Selecting the best business computers for your specific purposes is no easy task, and there are many factors to consider. To give you a helping hand, this guide offers a rundown of the best business desktop PCs money can buy.
Laptops and smartphones are essential business tools and are becoming more powerful and feature-rich every year. Still, while they are suitable for people who travel for work, they cannot compete with the best business computers for specific tasks.
For starters, desktop PCs are much more potent than the best business laptops and are usually cheaper. Also, unless you're buying an all-in-one computer, these business computers are relatively easy to open up and upgrade, making them far more future-proof than laptops or smartphones, which can sometimes become outdated after only a few years.
This makes the best business computers a wise financial decision when kitting out your office. And while traditional desktop PCs are excellent devices to have in an office, we've also listed some of the best all-in-one PCs. Like Apple's iconic iMac, these devices have computing components built into a screen. While this means they are less easily upgradeable than traditional PCs, they are easier to set up, take up less space on a desk, and look fantastic. Aesthetics might not be your primary concern when buying a business computer, but they will make almost any office or studio look clean and modern.
We've compared the best business computers across numerous aspects, from their CPU and graphics power to the RAM and storage. We looked at how well they handled different apps, what types of businesses they're best suited for, and the overall ease of setting them up, among other aspects.
We've also included our exclusive price comparison tool, which will search the web for the best deals, so once you've found the best computers for your business needs, you can buy in confidence, knowing you're getting the best price. Complete your setup with one of the best business monitors or one of the best monitors.
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The best business computers of 2023 in full
To help narrow down your search for the ideal system for your business, here are TechRadar Pro's top business desktop PCs.
Behold the Mac mini (opens in new tab). Apple's cheapest computer is even cheaper when bought from a third party. It has been upgraded to house the new Apple silicon, with the M1 chip. This upgrade set the bar for potential future upgrades and abilities, claiming that this model is three times faster and GPU performance is six times faster than the former models of the Mac Mini.
The connectivity options include two USB 3.0 ports and two Thunderbolt 4.0 ports at the back so you can connect several compatible peripherals — from external storage drives to monitors. There's also an HDMI port if you want to connect to an external display that isn't Thunderbolt driven.
Read the full review: Apple Mac Mini, M1 (2020)
The iMac saw both a design update and a chipset update with the newest iMac. Moving from Intel to Apple silicon boosted performance to easily outpace the pro model iMacs, swiftly making them redundant. This new AIO from Apple is clean looking with a very simple design while packing impressive performance under the glass.
More people are working from home, and this seems like the best all-in-one PC to invest in without being forced to make considerable space in your existing area. If power is at the top of your list, this is the best business PC for you.
The iMac 24-inch M1 is a highly productive computer with an excellent webcam and improved internals.
Read the full review: iMac (24-inch, M1 2021)
If you’re looking for an incredibly powerful yet stylishly designed, all-in-one PC that’s not made by Apple, then Microsoft’s brilliant Surface Studio will be for you. It comes at a price, but for build quality and performance, you’ll not want to look any further, especially if you work in the creative industry.
The Surface Studio is courting IT professionals and enterprise users by allowing users to utilize custom scripts when updating the OS. While that won’t interest most users, it shows how capable this PC is.
Visually, the Microsoft Surface Studio is a stunning machine. All the CPU components are moved to the base, and the display is just a touchscreen with slim bezels. Without any bulk at the back of the monitor, the screen's profile is just 12.5mm, making it one of the slimmest monitors on the market.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Studio
If you need a solid PC system that will work day-in, day-out, then the Dell Optiplex range should get a good chunk of your attention. The 3020 (opens in new tab) range is based on a no-nonsense micro-tower system, which comes with Windows 7 Pro 64-bit with a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. This system has everything you need to get your business up and running while remaining expandable as you go.
But this is an entry-level PC system, and it won't run heavy apps for graphic design or photo editing. Although it supports dual monitor functionality, it lacks graphic performance and doesn't have an HDMI port to connect to external displays.
Nonetheless, thanks to its affordable pricing and flexible size formats, the Optiplex 3020 is a fairly efficient computer for small and medium-sized companies.
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The types of desktop PCs
A recent development in the desktop PC world has been a modest diversification of the system case. The typical business PC comes in a mini-tower box, which is probably best suited under or beside your desk.
