While the best laptops have become increasingly popular over the years, desktops still have their place in the home and office. The best desktop computers tend to be more powerful than laptops, offering better CPU and graphics cards and much more memory and storage. Many desktop models provide both SSD and traditional hard-disk drives for faster boot times and file access and more reliable, expanded storage for large files. On top of that, you can often get a top-rated desktop for less than a premium or even mid-range laptop.
Desktops are also easier to upgrade and customize than laptops. However, if you want to upgrade your computer yourself, you’ll have to go with a Windows or Chrome-based model rather than a Mac, which has integrated components that can’t be removed at home. Many desktop PCs now have extra RAM and storage drive slots for either dropping in additional memory and storage (relatively easy) or completely reconfiguring your new rig (way more advanced). This is especially helpful for gamers who want to start with a mid-level pre-built gaming PC and then upgrade piecemeal as they become more confident or have larger budgets.
Pre-built desktops are also some of the only options you have if you want to get the new Nvidia 3000 or AMD Radeon 5000 series graphics cards; whether it’s the ongoing chip shortage or outrageous prices from scalpers, the latest GPUs are exceptionally difficult to buy right now.
Simply put, there are a lot of reasons to invest in the best desktop computers of 2023:
- Can be more affordable than laptops
- Typically more powerful than laptops
- Easier to upgrade
- Most 2023 models are remarkably compact
- All-in-one setups package everything you need
- Customizable components
If you’re worried about a huge tower taking up precious desk or floor space, you don’t have to worry anymore. Plenty of manufacturers like Apple and HP offer sleek, compact models ranging from the size of a shoebox to tiny boxes that can fit in the palm of your hand. These compact desktop computers are also perfect for anyone with a small work-from-home space or who prefers something on the teeny-tiny side for a more streamlined workspace.
The Best Desktop Computers At A Glance
Why We Chose It: Its customizability makes it affordable for college students and as powerful as a business professional needs.
You’re a working professional who needs a powerful desktop to accomplish intensive computing tasks. Check. You’re a gamer who is looking for a desktop to get rid of lag time. Check. These Dell desktops are made to order, just like your favorite bagel sandwich spot in the city, so you can make it as powerful (extra chives) or as simple (plain cream cheese) as you want. We recommend at least upgrading from the base model to get the 12th Gen i7 processor along with 16GB of memory and 512 GB of storage.
Why We Chose It: With its space-saving design, you’re not just getting a computer that can run just about anything but also a minimalist-designed monitor worthy of any tabletop.
It’s been on the market for more than a year and deserving of an update soon, but the 24-inch Apple iMac with M1 chip is still a sleek, compact, and fun machine that packages everything you want in a worthy desktop. Available in seven pastel colors, the M1 iMac design calls back to the original, more colorful iMacs from the 90s, which came in the same range of colors (minus silver).
But don’t let the cute look fool you: This computer is built for serious work. The 24-inch iMac also features Apple’s M1 chip, which singlehandedly turned the M1 MacBook Air into a computing powerhouse. Add to that a 24-inch Retina 4.5K display, Dolby Atmos speakers, a redesigned webcam, and improved microphones, and you have a computer that can just about do it all. That includes Zoom calls, streaming 4K HDR movies, editing 4K video, and even playing recent games in 1080p at 60 frames per second. The iMac is the way to go if you’re still all-in on the Mac ecosystem.
Why We Chose It: It packs a ton of power, considering its small footprint.
Even at its base model, this desktop computer packs a ton of processing power. You get your choice of AMD or Intel processors for great processing power, but it’s been noted that it can be difficult to upgrade components on your own later down the road due to the compact nature of the computer. Speaking of, given all of its power, it doesn’t take up a large amount of space, nor is it loud. It’s definitely pricier, but this desktop computer is about as solid as they come.
Why We Chose It: You won’t be compromising a whole lot with this desktop because it’s affordable but can still deliver good performance on a variety of functions.
Looking for the best desktop computers under $700? The ExpertCenter tower from ASUS proves that you don’t have to spend much cash to get a great pre-built PC. This model features a 1TB HDD and 256GB SSD for plenty of storage for everyday files, working from home, or even remote learning. It comes with 16GB of RAM, which provides plenty of power. It’s built with a 1the generation Intel core i5 CPU for plenty of power for everyday work, plenty of ports for all the accessories you may need to get through a workday, and a small (but sturdy!) package that makes it great for any workspace, big or small.
Why We Chose It: Windows users have a worthy contender with this clean and minimalist design from HP, which is accompanied by enough raw power to handle creating content easily.
