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Best computer 2021: the best PCs we've tested

best computers
Here are our top picks for the best PCs 2021 has on offer. (Image credit: Future)
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

Choosing the best computer for you is not just about getting the most expensive one you can afford. Your computing needs must be taken into account, especially if you’re trying to balance power and price or if you typically don’t do demanding tasks. After all, while you can buy the most expensive option, you don’t want to spend all that money when you don’t have to. 

Similarly, you want to ensure you’re getting the best computer – or rather, a powerful one – if your daily usage is more demanding. If you’re doing a lot of video editing, design, or coding, for example, you want all the specs and features that will see you through those tasks while still getting a bang for your buck.

Luckily, as newer processors and graphics cards get more powerful, they’re also becoming more affordable, giving you better and higher value options than in the past. Whether all you need is a capable computer or a powerful workhorse.

Since it can be tough finding the right machine, we’ve collected our picks here for the best computer to help you find the one that fits your needs as well as budget. Whether it’s a budget PC with just enough oomph, something ideal for creative workflows, or the best gaming PC for your next adventure, there’s something here for you.

If you prefer to build your own PC instead, here are some of the best PC cases of 2021. Also. be sure to complete your setup with one of the best monitors of 2021.

Dell XPS Desktop Special Edition

(Image credit: Dell)

Best PC: Dell XPS Desktop Special Edition

Performance meets beauty and affordability

Specifications
CPU: 10th-generation Intel Core i5 – i9
Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Super
RAM: Up to 64GB DDR4 2933Mhz
Storage: Up to 2TB M.2 PCIe NVME SSD + 2TB SATA 7200RPM HDD
Reasons to buy
+Great price+A lot of power+Beautiful white chassis
Reasons to avoid
-Only one USB-C port

Dell’s XPS laptop line may have gone premium, price-wise, but its desktop line is still going for the trifecta – offering affordability without sacrificing performance and aesthetics. The Dell XPS Desktop Special Edition might not be a budget offering, but it remains within most people’s budgets, especially at its low- and mid-range configurations fitted with the latest innards. In fact, an Intel Core i7, RTX 3060 Ti configuration will set you back a whole lot less than its 21.5‑inch iMac equivalent while touting newer specs. Plus, it’ll look just as good in your office as it will at home.

Read the full review: Dell XPS Desktop Special Edition

iMac 27-inch (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

Best all-in-one PC: iMac (27-inch, 2020)

A formidable AIO

Specifications
CPU: 10th-generation Intel Core i5 – i9
Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5300 - Radeon Pro 5700 XT
RAM: 8GB – 128GB 2666MHz DDR4
Storage: 256GB – 8TB SSD
Display: 27-inch (diagonal) 5120 x 2880 Retina 5K display
Reasons to buy
+Improved internals+Can be configured to be very powerful
Reasons to avoid
-Design is getting old-Just two Thunderbolt ports

Even though the iMac 27-inch’s last update was only last year, Apple couldn’t help but step up in the upgrades department with its 2021 follow-up. Specs-wise, this model sports some massive improvements while also upgrading its webcam and microphones for a felicitous update. More people are working from home these days, and this seems like the best all-in-one PC to invest in without being forced to make some considerable space in your existing area. Sure, its overall design hasn’t seen so much as a tweak, making it look a bit tired, but if power is at the top of your list, this one’s the best PC for you in the all-in-one sphere.

Read the full review: iMac (27-inch, 2020)

Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10

(Image credit: Alienware)

Best gaming PC: Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10

Powerful gaming for all budgets

Specifications
CPU: Up to AMD Ryzen 9 5950X
Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080
RAM: Up to 128GB 3200MHz DDR4
Storage: Up to 2TB SSD + 2TB HDD
Reasons to buy
+Powerful specs+Affordable+Stunning design
Reasons to avoid
-Still very expensive at highest configurations

With AMD’s solid campaign to win the CPU and GPU markets, it’s no surprise that many of the best PCs are switching over Team Red’s cause. Our favorite Alienware Aurora gaming desktop PC line is among them, fitting its R10 models with AMD’s powerful yet affordable Ryzen CPUs. Not only do these deliver brute strength when it comes to gaming, but they also tout affordability, giving budget gamers to partake in what those with souped up rigs experience everyday without burning a hole in their pockets.

