touch
Dell XPS 27 Touch

Best all-in-one computer

The Dell XPS 27 Touch earns rave reviews as the best Windows all-in-one computer, and one of the best desktop computers overall for most users. It sports an elegant design and enough computational firepower to handle serious work and all but the most serious play.
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Est. $1,600 and up Estimated Price
Asus M51AC
Asus M51AC

Best desktop computer

If you want the best bang for the buck, a traditional tower desktop computer like the Asus M51AC is your best choice. It's available in a ton of different configurations, but all feature top-notch components and the flexibility to grow as your needs change.
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HP Pavilion 500
HP Pavilion 500

Best cheap desktop computer

For those on a budget, it's hard to ignore the value proposition offered by the HP Pavilion 500. Lots of configurations are available, but a price tag of $500 will net a traditional tower with modern components -- including the latest Intel Core processor -- a huge hard drive, an optical drive and plenty of memory.
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Asus Chromebox M004U
Asus Chromebox M004U

Chrome desktop computer

For light-duty computing, the Asus Chromebox M004U might be all the computer you need. The hardware is unimpressive compared with the Windows desktop computers above, but is a perfect match for the Chrome operating system it runs. Just make sure you can live with Chrome's limitations.
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Apple iMac 27-inch
Apple iMac 27-inch

Best Apple desktop computer

The 27-inch iMac is certainly a head-turner. The design is simply gorgeous -- looking impossibly thin even if the rear of the system does have a bit of a bulge. Performance is good even in the iMac's base configuration, and available upgrades can transform it into a powerhouse that can stand toe-to-toe with anything short of a dedicated gaming rig.
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Falcon Northwest FragBox
Falcon Northwest FragBox

Best gaming computer

The Falcon Northwest FragBox nicely splits the difference between good but not great gaming-oriented computers and powerhouse systems with prices in the stratosphere. It can be configured to meet your needs and budget. When maxed out, it can compete on an equal footing with systems that cost thousands more. Build quality is beyond first rate, as is user support.
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Est. $1,700 and up Estimated Price
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See a side-by-side comparison of key features, product specs, and prices.

Desktop Computers Runners Up:

Apple Mac mini Est. $600 and up

6 picks including: Amazon.com, CNET…

Apple Mac Pro Est. $3,000 and up

5 picks by top review sites.

Apple iMac 21-inch Est. $1,300 and up

3 picks by top review sites.

Alienware X51 Est. $700 and up

2 picks including: DigitalTrends.com, PCMag.com…

Dell Inspiron One 20 Est. $550 and up

2 picks by top review sites.

Top desktop computers for every purpose, and every pocketbook

The average user doesn't need to spend thousands of dollars on a top-performing desktop computer. Computers costing less than $1,000 provide plenty of performance for surfing the web, sending emails, composing office documents and even gaming (as long as you keep your expectations in line with their cost). Cheaper computers -- $500 and less -- cut some corners, but still satisfy users with basic demands.

However, power users such as top-gun gamers -- as well those who need serious power for work, such as video editors and other creative professionals -- will benefit from the extra oomph under the hood of a more powerful desktop. These desktop computers have top-of-the-line processors, lots of memory, huge hard drives and advanced discrete graphics. You'll pay more for this type of computer, up to $3,000 and more for high-performance systems that will leave most gamers and professional users smiling. Yes, some hard-core gaming models go for more than $7,000, though very, very few need the firepower such systems can deliver.

In the past, all-in-one desktop computers that combine the computer and monitor into one unit weren't a good choice for intensive tasks. That's no longer true, and all-in-one PC desktops with high-resolution touch-screen displays take the best advantage of all of the features in Windows 8. The Apple iMac all-in-one lacks a touch screen, but the Mac OS X does not have touch features, so that's a minimal deal.

One complication in buying a desktop computer is that most vendors -- and particularly online sellers -- offer a multitude of options, and any changes from the system as reviewed can help or hurt performance. These modifications also greatly impact the bottom line. For those who build custom configurations at PC-maker websites, it's easy to increase price substantially -- sometimes by thousands of dollars -- as you add performance and other upgrades.

To make our recommendations, we scour professional and user reviews to find the best desktop computers. These include PCMag.com, CNET, PC World, Computer Shopper and other technology sites that conduct thorough testing and provide comparative results. Then we supplement the professional computer reviews with feedback from desktop computer owners who post at sites such as Amazon.com and BestBuy.com.

Analyzing that information, we separate the best computers from the ones that are nearly as good by considering a number of factors. Performance, of course, is key. Reliability and how well the maker backs its desktop computers should something go wrong are also considered. Finally, we look at which desktop computers offer the best bang for the buck.

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