Everyone needs a computer. It doesn’t have to be as drastic as a crazy gaming rig or as DIY as a barebones mini PC, but computers are still integral to everyday life. Even as new technologies, such as smartphones and tablets, have made their way into our pockets and backpacks, the best computers still have a place in this world.
You need a PC (or at least a Mac), for instance, to properly get the best deals on games as part of the Steam Summer Sale. Likewise, the best computers can take advantage of the highest core and thread counts using the processing power of Intel’s (now available for pre-order) Core i9 X-series CPUs – no slate on Earth can match 18 cores and 36 threads of pure muscle.
Bear in mind that although many traditional desktop towers offer expansion over time, they co-exist alongside all-in-one computers, usually without offering much upgradeability at all, if any. Whatever your preference in form factor, these are the top 10 best computers you can buy off the shelf (or, more than likely, online) today:
1. Dell XPS Tower Special Edition
Don’t be fooled, this machine is a gaming PC at heart
CPU: Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 480 – Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 | Storage: 1TB HDD – 512GB SSD; 2TB HDD | Communication: Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2 | Dimensions (W x D x H): 7.09 x 14.02 x 15.22 inches
Though it may be disguised as an “ordinary” computer akin to what you’d find your parents using, the Dell XPS Tower Special Edition is a master of deception. Inside, you’ll find your choice of one of the latest high-end graphics card solutions from AMD or Nvidia in addition to a powerful Skylake processor paired with 8 gigs of RAM and plenty of storage.It may not have “the look,” but the XPS Tower Special Edition is capable of far more than basic word processing
But Dell didn’t stop there. Rather, the computer company managed to squeeze in discrete graphics that, surprisingly for a pre-built machine, doesn’t cost an outrageous wad of cash. Not only that, but register your XPS Tower Special Edition with Dell and they’ll throw in complimentary customer support via the web. If you prefer your PCs with subdued, austere designs over those bedecked with aliens and snakes, this one does it all.
Read the full review: Dell XPS Tower Special Edition
2. Surface Studio
The art kid’s dream computer in a metallic nutshell
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 (6th generation)
Microsoft doesn’t seem to have a care in the world for what other hardware makers are doing, making the Surface Studio all the more glamorous as a result. It costs quite more than the competing Dell XPS 27 and more than double that of the HP Envy AIO 27, but it’s also a more premium product. Featuring Surface Pen support and 10-point multi-touch, it’s more than a basic productivity and entertainment machine.
The 28-inch, 4,500 x 3,000 PixelSense Display puts even most 4K screens to shame, while the fully-articulating stand makes it a rather versatile tool whether it’s for work or play. That goes without mentioning the aluminum finish, which suits the Surface Studio well against the sheen of the Microsoft Windows logo from the rear. Though the port placement is a little funky, the Surface Studio goes above and beyond.
Read the full review: Surface Studio
3. Apple iMac with 5K Retina display
A stylish all-in-one with a stunning screen
CPU: Intel Dual-Core i5 - Quad-Core i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 6000 | RAM: 8GB - 32GB | Storage: 1TB HDD - 3TB SSD | Communication: Wireless: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0 | Dimensions (W x D x H): 196 x 196 x 36mm
The iMac keeps it classy and, better yet, simple. Easy-to-use hardware combined with the famed accessibility of macOS makes for a nigh-perfect computing 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 single power cable to get it up and running.
The 27-inch, 5K iMac in particular can be configured with a quad-core Intel Core i5 processor touting up to 3.9GHz clock speeds with Turbo Boost kicked into high gear. And, of course, trumpeting that eloquent 5K screen, it looks just as sleek as it feels to use. Plus, even bearing the guts of an entire desktop rig, the aluminum chassis somehow stays slimmer than most standalone monitors.
Read the full review: Apple iMac with 5K Retina display
4. Apple iMac with 4K Retina display (21.5-inch, Late 2015)
Still stylish, still stunning, but compact too
CPU: Intel Quad-Core i5 | 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
When it comes to 21.5-inch screens, 4K is more than enough, and that’s exactly what Apple has exemplified with this charming rendition of the iMac. This Intel Skylake-powered beast houses a Retina 4K display that's packed with vibrant colors and that classic aluminum finish Mac lovers can’t live without – plus, it hardly takes up any desk space, leaving plenty of room for trinkets and accessories.
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 macOS Sierra’s Split View in addition to image and video editing, watching 4K video content and doing just about everything else. Like the 5K iMac, the Magic Mouse 2 (or Magic Trackpad 2 if you’re so inclined) is included along with the newest Magic Keyboard.
