Desktop computers may seem passe, but for some people, there is just no substitute for a good desktop. Whether you choose a Mac or a PC, there are some truly exceptional machines out there ready to take on your toughest computing needs.
While some of these systems are expensive, not all of them will require a large investment to get a truly remarkable computing experience. Here are the five best desktop computers that give you the most bang for your buck.
Best Desktop Computers
1. Apple iMac 27″
If digital imagery is your game, the Apple iMac is definitely the desktop of your dreams. Apple has long been the top dog in providing great functionality and serious performance when it comes to complicated, imagery-driven tasks, and the new iMac is no exception.
Price: Starts at $1,700
- Core i5 CPU. The name of the game is speed when it comes to desktop computing, and the Apple iMac delivers thanks to its Core i5 CPU and the latest generation AMD graphics processor. This CPU is supercharged and can handle multiple complex tasks with ease.
- Two Thunderbolt Ports. The Thunderbolt port is designed, in a cooperative effort between Apple and Intel, to replace standard USB and proprietary FireWire ports to allow 10Gbps of information to both enter and exit the machine simultaneously. In other words, peripheral equipment can give or receive a serious amount of uninterrupted data without freezing, buffering, or stalling out. Plus, the Thunderbolt ports can handle both audio and video as well as data, so you can connect two additional monitors into those ports and expand your display to almost unfathomable dimensions.
- 1 TB Hard Disk Drive Storage Space. Apple has also thrown in 1TB of hard disk drive storage space, meaning that you will most likely never need to upgrade your internal memory space or purchase external data storage devices.
- Facetime. Apple added the Facetime app so you can easily chat with other iOS devices over the Internet.
- AMD Latest Generation Graphics Processor. This computer is also a nimble gaming device. The Radeon HD 6970 graphics card gives life to just about any game, including such challenges as “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.” The graphics-laden, 3D capable game displayed and played beautifully.
- No HDMI Ports. There should have been some HDMI connections built into this unit, but alas, there was not. At this point in time, I can’t imagine the reasoning of any manufacturer who chooses to leave them off, as it makes connectivity to other peripheral equipment easy and the audio/video output more spectacular.
- Peripheral Add-Ons Are Expensive. Peripheral equipment specifically for the iMac is still considerably more expensive than on other systems, as is the iMac itself.
This is a great computer, especially for people who choose to make graphics-oriented tasks a hobby or a profession. The iMac is a super fast, fully capable computer, though it may offer too much for the casual user.
2. Gateway SX2850-33
For those who think that the Gateway brand is a thing of the past, think again. Gateway has managed to create one of the fastest budget computers on the market today with the Gateway SX2850-33.
Price: Starts at $550
- Core i3 CPU. Gateway has struck a deal with Intel that allows them to put the super fast Core i3 CPU into this Windows-based PC. This allows the computer to handle multiple complex tasks easily, without bogging down.
- Built-in Wi-Fi Receiver. This particular model is Wi-Fi friendly, like a laptop, and does not use external equipment. The placement of the Gateway SX2850-33 in your home is extremely flexible, at least in terms of connecting to your home network, and it doesn’t come with the cable clutter of hardwired computers.
- HDMI and VGA Inputs. There is an HDMI connection point, so adding high-definition peripheral equipment is a snap. Gateway also left the older, VGA connection point on this PC, so any monitor can be attached, which is something that is becoming less available as fewer monitors are being manufactured with this type of connection.
- High-Definition Playback Capability. This computer provides true high-definition playback from sources such as YouTube and Quicktime and has no trouble at all providing quality playback from less demanding sources, such as Netflix.
- Good Graphics Support. This is also a good gaming PC, providing plenty of graphics support and bandwidth for Internet connectivity, even though it is not specifically a gaming PC. If you want to upgrade computer performance, there is room inside to add two memory sticks and a half 3D graphics card.
- One USB Port. Having only a USB 2.0 port for data transfer is not impressive. While the USB port would have been fine a couple of years ago, it’s simply just slow by today’s standards. Having a USB port for data transfer will mean spending an extra few minutes to an extra few hours transferring data from your PC to an external storage device, depending on the amount of data you have to transfer.
- Poor HDTV Capability. Although there is an HDMI connection port, connecting this PC to an HDTV creates an issue of over-scanning the 1080p image. In layman’s terms, the image on the TV is skewed and needs to be manually aligned with the borders of the screen.
The Gateway SX2850-33 is a great budget PC that can handle most graphics-laden tasks. In fact, it is a great back-to-school PC for both high school and college students looking to be able to write essay papers, as well as play “World of Warcraft” and surf the Internet.
3. Velocity Micro Edge Z40
The Velocity Micro Edge Z40 is a solid gaming computer made to be able to handle some of the most graphically complex game play out there with ease. Of course, it’ll do a few other things, but this computer is designed with one particular task in mind, to be the mainstream gaming computer.
Price: Starts at $950
- Core i5-2500K CPU. Velocity offers gamers two things: speed and value, both of which are a high priority to this demographic. First of all, I should mention that this particular desktop is equipped with a Intel Core i5-2500K CPU. And, while this isn’t as impressive as, say, an i7, with its Hyper Threading feature, expense control is vital to this manufacturer’s ideology for this particular unit. So instead of going for the top, Velocity stuck with the i5, but utilized the 2500K variation to add speed and functionality at a lower price point than other gaming computers.
