The 10 best PCs of 2016: which computer should you buy?

Waggle your mouse at the best PCs of 2016

Best desktop PC

Despite experiencing a sharp decline in popularity, the traditional PC tower still goes strong. Even with the rise of devices set to "replace" the PC, with a desktop, you don't have to worry about a dead battery or replacing the system as a whole when one part goes up. PCs are modular by default.

There are a wide variety of form factors to choose from as well when buying a new PC. The compact simplicity of an all-in-one computer, for instance, is sure to appeal. Inexpensive mini PCs, often used in the living room as a way to stream content over Netflix or Plex, are a popular choice as well. You can even buy a server PC (or several) if you're urging for something cheap and powerful.

With the exception of our Apple examples that naturally ship with macOS Sierra and the Chromebase, which beautifully packages Chrome OS, you can expect any of the PCs on this list to come with Windows 10 as standard. Despite a handful of instances of bricked PCs with Microsoft at fault, for the most part, all three of these operating systems are worthwhile.

Here we've listed 10 of the best PCs, ordered by price and spec starting first with only the most expensive and powerful machines money can buy. Note that our list is subject to subject to change as the next Mac and Microsoft's rumored Surface PC will undoubtedly make a dent.

Apple iMac

1. Apple iMac with 5K Retina display

A stylish all-in-one with a stunning screen

CPU: Intel Core i5-4260U | Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 5100 | RAM: 4GB 16GB | Storage: 500GB HDD | Communication: Wireless: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0 | Dimensions (W x D x H): 196 x 196 x 36mm

Bright IPS screen
Few wires or cables
Tough to upgrade

The unique selling point of the iMac is its essentialism. Easy-to-use hardware combined with the famed accessibility of macOS makes for a nigh-perfect experience. A built-in screen, speakers and 802.11ac wireless networking are only complemented by the fantastic Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2. All you need is a power cable to get it up and running.

There's quite a range of iMacs, starting at £899 (around $1,365 or AUS$1,943) for an entry-level 21.9-inch model with a dual-core processor that's okay for basic tasks, up to 27-inch iMacs with quad-core processors and even a 5K display. If want a faster, quieter and more reliable storage option, you can opt for a hybrid solid state drive as well.

Even on the low-end model, the IPS display is bright and vivid, with a clever design where the edges of the aluminum chassis are thinner than many standalone monitors. And as standard, the iMac runs macOS, although it's very easy to install Windows alongside if you want to continue using your existing Windows software.

Read the full review: Apple iMac with 5K Retina display

Apple 4K iMac

2. Apple iMac with 4K Retina display (21.5-inch, Late 2015)

CPU: Intel Quad-Core i5 (Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz) | Graphics: Intel Iris Pro Graphics 6200 | RAM: 8GB 1867MHz LPDDR3 | Storage: 1TB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400RPM | Communication: Wireless: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0 | Dimensions (W x D x H): 45cm x 52.8cm x 17.5cm

Display
Accessories
SSD not standard
Pricey

Featuring a vibrant Retina 4K display that's packed with color, Apple's new 21.5-inch iMac is a small bundle of aluminum joy. Its display's massive, 4,096 x 2,304 pixel-resolution is great for surfing the web in comfort with multiple windows side-by-side in El Capitan's Split View, image and video editing, watching 4K video content and just about everything else.

As expected from an Apple computer, it's a typically well-built machine that, in true iMac tradition, barely takes up more space on your desk than a large laptop. Apple is bundling the 4K iMac with a superb set of accessories, including the latest versions of its Magic Mouse 2, Magic Trackpad 2 and its all-new Magic Keyboard.

Just make sure you upgrade the standard spinning hard drive to a 1TB Fusion Drive (or even better, the 256GB SSD) if you want to shell out a bit more cash to eliminate lengthy loading times.

Read the full review: Apple iMac with 4K Retina display (21.5-inch, Late 2015)

Dell Inspiron 3000

3. Dell Inspiron 3000

A slim mini-tower which is a decent performer

CPU: Intel Core i3-4170 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5000 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 1TB hard disk | Communication: Dell Wireless-N 1705, Bluetooth 4.0 | Dimensions (W x D x H): 178 x 388 x 431mm

Slim tower design
Core i5 is surprisingly powerful
No SSD option
Core i3 only dual-core

Dell's Inspiron desktop computers aren't quite as small as a PC like the Acer Revo One, but they still come in a mini-tower, and therefore won't take up too much space either on a desk or underneath it. With a black design and a silver trim, Dell has gone to some length to make this standard PC chassis look quite sleek and a bit more exciting than a mere black box.

