Whilst there are plenty of budget PCs that do an admirable job of delivering the performance required to normal users, premium PCs are undoubtedly the place to go for those wanting that bit extra and willing to pay for the privilege.
The term 'premium PC' basically covers any machine that is priced highly and the reason for that can usually be found in a specification offering the very latest components, sharpest screens and a whole lot more besides.
Many specialist PC owners will argue that the best way to part with thousands of pounds is to build your own custom machine where everything from the processor and motherboard to the flashy case on the outside is personalised to your specification. Sadly the time and effort that inevitably goes into that endeavour counts many out, and that's where the premium PCs come in.
Premium PCs can be priced anywhere from a shade over a grand to many thousands of pounds, and when you get to the level where you are ready to part with that amount of cash you need to know what the best towers or laptops out there are. So in this article, we've rounded up the best 10 premium PCs out there right now, complete with the reasons why they're worth the heavy damage to your wallet.
- In partnership with Microsoft, powered by the HP Spectre 360
Dell XPS 15
Our review of the Dell XPS 13 rated it as "probably the best laptop on the planet", slapping it with a rare five-star review. But why settle for a 13-inch screen when you can pay the extra and get a huge 15.6-inch display complete with a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) resolution?
The one sticking point is that, despite the Ultrabook being released early this year, it still has last year's Intel 4th Generation Core processor on board instead of the 5th Generation one that adorns the smaller screened model.
Even so, the Intel Core i7-4712HQ processor is incredibly fast and has a Turbo Boost speed of up to 3.3GHz. Combine this with the 16GB of DDR3 RAM, Nvidia GeForce GT 750M video card, and 1TB SATA hard drive supplemented by a 32GB mSATA SSD. £1,449 ($1,699, which is around AU$2,175) is the price tag.
Apple Mac Pro
When you compile a list of high-end and costly PCs it would be foolish to even think about excluding Apple's whopping Mac Pro. In the price department, this one can be configured in such a way that it costs £10,896 (yes, TEN thousand pounds, or around $16,500, AU$21,100).
What that gives you is a 2.7GHz 12-core processor with 30MB of L3 cache, four sticks of 16GB DDR3 RAM, 1TB PCIe-based flash storage, dual AMD FirePro D700 GPUs with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM each, a Sharp 32-inch 4K Ultra HD LED monitor plus a mouse and keyboard.
Of course there's no way most folks will really need all that and the regular entry-level version comes in at £2,499 (around $3,780, or AU$4,850). It has a 3.7GHz quad-core Intel Xeon E5 chip, 12GB of DDR3 RAM, dual AMD FirePro D300 GPUs, plus 256GB of flash storage. Once you get past the power of this beast, which will last for years, there's the sleek black cylinder design that adds loads to the price by itself. But if you have the money and love Apple then this is as sweet a setup as you can find.
Apple iMac with 5K Retina Display
Does the Mac Pro sound like a bit too much, and you also want a monitor thrown in for free? Then the Apple iMac 27-inch with 5K Retina Display starting at a cool £1,999 (around $3,025, or AU$3,875) is your guy.
Even before the 5K Retina Display is taken into consideration, the current iMac design and power behind this machine make it a must for this list. The All-in-One has been slimmed down so that it is less intrusive than ever and the 14.7 million pixels that it boasts is four times as much as the standard 27-inch iMac.
Beyond this it has a 3.5GHz Intel Core i5 chip as standard and can be configured with all kinds of GPU, RAM and storage options that adapt to the user's preference. It's a lovely looking machine and now that the iMac has a 5K Retina Display there's little to stop you splashing the cash apart from the fact that upgrading components is not easy.
Alienware Area 51
Customers shelling out for a premium PC will often be doing so to up their gaming experience to stratospheric levels, and for that the Alienware Area 51 is one of the best options out there.
The most exorbitantly expensive option comes in at £2,899 (around $4,390, or AU$5,600) and comprises an Intel Core i7 chip that can be overclocked up to 3.9GHz, triple Nvidia GTX 970 GPUs with 12GB of GDDR3, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, a 4TB hard drive with an mSATA SSD, slot-loading Blu-ray drive and plenty of other features.
Put this together with a few 4K specialist gaming monitors and nothing will come close. Even though it's this expensive, that doesn't mean this machine is not durable and there are handles on each of the triangle's points to ensure that moving it around is never a chore.