- 4GB of RAM. Velocity has also packed in 4GB of RAM, which is the working memory of any computer system. This allows for plenty of processes to run without overloading the working memory and causing unnecessary slowdowns, which is vital to any gaming platform. This budget gaming system simply outperforms its competitors, and it does it for less.
- Expandable Memory Slots. There is some room inside for memory expansion and 3D graphics card additions, so if the base model doesn’t do it for you, then maybe the expanded version can.
- Multiple Connectivity Options. External connectivity is expansive, with both USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, as well as FireWire ports, analog audio ports, and a mini HMDI port. You can connect just about anything to this PC and take advantage of the amazing processing speeds.
- Hard to Upgrade Graphics. Upgrading the graphics capabilities of this particular computer can be a bit tricky. It comes with a Nvidia 3D card installed from Velocity, but if you want to expand, you’ll have to replace the existing card with AMD’s CrossfireX, as well as install another one beside it. This can be expensive, but worth the cost and effort once you get back online.
Gamers both novice to advanced will benefit from having such a PC in their arsenal. This particular computer can handle all but the most complex games, but at this price point, I don’t think anyone is complaining. And, while this computer is touted as the ultimate budget gaming machine, you can still do your homework on it and check your Facebook status.
4. Digital Storm ODE Level 3
The Digital Storm ODE Level 3 is another gaming computer, and though it can do many things, its main focus is to deliver a high level of gaming functionality at a good price. This one is priced somewhat higher than the Velocity Micro Edge Z40, but it has a few features that the Velocity doesn’t offer, such as the top-end i7 CPU and a Blu-ray drive.
Price: Starts at $2,500
- Core i7-2600K CPU. The Intel i7-2600K CPU makes this computer capable of handling even the most complex gaming situations with ease.
- Excellent Graphics. Digital Storm also managed to pack in the high-end graphics card: the Nvidia GeForce GTX 570. This means that while there is room to upgrade the graphics card, you probably won’t ever need to. There has been no notable loss in performance on games that require a high resolution versus those that require a lower resolution.
- 8GB of RAM. You also get 8GB of RAM, or working memory, which seems to be sufficient to run even the most complex games. But, you can expand it with two more memory sticks if need be.
- Built-in Blu-ray Read/Write Drive. Digital Storm has added some niceties, such as a Blu-ray drive for watching and writing Blu-ray media. This was a really nice touch, since the graphics card produces some of the best imagery I’ve seen on a computer to date.
- Multiple Connectivity Options. The computer offers a multitude of connection ports, such as HDMI, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, FireWire, and much more, so you can import and export data, as well as audio and video content. You can even use your big screen TV as your monitor.
- Cable Clutter. There are some issues with some sloppy external wiring, especially as it deals with how peripheral equipment is added through the USB 3.0 connection points.
While professional gamers may turn up their nose at such a gaming computer, most casual gamers and even serious gaming hobbyists will be very happy with this PC. It offers a solid gaming experience and top of the line features for much less than any of the competition. In addition, it provides true high-definition audio/video playback and fast Internet surfing.
5. HP TouchSmart 610q
Let’s face it: Touchscreen computing is just cool. HP has been a leader in the touchscreen based computing world for some time, and the HP TouchSmart 610q is definitely one of the best. This is one attractive, highly functional, and all around fun computer to use.
Price: Starts at $1,250
- Unique Tilting Screen Design. I love the tilting screen design. It’s perfect for facilitating the touch screen experience, and is easy on the eyes and neck. It is the perfect way to enjoy your PC-based Kindle app, as well as any text-based Web content.
- Large Screen. The 23-inch screen isn’t quite as impressive at the 27-inch monster offered by iMac, but it is plenty big enough for even the biggest fingers to effectively utilizing the touch screen technology without having to repeatedly use the backspace key.
- Core i7 CPU. The Intel Quad Core i7 CPU isn’t quite the same thing that is installed in the diehard gaming machines, but it’s close.
- Excellent Graphics. You also get the impressive AMD Radeon graphics card, which is the gold standard for displaying rich graphics and properly handling graphic-intensive programs such as Photoshop.
- 1 TB of Internal Memory. You get 1TB of hard drive space, which means that you will be hard-pressed to ever need to expand the internal memory or utilize and external memory devices.
- Built-in DVD Writer/Blu-ray Player Drive. As a bonus, HP has even thrown in a DVD writer and Blu-ray player drive.
- No Video Output Port. The biggest disappointment is the lack of a video output port. This device has HDMI connections, but these are “in” connections. There is no video output connection point, so attaching your device to your TV for Blu-ray playback isn’t going to happen.
This is a great computer for just about anyone. There is plenty of functionality and power here to keep casual computer users (as well as low-key gamers) happy and engaged. It’s also priced at a level where most consumers will be comfortable, and if you just aren’t into the touchscreen technology, you can add a physical keyboard and mouse.
Desktop computers will be around for quite some time, as there are just some things that laptops just can’t do. Regardless of whether you are a casual computer user looking for a great deal on a functional computer, a computer graphics professional needing a high-powered digital imagery editor, or a gamer needing a “super computer,” there is a desktop out there for you.
What is your experience with desktop computers? Are you using one now?