But if space is at a premium, a smaller case would be a better choice. Dell, for example, delivers its Optiplex models in the mini tower, 'thin' desktop, and 'compact' small form factor sizes, each model offering the same computing power but in a different case.
Three other formats that have grown in popularity are:
1. All-in-one, otherwise known as AIO, combines the monitor with the base unit. The move to power-efficient components, the falling price of LCD panels, and the ubiquity of touch functionality make AIO an increasingly popular choice for businesses. The all-in-one PC essentially resembles a slightly larger than normal LCD display that contains the processor, hard drive, and memory built into the screen casing. The end result is a very elegant, clutter-free desktop PC.
2. Ultra-small form factors, otherwise known as nettops or mini PCs, borrow many of their designs (and components) from laptops. They are essentially laptops without a screen, input peripherals, and a battery.
3. HDMI dongles which have been inspired by tablets and smartphones and often share parts with the latter. These are usually used for display signage or in niche markets. They are usually not powerful enough for most tasks, but things will likely improve with the expansion of Thunderbolt technology.
Workstation vs Desktop PC: What is the difference?
- TechRadarPro Q&A with Anu Herranen, Director of New Product Introduction, Advanced Compute and Solutions at HP Inc (opens in new tab).
The main thing here is that you must ignore the form factors. In this case, the question would really be, what is the difference between a (regular) desktop PC and a desktop workstation? The answer is that the workstation has been developed for a specific professional workflow.
It is not just about the raw performance of the processor or other components in a device. It is about how well they perform in specific tasks relevant to the work they are designed to do. Do they make that system easier and faster and remove unnecessary complexity so you can focus on the task and be more productive and creative?
Usually, a data scientist will not place emphasis on the color accuracy of a display, but they will care about having a device that can process huge data sets for hours without crashing mid-way. A graphic designer or VR developer, on the other hand, will care about being able to process jobs quicker by managing how power is split between the CPU and GPU, depending on the task.
You also need to get beyond the box. What software stack or operating system does the workstation need to run? Does the workstation need to run the full Adobe creative suite? Are the keyboard and other input devices optimized for the needs of the user? Examples might include a VR headset or a set of separate programmable keys.
Security and manageability in workstations are also designed to work seamlessly across the whole stack and conform to specific requirements defined by role and managed by IT departments. Devices are often configured to get the best out of a given software and may even carry certifications that guarantee performance for certain software, such as those from companies like Autodesk.
All of this adds up to a curated experience – a device absolutely dedicated in every way to a workflow and ready to go out of the box, saving days of configuration time.
The final key difference is that workstations are very expandable – designed with upgrading in mind. Whilst that is, of course, true of many PCs, workstations are engineered with this capability in mind. A workstation is designed to be a device that can expand with your needs over a long period of time.
How to choose the best business computers for you?
When choosing the best business computers for yourself, start with assessing the nature of your business, the number of computers you need, and the operating system.
If you're in architecture, graphic design, or any other field that demands the use of resource-intensive apps, then you'll want to opt for powerful computers with impressive graphic capabilities. But if your work primarily involves using an internet browser or data entry, an entry-level computer should work perfectly well.
How much RAM you need will depend on how resource-heavy the apps you use are and whether you do a lot of multitasking. The more apps you run simultaneously, the more RAM you'll want for a smoother experience.
You'll want to evaluate what operating system works best for you. If your employees are used to working on Windows, it's more efficient to stick to that rather than switch to a new system.
Consider the size of the machines if you don't have a lot of desk space or want a neat workplace setup. You'll also want to consider the pricing of the computers and whether the seller offers discounts on bulk purchases.
The best business computers: How we test
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The best business computers: How we test
To test the best business computers, we first looked at their specifications, like the CPU, graphics, RAM, storage, connectivity, and dimensions. We considered the types and sizes of businesses they'd be suitable for and whether the tech configurations were expendable.
We assessed how well they handled multiple apps simultaneously, how smoothly they ran resource-heavy apps, and how easy the overall setup process was.
We evaluated the dimensions and weight of the computers to check whether they take up a lot of desk space and if they're light enough to be moved around easily. We also considered whether the computers had dual monitor capabilities, ports to connect to external displays, and swift wireless connectivity.