The Envy 34 from HP is probably the best all-in-one PC you’ll ever use; even diehard Mac users will be impressed with it. It features a 34-inch, 5K display that is factory calibrated for color accuracy and has an anti-reflection coating and low blue light mode for more comfortable, long-term use. The magnetic webcam can be quickly and easily moved around or detached entirely for conference chats, streaming, or just putting it away when you don’t need it. It’s built with an 11th-generation Intel i9 processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, Windows 11, and plenty of RAM and SSD slots for upgrading memory and storage. The stand also has a wireless charger to keep your phone, and other devices charged daily.
Why We Chose It: Not only is it one of the best gaming rigs you can buy, but it’s also the coolest looking.
The MSI Aegis Ti5 looks like the future of desktop computers. With a chassis that resembles a spaceship from the movie Allegiant, the futuristic design brings along with it incredible processing power that is especially geared towards gamers. The dial on the front is a quick way to adjust your system’s performance (in literally the easiest way possible), which doesn’t surprise us considering the unique design. This desktop is crazy powerful, but it is also crazy expensive.
Why We Chose It: It’s one of the most powerful desktop computers available for those who need as much processing power as possible for intensive computer tasks.
Even at the base level, you get the “Threadripper” series of AMD processors, which are no-nonsense and powerful. The storage and memory are equally as impressive, boasting 64GB of memory, supporting all the way up to 64GB of memory, and containing enough slots for up to six total drives and 2TB of storage. That might seem like overkill – and to many, it is – but the ThinkStation is for serious power users like CAD designers or machine learning programmers. Even if those aren’t your profession, going with the ThinkStation P620 as your home desktop computer ensures you’ll have more than enough processing power for any task.
Apple Mac Studio
Who’s It For: Digital animators, track record mixers and videographers who can’t deal with buffering.
Read More: Apple Mac Studio and Studio Display, a Match Made In Heaven
Why We Chose It: Even the best desktop computers struggle with editing 8K videos or creating realistic-looking 3D animation effects, but this doesn’t skip a beat.
It’s the latest Mac on this list, and while it takes inspiration from the Mac Mini’s design, the Apple Mac Studio is a different beast of a desktop. The tabletop-friendly design is an Apple staple, complete with a clever thermal design that features a set of double-sided blowers that push air through the 4,000+ perforations around the chassis. Combined with the muscle power of the 10-core CPU of the M1 Max chip and 12 high-performance ports located on the front and rear, the Mac Studio has the muscle power that video editors need to cut 4K and 8K video without slowdown.
Why We Chose It: At the base level, it’s already a good gaming computer, but the design makes it one of the easiest to upgrade for gamers who want more performance from their desktop computer.
The design of the Omen 45L makes this a dream for gamers who like to tinker and upgrade their systems. The well thought out design allows users easy access to swap out components without any hassle. And when in operation, the liquid cooler not only keeps the desktop computer components cooler than most, but it is also quiet. The base model offers an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of memory, and 512GB of storage. Still, you can upgrade all of those components easily to make this into the dream gaming desktop computer you’ve always wanted.
Why We Chose It: We love its space-saving design, ultra-affordable cost, and Chrome OS’s syncing services.
Those looking for a capable, affordable computer that can handle everything from remote learning to casual use should strongly consider a Chromebox. Powered by Google’s well-designed Chrome OS, this device can handle nearly any web-based task you can throw at it (and most people’s computer usage these days is mainly web-based, anyway). Furthermore, Acer’s affordable Chromebox is powered by an Intel Celeron processor and 4 GB of RAM, which means this machine will be fast. Plus, it includes a mouse and keyboard, so you’ll be nearly set to go right out of the box.
Why We Chose It: With its compact footprint, it’s a desktop computer that still packs a punch with its hardware but can be disguised or tucked underneath something to make it invisible.
For those who don’t want an all-in-one but still want the additional horsepower that often comes with larger desktop towers, look no further than the M1 Mac Mini. While Apple hasn’t refreshed the Mac Mini since its debut in 2020, it is still worth considering, as it comes equipped with the same world-beating components as the game-changing M1 MacBook Air. That means this Mac Mini can handle just about any typical task without breaking a sweat — browsing the web, playing back 4K video, running apps for work — while also being powerful enough to take on things like gaming and video editing. It’s also versatile enough to plug into your TV and function as a media hub if that’s your thing. Thanks to that M1 chip, this mini-computer can outperform most desktops and laptops that cost twice as much. Of course, you will also need to invest in one of the best monitors.
This mini desktop might be two years old, but Apple’s M1 chip was a genuine game-changer. That’s a cliche term overused in tech, but it’s appropriate here. We don’t know how much longer this desktop will be available, and we hope to see an updated version of the Mac Mini sometime later this year. Until then, here’s the bottom line: For as long as it’s still available, the M1 Mac Mini is a small but mighty machine and the most surprising contender for the best desktop computer of 2023.
