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Which desktop computer is best?

There are a lot of desktop PCs to choose from these days. One of the best tips for finding the right one is to consider the newest possible hardware, as it’s often the most efficient. Luckily, the newest PCs aren’t always the most expensive, with a variety of models marketed to the average consumer with entry-level and midrange costs.

The best desktop PC for most people is the 2021 Apple iMac due to its high efficiency, simple setup, impressive display and remarkably convenient operating system.

What to know before you buy a desktop computer

What you need a computer to do

If you mostly plan on browsing social media and checking your email, you won’t have to invest much. For demanding uses like video editing or fast-paced gaming, though, it’s important to pay close attention to components to make sure your new PC can handle the load.

Mac vs. Windows PCs

Windows has a much larger share of users today and is arguably more versatile in many cases, especially if you like to play 3D games. Apple’s iMac computers, however, are engineered for peak efficiency and are known worldwide for their positive user experience. If you’re technologically inclined and willing to tweak your operating system for the best experience, go with a Windows PC. If you want your new computer to just work without majorly customizing or overhauling the software, an Apple computer might be the right way to go.

Current supply and demand issues

Due to multiple issues during the last couple of years, electronics equipment is more expensive and harder to find across the board. At the entry level of desktop computers there’s not a huge increase in prices, but moving up the ladder in quality, you’ll see costs jump pretty quickly. It’s still possible to find great deals on high-powered components, but it’s harder than it was a few years ago.

What to look for in a quality desktop computer

Central processor performance

It’s important to look for a relatively recent CPU with at least 4 CPU cores for good desktop performance. This means you’ll want to look for a 10th-generation or newer Intel i5, or a Ryzen 5000 series in order to avoid sluggish performance when you’re running multiple programs or collecting a large number of active browser tabs.

System memory

Also known as RAM, system memory allows your operating system to store the most critical data currently in use. The bare minimum for a satisfying Windows experience in 2022 is 8 gigabytes, and only the most demanding gamers need more than 16 gigabytes.

Storage space

It’s important to look for a solid-state drive when buying a new PC. In fact, the move from traditional platter hard drives to SSDs was one of the single biggest performance jumps the home computer sector has ever seen. You’ll need at least 128 gigabytes of solid-state storage for a reliable Windows experience. With that in mind, though, traditional hard drives still work great for large-scale data and media storage.

How much you can expect to spend on a desktop computer

The most affordable desktop PCs to offer a smooth user experience cost in the range of $400-$500. A gaming PC with high-end performance will set you back well over $2,000, but casual users will find great machines around $1,000.

Desktop computer FAQ

Can you play games on a Mac?

A. Yes, there are plenty of fun and engaging games for Apple computers. While the most advanced modern titles require hardware that you’ll never find in an Apple, there are many great titles that iMacs and MacBooks fully support, including favorites such as Disco Elysium, Stardew Valley, and Sid Meier’s Civilization VI.

Do I need a high-end monitor?

A. Unless you plan on playing games at high resolutions and frame rates, you can probably get by with an entry-level or midrange monitor. Some features to look for are contrast ratio, high peak brightness and a refresh rate of 75 hertz. In particular, an above-average refresh rate can help reduce eye strain if you spend long hours working on your PC.

One scenario where you would need a premium monitor is if you plan on doing any photo or video editing. In that case, a high-resolution display with a wide color gamut and high color accuracy is every bit as important as the PC it’s plugged into.

What’s the best desktop computer to buy?

Top desktop computer

Apple iMac

Apple iMac

What you need to know: One of the most well-known and longest-running lineups, the iMac continues to be an excellent choice for the average consumer.

What you’ll love: It delivers the premium construction, high reliability and streamlined interface that we’ve come to expect from Apple. In addition, this 2021 release is one of the first iMacs powered by the company’s in-house M1 graphics and central processing unit. All that innovation is topped off with an ultra-high-resolution display with a wide color gamut that’s even suitable for graphic design and editing.

What you should consider: It’s not exactly cheap, and not everybody loves the refined operating system. It’s also not the best option for playing video games, as most games are optimized for PCs.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top desktop computer for the money

Acer Aspire TC-1660-UA92

Acer Aspire TC-1660-UA92

What you need to know: It offers lightning-fast performance during common, everyday tasks yet costs a fraction of most of the competition.

What you’ll love: From popular budget-friendly manufacturer Acer, it sports plenty of processing power, RAM and connectivity options in spite of its reasonable cost. While it’s not the absolute cheapest PC available, it should provide years of high-speed, hassle-free computing. To top it off, it includes a keyboard and mouse and is relatively compact.

What you should consider: You’ll still have to invest in a monitor. Also, it doesn’t have a stand-alone GPU or the space and power supply needed to add one as an upgrade.

Where to buy: Sold by Acer and Amazon

Top gaming desktop computer

Alienware Aurora R14 Ryzen Edition

Alienware Aurora R14 Ryzen Edition

What you need to know: It’s packed with your choice of some of the most impressive, high-powered components available.

What you’ll love: If you buy directly from Alienware via Dell, you can customize your new machine to have exactly the specs you need to run your favorite cutting-edge titles at high resolutions and frame rates. The Aurora R14 Ryzen is actually available all the way up to the top-of-the-line Nvidia RTX 3090 GPU and Ryzen 5950X CPU, both of which are shockingly hard to find in stores right now.

What you should consider: This kind of premium gaming hardware comes at a relatively steep cost, especially if you opt for high-end components. If you’re not playing resource-intensive 3D games, you won’t need this particular PC.

Where to buy: Sold by Dell and Amazon

Worth checking out

Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO 3

Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO 3

What you need to know: All-in-one desktops like the IdeaCentre AIO 3 combine the monitor with the PC itself to save you money and space.

What you’ll love: Casual PC users will appreciate how compact and user-friendly its design is. It’s also outfitted with a highly efficient AMD Ryzen processor. The CPU itself features embedded AMD graphics that let you run a number of classic, older titles that the integrated GPUs in Intel CPUs can’t handle. With 16 gigabytes of RAM and a half-terabyte SSD, this machine can multitask without experiencing any huge slowdowns.

What you should consider: It’s not suitable for the most demanding games and this specific model, unfortunately, lacks a touchscreen.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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