The arrival of Microsoft Windows 8 has prompted the inevitable surge of interest in what the operating system can do for business, and is prominent in thoughts about upgrading ageing systems in small, medium and large companies.
While the new operating system has attracted criticism in the consumer space, the fact that it is tailored more tightly to the hardware provides a nuMber of distinct advantages for businesses. These include far faster boot times - down to ten seconds from cold - greatly improved power efficiency, and enhanced security from a new secure boot. Also, at its core is an enhanced release of Windows 7, with the same deployment tools, just a bit slicker.
It also promises consistency in working from desktops, laptops, tablets and phones, and to homogenise the workflow and the user experience across all these devices. While training staff in its use is an issue, this could ultimately be reduced as all your devices will work and run the same software with unified cloud storage.
This is all leading IT managers to look into the best value and best running Windows 8 desktop PC options on the market. The range of desktop systems is as wide and varied as business needs themselves, from deployments of hundreds of basic desktops to a single purchase of a high-end specialist system.
Currently the tier one range of Windows 8 equipped systems is limited, and if anything we're seeing a move to all-in-one systems, which are actually hitting a competitive price point and competitive specification. The following provides a guide to some of the best options in the market.
1. Dell Vostro Desktop 270 ST
If there's one thing Dell knows how to build well, it's a business PC. Its latest Vostro 270s Compact Tower range isn't doing anything to detract from that. From its solidly built mini-tower case to its well selected spec and price point, everything about the Dell Vostro 270s is designed to please the business user.
It's a mere 10x14 inches and is just under four inches thick, weighing just 6kg. That diminutive size does have one drawback, just a single drive bay slot, but with even this basic model utilising a 500GB hard drive storage shouldn't be an issue.
Again the impressive aspect is even this basic model comes with a full third generation Intel Core i3 3220 Ivy Bridge processor. That gives it excellent processing power, more than a match for every office task. It also provides a decent 3D capability, if you should need it. At this price something does have to give and that's the 2GB of memory and the one year collect and return warranty.
2. Lenovo ThinkCentre M72z 3543
Proving that an all-in-one (AIO) investment doesn't have to carry a heavy price tag, the new Lenovo ThinkCentre M72z comes with Windows 8 Pro 64-bit installed and a 20-inch display that is touch capable. Designed for the modern office, out of the box it's capable of a seamless VoIP and video chat capability with its built-in mic and front facing camera.
Many AIOs have their roots in the consumer market and lack the security and management a business would expect. But Lenovo has a business background and the ThinkCentre M72z has everything you would expect from a business desktop either built-in or available as an option. For example, it automatically detects when you're away and locks the system.
This is excellently priced, considering that it includes an office competent, latest generation Pentium G645 dual core processor, a decent 4GB of memory plus a 500GB main drive and the 1600x900 20-inch touchscreen. It's also highly power-efficient. The only flaw is a basic one-year warranty, but this can be extended up to five years.
3. Acer Aspire M3985
Get workstation power but without paying a workstation price; Acer has built a high-end desktop that is up to workstation tasks. Running a third generation Intel Core i5 3330 3GHz processor, its four HyperThreading cores can process eight threads simultaneously, tackling all but the most demanding tasks.
Installed with 12GB of DDR3 memory as standard, it does fall short of the full 16GB of which the system is capable. But a basic 1TB drive can be accompanied by another two SATA drives for expanded storage, and it's good to see 802.11n wireless sitting next to the usual Gigabit LAN.
There's the token addition of a Nvidia GeForce 605 graphics card with 1GB of memory, but this isn't going to offer much more performance than the integrated Intel graphics and is largely useful for its additional graphic outputs, which enable multi-monitor installations. While this will lack the bulletproof design of high end workstations its Intel hardware and drivers will ensure solid running.
4.Lenovo ThinkCentre Edge 71
Lenovo delivers a system that's all about getting work done and comes with the long-standing black and angular Lenovo styling. The Edge 71 family starts with this highly competent second generation model powered by an Intel Core i3 2100, and can be configured with anything up to a Core i7. This explains why the base option is just 2GB of DDR3 memory, but that's enough for the office basics and Lenovo has updated the range to Windows 8 64-bit with memory expandable up to 8GB.
Even the base unit provides dual monitor output, and comes with a host of business security features including USB disable, Computrace and Auto PC lock that uses a webcam to detect when the system is unused and locks it. With smart touches like a spill-resistant keyboard, a design that eMbraces maintenance plus the choice of a full tower or slimline desktop, the Lenovo ThinkCentre Edge 71 is designed as a robust workhorse.
5. Acer Aspire XC600
Acer delivers the ideal low cost, high tech office solution that even comes pre-installed with Windows 8 64-bit. Don't let the low cost put you off; Acer might be better known for its laptops, but this small form-factor desktop is well built, both in terms of it physical chassis and also its internal Intel architecture.