Why We Chose It: Sporting a touchscreen paired with a powerful GPU, this all-in-one machine from Dell makes it a breeze for professionals to juggle multiple applications.
This all-in-one PC features a 27-inch touchscreen display that is perfect for creative professionals. It also has an integrated soundbar for better audio when working with sound files, music, or virtual meetings. You can choose either integrated Intel Iris graphics or a dedicated Nvidia GPU for more graphical processing power. Bluetooth 5.1 lets you wirelessly connect your favorite peripherals like mice, keyboards, and drawing pads. At the same time, Dell Mobile Connect enables you to mirror your mobile devices to your PC for easier drawing and app use.
HP Z2 Mini G5 Workstation
Who’s It For: Serious desktop users who love compact towers that still carry some serious muscle power under the hood.
Read More: The Best Small Laptops
Why We Chose It: Don’t let its compact design fool you because this desktop computer from HP can still please on many fronts, including productivity, content consumption, and other leisurely activities.
Having a powerful PC doesn’t mean you have to have a monster tower taking up floor or desk space. The Z2 Mini G5 from HP packs tons of premium hardware into an incredibly compact chassis. It’s built with a 10th generation Intel i7 processor, 16GB of Ram, a 512 GB SSD, and Nvidia Quadro P620 GPU. You can connect your peripherals and storage devices with USB-C and 3.1 inputs, and the three DisplayPort inputs let you connect multiple monitors for the ultimate workstation. It also features Bluetooth 5.1 for wireless peripherals and WiFi 6 for blazing-fast wireless internet speeds. It even has an integrated speaker, though there is a headphone jack for private listening and calls.
Why We Chose It: You won’t find many all-in-one desktops with a 5K display, so if pixel density matters to you, this machine will astound by its level of detail.
It’s not the cheapest option (although it’s not financially prohibitive). It’s not the most powerful on this list (although it’s more than capable). Still, when you factor in simplicity, display, longevity, and design, the 27-inch iMac 5K Retina is easily one of the best desktop computers for sale in 2023.
All-in-ones can often be underpowered, but Apple’s offering comes equipped with one of the best displays money can buy, an excellent operating system, and enough oomph to handle the demands of your average photo and video editing tasks for years to come. You can’t do better than the gorgeous iMac for professionals, students, and creatives who need a machine to keep up with them.
Why We Chose It: The all-in-one desktop won’t cost you a fortune but can still handle some light productivity.
Admittedly, this falls short on a couple of our minimum recommendations for our picks — it only has four USB ports instead of six and sports 128GB of storage instead of 256GB. Thankfully we think the price reflects that. But beyond its specs, it’s a gorgeous all-in-one design with a touchscreen display that also goes vertical. It is ideal for various applications such as coding, writing, and editing content. It’s not the best desktop we’ve seen, but we feel it is worth mentioning simply for its value and display design.
How We Chose the Best Desktop Computers
There’s a lot to consider when buying any computer, let alone something as powerful as a desktop computer. We are here to make it simple for you — here’s how we chose the best desktop computers:
Size: You might think, “If I wanted something small, I’d just get a laptop.” Well, these aren’t the home computers you grew up with. The towers we picked are compact (often no taller and deep than one foot), and the “all-in-one” variety takes up just as much space on your desktop as your laptop if you include an extra monitor. The super-compact options like Mac Mini are essentially the size of an external hard drive. If that’s not compact, we don’t know what is.
Power and Connectivity: This is ultimately the point of getting a desktop computer versus a laptop, right? With the exception of the uber compact choices like the Mac Mini, we looked for options with over six USB ports and multiple other connectivity options like at least two HDMI ports and multiple display ports. For power, we looked for towers with at least 8GB of RAM but configurable up to much more processing power than that and at least 256GB of storage.
Price: One of the main benefits of a desktop computer is the performance-to-price ratio compared to laptops. We don’t think you should spend more than $2,000 for your desktop unless you are doing something intensive like crypto mining or major media editing, like full-length feature films. Except for the all-in-one options, most of the towers you’ll find below are close to or under $1,000.
