In today’s digital age, having a reliable and powerful desktop computer is essential for both work and play. Whether you’re a professional who needs a high-performance machine for demanding tasks or a casual user looking for a versatile all-in-one solution, finding the best desktop computer can be a daunting task. With so many options available in the market, it’s crucial to consider factors like performance, design, and operating system compatibility to make an informed decision.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the top desktop computers for 2023, taking into account various categories, including all-in-one, tower desktops, and small-form-factor PCs. We will provide detailed insights into the key features, specifications, and price points that make each computer stand out. So, whether you’re an Apple enthusiast, a Windows aficionado, or prefer the simplicity of ChromeOS, we’ve got you covered.
The All-In-One Powerhouse: Apple’s M3-based iMac
When it comes to all-in-one desktop computers, Apple’s new M3-based iMac reigns supreme. Combining a sleek design with a high-resolution 24-inch display and the power of Apple’s M3 processor, this machine offers an unparalleled user experience. The performance of Apple’s latest silicon is nothing short of impressive, making it a versatile choice for both work and play. With its compact design and magnetic power cable, the iMac is also incredibly portable and easy to relocate.
The 24-inch iMac is available in seven vibrant colors, allowing you to personalize your workspace. Whether you’re a graphic designer, video editor, or simply a multitasker who needs more screen real estate, the iMac’s larger display provides ample room to work and play. Additionally, Apple offers a range of accessories that perfectly complement the iMac, allowing you to create a seamless and cohesive setup.
Tower Desktops and Small-Form-Factor PCs: The Windows and ChromeOS Alternatives
If you prefer the flexibility of a tower desktop or a small-form-factor PC, there are excellent options available for both Windows and ChromeOS users. These machines offer customization options and the ability to upgrade components, making them ideal for power users and gamers.
Windows Tower Desktops: Power and Performance
When it comes to Windows tower desktops, brands like Acer, Asus, Dell, and HP offer reliable and affordable options. For general use, a budget-friendly tower desktop in the $500 to $600 price range can provide years of reliable service. Here are the key specifications we recommend for a basic Windows 11 machine:
- Intel Core i5 (12th- or 13th-gen) or AMD Ryzen 5 (5000, 6000, or 7000 series) processor
- Default integrated graphics (such as Intel UHD or Iris or baseline AMD Radeon)
- 16GB of RAM or more
- 512GB or larger NVMe SSD drive
- Four or more USB 3.1 or 3.2 ports with USB-C and USB-A formats
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless capabilities
- At least one PCI-E (x16) expansion slot for adding a video card
If you’re into PC gaming or require extensive photo and video editing capabilities, you’ll want to consider upgrading the configuration. A more powerful video card, such as Nvidia RTX or AMD Radeon RX, and 16GB of RAM or more are recommended for power-hungry tasks. Keep in mind that the price points for these configurations can range from $800 to $1,200 or higher.
Operating Systems: Choosing Between Windows, MacOS, and ChromeOS
When it comes to choosing an operating system, it ultimately boils down to personal preference and specific requirements. Microsoft Windows and Apple’s MacOS offer similar functionalities but with different user experiences. If you’re comfortable with one over the other and don’t require any OS-specific applications, it’s best to stick with your preferred choice.
Most desktops in the market run on Microsoft Windows, while Apple’s iMac, Mac Mini, Mac Studio, and Mac Pro desktops feature Apple’s MacOS. For those looking for a more budget-friendly option, there are also Chromebox offerings based on Google’s ChromeOS. Chromeboxes are easier to use and typically more affordable, but they can’t run Windows or Mac software.
Processor: The Brain of Your Desktop
The processor, also known as the CPU, is the brain of your desktop computer. Intel and AMD are the leading CPU manufacturers for Windows desktops, each offering a wide range of processors to choose from. Intel’s current lineup is its 13th generation of Core chips, with 14th-gen processors expected in early 2024. AMD’s current desktop processor is its Ryzen 7000 series.
