Best PCs 2017: the top computers for every task

You need the best PC. We know you need the best computer because you’re here right now on a page full of contenders for that title. Rather than throwing money at the new iPhone X, you would rather put that money to a PC that can game, make videos or simply power a big screen for media.

Yet, while we and most people would recommend a DIY project, we recognize that assembling the best PC takes time and a bit of skill. And, time is a scarce resource in 2017. It’s for that reason we’ve found the best computers you can buy off the shelf (or, more than likely, online).

At the same time, the best PC can vary in both function and form. While some of us prefer conventional desktop towers, detached from their accompanying inputs and screens, others enjoy a concise, all-in-one computing experience. Alternatively, PCs come in all shapes and sizes from half-sized towers to micro-sized boxes and even systems that fit inside a stick.

Whatever the use case or form factor you seek, you’ll find the best computer for you below:

Dell Inspiron 3000

Best PC: Dell XPS Tower Special Edition

Don’t be fooled, this mainstream machine is a gaming PC at heart

CPU: : Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: : AMD Radeon RX 580 – Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Storage: 256GB SSD; 1TB HDD – 512GB SSD; 2TB HDD

Compact, minimalist design
Full online customer support
Starting memory isn't ideal for VR
Lower graphical performance compared to rivals

For lack of a better description, the Dell XPS Tower Special Edition is a master of disguise. Appearing as subtle as the PC your parents hid under the desk, don’t be deceived by this boring exterior. Inside, you’ll find your choice of one of the latest high-end graphics card solutions from AMD and Nvidia in addition to a powerful Kaby Lake processor paired with plenty of hard drive and/or SSD storage. While the Special Edition of this PC is only available in the US, our readers in Australia and the United Kingdom will still be able to pick up the regular Dell XPS Tower and configure a system to the top spec.

Read the full review: Dell XPS Tower Special Edition

Best all-in-one PC: Microsoft Surface Studio

The art kid’s dream computer in a metallic nutshell

CPU: : Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: : Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M – 980M | RAM: : 8GB – 32GB | Storage: : 64GB SSD; 1TB HDD – 128GB SSD; 2TB HDD

The best digital drawing board
Impeccable build quality
All rearward ports
Pricey proposition for most

The Microsoft Surface Studio is one of the most glamorous PCs you can buy. It shakes up the all-in-one formula of putting all the components behind the screen, and instead moves everything to the base. The resulting device has one of the thinnest 28-inch PixelSense Displays that puts even most 4K screens to shame. What’s more, the fully-articulating stand makes it a versatile tool for work and play with Surface Pen support. All in all, the Surface Studio is an exceptional work of, and for, art.

Read the full review: Surface Studio

See more like this: The best all-in-one PCs

Best mini PC: Zotac Magnus EN1060

A VR-ready micro-machine

CPU: : Intel Core i5-6400T | Graphics: : Nvidia GTX 1060 (6GB GDDR5 VRAM) | RAM: N/A | Storage: N/A

Whisper quiet
Powerful and small
Requires some assembly
Limited upgradability

The Zotac Magnus EN1060 is practically as small as the Apple Mac Mini, but it’s an exponentially more powerful gaming PC, potent enough to drive virtual reality experiences. Thanks to its small size and understated features, users can place this mini PC under an entertainment center and it won’t draw attention to itself. Keep in mind, though, this system doesn’t come with storage or RAM pre-installed, not to mention it lacks an operating system, so interested users will need buy these components and software separately.

Read the full review: Zotac Magnus EN1060

Best gaming PC: Alienware Aurora R6

Great gaming performance without breaking the bank

CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 560 – Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti | RAM: 8GB – 64GB | Storage: 1TB – 2TB HDD, 256GB - 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD, 2TB HDD

Easy to upgrade
Distinct case design
Partially obstructed cooling

The Alienware Aurora R6 is an excellent gaming PC that offers brilliant performance in a conveniently compact body. The affordable price is pretty great as well, considering the power on offer and users itching for upgrades will have room to pick up a second graphics card, plus more RAM and storage.

Read the full review: Alienware Aurora R6

See more like this: The best gaming PCs

Best living room PC: MSI Trident 3

A slimline console-sized mini PC for your living room

CPU: Intel Core i5-7400 – i7-7700 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti – 1060 | RAM: 8GB – 32GB DDR4 (2,400MHz) | Storage: 2TB HDD; 120GB SSD – 2TB HDD; 1TB SSD

Compact size
Silent and cool running
External 330W power brick

Positioned as a “console killer,” the MSI Trident 3 looks a lot like an Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, but it’s a far more powerful PC that feels just right in your living room. Complete with all the ports you could ever dream of, the MSI Trident 3’s advantages are clear. Still, in trying to be as thin and light as possible, the MSI Trident 3 comes equipped with a 330W external power supply brick, resembling some of the least attractive console designs.

Read the full review: MSI Trident 3

Apple iMac

Best Mac: Apple iMac with 5K Retina display (2015)

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

Bright IPS screen
Few wires or cables
Tough to upgrade

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 complemented by the fantastic Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2. Of course, trumpeting that gorgeous 5K screen, the iMac is sleek and, best of all, only requires a single cable to get up and running.

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

See more like this: The best Macs

HP Pavilion Mini

Best budget PC: 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

Unique, stylish cylindrical form factor
Clever and effective audio solution
No optical audio port
Unflattering specs

Though at first you might confuse it for a fabric-woven Mac Pro refresh, the HP Pavilion Wave is anything but. This compact Windows machine packs in 6th-generation Intel Core processors and optional discrete AMD graphics with a uniquely integrated Bang & Olufsen speaker. Wrapped in a handsome fabric exterior, this is the perfect PC to have on the desk, as it radiates crisp sound while you browse the web or watch movies.

Read the first look: HP Pavilion Wave

HP 260 G1

Best stick PC: Intel Compute Stick

The tiny computer that can

CPU: Intel Atom – Intel Core m5 | Graphics: : Intel HD Graphics – Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 1GB – 4GB | Storage: 8GB-64GB eMMC

Wide CPU choices
Extremely portable design
Limited fan cooling
Limited RAM and storage

No, this isn’t a USB thumb drive you’re looking at. The Intel Core Compute Stick might look like something you would store a PowerPoint presentation on shortly before losing it, but it’s actually a palm-sized personal computer that plugs into any screen with an HDMI port. Configurations start at a lowly 1.33GHz Intel Atom processor running Linux, and at the highest end is a notebook-class Intel Core m5 processor.

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article