Read the full review: Apple iMac with 4K Retina display (21.5-inch, Late 2015)
5. Apple Mac mini
The cheapest way you can go Mac
CPU: Intel Dual-Core i5 | Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 5100 | RAM: 4GB - 8GB | Storage: 500GB HDD | Communication: Wireless: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0 | Dimensions (W x D x H): 196 x 196 x 36mm
The Mac mini exhibits the luxury of an Apple desktop without the extravagant price tag to match. Though it ships without the otherwise expected Magic Mouse and Keyboard peripherals, getting to choose your own accessories is, at the very least, liberating. Featuring an aluminum shell and a chassis design that’s both compact and simple, the Mac Mini is Apple at its most quintessential.
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 macOS newcomers even if a contemporary makeover is long past due.
Read the full review: Apple Mac mini
7. HP Pavilion Wave
It's a prettier, if less-beefy, Mac Pro
CPU: Intel Core i3 – Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 530 – AMD Radeon R9 M470 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 1TB HDD | Communication: 802.11ac, Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.2 | Dimensions (W x D x H): 6.81 x 6.62 x 9.25 inches
The HP Pavilion Wave is perhaps the most inconspicuous computer you can buy. Developed in conjunction with Bang & Olufsen, the speaker is the system steals the spotlight of the rest of the machine. Thanks to its quality-woven fabric chassis and Bluetooth audio output capabilities, the HP Pavilion Wave is the ultimate PC for music lovers.
Rather than muddling the audio quality exerted from the Wave’s onboard speaker system, HP and B&O Play have devised a clever cylindrical design that actually improves on sound quality while looking good at the same time. The HP Pavilion Wave also manages to future-proof itself with three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, DisplayPort and even a single USB Type-C port.
Read the first look: HP Pavilion Wave
8. Dell XPS 27
A well-rounded jab at Apple’s ageing iMac
CPU: Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 530 | RAM: 8GB – 32GB | Storage: 1TB HDD – 2TB HDD; 32GB SSD | Communication: 802.11ac; Ethernet; Bluetooth 4.0 | Dimensions (W x D x H): 17.1 x 24.6 x 3.16 inches
The Dell XPS 27 is an all-in-one that does it all, and it does so with pristine equity. Resting atop an articulating stand is a massive 4K Ultra HD touchscreen display and a whopping sextet of ear-numbing speakers. Not only is it attractive, what with its silvery metallic finish and uniquely molded mouse and keyboard, but it’s also top-notch when it comes to delivering powerful specs.
No, there’s no HDMI-in or pressure-sensitive stylus, but that’s because the Dell XPS 27 knows its audience. And that’s, almost strictly, AV junkies and music producers. Whether you’re making your own beats or vibing out to someone else’s; watching films or editing them yourself, the Dell XPS 27 should be at the top of your list when shopping around for a new PC.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 27 AIO
9. Intel Compute Stick (Core M)
The tiny computer that can
CPU: Intel Core m3 – Core m5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB eMMC | Communication: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2 | Dimensions (W x D x H): 38mm x 12mm x 125mm
You wouldn’t assume a PC that’s the size of a flash drive to run Windows 10 almost seamlessly. This little computer that could does that and more, however, without wasting space in your living room or in a cabinet beneath your desk.
Though we were admittedly disappointed by the initial run of Atom-equipped Intel Compute Sticks, now that you can choose between an Intel Core m3 or Core m5 chip, our qualms have been (mostly) assuaged. The Intel Compute Stick is still cheap enough that its few shortcomings can be overlooked. Its tiny form factor and competent CPU should be enough to satisfy.
10. Asus VivoMini UN45
A compact desktop for everyday computing
CPU: Intel Celeron N3000 – Pentium N3700 | Graphics: Intel HD Integrated Graphics | RAM: 2GB – 8GB | Storage: 32GB – 128GB SSD | Communication: 802.11ac, Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.0 | Dimensions (W x D x H): 5.16 x 5.16 x 1.65 inches
Asus is a unique hardware maker in that it offers a wide range of computers for every type of user. The Asus VivoMini UN45 specifically is designed for those yearning to keep their desktop in the living room. It may look like an external DVD drive, but this is a full-on desktop that can be used to watch 4K movies, present slideshows or anything else a “regular” desktop can do.
Moreover, the UN45 bears an M.2 SSD regardless of which model you opt for, ranging from 32GB to 128GB. However, if you don’t mind the reduction in performance and configure your VivoMini UN45 with an Intel Celeron N3000, you’ll get the liberty of a fanless design that’s completely silent even when the CPU is under full load.
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Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article