Read the full review: Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10

Dell G5 Gaming Desktop

(Image credit: Dell)

Best budget gaming PC: Dell G5 Gaming Desktop

Budget PC gaming at its best

Specifications
CPU: Up to 10th Gen Intel Core i9-10900KF
Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER
RAM: Up to 64GB DDR4 2933Mhz
Storage: Up to 1TB SSD + 2TB HDD
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+VR-ready configurations
Reasons to avoid
-Base models won’t get you through the most demanding games

A unique chassis coupled with a price to beat, Dell’s latest in its G series gaming PCs is a solid contender in budget gaming. The Dell G5 boasts 9th-generation Intel chips as well as Nvidia’s most powerful gaming GTX and RTX graphics cards, starting with an i3 processor and the GTX 1650 to handle many powerful games without burning a whole in your pocket. Of course, if you’ve got more case to spare, it’s VR ready configurations are also on hand, though even those are absolutely affordable.

Intel Ghost Canyon NUC

(Image credit: Intel)

Best mini PC: Intel Ghost Canyon NUC

Small, but dangerous

Specifications
CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i5 – i9
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 630
RAM: 8GB – 64B DDR4
Storage: 128GB SSD – 2TB + 2TB
Reasons to buy
+Affordable at its low configurations+Highly upgradeable+Great performance
Reasons to avoid
-Can get pretty pricey at the highest configurations

Intel’s NUC has come a long way from its humble beginnings. For example, while the previous Hades Canyon didn’t come with a RAM or storage, the newer Ghost Canyon has both. In fact, not only does it have more offerings now in terms of specs, but it’s also highly configurable so you can personalize it to your liking before hitting that buy button. With 9th-generation Intel Core chips, up to 64GB of memory and up to 4TB dual storage, we’re all for it. The only catch is that it's pricier now as well. The lower configurations are still quite affordable, and a terrific option for the budget-conscious. However, you may want to stay away from the highest configurations.

Lenovo Legion Tower 5i

(Image credit: Lenovo)

Best mid-range gaming PC: Lenovo Legion Tower 5i

Plenty of power for the price

Specifications
CPU: up to 10th-gen Intel Core i7
Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super
RAM: Up to 16 GB DDR4 2933MHz
Storage: Up to 2 TB HDD + 1 TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Great design+Not a lot of bloat
Reasons to avoid
-No USB Type-C among front ports

A well-powered machine with an affordable price might be what you need if your gaming appetite isn’t approaching the competitive sphere. Many gamers don’t really need the priciest and mightiest gaming rig, and the Lenovo Legion Tower 5i proves this, delivering plenty of power without forcing you to go broke. Nothing especially stands out with this gaming desktop, but it also offers a great gaming experience with the latest AAA titles right out of the box, which is really all that matters.

Read the full review: Lenovo Legion Tower 5i

Apple Mac mini (M1, 2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

Best Mac: Mac mini (M1, 2020)

Small, but with big ambitions

Specifications
CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8-core CPU
Graphics: Integrated 8-core GPU
RAM: 8GB – 64GB unified memory
Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Same lovely design+Very good performance+New M1 hardware has potential
Reasons to avoid
-Can't use eGPUs

One of Apple’s biggest surprises of the year is the update to its smallest Mac. The brand-new Mac mini now touts Apple’s M1 chip, while keeping things the same in its much-loved design. It’s more powerful than ever – with more than decent video editing performance, even at 8K, and can now run iOS apps and games, thanks to this new chip, but it still keeps its title as the cheapest Mac ever – terrific news for budget-minded Apple fans looking for the best computer.