As standard, it has a dual-core Intel Core i3 processor rather than a Celeron, and 8GB of memory – so it's a lot more powerful than the Revo One.

For an extra bit of cash, you can upgrade the processor to a quad-core Intel Core i5-4460 and the graphics card to a discrete Nvidia GeForce GT705, for a decent all-round performance boost. Dell also sells complete packages with a bundled 23-inch S2340L display.

Apple Mac Mini

4. Apple Mac mini

The cheapest way you can go Mac

CPU: Intel Core i5-4260U | Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 5100 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 500GB hard disk | Communication: Wireless: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0 | Dimensions (W x D x H): 196 x 196 x 36mm

The most affordable Mac
Internal power supply
Few expansion options
Upgrades get expensive

The Mac mini exhibits the luxury of an Apple desktop without the price tag to match. Starting at a mere $499 (£399, AU$779), the Mac mini is barebones yet affordable. Though it ships without the otherwise expected Magic Mouse and Keyboard peripherals, getting to choose your own accessories is liberating (plus you can buy used and save a trunkload of cash if you're so inclined).

And, while it hasn't been updated in quite some time on the hardware front, the Mac Mini's Haswell-based i5 processor still chugs along nicely. Plus, with Iris Graphics onboard, you'll get a bit more juice than expected. Combined with 500GB of storage space and 4GB of RAM, the Mac mini is arguably the best starting point for OS X newcomers even if a contemporary makeover is long past due.

With an aluminum shell and simplistic industrial design, the Mac mini represents Apple at its very core. Where it mainly lacks, however, is in performance. Luckily the option for a Fusion Drive, which marries the power of both HDD and SSD technology, somewhat makes up for this inadequacy. A configuration sporting 8GB of RAM is an option too, but if you don't want to shell out the extra cash, the base model will do just fine.

Read the full review: Apple Mac mini

Asus K31ADE

5. Asus K31ADE

A compact desktop machine for everyday computing

CPU: Intel Core i3-4170 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5000 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 1TB hard disk | Communication: 802.11ac | Dimensions (W x D x H): 180 x 350 x 390mm

See more Asus K31ADE deals

CPU boosts to 3.7GHz
Blu-ray drives available
No SSD option
Only 4GB of memory

Asus is a unique PC maker in that it offers a wide range of computers for a variety of different types of users. The K31 desktop towers in particular the company describes as "all you need for daily computing."

So, you shouldn't expect them to run Crysis with the Intel Core i3 processor paired with 4GB of RAM. However, you can get a Core i5 or Core i7 processor instead for an added cost. Other configurations include discrete graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD, along with USB-C for increased data transfer rates.

Acer Revo One

6. Acer Revo One RL85

A compact media PC with plenty of storage

CPU: Intel Celeron 2957 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 2TB hard disk | Communication: 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0 | Dimensions (W x D x H): 107 x 107 x 220mm

Small, sleek, smart design
Plenty of storage
Fairly weedy performance
Lacks 802.11ac Wi-Fi

If you're looking to share your PC with an entire household rather than locking it behind a desk in your home office, Acer's Revo One accomplishes just that. Though it doesn't have the most powerful processor on the market, don't underestimate its versatility.

The Revo One packs in not only two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI and DisplayPort, but it also comes with a 2TB hard drive in case you're worried about running out of space for your massive movie collection. Plus, thankfully, it has a built-in wireless card meaning there's no need to reconfigure your entire house's network wiring just to keep it underneath the TV.