Confused by Configurations? How To Pick the Right Desktop Computer
Generally, the best pre-built and all-in-one desktops are best suited for everyday users who don’t necessarily want or need fancy graphics cards or oodles of storage space. If you’re looking for a desktop that can handle everyday tasks like web browsing, streaming, and maybe your kids’ homework, there are a few things you should look for:
- 8-16GB of RAM
- At least 256GB hard drive
- An AMD Ryzen 3 or Intel Core i3 CPU
- Dual-band WiFi connectivity
For professionals who need to perform more complex tasks, we recommend buying a newer desktop like the new Apple iMac with M1, the HP Envy 34, or the Dell Inspiron 27 7000, which offers more advanced configurations. The new iMac is powered by the ultra-fast M1 Chip, which we’ve been raving about since it debuted in late 2020. And if you prefer a PC, you’ll want to splurge on a more advanced configuration of a machine like the Dell Inspiron featuring an Nvidia GPU, Intel’s Core i7 processor, and a 1TB hard drive. For the average user, these specs are overkill, but for photo and video editing, they’re essential.
Finally, you’ll also want to ensure your new desktop has plenty of USB inputs for transferring files, saving to flash drives, or connecting devices like printers, so you don’t have to unplug and re-plug cords constantly.
Everything You Need to Know About the Best Desktop Computers
Should I buy a desktop computer instead of a laptop?
Desktops and laptops definitely have their relative merits with the major difference boiling down to portability. But if you’re largely using your computer at home, here are some advantages of buying a desktop:
- Power: The best desktop computers are more powerful than your typical laptop.
- Affordability: The best desktop computers offer more bang for the buck.
- Upgradability: Many of the best desktop computers can be repaired or upgraded more easily.
- Flexibility: The best desktop computers allow you to pick your own monitor, speakers, keyboard and mouse.
What specs should I look for when buying a new computer?
The specs you want from the best desktop computers will largely depend on what your needs are. But the main things you’ll want to look for when buying a new computer are:
- CPU: A powerful CPU sets the standard for the overall speed and capability of your computer. As a baseline, you should want a computer that has at least a 10th generation Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 CPU. Ideally, you’ll want a desktop computer that has an 11th generation Intel Core i5 CPU (or an AMD Ryzen 5 CPU) If you’re a gamer or a creative professional (photographer, illustrator, video editor, etc.) you will likely want an 11th generation Intel Core i7 CPU (or an AMD Ryzen 7 CPU).
- RAM: Random access memory is specifically for apps to temporarily use while they’re running. Working together with the CPU, more RAM enables apps to run as fast as possible, or many apps to run at the same time. At a minimum, you’ll want to buy a computer with 4GB of RAM, but 8GB of RAM is preferable. This will ensure that your computer can handle everything from web browsing, productivity software, 4K video and even some light photo and video editing. For dedicated gamers, streamers and creative professionals, 16GB of RAM is more desirable.
- GPU: For most users, the graphics cards that come with any of the best desktop computers will be fine. But gamers and creative professionals will want to spend a little extra to upgrade in this area. While a graphics card like an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 is a fine choice, jumping up to a GeForce RTX 2060 or 2080 will make a huge difference in what you can do with your computer.
- Storage: For most people, choosing between a hard drive (HDD) or a solid-state drive (SDD) will be a matter of preference when it comes to the best desktop computers. While hard drives are slower and more prone to failure because they have moving parts, they also offer more storage for the money. SSDs may be more costly, but their speed and reliability often make them a great choice for gamers and video editors trying to squeeze every last ounce of performance out of their machines.
- Accessibility/Upgradability: If you’re looking to buy a computer that will last you more than a few years, you’re going to want to buy a desktop computer that is fixable, upgradable and/or expandable. This means that you’ll be able to open up the case of your tower and access the hard drive/SSD, GPU, RAM and optical drive. Generally speaking, components such as the CPU, motherboard and power supply are not upgradable in pre-configured computers.
What are the the top brands I should look for when buying a desktop computer?
Most computer brands have made a solid desktop computer at some point or another, but here are a few of our favorite companies right now:
What is the best pre-built PC for gamers?
If you’re not interested in building your own gaming PC, then we recommend buying a pre-built PC from Alienware. Specifically, we recommend the impressive Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 Gaming PC. Yes, we know it’s pricey, but this PC has features like (deep breath) an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 GPU, 11th generation Intel i5 CPU, 2TB SSD, 2TB HDD, 128GB RAM and Windows 11.
What is the best desktop computer for photo and video editing?
Ultimately, this is a matter of preference and budget, but our editors prefer the new 2021 iMac with M1 Chip. The M1 chip is just such an impressive feat of engineering, so much so that the $650 M1 Mac Mini can also be used for photo and video editing. If you prefer a PC to Mac, then we’d recommend either the Dell Inspiron 27 7000 or the new HP Envy 34 all-in-one computers.
What is an all-in-one desktop computer?
Unlike a tower PC, which requires a separate external monitor, an all-in-one PC comes with its own monitor. Of course, you can still connect additional monitors if you want to maximize your workstation.
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