Read the full review: Mac mini (M1, 2020)

Intel Compute Stick

(Image credit: Intel)

Best stick PC: Intel Compute Stick

The tiny computer that can

Specifications
CPU: Intel Atom – Intel Core m5
Graphics: : Intel HD Graphics – Intel HD Graphics 515
RAM: 1GB – 4GB
Storage: 8GB-64GB eMMC
Reasons to buy
+Wide CPU choices+Extremely portable design
Reasons to avoid
-Limited fan cooling-Limited RAM and storage

Some people have issues with desktop PCs, as they’re often rather bulky. The Intel Core Compute Stick has made that irrelevant. Looking more like a thumb drive than an actual computer, this tiny renegade can connect to any monitor with an HDMI input. Its base starts with a lowly 1.33GHz Intel Atom processor running Linux, but can be configured up to an Intel Core m5 processor. This is one of the best PCs, but one that you can literally slip in your pocket, whether you need to get some work done during your daily commute or squeeze in some PC time while you’re traveling.

Lenovo Yoga A940

(Image credit: Lenovo)

Best in features: Lenovo Yoga A940

Thoughtful design, innovative features

Specifications
CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8700
Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 560 4GB
RAM: 32GB
Storage: 1 TB 5400 RPM + 256 GB PCIe SSD
Screen: 27" 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) IPS Multi-touch 100% Adobe RGB
Reasons to buy
+Good price+Some nice features
Reasons to avoid
-Older components

As a designer, if you don’t fall in love with Lenovo Yoga A940’s thoughtful design, then we don’t know what will. This innovative all-in-one desktop boasts a stunning 27-inch 4K UHD display with up to 25-degree tilt, pen support and a rotating hinge for stability. It’s full of impressive features as well, like the Lenovo Precision Dial that you can attach on the left or right side of the hinge, whatever feels most comfortable for you and your process. And, unlike the best Macs, it offers 100% Adobe RGB support, an LED light at the bottom of the screen and even wireless smartphone charging. If you’re a content creator or designer, and you’re looking for an AIO that allows you a truly seamless workflow, this is the best computer for you.

Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga A940

iMac Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

Best for content creators: iMac Pro

Raw power

Specifications
CPU: 8 to 18-core Intel Xeon W
Graphics: Radeon Pro Vega 56 - Radeon Pro Vega 64
RAM: 32GB – 256GB DDR4 ECC
Storage: 1TB – 4TB PCIe 3.0 SSD
Screen: 27-inch 5K (5,120 x 2,880) Retina display (P3 wide color)
Reasons to buy
+Most powerful Mac ever+Excellent design+Keeps cool
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive-Non user-upgradable

Unfortunately, what does hold Lenovo Yoga A940 back are its less powerful, slightly aging internals. If you want an all-in-one powerhouse that absolutely blows you away in terms of performance, then the iMac Pro is the best computer for you. This AIO designed specifically for professionals and creatives may not be super rich in features, but it’s got a lot to offer where it truly counts. That includes its vibrant 27-inch 5K display with a P3 wide color gamut, mind-blowing Radeon Pro Vega graphics, and plenty of memory for all your exacting workloads. Just be prepared to shell out a bunch of cash, as this doesn’t come cheap.

Read the full review: iMac Pro

Raspberry Pi 4 Model B

(Image credit: Raspberry Pi)

Best single-board computer: Raspberry Pi 4 Model B

Small yet mighty

Specifications
CPU: Broadcom BCM2711, Quad core Cortex-A72 (ARM v8)
Graphics: OpenGL ES 3.0
RAM: 1GB, 2GB or 4GB LPDDR4-3200 SDRAM
Reasons to buy
+More powerful CPU for a smoother user experience+The 4GB RAM model is almost a desktop replacement
Reasons to avoid
-Even at idle the CPU gets rather too warm

Despite its tiny size – it’s so small, it doesn’t even have its own chassis, the Raspberry Pi boards have proven themselves to be utterly capable little machines, surprisingly capable of handling everyday productivity tasks like word processing and spreadsheets. And, with the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B, we see this powerful computer getting the fantastic update it rightly deserves. Finally, the Raspberry Pi line gives you a desktop computer and a platform to experiment and create.

Read the full review: Raspberry Pi 4 Model B

Bill Thomas and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article

Image Credits: TechRadar