Best computer 2018: the best PCs we've tested

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Desktop computers aren’t what they once were. Instead, they’re cheaper, faster and more compact than ever. They’ve also diversified beyond their boxy designs. Nowadays you can still purchase a PC tower detached from a keyboard, mouse and accompanying display. But you can also buy more a practical all-in-one computer featuring only one power cable, a built-in high-quality screen and a mouse and keyboard that were designed to complement the external framework rather than distract from it. 

We won’t see significant advancements in computing for quite some time. Despite being conceptualized in the early 80s, quantum computers are still not a viable reality beyond for those who can easily part with $10 million (about £7 million, AU$12 million). And although Intel has recently managed to produce a quantum processor that resembles the silicon of today, for now we’re going to have to stick with computers that adhere to classical physics. 

Even so, determining the best computer isn’t as straightforward as proclaiming ‘the most powerful computer’ or ‘the most expensive computer.’ When we created this list, we did so acknowledging that the best computers strike a balance between value and performance. With that, we’ve comprehensively tested or reviewed and subsequently ranked every single PC we could get your hands on in order to find the best computer you can get your hands on in 2018.

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 word, the Dell XPS Tower Edition is stealthy. Looking quite similar to that old computer that your parents had hidden beneath the desk, this boring exterior belies an exciting array of components. Inside you’ll find your choice of the latest in GPU tech, in addition to a blazing-fast 7th generation Intel CPU and a spacious hard drive and/or SSD. Now, the Special Edition is only available in the US, but our readers in the UK and Australia will still be able to buy the regular Dell XPS Tower and beef it up to the same level through Dell’s configuration page. 

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 (2017)

A powerful, price-efficient (albeit old-hat) package

CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 – AMD Radeon Pro 560 | RAM: 8GB – 32GB | Storage: 1TB HDD – 1TB SSD

Gorgeous 4K, P3 color display
Excellent value
Poor audio performance
Baffling mouse charging method

You wouldn’t see it coming based on the logo alone, but Apple’s latest iMac is neatly priced when compared to other all-in-one computers out there. In fact, the Surface Studio costs three times as much as the iMac to start. Despite lacking the fancy trimmings of its Microsoft-contrived competitor, e.g., a touchscreen and adjustable stand, the option for a 4K P3 wide color display and 7th-generation processor make the 21.5-inch iMac not only gorgeous, but up to date as well.

Read the full review: Apple iMac (2017)

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