When considering a processor, it’s essential to understand your performance requirements. Generally, a faster processor speed and more cores result in better overall performance. Apple, on the other hand, designs its own chips for Macs, making the decision-making process more straightforward. The Mac Mini features an M2 or M2 Pro processor, while the new iMac is powered by the M3 chip. The Mac Studio offers either an M2 Max or M2 Ultra processor, and the Mac Pro is based on the M2 Ultra.
Graphics: Bringing Visuals to Life
The graphics processor, or GPU, handles all the work related to driving the screen and rendering graphics-intensive operations. For Macs, Apple’s M2 and M3 processors integrate the GPU seamlessly. On the Windows side, you have two types of GPUs to choose from: integrated (iGPU) or discrete (dGPU).
An iGPU is part of the CPU package and shares space, memory, and power with the CPU. While it allows for smaller form factors, such as all-in-one or SFF PCs, it may not perform as well as a dedicated GPU. Some games and creative software may require a dGPU or sufficient VRAM to run properly. However, for everyday productivity tasks, video streaming, and web browsing, an iGPU should suffice.
For power-hungry graphics needs, such as video editing, gaming, and design work, a dGPU is recommended. Nvidia and AMD are the two main players in the discrete GPU market. Intel also offers integrated GPUs based on its Xe-branded technology. When choosing a GPU, consider the specific requirements of the applications you’ll be using.
Memory: Ensuring Smooth Performance
When it comes to memory, having enough RAM is crucial for smooth multitasking and overall system performance. We highly recommend a minimum of 16GB of RAM for most users. RAM is where the operating system stores data for currently running applications. Insufficient RAM, coupled with a slower disk, can lead to a sluggish user experience.
Tower PCs usually have free internal slots for adding more RAM sticks, allowing for easy upgrades. However, all-in-ones and SFF PCs may have limited or non-expandable memory options. If you’re working with a smaller amount of RAM, consider adding a second internal drive to a tower PC or utilizing external drives or cloud storage for additional space.
Storage: Speed and Capacity
Traditional hard drives have gradually been replaced by faster solid-state drives (SSDs) in desktop computers. The speed of an SSD can significantly impact overall system performance. While budget desktops may still come with slower drives, it’s recommended to opt for an SSD whenever possible.
For most users, a minimum of 512GB of storage is recommended. This allows for the smooth operation of the operating system, applications, and other files. If you have a large media library or need ample storage for games, consider upgrading to 1TB or more. In tower PCs, you can usually add a second internal drive for additional storage. All-in-ones and SFF PCs may require external drives or cloud storage to expand their storage capacity.
Display: Size and Resolution
For all-in-one desktop computers, the display is integrated with the components behind it, eliminating the need for a separate tower or small-form-factor enclosure. While this space-saving design offers a streamlined look, it often comes with limited upgrade options. When selecting an all-in-one, consider the display size and resolution.
For most users, we recommend the following display sizes and resolutions:
- 24 inches at 1,920×1,080 pixels (2K or 1080p)
- 27 inches at 2,560×1,440 pixels (1440p)
- 32 inches at 3,840×2,160 pixels (4K)
These sizes strike a balance between screen real estate and pixel density, ensuring a comfortable viewing experience. Whether you’re working on spreadsheets, editing videos, or enjoying multimedia content, a high-quality display is essential for optimal productivity and entertainment.
In conclusion, choosing the best desktop computer for your needs requires careful consideration of various factors, including performance, design, and operating system compatibility. Apple’s M3-based iMac stands out as an excellent choice for those seeking a powerful all-in-one solution. However, if you prefer the flexibility of a tower desktop or a small-form-factor PC, Windows and ChromeOS offer compelling options.
When selecting a desktop computer, pay attention to the processor, graphics, memory, storage, and display specifications. These components play a crucial role in determining the overall performance and user experience of your machine. By considering your specific requirements and budget, you can find a desktop computer that meets your needs and elevates your computing experience in 2023 and beyond.