The base model is powered by the Pentium G645. This is a 2.9GHz dual-core processor that was released at the end of 2012 and is based on the last-generation Sandy Bridge 32nm process. Putting it inline with the Core i3 2x00 range in terms of power and features, though it does lack Intel vPro support.
The supplied 2GB of DDR3 memory is basic but can be expanded up to 8GB. The integrated Intel HD Graphics supports dual monitors and usable 3D capabilities. It's packing a speedy Gigabit LAN and a roomy 500GB hard drive, which should be good enough for standard office work. Uprated models provide Intel Core i3 and i5 processor options with Intel vPro support.
6. Acer Aspire ZS600
Acer brings its consumer know-how to a workplace all-in-one. It's an interesting proposition, and if you contrast it with the Acer XC600 with its lesser specification you can see your extra investment is going into its impressive display.
Based around a 23-inch, 1920x1080 pixel touch-enabled display, this Acer Aspire ZS600 delivers a pin sharp image from about as large a display as this class of PC is going to support. This base model is running the latest generation Intel Pentium G640 dual-core processor with 3Mb of L2 cache, which is based on the solid Intel Core i architecture and is more than up for all office tasks.
Acer isn't messing around either with 6GB of memory (from a maximum of 8GB), the usual roomy 500GB of drive space, Gigabit LAN, wireless 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0 all in for the deal. The one-year return to base warranty is the main weakness for the system. It can be upgraded to one-year on site with two additional return to base, but again this might not suit all needs.
7. HP Pro 3500 MicroTower PC
It's amazing to think that HP was considering pulling out of the PC market, but then that CEO left and life went back to normal. If you need a solid PC system that's going to work day-in day-out then the HP Pro range should draw your attention.
Specifically this 3500 range is based on a no-nonsense microtower system, which comes with Windows 8 Pro 64-bit, a goodly 4GB of memory and a low cost but capable Intel Pentium G645 processor. With an optical drive and a roomy 500GB of drive space this system has everything you need to get your business up and running, while remaining expandable as you go.
Support costs are kept to a minimum by the basic one-year onsite warranty. There's nothing here that's going to change the world but with HP's reliability it's a system that you can be sure will keep on running.
8. Fujitsu Esprimo E400 E85+
Promoting its green credentials Fujitsu is keen to point out its environmental designs for its Fujitsu Esprimo E400 E85+ range. It minimises environmental hazards and utilises 86% efficient power supplies to keep down power consumption.
Running the Intel H61 chipset, it's able to offer a range of processors from the basic Intel Celeron right through to the latest Ivy Bridge Intel Core i7 3770. This model utilises the balanced Intel Core i3 2120 with its integrated HD Graphics 2000, Gigabit LAN and has an installed 500GB hard drive. There's a basic 2GB of memory that's suitable for the supplied Windows 8 Pro 64-bit operating system and the system can be expanded up to 16GB.
The slimline chassis can be used horizontally or vertically and measures just over a foot square and four inches thick, so it's small enough to be tucked away under most desks or used as a monitor stand. Helping to sweeten the deal Fujitsu offers a reasonable one-year on-site warranty.
9. HP Compaq 6300 MicroTower
The HP Compaq 6300 isn't the smallest or best looking system, but it sure is flexible. The HP Compaq range exists to service the business sector and the new HP Compaq 6300 MicroTower aims to be a low cost, Intel powered system that's packing the latest technology.
This base machine comes with the latest generation Intel Pentium G640 dual-core processor, and is more than up to handling standard office tasks and documents. Key to your business is the micro-tower design. With more room inside it means the specification can be tailored to your needs and the system expanded over time. So serving you for longer and providing a better return.
HP Compaq can offer a flexible range of configurations with this base system only comes with 2Gb of memory, but it can support an impressive 32GB. A sensible 500GB hard drive is thrown in and you'll have to work with the integrated graphics, but it can handle dual displays as standard.
10. Dell OptiPlex 9010
It's not without reason that the all-in-one is often overlooked in the business environment. The regularly required upgrade and maintenance cycle PCs of old required didn't really play to the strengths of an AIO, while their custom design also incurred extra costs.
Modern versions like this Dell OptiPlex 9010 manage to coMbine the power of a desktop with the space saving and elegance of an all-in-one. Dell even includes a touchscreen for the price, which makes these a desirable way of presenting interactive data and information.
With the latest third generation Intel Core i3 3225 processor, 64-bit Windows 8 Pro, 4GB of memory and 500GB of storage, not forgetting that vibrant 23-inch 1920x1080 LED display, all in the base machine, there's an awful lot to like here. It may seem more expensive than other plain desktops, but remeMber you get the display included in the price and three years on-site Dell service, which offsets that extra cost.