Read the full review: Acer Revo One RL85

HP Pavilion Mini

7. HP Pavilion Mini

The Windows-toting answer to a Mac Mini

CPU: 1.9GHz Intel Core i3-40255U | RAM: 4GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM | Storage: 1TB 5,400rpm HDD | Communication: 802.11n Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.0 | Dimensions (W x D x H): 144mm x 144mm x 52mm

Nice design
Small footprint
Limited upgrades
Excess bloatware

If you'd rather prevent a computer from occupying your entire desk space, the Mac Mini is worth your consideration. However, if Apple's OS just doesn't do it for you, HP offers a stunning Windows alternative. The Pavilion Mini as it's called won't blow your mind in terms of specs, but it will get the job done if you're not planning on doing any intensive gaming or video editing.

Plus, it's still faster than a lot of mini computers on the market, and with plenty of storage space to boot. And, if you don't need a mouse and keyboard, most retailers are selling it for downwards of $300. Not a bad deal if you just need a compact computer to get you through the day to day.

Read the full review: HP Pavilion Mini

HP 260 G1

8. HP 260 G1

The tiny computer that can

CPU: Intel Celeron 2957U | RAM: 2GB to 16GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM | Storage: 32GB M.2 SSD | Communication: HP 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi | Dimensions (W x D x H): 17.5 x 17.7 x 3.4 cm

Two memory slots
DisplayPort and VGA
No Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
Storage capacity

For the money, the HP 260 G1 is a surprisingly speedy performer. Sure, the Celeron chip isn't exactly hardy, but it boasts specs more comparable to an Intel Core i3-4020Y than what you'd normally expect from the Celeron moniker. And, of course, as a mini computer focused on business, the HP 260 G1 entitles you to special treatment when it comes to customer support. Run into a hardware problem? You can expect attentive care within the next business day. Need phone support? It's available 24 hours a day.

Sure, the HP 260 G1 is a year old now, but it still runs like a charm, especially if you're on a budget. However, if the included 2GB of RAM isn't enough, HP was generous enough to allow for memory expansion up to 16GB using a pair of 8GB twin modules. Keep in mind, though, that this is still a budget PC, so don't be surprised when you find out that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities aren't built into the device.

Read the full review: HP 260 G1

Lenovo IdeaCentre Q190

9. Lenovo IdeaCentre Q190

A micro PC which you can mount on the back of your display

CPU: Intel Celeron 1017U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 3000 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 500GB hard disk | Communication: 802.11n Wi-Fi | Dimensions (W x D x H): 22 x 192 x 155mm

Versatile design
Enough memory
Sluggish CPU
Poor graphics

Let's face it: most of us don't need a tricked out desktop rig with the fastest processor and the flashiest case. If you're looking for a computer that can pull off the basic necessities like web browsing, email, social media, watching videos and word processing, the Lenovo IdeaCentre Q190 kicks tail.

As one of the lowest-cost offerings on this list, Lenovo's offering doesn't impress specs-wise, only bolstering a mere 1.6GHz dual-core Celeron 1017U processor and 4GB of RAM but it shouldn't matter for the price. Bang for buck is Lenovo's game with the IdeaCentre Q190, and it unabashedly succeeds in our book.

Plus, if you appreciate the design of the Q190, but your day-to-day demands something a bit more powerful, upgrades with faster Pentium and Core i3 processors are also available.

Read the full review: Lenovo IdeaCentre Q190

LG Chromebase

10. LG Chromebase

An easy to use and excellent value all-in-one

CPU: Intel Celeron 2955U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 16GB flash | Wireless: 802.11n Wi-Fi | Dimensions (W x D x H): 528 x 43 x 320mm

Astonishing value
Simple to use
Annoying keyboard

Chromebooks are Google's reaction to cheap laptops that can barely run Windows 10, but for some reason still do. As such, there's no reason the Chromebook operating system, Chrome OS, can't be applied to all-in-one PCs as well. That's why LG devised its Chromebase PC, an affordable all-in-one with the simplicity (and fluidity) only Google Chrome can offer.

Being an all-in-one, it bears the same benefits as Apple's far more expensive iMac – no need for loose cables spread across the floor. The speakers are built into the display, and it's all very straightforward. At the same time, the LG Chromebase hardware is cleverly constructed, with an IPS display built directly into the computer.

Chrome OS is intentionally designed to work with files stored in the cloud rather than locally, with Google Apps serving as the ostensible alternative to Microsoft Office. It takes some getting used to, but when you do get into the swing of things, the LG Chromebase works, and it works well.

Read the full review: LG Chromebase

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Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article

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