Velocity Micro Edge Z55
When you first clap eyes on the Micro Edge Z55 it's hard to believe that they've managed to cram enough power inside the case to make you part with the best part of $4,300 (around £2,840, or AU$5,500).
Surprisingly that's pretty cheap when you compare it to some of the $10,000+ machines on offer from the likes of Maingear and, even if it falls down slightly in the performance department against those behemoths, it still shines.
The black case with blue LED lighting gives you that little bit of unobtrusive style you expect at this price point, and the 3D gaming performance has been lauded by plenty of publications testing out its assets. Under the hood there's an Intel Core Devil's Canyon chip that offers huge speeds, Samsung Evo SSDs, and 16GB of RAM. Add to this a pair of EVGA GeForce GTX 780 Ti cards and there's no better way for gamers to part with over four grand.
Aorus X7 Pro
Gaming laptops can sometimes be a hard sell because they more often than not come in at a high price point, plus they can't be upgraded as easily as a customised desktop rig you can keep adding more and more new bits to.
However, for those that want a ready-made gaming powerhouse that you can take over to your mate's place (just check they have a power point first) then this is the one for you.
What makes the Aorus X7 Pro so impressive is how ridiculously thin it is. Inside the 0.9-inch thick frame it packs a 17.3-inch display, two Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M GPUs and some high-end Intel Haswell (soon to become Broadwell-E) chips. The battery life leaves a little to be desired yet this is a star performer for any gamers that want a powerhouse inside a slender package.
HP ZBook 17 G2
Whilst no machine is perfect, can a machine have too many flaws to be worth buying? The HP ZBook 17 G2 runs that theory close, yet the way this beast completely outperforms most other mobile workstations out there makes it almost forgiveable. Almost.
No list of premium PCs is complete without a couple of sturdy workstations to cater for business users and for its price of $1,900 (around £1,250, AU$2,400) the ZBook 17 G2 can handle just about anything you throw at it with little fuss.
In a recent TechRadar review it performed manfully where both cloud-based workloads and gaming were concerned thus giving it a tick in the all-rounder category. The G2 even ran many of its competitors, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad W540 and Dell Precision M6800, close in various benchmarks. High praise indeed. For speed and precision there's little else we'd recommend when it comes to workstations.
Lenovo ThinkPad W540
IBM invented the ThinkPad many moons ago and Lenovo has done a great job of keeping its stellar reputation intact, and the latest one to hit the market is the ThinkPad W540 workstation powerhouse. It might not look particularly pretty and some people will complain about the price, but there isn't much out there that gets close to the sheer level of performance this machine packs.
In a recent TechRadar review, the Intel Core i7-4800 chip on board clocked a ridiculous CPU score for a laptop that got close to the Alienware 18, which has been dubbed the most powerful gaming laptop ever tested by this site. With the graphics on board it can even run games for a limited amount of time, such as your lunch hour.
The price tag of $2,573 (about £1,600, or AU$2,950) is sure to put some people off, yet for your demanding CEO this could be the machine of his or her dreams.
Fujitsu Lifebook T904
Thanks to Windows 8, convertibles hit the mainstream PC market and the Fujitsu Lifebook T904 brings an Ultrabook with added business expertise to the hybrid segment. Whilst its slim body won't beat any of the consumer Ultrabooks in the svelte stakes, it's quite an effort for a device geared towards enterprise customers.
Where Fujitsu's offering really shines is in its portability, and that makes it one of the best choices out there for business people constantly on the move.
Add to this the device's extensive communication features and its impressive benchmark results when set against competitors, and the exorbitant price tag that tops out at around £1,699 (around $2,655, or AU$3,015) doesn't seem quite so outrageous after all.
Rounding things off is one of the newest gaming machines to hit the market from the folks over at Alienware, which comes with a separate Graphics Amplifier to extend the graphical performance of this laptop to the level of a full-fledged desktop.
This is by no means the first time someone has proposed an external box to house a GPU but Alienware's looks good and will have people running to the cashpoint.
Coming in at $3,049 (£2,581, which is around AU$5,000) the Alienware 17 is not a cheap machine and some people will balk at the fact that it isn't a desktop, and you're kind of stuck with that screen. You can always connect an external monitor, however, and it's very easy to switch up that GPU using the Amplifier at a later date. Alienware's track record, combined with this new feature, makes this a more than valid proposition.